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THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham; Crisis in Iraq; Cease-fire in Israel; FDA Changes Hold Status on Ebola Drug; U.S. Humanitarian Air Drop Mission Begins in Iraq; Russia Threatens U.S., European Flight Ban

Aired August 7, 2014 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Also in the Middle East, Hamas says it's ready to launch its rockets into Israel again in just a matter of hours if Palestinian demands aren't met in peace talks.

And dire new assessments of the Ebola epidemic, as U.S. health officials address Americans fears that the deadly disease may spread here.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

Let's get right to the breaking news tonight, the possibility of new U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. It's one of the military options now being considered by the Obama administration. The White House warning of a humanitarian catastrophe as ISIS terrorists seize more land, target Christians and other religious minorities and many are dying right now.

We have our correspondents and newsmakers standing by. We're covering the breaking stories in Iraq and indeed around the world.

Let's begin with our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto -- Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just a few moments ago, the Pentagon told me definitively that at this point no airstrikes or airdrops, this is a drop of humanitarian aid, are under way right now in Iraq. That said, we know the White House is considering both they options and a decision could come as soon as tonight.

Why now? Rapid developments on the ground. One, just to the east of Mosul right here you have thousands of Yazidis -- this is a religious minority in Iraq -- under threat of a massacre. Just to the east of there in Irbil, you have more than 100 U.S. military advisers now under threat from advancing ISIS.

And you also have ISIS' broader advance across Iraq. This is what their territory looked like in just mid-June and now in August this territory now under their grip and U.S. officials telling me virtually unchallenged at this point. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO (voice-over): These are the people the U.S. is rushing to protect, tens of thousands of minority Yazidis. They are now surrounded by ISIS fighters in a small northern Iraqi town. Only for some of them to die there of hunger and thirst. Pleading for their lives inside the Iraqi parliament, a Yazidi lawmaker collapsed with emotion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Over 500 men have been slaughtered. Mr. Speaker, our women are being killed or sold as slaves. There's a collective attempt to exterminate the Yazidi people.

SCIUTTO: Faced with a looming massacre and alarmed by ISIS' continuing advances, the U.S. is now considering airstrikes on ISIS targets. The administration may also undertake emergency airdrops to the stranded Yazidis and opening a humanitarian corridor for Kurdish- controlled areas.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The cold and calculated manner in which ISIL has targeted defenseless Iraqis like the Yazidis and Christians solely because of their ethnic and religious identity demonstrates a callous disregard for human rights and it's deeply disturbing.

SCIUTTO: ISIS is capable of alarming brutality, including mass executions of anyone who is not a Sunni Muslim or who will not immediately convert, all recorded for the world to see in slickly produced videos like this one.

Iraqi forces say they are striking ISIS positions in the Northern Iraqi cities of Tikrit and Mosul. However, ISIS is making further gains, today reclaiming the crucial Mosul dam which supplies electricity to what's now become the capital of a self-declared Islam caliphate in Iraq.

ISIS is also targeting Christians, attacking three more villages around Nineveh province, forcing hundreds of Christian families to flee for their lives. A senior intelligence official tells CNN ISIS is now "well-positioned" to keep the territory it's captured.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: ISIS is not just a threat to the region; it's a threat to the U.S. homeland. It's planning and training to attack the U.S. homeland. I received a briefing from senior intelligence officials today who made the points it's not just ISIS now. You have ISIS operating in one failed state here. You have Al-Murabitun in Libya, which is increasingly becoming a failed state, also has aspirations to attack the U.S. homeland.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen which is virtually a failed state in many areas has carried out three attempted attacks on the U.S. already and continues to have that aspiration. Somalia, of course, Al-Shabab, it's carried out attacks in Africa and it's concerned of planning attacks on the U.S.

This is happening as U.S. intelligence capabilities are shrinking. One, there's less human intelligence on the ground. Two, these terrorist groups have changed the way they communicate following the Snowden revelations not using cell phones or e-mails anymore. That's a problem. In addition to that I'm told by senior intelligence officials there's also a risk aversion now in the U.S. government pulling back, for instance, closing the embassy in Tripoli.

When you close an embassy like that you lose eyes and ears on the ground as well to keep an eye on this terrorist group. Increasing threat to the U.S. while at the same time you have decreasing capability of tracking this threat.

