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Obama: I Have No Sympathy For Hamas; CDC Issues Highest Alert on Ebola; Bowe Bergdahl's Lawyer Speaks; Glimmer of Hope in Nigeria Around Kidnapped Girls

Aired August 6, 2014 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Next, breaking news, President Obama using very strong words against Hamas, says he has no sympathy for the militant group. Much more on that coming up.

Plus red alert in the United States for Ebola. The Centers for Disease Control now on the highest alert. The World Health Organization considering an international public health emergency. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. We begin tonight with the breaking news. The president of the United States just wrapping up a news conference. He used the strongest language ever against Hamas.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is important to remember that Hamas acts extraordinarily irresponsibly when it is deliberately siting rocket launchers in population centers.


BURNETT: I want to get straight to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, who was at the news conference. Jim, what more did the president say? That was very direct at the heart of the matter here, Hamas using human shields.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, that's right, Erin. He started off by talking about he was asked about Israel and whether its activities in Gaza have been proportionate and justified, and he basically went right after Hamas.

And accused the militant group of being what he called extraordinarily irresponsible in launching rocket attacks from certain areas, suggested that was the reason for many of the casualties that have been suffered by the Palestinian people during this conflict with Israel.

And then he went on to say twice in his remarks there at the end of this news conference, I have no sympathy for Hamas. That was something that stood out to me, Erin. It's interesting to juxtapose that with what the State Department said last Sunday.

You'll recall that when those Palestinian deaths were coming in near that U.N. school in Rafah that the State Department came out with a statement that really blasted Israel and said that the United States was appalled by what they called a disgraceful shelling.

That did not go over well in Israel. There's been a lot of talk this week here in Washington about whether there have been strained relations between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government. To hear the president come out today and use these very tough words and say that he has no sympathy for Hamas.

There may have been a little bit of fence mending going on during this news conference. I think in addition to that, hearing the president being asked about whether or not the sanctions are working against Russia. I thought that was also something that stood out obviously.

We heard earlier today that Russia was imposing its own countersanctions against the U.S. The president essentially acknowledging during this news conference that those sanctions have not worked yet. He said the issue has not been resolve.

But in addition to that, you know, you heard the president asked about something that's very much on top of the minds of people in Africa. That is this Ebola scare. He was asked whether or not that experimental medicine that was used on the U.S. doctor who was flown out of Africa whether or not that might be fast-tracked and used in Africa.

He said that that is just way too premature to speculate on that sort of thing. He doesn't have the information yet. But clearly of everything that stood out of this news conference is was this very, very tough comments on Hamas that I think will really drive the news cycle here in the hours or perhaps days ahead -- Erin.

BURNETT: Thank you very much to Jim Acosta. We are going to have much more on the breaking news on Ebola in a moment that Jim referenced. But I want to go straight now to get a response to what the president had to say, Ambassador Maen Areikat joins me, the Palestinian representative to the United States.

Ambassador, you just heard our Jim Acosta saying this was the headline, the president coming out, using the strongest words yet against Hamas saying he has no sympathy for the militant group. What's your response to the president?

MAEN AREIKAT, CHIEF PLO REPRESENTATIVE TO THE UNITED STATES: My response is we expect President Obama and the United States to have sympathy to Palestinian victims, to have sympathy to the Palestinians who have been enduring a brutal military occupation for the last 47 years.

The delegation which is in Cairo today includes all factions. We're trying to unite the rights of the Palestinian people and what we need from the United States is sincere support for the Palestinian people to be free, independent and sovereign.

BURNETT: Let me ask you this, the president seems to be getting at is not to deny that Palestinian civilians have been killed. Everyone knows that has happened. It has been horrific to watch, Ambassador. But whether Hamas is aiding, abetting and encouraging those civilian deaths, there is some video I want to show you.

No doubt you've probably already seen it, sir. But this is from some French journalist, Indian journalists of Hamas launching rockets from civilian areas. One of our reporters said in the video one of the French journalists is quoted as saying children are playing on the rocket launchers. Do you condemn Hamas for doing this?

AREIKAT: Well, let me say this, there has been incidents. We don't know the circumstances of this particular rocket launcher, and if there has been incidents in which fighters from Palestinian factions fired at Israel from civilian populated centers, I think they were isolated centers.

But to portray that this was the rule and not the exception is not a fair representation of what is happening in Gaza. Again, we don't want to go into the argument how densely populated the Gaza Strip, the fact the Palestinians have nowhere to go.

We shouldn't also forget the fact that, you know, 1.8 million Palestinians are trapped there and they were subjected to a brutal, savage campaign by Israel that left almost 1,900 people dead and 10,000 wounded.

BURNETT: When you say isolated incidents, though, I must ask you, Ambassador, because the conclusion of many is that these are not isolated incidents. The Israeli Defense Forces say they have a manual a Hamas combat manual in which there's a full section that discusses -- we're showing it here -- the benefits for Hamas when civilian homes are destroyed. This is not isolated. It's intentional and methodical.

AREIKAT: It's once again the Israeli military. How do we know this is authentic or not authentic? Remember what happened on Friday when the Israeli soldier allegedly was captured. I was listening to reaction of U.S. officials and U.N. officials, who since 8:00 in the morning jumped on the Israeli narrative.

Accused the Palestinian factions of capturing the soldier to find out 24 hours later that he was shot and killed during the confrontation that happened. I would very much caution against adopting the Israeli narrative.

I don't know how authentic these manuals are, but it does not justify Israel's targeting of civilian population centers and killing 1,900 people and wounding 10,000 others.

BURNETT: Ambassador, the president of the United States just said something else in his press conference in addition to his condemnation of Hamas, and I wanted to play that for you.


OBAMA: I have no sympathy for Hamas. I have great sympathy for some of the work that has been done with Israel and the international community by the Palestinian Authority. They've shown themselves to be responsible. They've recognized Israel.

They are prepared to move forward, to arrive at a two-state solution. I think Abu Mazen is sincere in his desire for peace. But they have also been weakened, I think, during this process.


BURNETT: He's talking about you. Have you been weakened?

AREIKAT: Well, first of all, we appreciate very much the acknowledgment by President Obama of the fact that our leadership, President Abbas, are sincere and they have been really exerting a lot of efforts to reach a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

The U.S. administration knows very well who contributed to the collapse of the negotiations that Secretary Kerry held with the two sides since July of last year. It was Israel reneging on its commitment to Secretary of State Kerry.

It's Israel's refusal to engage the Palestinians genuinely and sincerely to end the conflict, the two-state solution. We are ready, willing and able to continue our engagement based --

BURNETT: Ambassador, are you, though, as frustrated with Hamas as others are for different reasons? And in a sense they seem to have hijacked it. You're ready, willing and able. The president says you've been weakened. Hamas has driven you to come on programs like this and explain rockets having been placed and having children playing on them.

AREIKAT: I think the president was trying to say when he alluded to that and I don't necessarily agree with the assessment that we have been weakened. To say that the Palestinian leadership -- we must work with the Palestinian leadership is an acknowledgment that the PLO leadership is genuine, sincere about seeking peace.

I think the role that President Abbas and the PLO, the fact, and President Obama alluded to that. The fact that there's a united Palestinian delegation in Cairo that was actually formed by President Abbas is an indication that President Abbas and the PLO plan to play an important role in the days to come.

BURNETT: Ambassador Areikat, it's a pleasure to talk to you, as always.

AREIKAT: Thank you.

BURNETT: Joining me now, Paul Begala, Bill Kristol and David Gergen. David, you heard the president come out with those incredibly harsh words for Hamas and the Palestinian Authority saying they've been weakened. You heard the ambassador's reply. What do you think?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the president was doing two things here today. Condemning Hamas, he was trying to heal his relationship with Israel. It's been taking some battering, as you know, publicly here in the last days. I don't think he was trying to distinguish between Hamas, which is U.S. labels as a terrorist organization, and the Palestinian authority. He very much wants, as the Israelis do, as the Egyptians do, to sort of control and contain and get rid of Hamas as a governing authority in Gaza and bring the Palestinian Authority into Gaza as a negotiating partner.

That would make the Egyptians and the United States and Israel much more comfortable. There are still hard negotiations. But the view if Hamas is really running Gaza not the Palestinian Authority, you have the extremists running Gaza, not the moderates and it makes negotiations virtually impossible over time.