BLITZER: What a desperate situation unfolding right now. Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.

We will have more now on this desperate situation. Especially for the religious minorities who are trapped in Iraq, they are persecuted by these ISIS terrorists.

Our senior international correspondent, Ivan Watson, he's in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil right now, where the clock is clearly ticking, Ivan. Tens of thousands of Christians and other minorities they are in danger right now and 24, 48 hours, 72 hours it could be late. What are you hearing?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Basically we're hearing about Christians, Yazidis, Shiites, basically anybody who is not a Sunni Arab is on the run right now after ISIS successfully captured a couple of towns and villages, extending its area of control.

United Nations now says that there are up to 200,000 people on the run since this offensive began within the last three days. Tens of thousands of the vast majority of them fleeing to the Kurdish controlled north and we watched as this stream of thousands of families came through the gate here into the Kurdish city of Irbil.

They were traveling in the back of tractors, packed into cars, in the back of trucks. Some of them on foot carrying babies' cradles over their shoulders. These are people who are clearly afraid that they could become targets of the ISIS militants, running from what they described as reports of fighting, of airstrikes, apparently by the Iraqi air force on Wednesday night.

Senior Kurdish officials confirming to me ISIS had taken control, for example, of one town called Ware (ph), which is located about 35 miles away from where I'm standing right now in the heart of Irbil and that has sent ripples of fear and panic through the population here.

Wednesday night, there was run on supermarket, some Kurdish families literally heading for the hills, prompting the Kurdish leadership to come out to try to reassure the population to say the Kurdish Peshmerga militia would hold fast, would try to hold back the ISIS tide, but at the same time the Kurdish leadership making a public appeal to the U.S., to NATO for airstrikes to help hold back the ISIS militants who are now coming ever closer to knocking at the gates of the Kurdish north -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ivan Watson, I want you to be very, very careful over there. Thank you very much. Ivan is in Irbil and that's an endangered area right now.

As the United States considers new military activity, action in Iraq, many Americans are reminded of the horrible toll from nearly nine years of war in Iraq, almost 4,500 Americans dead. More than 30,000 wounded. Nearly $2 trillion, trillion spent. More than 100,000 Iraqi civilians killed, some estimates as high as half a million Iraqi civilians killed.

In 2003, less than two months into the war, President George W. Bush very prematurely suggested the mission was accomplished.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: In December of 2011, just hours before the ceremony marking the final U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, President Obama made this promise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Iraq's future will be in the hands of its people. America's war in Iraq will be over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: After all of that, are there valid reasons for the United States right now to intervene once again and get involved militarily in Iraq?

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us. He's looking into this part of the story -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, U.S. intelligence officials telling mining tonight they have growing concern the Islamic State also known as ISIS will expand its capability, expand what it's doing in the territory it holds right now and possibly direct attacks towards the West, possibly eventually towards U.S. interests.

This comes as chilling new images surface of the potential of this group's threat.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): In a new propaganda video this man identified as Abu Abdurahman al-Trinidi is referred to by ISIS as an American. He calls on Muslims to join the fight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please, all believers come, who can make it come, come to (INAUDIBLE) as soon as possible.

TODD: A senior U.S. intelligence official says the intelligence community is tracking this man, but cannot confirm he's an American.

Another man in the video identified himself as British. Tonight, there is growing concern among U.S. intelligence officials that the threat from ISIS could expand beyond the areas it controls now to include attacks on Western and U.S. interests.

The more immediate concern is about the ISIS threat to Europe and what that might mean for what one official called an eventual threat to the U.S. homeland. Intelligence officials say over the past few months, people associated with ISIS have been arrested in Spain and France for plotting attacks and constructing explosive devices.

And they confirmed the shooter in the attack on the Jewish museum in Brussels in May was a member of ISIS. There's urgent calls tonight for the U.S. to help contain the ISIS threat by arming Kurdish forces now fighting vicious battles against ISIS in Northern Iraq. The Kurdish foreign minister said this to CNN.

FALAH MUSTAFA BAKIR, KURDISTAN FOREIGN MINISTER: We need the United States and NATO to interfere because we're fighting on behalf of all those who are against terrorism.