BURNETT: Isn't that the situation that we're in? Hamas is running the Gaza strip. They are -- we have this video, right? They are using -- putting rocket launchers in civilian areas around children, putting the Palestinian Authority, which welcomes a two-state solution, in the position of having to defend human shields.

WILLIAM KRISTOL, EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": They're a terrorist group, Erin. I think you're being a little overly surprised that the president of the United States said, quote, "I have no sympathy for Hamas." I'm very pleased. I'm not surprised. I think a huge number of political leaders and civil leaders across the American political spectrum, the European political spectrum, in the Arab world and the Muslim world have no sympathy for Hamas.

It's a terrorist group that oppresses other Muslims that don't go along with Hamas' claims and adherence to Shariah Law. It launches rockets against Israeli cities and digs tunnels in order to try to abduct and kill Israelis and Jews. It's committed to the extermination of the state of Israel. I'm reassured that President Obama has no sympathy for Hamas.

BURNETT: Bill may be reassured, but this is coming from the same administration that called Israel's killing of civilians in the Gaza strip appalling just the other day.

KRISTOL: Why is that a contradiction? One can be sympathetic to the Palestinians and condemn Hamas.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Bill is right. The president was careful to say he had expressed his distress over the death of civilians and the death of children. He is trying to walk a line. The U.S. has a special obligation here. Why does Hamas, a terrorist organization, claim the mantle of legitimacy in Gaza? Because they won an election.

Why did they win election? Because our government, the United States, not Israel, not Egypt, the United States forced elections in 2006 in Gaza. President Bush and Secretary Rice thought this would be a wonderful thing. It was a terrible thing.

He was right in saying it weakened the Palestinian authority, which does want to seek a two-state solution. Ambassador Areikat supports them. I'm a Washington speech writer, I don't think I would use that phrase in public, though.

If your goal is to label Hamas as the terrorists they are, but then also to label President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority as people with whom we can do business, probably not helpful to say that they've been weakened. Probably accurate, but probably not helpful.

BURNETT: Would you agree with that, David Gergen? Because at the end, he was wrapping up his answer then there was a pause and he said what he really thought. Should he have said that?

GERGEN: I don't have any problem with that. Just as Bill Kristol said he was pleased and not surprised. But the first part, I was not surprised by the Louisiana part. The Palestinian Authority has been weakened. That's been the whole argument that this conflict has hurt the moderates on both sides.

In Israel the hard-liners really coming forward around Netanyahu. He has his own politics back home that will make this difficult for him in the days ahead in negotiations and Gaza, the much more extremist group that was really solidified during the fighting.

Where it will go after this, I think it's hard to say. I don't know where the Palestinians who live in Gaza feel about Hamas versus the Palestinian Authority. It's very unclear today.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, all of you. We appreciate it. So many U.S. presidents learning democracy is something they only like when the person in power is who they like.

OUTFRONT next, the CDC raising the Ebola threat level to number one. That's the highest threat level in the United States. What do people in the United States need to do to protect themselves?

We are live in Sierra Leone, the hot zone, the country hit hardest by the outbreak. Our David McKenzie is there. He shows us how easy it is to move around, how easy to transmit Ebola.


BURNETT: Breaking news, red alert on Ebola.

The United States now on the highest state of alert for a health emergency. The CDC is raising its emergency operations center to a level one. The World Health Organization today saying it may declare an international public health emergency. Ebola confirmed in the most populous country in Africa and Nigeria.

Just moments ago, the President of the United States spoke about the Ebola crisis which so far as has killed nearly 1,000 people.


OBAMA: Despite, obviously, extraordinary pain and hardship of the families and persons who have been affected and despite the fact that we have to take this very seriously, we have to remind ourselves this is not an airborne disease, this is one that can be controlled and contained very effectively if we use the right protocols.


BURNETT: Dr. Sanjay Gupta is OUTFRONT.

Sanjay, you were at the CDC when it raised that alert to the highest possible level. That decision, I know, not one to be made lightly.

DR.7 SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is not. And the last time this happened there it was during the 2009 h1n1 flu epidemic and before that hurricane Katrina. So this is something they take very seriously. It signals a strong message to the entire public health infrastructure. This is where we're focusing our attention. We're keeping our eyes on the ball and the ball is all about Ebola.

In the United States, obviously, we've been talking about these two patients, but a lot of the focus on West Africa in trying to even mobilize more resources from the CDC, 50 more people going out to West Africa to try and stem this epidemic at its source.

And so this is a big signal. It means more people sort of flooding the zone, if you will, Erin, and also higher level people, pulling people from other departments to really focus their attention on this.

BURNETT: And Sanjay, the president was also asked about the experimental drug that was given to two of the Americans with Ebola. This is a story that I know you first broke. The drug, untested, unproved. But the question is this. If this does spread and become something much bigger, is the United States prepared? Do they have enough of this, for example, if Ebola were to come to the United States in a bigger way?

GUPTA: The president was asked about this twice. You know, he sort of got the same question a couple of times. And both times he was very careful, cautious, measured how he answered the question. He said he wanted to wait for more science, more data before really rendering an answer on that. He talked about some of the same things, they are just mentioning about bolstering up their public health infrastructure in these countries in West Africa.

What I would say to you in response to the question, right now there's not enough. I think none of this has sort of gone the way people thought it was going to go. This was not supposed to be given in this manner. It is a highly unusual thing to give a medication that's never been tested before in humans, never went through a clinical trial process and suddenly given to someone who is very sick and dying in Liberia. That was Dr. Kent Brantly. He was the first person in the world to receive this. So we don't know how this medication would behave in larger, you know, chunks of the population.

But right now there's simply not enough. This was very much an investigational drug. They do have the capacity to make more and do it quickly, but that hasn't been approved. Again, the president says he wants more data first.

BURNETT: You can understand he would say. It is such a difficult decision to make right now.

Thank you very much, Sanjay.

And now OUTFRONT, Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, board certified internist and Joseph Fair, special adviser to the minister of health in Sierra Leone joining us by phone tonight from the epicenter here of this crisis.

Dr. Rodriguez, you're here with me. Let me start by asking you, your concern is, and I want to use, you know, your words directly, this is a wildfire potentially about to take off. A person could easily land in the United States and the epidemic would be in our backyard probably to spread like wildfire.

DOCTOR JORGE RODRIGUEZ, BOARD CERTIFIED INTERNIST: I mean, I think that's definitely true. We're starting to see that. My concern is that once Ebola got into the big cities, then I just think it is naturally going to be spreading throughout the world eventually. And they say that people are most contagious when they have symptoms. You and I know that we have a symptom of a minor cold, early on, maybe the first day or two.

BURNETT: Before you know you have a cold.

RODRIGUEZ: Exactly. And at that time these people are probably infectious. There hasn't been enough study to know exactly what is that period.

BURNETT: Doctor Fair, let me ask you. I know you are fighting this, you are fighting to save lives, you have lost a friend to this. When we talk about Sierra Leone and how the situation is there, how afraid are you?

JOSEPH FAIR, SIERRA LEONE (via phone): I can say that we are highly concerned at the moment and we're concerned about the rate of transmission and really with our physical constraints and actually being able to trace the contacts, the contacts of people so someone is positive and the contacts with other people and all the contacts that hose people have had. Our major focus is priority one, two and three is to stop the transmission from the virus and very closely following that being the treatment of the patients that do have the virus. So getting them into treatment and improving their chances of survival.

BURNETT: And do you feel, Dr. Fair, confident that you have answers to some of the crucial questions, you know. You're a thousand percent sure exactly how it is transmitted? That there aren't any questions out there that could be so crucial to the rest of the world?

FAIR: You know, we've experienced this virus before in other settings. What's unique about this setting happens to be its geography and the cultural sensitivities coupled with the fact that you are dealing with countries, new case where they're just emerging from sometimes a little more than a decade of civil conflict where the entire public health infrastructure was crumbled. They've had 11 years to rebuild that. Doing that from scratch is not an easy task in any circumstance. So I can answer that no country is ever prepared to deal with something like this and then when you're talking about countries that are emerging from civil conflict, even less so. So we're facing a lot of challenges on that front.

BURNETT: Dr. Rodriguez, you heard Dr. Fair talking about this that it is impossible to ask a country like Sierra Leone at this point to be able to shut down its borders, trace exactly where this came from and handle it perfectly. It is, in are a sense, out of their control now. You think this could be tens or hundreds of millions of people.