TODD: U.S. officials say they are sharing intelligence with Kurdish force, but they insist any U.S. military assistance to the Kurds would be channeled through the Iraqi government in Baghdad. Experts warn arming the Kurds directly comes with a risk.

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: The risk of that equipment falling into the hands of ISIS. If you look what ISIS is using in the field right now, a lot of that is U.S. military equipment that was taken from the Iraqi army.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Another risk, if the U.S. directly gives the Kurds a lot of weapons and other military help and they make real gains on the battlefield the Kurds might want to kick out not just ISIS but the Iraqis as well and make a move to become independent themselves. That, experts say, will create another mess in that region.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much.

Let's go right to Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

You have got breaking news, Barbara. What have you just learned?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: We do, indeed, Wolf.

A U.S. official has just told me -- quoting now -- "An effort has begun for humanitarian airdrops over Northern Iraq." Planes are in the air at this moment. The parachute of supplies has not happened. That would mean they are not over the drop zone yet but, again, a senior U.S. official with direct knowledge of the situation says an effort has begun now tonight for humanitarian airdrops for those people suffering so much in that area, that remote area of Northern Iraq without food or water for days, with ISIS advancing on them and causing great violence to the people who are trapped there.

It is worth explaining how humanitarian airdrops work in the U.S. military. It all sounds very peaceful, but make no mistake there are also fighter jets in the air to protect the planes, and these are either C-130s or C-17 cargo transport aircraft.

How the airdrops work, they push pallets, large pallets of food, water, medical supplies possibly out the back of the back ramp of these planes at altitude, and they are on a parachute and they drop to the ground. They have to have good weather to do this so they can hit the drop zone and, of course, not be too far off course with any wind in the area.

They want to make sure they drop in an area where the people will know the supplies are there, but, you know, heaven forbid they won't get hurt by the dropping pallets, these large heavy pallets of equipment.

They also will be very concerned about ISIS in the area, any ISIS troops in the area that may have any kind of heavy weapons that could potentially try at least to target the aircraft. That is why you're going to have fighter jets in the air at the same time. What we don't know yet, Wolf, is how soon the mission will be completed.

We expect to be briefed on it here in Washington later tonight once it's all over, once everyone is out of Iraqi airspace. And we don't know what the next steps will be. There are tens of thousands of people up there in those mountains, and one day of airdrops of supplies doesn't fix the problem for them. This could go on for some time.

And let me also say as we stand here tonight the U.S. military very concerned. It's got about 40 troops in Northern Iraq in Irbil and that's an area also where ISIS is advancing. I can tell you the U.S. military keeping an absolute eagle eye every second on what's happening in Irbil out of concern that ISIS could advance on that location where the U.S. troops are -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We got to get those 40 American troops out of Irbil ASAP, as quickly as possible. They also have to worry about shoulder- fired surface-to-air missiles which could clearly endanger some of those U.S. cargo planes bringing in those humanitarian supplies.

Barbara, stand by.

I want to bring in Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina.

He's an influential member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Senator Graham, I know you're well plugged in with the Pentagon.

What are you hearing now?

What's the latest information you're getting?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, that we have to do something. The time has passed just to do nothing.

About three weeks ago, I asked General Dempsey a very pointed question -- is there any force within the region that could contain or defeat ISIS, that represents a direct threat to our homeland, without American air power assistance?

And he said no. So that's the dilemma we have.

If you believe these people are a threat to our homeland, which I do, there's no way to deal with them without American air power. There's nobody in the region that can do that without American air power.

That's where we find ourselves.

BLITZER: So it's one thing to drop pallets of food and water, which is critically important...

GRAHAM: Right.

BLITZER: -- especially to the tens of thousands of religious minorities, Christians and others, who are -- many of whom will starve to death in the next few days unless the U.S. helps. It's another thing to begin launching air strikes on ISIS targets.

You want those air strikes, I assume, to begin?

GRAHAM: Like yesterday. ISIS is a direct threat to the stability in the region. And to be honest with you, you've got to be honest with people. Three years ago, Senator McCain and I were saying you'd better deal with Syria, because it's going to consume the whole region.

You can buy time by hitting them in Iraq, but if you don't hit them in Syria, you're going to be right at it again.

So this thing has spread throughout the region and air strikes in Iraq that are not followed up by air strikes in Syria are not going to get to the root cause of the problem.

BLITZER: A senior Iraqi military official, Senator, tells CNN that the Iraqi Air Force has launched air strikes against ISIS targets in and around this Irbil area.

Is that good enough?

GRAHAM: Well, they don't have the capacity. You heard the Iraqi -- the Kurds and everybody in Iraq saying our air force is not capable of this. I'm going back to what General Dempsey said -- is there a military capability in the region that can successfully defeat these guys or contain them without U.S. air power?

And he said, no. And I would agree with that assessment.

BLITZER: What about boots on the ground?

The president -- the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, today, said under no circumstances will the U.S. send troops back into Iraq.

Is that smart?

GRAHAM: Don't ever say what you won't do. If we do not contain this now and hit them using air power, this goes on six months and they go into Lebanon and eventually to Jordan, you're probably going to have to have boots on the ground.

Nobody wants that. But the longer it goes and the stronger they get, the more aggressive the response. This doesn't get better by ignoring it. They're not going to defeat themselves. They're not going to surrender.

And here's the question, Wolf -- how do you stop them?

Who's going to stop them?

I think we have to be part of the team to stop them.

The good news is, I think air power, smartly employed, could turn this thing around. But if you keep letting it get worse and worse and worse, you're going to have to use ground troops eventually, if they continue to take over all of Iraq and their surrounding neighborhood.

BLITZER: You know that the American public has no great appetite to get involved militarily in Iraq right now, right?

GRAHAM: Sure. Absolutely. No, all I would tell the American people, this is the world as it is. I'm -- everybody is war weary, but I hope you're not so weary that you won't defend the homeland. When the director of National Intelligence, the CIA director, the Homeland Security secretary, the FBI director, tells all of us in Congress, ISIS is a direct credible threat to the homeland, they're gaining in strength, they're no longer a terrorist organization, they're a terrorist army, somebody has got to level with the American people that our foreign policy is failing, our homeland is at risk.

So I assume that the American people do not want to allow radical Islam to grow in strength to hit us again and have another 9/11. If that assumption is right, that means we need to act in coordination the regional powers, not just by ourselves.

This is not about the humanitarian aspects of your story. This is about protecting ourselves from a growing threat from radical Islam in Syria and Iraq.

BLITZER: But there are these al Qaeda-inspired groups, not just ISIS, all over North Africa, in other parts of Africa...

GRAHAM: Yes.

BLITZER: -- whether Boko Haram, certainly in the Arabian Peninsula.

What is the U.S. supposed to do to all these...

GRAHAM: Al-Nusra.

BLITZER: -- yes, of course. They're -- they're all dangerous and they all potentially represent a threat to the U.S. homeland.

GRAHAM: Smartly engage them. Al-Nusra is about to take over Libya. You've got Northern Africa becoming a safe haven for terrorists.

If we're not willing to fight these guys and contain them by having partnerships with people in the region, we're going to get hit again. So we should have left some troops behind in Iraq. I think it would have been more likely than not that this would never have happened if we had had a 10,000 coalition force left behind. We're going to have the same thing happen in Afghanistan.

I'm sorry that the world is as screwed up as it is. I don't know what makes these guys tick, but they're cutting people's heads off, they're crucifying Christians, they're about to wipe out one of the most ancient people in the region and they're coming after us next.

So here's the good news. They're not 10 feet tall. With some will and perseverance and determination and smart foreign policy, both military and foreign assistance, we can beat these guys.

But they will not give up. Somebody has got to take it to them. And that's going to require us to be part of that team to take it to them.

BLITZER: Yes. What's so depressing, Senator, is that the U.S. armed and trained a huge Iraqi Army...

GRAHAM: Yes.

BLITZER: -- hundreds of thousands of troops...

GRAHAM: Yes.

BLITZER: And they, at the first sign of any problem with these ISIS terrorists coming in, they run away, they abandon warehouses full of U.S. arms...

GRAHAM: Yes.

BLITZER: -- stocks and it's a disaster that we're seeing unfold right now that is so, so depressing when you think of all the US...

GRAHAM: Yes. BLITZER: -- blood and treasure that was invested trying to build

up a capable Iraqi military to protect their own country. They just couldn't do it, for whatever reason.