RODRIGUEZ: Absolutely. I mean, it is different than HIV, but you have to remember 30 million people have died from that. The only good thing about this is that it is a short life span as opposed to years where people can get infected. So yes, my concern is you close a border, but what about someone on an airplane that touched one on an airplane and they're now in Paris or Istanbul or some other place.

So, it isn't just about one country to warn. I think we need to have general guidelines, I think, for all transportation air travel, you know, to make sure that people that have even the common cold, until we know better, are not allow to fly.

BURNETT: Try and contain it.

Dr. Fair, quickly, before we go, do you have frustration to the extent there was a life-saving treatment out there, that it was provided to the two Americans that were there and not to the hundreds of Africans who died?

FAIR: You know, obviously, I have a personal conflict, one of my close friends passing. So, I would have liked to have done anything to play a part in saving his life.

But as Dr. Rodriguez mentioned this was never planned for a clinical trial. First of all, you don't know when and where an Ebola outbreak was going to happen. This is very limited quantities. This is one of those darned if you do, darned if you don't situations. If you were ever to do a clinical trial without having done all the popular regulations in a normal circumstance, it would be a disaster and the companies would never take on that liability. And now asking them to do the complete opposite poses many ethical challenges and a lot of funds, as well as just the simple physical constraints.

BURNETT: Yes. Thanks very much to both of you.

Our coverage of this breaking story continues. We are live today in Sierra Leone, the country hit hardest so far by the outbreak. You just heard the medical expert there, the adviser in charge of this issue say it's out of their control. Our David McKenzie has a special live report as he has been traveling through that country tonight.

Plus, growing concerns of the spread f Ebola, could an infected person just get on a plane and fly to the United States?


BURNETT: Breaking news: The CDC raising its response to the deadly Ebola outbreak to the highest possible, a level one. That is the highest state of alert in response to the Ebola crisis. It comes as the deadly virus continues to spread. Nearly 1,000 have lost their lives.

Governments in West Africa declaring states of emergencies, struggling to contain a virus. Liberia just declaring a state of emergency. The families of those affected there reportedly -- this is just -- imagine this -- so desperate they're leaving the bodies of their loved ones in the street just to avoid being quarantined.

David McKenzie is OUTFRONT live at the epicenter of the hot zone here in Sierra Leone.

David, you also witnessed firsthand the struggle to contain the virus and the desperate measures people are turning to.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. They are desperate measures. And as you describe, you know, the dead bodies of the victims of Ebola, they're sometimes the most dangerous aspect of this, and many health professionals trying to convince the local population to allow the Red Cross to bury their dead, and that's one of the key reasons we believe that this virus spread through Sierra Leone.

And at this point, they're putting in strict protocols at the border regions to try and stop this outbreak.


MCKENZIE: To try and stem the deadly Ebola spread through Sierra Leone, they've set up these checkpoints and they're doing some specific things to mitigate the risk. One is the people coming through, everybody has to wash their hands in the chlorine solution like this. Ebola is a deadly disease, but it's not that sturdy. So, this will probably kill it if it's on your hands.

You come through here. You need to get your temperature taken -- 36.6. So, I'm all right.

What must I do next? I can go out. He says I must be careful.

Stopping the spread of Ebola is so crucial both for Sierra Leone and for regional health concerns, but I want to show you why this is so difficult. This area here is just brimming with trade and it's in a region where three countries meet, the Kisi Triangle.

People aren't just moving here. They're moving on foot paths and through the bush all the time. So, it's next to impossible to effectively stem the flow if people who have the disease haven't been found out.


MCKENZIE: We just came out of that area, Erin, and just moments ago, we learned that the police of that region are announcing a blockade of the entire eastern part of Sierra Leone. They say that there will be no movement allowed in or out. They say only suppliers with registered businesses and aid workers will be able to move in. It remains to be seen how strictly they enforce that, but it shows how seriously they're trying to stop the spread of Ebola through this country and beyond -- Erin.

BURNETT: We were just talking to the doctor obviously there and the adviser in terms of this for the Sierra Leone government. He said, look, the truth is they're incredibly concerned, they're afraid.

You, David, have had time to see doctors who are fighting this on the ground. And one of the most frightening and tragic aspects of this is the doctors who are now dying.