Hey, Senator, thanks very much for joining us.

GRAHAM: I blame Maliki for gutting them.

Thank you.

BLITZER: Yes, Nouri al-Maliki...

GRAHAM: Thank you.

BLITZER: -- has obviously turned out to be a disaster, according to almost everyone...

GRAHAM: Absolutely.

BLITZER: -- watching that situation.

Lindsey Graham, senator from South Carolina, thank you.

Still ahead, the calm in Gaza could end within hours. Hamas now threatening to resume its warfare with Israel. We're going to have a live report from the region.

Also, new warnings about the uncontrolled spread of the Ebola virus. Top U.S. health officials sound alarm bells before Congress and address Americans' fears of being infected.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We just got this White House photo, the president meeting with his top national security advisers in the White House Situation Room.

Recapping the breaking news, they are discussing what to do in Iraq right now. Senior U.S. officials tell CNN an effort has now begun on humanitarian airdrops over Northern Iraq, the officials saying that U.S. fighter jets are also involved in the effort for the purpose of protection.

U.S. cargo planes trying to drop some food, water, other supplies to Iraqi minorities, especially Christians, Yazidis, other minorities who are in danger of being slaughtered by ISIS terrorists right now. We will get much more on this story coming up.

Not far away elsewhere in the Middle East right now, Hamas officials say they are ready to go back on the attack against Israel less than a few hours from now when the current cease-fire ends, the three day cease-fire almost over. They are demanding concessions in peace talks.

But the negotiations are under way in Cairo as we meet right now. They are trying to extend the truce. Let's get the very latest. CNN's Jake Tapper is joining us from Jerusalem.

What are you hearing, Jake?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you know, tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. local time here in Jerusalem and Gaza and in Cairo, Egypt, that 72 hour cease-fire is set to expire.

So, individuals with Egyptian government, with the Israeli government, with the Palestinian Authority have been talking about trying to extend the cease-fire to stop the bloodshed, stop the Israeli strikes against Hamas and the Palestinians, stop the Hamas and Islamist jihad strikes against Israel.

But this evening at about 9:15 or so, a spokesman for the Qassam Brigades -- this is military wing of Hamas, which, of course, is one of the five parties of Palestinians represented at these negotiations in Cairo -- he issued an address on Al Aqsa Television, which is the Hamas cable channel, and basically said that if the demands of Hamas are not met by 7:59 tomorrow morning, then as far as Hamas was concerned the cease-fire would be over.

Those demands would include opening the borders, allowing a seaport and lifting what the Palestinians refer to as the siege, which is otherwise something of an economic blockade of Gaza. There's no indication that either Egypt or Israel is willing to go along with it, but on the other hand, when I interviewed some individuals from the Palestinian Authority, they are not breaking yet from Hamas when it comes to the cease-fire and the threat to break the cease-fire when it expires or rather the threat to not extend the cease-fire.

They are still unified. It's still unclear if Hamas is doing this as a negotiating ploy or not, but right now it looks as though this cease-fire is an endangered species, Hamas, the military wing, saying they are preparing for a long war, Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, I assume they realize if they start launching rockets and missiles into Israel at 8:00 a.m. local time, which is 1:00 a.m. here on the East Coast, the Israelis will respond brutally.

The Israelis will make the point that all Palestinians who will die after that cease-fire ends, that will be the burden of responsibility of Hamas because they were the ones who brought the cease-fire. What do they say when you point that out to them?

TAPPER: Well, one thing I have been hearing quite a bit over the last few weeks is that there's something different about this conflict, this wave of the conflict than previous.

And that's the idea of Israeli deterrence, the idea of Israel will strike back and strike harder. If you fire a rocket, Israel will use its superior military technology, and the pain for you will be worse than the pain you can inflict on us, that that no longer is as effective or even effective at all. And the reason, I'm told, for Palestinians is, the hopelessness

in Gaza is so strong because of the severe economic problems, the catastrophes they are having in terms of unemployment, in terms of being able to have any sort of life, any sort of hope. Palestinians say -- now, you don't have to agree that it's justified or not, but Palestinians say that the hopelessness is so strong that deterrence is no longer there. And so that's something else that's a big factor in this, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jake, thanks very much. Jake Tapper reporting from Jerusalem.

Let's go to Gaza City right now. Martin Savidge is standing by there.

What are you hearing in Gaza, Martin, about the fate of cease- fire, only a few hours away from potentially being over?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I agree with Jake that it's hard to tell what is bluster and what is real. But I think more and more, there's a sense that the reality is we could be very much back at a war footing right after 8:00 tomorrow morning.

Certainly if you believe the comments that are coming from the leadership and particularly the military wing of Hamas, there was a rally in Gaza City today, several thousand people, not a mass rally that you might have anticipated, but really this is a rally in support not so much of Hamas but of the negotiations going on.

But it would appear now that those negotiations really have not achieved much. Not at least from the perspective of the Palestinians. Not from what they wanted, which was some economic relief, the lifting of the sanctions and on and on.

So, I think, right now, there is a sense of pessimism, and a fear that come 8:00 tomorrow morning, it won't be just Hamas but it would be Islamic jihad and other militant groups that will signal that the cease-fire is over and so are the talks and it may to be done by a rocket fire.

BLITZER: Yes. If they launch those rockets, the Israelis will almost certainly respond right away and this three-day calm will disappear very, very quickly.

Martin, be careful over there. Thanks very much for that report.

Just ahead is the deadly Ebola epidemic likely to spread to the United States. Top officials update Congress, they update the nation. Our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta is standing by live.

And thousands of international flyers could face some big problems. We're going to tell you why.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: This afternoon, top official of the aid organization Samaritan's Purse told Congress the Ebola crisis in West Africa is uncontained and out of control. He also called the international response a failure. At the same hearing, the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called the crisis in his words unprecedented.

Let's bring in our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

First of all, Sanjay, there's one drug out there just got some approval by the Food and Drug Administration. What do we know about this? How effective is this specific drug?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a fascinating time with regard to these drugs. Obviously, the situation in West Africa putting some heat on, trying to get these drugs available. This one is called -- it's from Tekmira. The drug is called TKM Ebola, the name for the company.

It's an interesting drug. It was further along in the trial process than the drug we have been talking about ZMapp. This one was actually tested in human beings, went through safety testing and did pretty well. They found that in the animal studies, it was 100 percent effective if it was given within an hour of the animal being exposed and in the human studies it was a safety study it performed really well.

It was on a full clinical hold and the reason it was on a full clinical hold because as they went higher and higher in the doses, the humans starting to take it started to have some nausea and some side effects. Now, it's on a partial clinical hold because they realize the dose they need to give humans shouldn't cause those side effects.

And again, this is part of trying to maybe make these medications available. This is a company that did it in conjunction with the Department of Defense. They gave them $140 million to help develop these drugs. And some of these trials that have been out there, as I mentioned for sometime.

The question, Wolf, is how much of it is out there, and there are people going to be able to start getting it quickly. We don't know the answers to that yet.

BLITZER: Because we heard from Dr. Frieden, Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here in THE SITUATION ROOM an hour ago, that you can only get the disease if you already have the symptoms, a high fever, for example.

At what point, Sanjay, should the U.S., other countries start checking incoming passengers from Africa, let's say, West Africa specifically, to see if they have a fever?

GUPTA: It's an excellent question. And, you know, we've been down this road before a bit, particularly with SARS several years ago, 10 years ago, you know? And they were actually measuring temperatures of passengers that were at that time leaving countries that were known to have SARS, and I think that's probably the key is you really want to try to screen people before they get on the plane, maybe after they get off the plane as well, but I think the key intervention is going to before they get on the plane.

But, you know, going to have to make some sense, Wolf. You know, people can have a fever for all sorts of different reasons and 999 times out of a 1,000, it's not going to be something like Ebola. It's going to be something much more benign. So, how do you figure out someone has something more common and someone has something more serious. That's got to be part of the screening as well.

So, it's a good step, though, because a fever is a very good indicator with Ebola that the virus is starting to take hold.

BLITZER: Sanjay Gupta helping us appreciate the enormity of this problem right now. Sanjay, thanks very much.

The West African nation of Sierra Leone has been hit hardest by the Ebola epidemic. "Reuters" now reporting the army moved in today to isolate rural communities with the virus. It is reported Sierra Leone also is where a doctor who's been treating Ebola patients just died.