MCKENZIE: Well, that's right. Health workers often at most risk in this kind of outbreak. That's been the case in previous outbreaks, but this is just so unprecedented that you had scores of doctors and nurses dying just in Sierra Leone alone. We went past a hospital today in a large town in the eastern part of the country.

You know, Doctors Without Borders told us in no uncertain terms the were we to even move inside there and film, because it was too dangerous. They said that the protocols that were put in place at the early stage, this epidemic would not protect the doctors there and as we've been reporting, Sierra Leone's best known expert on Ebola died at that hospital and several others have as well.

So, it does appear that more knowledge and technical support is needed for the country teams to try and bring together their resources to help stem the tide -- Erin.

BURNETT: David McKenzie, thank you very much. Doing such important work there, in such a dangerous place.

Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, board certified internist, is OUTFRONT.

One of the developments today was the patient in New York City who had been in isolation and tested. They indicated that test would come back negative. It did. But what was interesting was that even with a rush job, it took days to get the test back.

How -- is there any way to improve this so you can find out who may be infected much more quickly?

DR. JORGE RODRIGUEZ, BOARD CERTIFIED INTERNIST: Absolutely. To me, that's almost as important as getting a treatment or a vaccine, because we're coming up on cold and flu season. There are going to be lots of people that are scared in the next month or two, going to emergency rooms with fever, diarrhea.

You need to know within a matter of a half day or a few hours if possible. Now, we have quick assay tests for HIV. They should be able to come up with some quick test where doctors like myself on the front line can test people, reassure them, move them on, right? And if not, quarantine the people that may be positive.

BURNETT: And now, what can people do if they are worried? You know, you live in a big city, you have people flying in who could be coming in from anywhere in the world. This disease does come here. What do people do to make sure to try to keep themselves safe, even though you're going about living your normal life?

RODRIGUEZ: Right. Listen, first of all, keep remembering that there hasn't been a case in the U.S. yet.


RODRIGUEZ: Right? So, no need for panic.


RODRIGUEZ: Use common sense as far as if someone is sick, don't touch their phlegm, their diarrhea. If you have a child or husband or wife that's sick, wear gloves. Make sure you disinfect something with simple alcohol, maybe 10 percent bleach. So, stay away from bodily fluids at this time.

That's all that we know right now.

BURNETT: But at this point, one of the bottom line situation is -- and we're going to talk more about this with Richard Quest. There is even though you hear about the developments of David McKenzie saying they're trying to put a blockade in that part of Sierra Leone, there's nothing you can do from stopping the travel of people, not just from villages and over borders in Africa, but from getting on planes and going to Frankfurt or Munich, or Amsterdam, into Detroit, Washington or New York.

RODRIGUEZ: Correct. There's someone that came into contact with someone who's the beginning of that infectious process and maybe honestly, they don't know that they have it. They're feeling a little bit poorly. They may be infectious at that time. So, I just think we need a lot more guidelines and stricter control on transportation at this time.

BURNETT: We're going to be tackling that in just a moment. Thank you very much, Dr. Rodriguez.

And OUTFRONT next, with the United States raising its highest level, basically a red alert, a level one, the virus is spreading and fast. What is the risk of an infected person getting on a plane, getting on a connection and coming into the United States without being detected as ill?

Plus, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl questioned today by investigators. This is a huge development in this case. We're going to tell you what Bergdahl said about his time in captivity.

Plus, a glimmer of hope in Nigeria tonight. "The Wall Street Journal" reports that American surveillance may have spotted some of the hundreds of girls still missing after being kidnapped by terrorists.


BURNETT: The breaking news, the CDC raising its response to the deadly Ebola outbreak to the highest possible, a level one, with the biggest outbreak of Ebola in known history continuing to spread. How safe is it to fly? Major airlines are canceling flights to West Africa, but that's only part of the issue. British Airways is the latest major airlines to suspend all flights to Sierra Leone and Liberia. The Liberian president just moments ago declaring a state of emergency to combat Ebola.

Dubai-based Emirates Airlines, Pan African Airline, ASKY, and a regional carrier Arik Air, have also restricted flights to the region. Arik Air actually does serve New York. I've seen them on a tarmac.

Will U.S. carriers soon do the same?