Our correspondent David McKenzie is in the Sierra Leone capital of Freetown. What's the latest over there, David?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the latest is very extreme measures taken by the army. We've listened and talked to witnesses on the ground in the eastern corridor of Sierra Leone and they say there are hundreds of army and police in that area, creating a blockade, effectively sealing off parts of eastern Sierra Leone, not allowing no one to come in and no one to go out except for health workers and essential government and other supplies.

How they will be able to enforce that will be interesting to see, Wolf, because even the internal borders here are very porous and movement of people has proven the key way that Ebola has spread from Guinea into Sierra Leone and Liberia and across the region -- Wolf.

BLITZER: David McKenzie, be careful over there as well. We'll stay in close touch with you. One of our courageous journalists, David McKenzie, reporting from Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Just ahead, thousands of international flyers they may face some big headaches because of Russia's Vladimir Putin. We'll tell you what's going on.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Recapping the breaking news right now: a senior U.S. official tells CNN, an effort has already begun involving a humanitarian air drop over northern Iraq.

The source is saying that U.S. fighter jets are involved in the effort for the purpose of protection. U.S. military cargo planes now dropping food, water, other supplies, tens of thousands of minorities in Iraq are in danger right now. Christians, Yazidis, others, the U.S. starting to help. We'll see if it goes the next step and launches airstrikes. So far, no word on that. Let's turn to another global crisis right now. New fall out over

the battle involving Ukraine. We're learning more about Russia's retaliation for sanctions by the U.S. and Europe and how it could affect people here in the United States, indeed around the world. International airline passengers could be seriously affected.

Let's bring in our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh.

What are you learning?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Russia is striking back and it is going after the bottom line of the United States, and Europe. A food ban is already in place but next international flights could be banned over Russian airspace and that could eventually cut into passengers' bottom line. Here's how.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH (voice-over): Thousands of international flyers could soon feel the wrath of Russian leader Vladimir Putin if the country bans U.S. and European airlines from flying over its airspace.

Russia's prime minister said Thursday it's being considered.

DMITRY MEDVEDEV, RUSSIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): It is a ban on use of airspace of our country.

MARSH: Some of the world's biggest carriers direct paths to Asia fly over Siberia, but the ban would for the airlines to fly Cold War routes around Siberia. Passengers and airlines would feel the impact.

HEATHER CONLEY, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTL. STUDIES: It's also a huge inconvenience. So, now, hypothetically, if we are not allowed cross Russian airspace, air traffic, the fuel increases to go around the times that will be added for flights that we now enjoy, the transpolar flights. It's going to be a big problem.

MARSH: American, United and Delta Airlines would all be affected. Delta saying it might have to alter 12 of its routes between the U.S. and Asia.

But it's European carriers that will really feel it. In a seven- day period, Air France, KLM and Lufthansa flew the most flights over the area, more than 400 according to flight-tracking Web site, FlightRadar24.

CONLEY: Almost impossible to go from a European to Asian route without crossing Russia.

MARSH: Russia announced Thursday its banning imports of all meat, produce and milk from the United States, Europe, Australia, Canada, and Norway.

It's retaliation for Western sanctions aimed to force Russia to pullback from Ukraine. But this tit-for-tat is likely to hurt Russians the most. CONLEY: Not only is he running their economy into the ground and

their growth is now predicted at zero, but he's also denying them basic things like fruit.

MARSH: The ban on imports will hurt some American businesses, such as poultry and pork. The U.S. exported $1.2 billion to Russia in agricultural products last year. That was less than 1 percent of all U.S. food exports.

But for Europe, Russia is its second biggest customer, supplying about a quarter of Russia's dairy and fruit and almost as much meat.

CONLEY: The neighbors, Poland, Lithuania, the closest European Union countries are really going to be impacted. He's trying to divide Europe, trying to weaken resolve to continue to punish Russia for its actions in Ukraine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH: And to that point, Putin's objective divide and conquer in Europe really gets hit. It exported $15 billion worth of food to Russia last year compared that to the United States which exported $1.2 billion. So, when you look at it we're talking about 15-1.

So, really, in the end here Russia really gets hit hard when you look at these sanctions.