Joining me now, aviation correspondent Richard Quest, host of "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS."

This is a really big issue, because this isn't just about direct flights.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: No, because there are no direct flights from Monrovia (INAUDIBLE) into the United States, any flight is going to have to go somewhere else. So, you're looking at flights from Accra, from Dhaka, from Lagos. They are the main three that you will be looking at.

BURNETT: And those fly to the United States but also from any of these places, you can fly to a hub, to Europe.

QUEST: Absolutely. Let's take for example Delta Airlines.

Delta currently has a flight to -- from Dhaka and a flight from Accra that comes on to the United States. It's a hopping flight that goes elsewhere.

Now, Delta, in a statement, has already put out a release on this health question. Delta is basically warning and saying that it is aware of the health issue and that it is actually advising passengers to get to the airport, because Delta says they know that people are going to get greater checks when they get there. But so far, Delta in its statement says that there is no intention to stop the flights.

BURNETT: Of course, there is this real fear because of this issue of incubation period of the virus and the fact that there is a test, that the test takes a while to get back. Not that I can take your temperature and say, Richard, you're a problem.

QUEST: No, this is why the jumping flight, the flight that goes from Monrovia to Lagos, or from Monrovia to elsewhere in the continent. Brussels Airline is a very good example. Here you have an airline that's still flying, still doing great business down in West Africa, flies you up to Brussels, then will either fly you straight to the United States or put you on another Star Allianz carrier. So, there are --

BURNETT: I have done that from that region, from Brussels right to New York.

QUEST: There are a variety of ways in which a passenger can get from the infected area to the United States, which is why the CDC needs to be vigilant at all the major entrances.

BURNETT: So, any airport in the United States that has an immigration facility could have somebody coming from this region.

QUEST: Let's take the United flight, United Airlines Houston to Lagos. Now, you can get from -- I mean, let's ignore Nigeria's own issue with Ebola but talk about people who are coming from the infected countries into Nigeria then joining a flight.

So, the reality is it's got to be at the exit of the country, at the transfer country and at the arrival country at the final destination. All three have to be vigilant at least.

BURNETT: All right. Richard Quest, thank you very much.

Of course, the fear is even with vigilance, it may not be detectable. Part of what is causing such concern with this crisis.

Still OUTFRONT, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl just finished being questioned by a U.S. Army investigator about his time in captivity. The question we've all wanted to know the answer to. We've got details of that meeting next.

And a new hope in Nigeria. "The Wall Street Journal" reports that there may have been evidence a drone may have spotted some of those kidnapped girls who have been missing for four months.


BURNETT: Breaking news: Bowe Bergdahl's lawyer speaking first to CNN following the soldier's interview today with an Army investigator. And the topic was the topic the whole world wants to know the answer to. What happened after he disappeared? What happened in those five years?

Bergdahl was held by the Taliban starting in June 2009.

Nick Valencia just spoke with Bergdahl's attorney about what happened in that room today.

And, Nick, what did he say?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN REPORTER: Well, Erin, the first formal interview of U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was a productive one, according to Bergdahl's attorney, Eugene Fidell. Eugene Fidell tells CNN that Bergdahl did the majority of the talking inside. He answered all the questions posed to him. His attorney described the atmosphere as informal, but also business-like.


EUGENE FIDELL, SGT. BOWE BERGDAHL'S ATTORNEY: The setting was sort of a almost a living room setting in the CID office at Fort Sam Houston. A sofa, a couple of comfortable chairs, the proceedings were recorded on audio. The only people in the room were General Dahl, Sergeant Bergdahl, myself, and my army co-counsel, Captain Alfredo Foster, and the time passed.


VALENCIA: And germane to the line of questioning of Major General Kenneth Dahl, who's the lead investigator in this, is what happened that day on June 29th that Bowe Bergdahl left his post? Was it intentional? Was he deserting? All of that was included in today's interview. It was not an interrogation. The attorney was quick to point that out.

It will continue tomorrow, Erin, and it's only expected to last a couple of hours and will wrap. That lead investigator has a total of 60 days to submit his findings and recommendations to his higher ups, and that could involve a variety of scenarios from everything, from court martial to nothing at all -- Erin.

BURNETT: So, Nick, you said he did all the talking, answered questions, is there anything about how confident he was, how good his health was? You know, just anything about his tone?

VALENCIA: We asked about that, just the demeanor of Bowe Bergdahl. He said Major General Kenneth Dahl was a master of putting people at ease, if that was any insight into the demeanor that Bergdahl had. Yesterday when I spoke to Fidell, he said that he spent all day prepping Bowe Bergdahl for today and that he was very confident when I spoke to him earlier, he also appeared to be very happy with the way things went and he's looking forward to having this wrap up and concluding.

We also mentioned if he had spoken to his parents yet, a lot of people at home wondering if Bowe Bergdahl has contacted his parents back in Hailey, Idaho. His attorney is unwilling to comment on that, but as far as we know, that communication is yet to happen months after he's been released from captivity -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Nick, thank you very much. Pretty incredible. I was just in Hailey a few weeks ago, still all the signs up, welcome back to Bowe with the yellow ribbons.

All right. Well, still to come, a glimmer of hope in Nigeria. And when we're hearing about all these stories about Ebola and Ebola today now confirmed in Africa's most populous Nigeria. There is a glimmer of hope, terrorist group Boko Haram has taken those hundreds of girls, and those girls may still be alive and still in groups. It would be miraculous. Our report is next.


BURNETT: One hundred fifteen days ago, nearly 300 Nigerian girls were kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram. Today, at the U.S.- Africa leader summit in Washington, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice President Biden talked about efforts to rein in the terror group. This comes as "The Wall Street Journal" reports American surveillance over Nigeria may have spotted some of the girls that would truly be miraculous, because here is the question, has enough even been done to find them? (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)


BURNETT: Two hundred seventy-six girls taken in the dark of night, some sleeping, some studying for exams, an act forbidden by Boko Haram.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I say Western education should end.

BURNETT: A few escaped, one brave enough to speak to CNN.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, we would rather die than go. We run in the bush.

BURNETT: Almost four months later, 223 girls from Chibouk still gone.

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Boko Haram is a grotesque organization. I guess in the vernacular, you could describe as the Taliban that have taken it to the next level, maybe Taliban on steroids.

BURNETT: Nigeria turned to the United States for help.

GOODLUCK JONATHAN, NIGERIAN PRESIDENT: We are talking to all types of other countries (INAUDIBLE) that we believe will be very helpful us. U.S. is number one. I personally had a discussion with President Obama at least two times.

BURNETT: Michelle Obama took a stand, along with celebrities like Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige, and Angelina Jolie.

ANGELINA JOLIE, ACTRESS: These men believe that they can get away with this.

BURNETT: And the attacks blamed on Boko Haram continue.

May 7th, 150 people in a border town slaughtered. May 20th, 118 killed in a bombing while shopping. June 26th, another bomb blast killing 21.

It wasn't until July 22nd, more than three months after the girls were taken that Nigeria's president, Goodluck Jonathan, met the Chibouk girls families, saying, "Anyone who gives you the impression that we are aloof and that we are not doing what we're supposed to do to get the girls out is not being truthful."

SETH JONES, RAND CORPORATION: By itself, the Nigerian government is not capable of dealing with Boko Haram in terms of both resources and technical capabilities. They are simply inadequate.

BURNETT: And Boko Haram is getting stronger. On July 27th, Boko fighters crossed the border into Cameroon, kidnapping the wife of that country's vice prime minister.

Nigeria says Boko Haram has killed at least 12,000 people there in the past five years and now, Boko is aiming even further a field.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will not comfortably confront the United States of America.

BURNETT: A threat impossible to ignore.

JONES: We know a direct connection with al Qaeda in the Islam Maghreb. They have been involved in joint training, including the use of improvised explosive devices, suicide attacks.

BURNETT: And through it all, 223 girls still missing.

JONATHAN: This disappearance cannot be another mystery that the world was unable to solve.

BURNETT: But it can't. And every day that passes, it seems more likely the world will move on.


BURNETT: Which is why we hope that report, that the U.S. may have spotted some of them in groups, seems so improbable. So many experts said they were sold into slavery, perhaps even forced to act as suicide bombers. It will be miraculous of many of them were able to be found and brought home.

We'll keep covering this story. Thank you so much for watching.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" begins right now.