BLITZER: They do.

All right. Rene, thanks for that report. Rene Marsh reporting for us.

Just ahead, a powerful and popular Democratic governor now facing his first major political crisis. We'll have details.

But first this '60s Minute.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jack, what is your definition of a husband?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A husband who is a guy who's in charge and should be all of the time.

MUSIC: There's something happening here, what it is ain't exactly clear --

CECILE RICHARDS, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: Women couldn't open a bank account in their own name. They couldn't get credit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The jobs we have are jobs that only men are able to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: American Psychiatric Association deems homosexuality to be a mental disorder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do not employ homosexuals knowingly.

LEONARD STEINHORN, AUTHOR, THE GREATER GENERATION: Migrant farm workers were getting paid pennies to feed America.

TERRY O'NEILL, PRESIDENT, N.O.W.: You have this bubbling up of a desire for real equality.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What we are talking about is a revolution and not a reform.

MUSIC: What's that sound? Everybody look what's going down --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You cannot be given equality. You have to assume it.

DR. MARY BRENNAN, AUTHOR: People looked around and said look at this potential for change.

ANNOUNCER: "THE SIXTIES", tonight at 9:00 on CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Recapping the breaking news: a senior U.S. official tells CNN, an effort has now begun involving humanitarian air drops over northern Iraq, the source saying U.S. fighter jets are also involved in the effort for the purpose of protection. Much more coming up later.

Also, the deputy prime minister of Kurdistan's regional government tells CNN Iraqi air force has now bombed a number of ISIS terrorist targets in and around the Erbil area. Tens of thousands of Iraqis, many belonging to minority Yazidis groups as well as Christians are stranded without food or water because of the ISIS take over involving parts of Iraq.

One of the country's most popular Democratic governors here in the United States is facing his first major political crisis just as he's asking voters to give him another term.

Our national correspondent Jason Carroll is in New York with the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(CHANTING)

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a key theme in New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's election campaign.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: So, I'm proposing a "clean up Albany" plan to fight corruption.

CARROLL: And once Cuomo became governor, avowed to keep that promise. CUOMO: I appointed a Moreland Commission to investigate

corruption. Open up the newspaper even today and you see more and more stories of individual legislators who have done bad acts.

CARROLL: Open papers now, headlines alleging corruption not with state legislators but with the governor's office, centers around that anti-corruption commission he created and then disbanded.

(on camera): Sources close to the investigation confirm the U.S. attorney is investigating the disbanding of the Moreland Commission and whether the governor's office interfered with the commission's work.

(voice-over): Interfered how? Allegations of top Cuomo aide tried to steer commissioners away from investigating a firm that worked for the gubernatorial campaign.

According to one commissioner, William Fitzpatrick, after talking with that aide, he directed that a subpoena to an entity with ties to the governor be withdrawn. Fitzpatrick said initially it was withdrawn, then wrote, "We nonetheless decided to issue the subpoena."

According to Fitzpatrick, that aide was Larry Schwartz. While sources say the governor himself is not the focus of the probe, neither he nor Schwartz would speak to CNN about it.

But Fitzpatrick says that nobody interfered with me or my co- chairs.

PROF. COSTAS PANAGOPOULOS, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: The governor did this to himself. He said, I'm going to set up this commission to stamp out corruption in New York state and then the allegation is that he, his administration was not willing to play by the very same rules.

CARROLL: Cuomo did defend the aide's actions in an event last month. He drew a distinction between interference and independence.

CUOMO: The best evidence of independence is when someone from the second floor says, "Well, why don't do you this?" And then the chairman says, "I disagree, I don't want to do that." That's not a sign of interference. That is the demonstrable proof of independence.

REPORTER: Why is that not a sign of an attempt to influence an independent commissioner?

CUOMO: It's called conversation and advice.

PROF. THOMAS HALPER, BARUCH COLLEGE: I think that this is the kind of tap dancing that you can expect from people in public life.

CARROLL: Whatever the case. Poll numbers show Cuomo far ahead of his opponent and as for voters --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know what's going on with Governor Cuomo.

CARROLL: Most we found knew very little about it at all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I didn't know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It doesn't surprise me at all.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: As for why the governor disbanded the commission we called in and emailed his office to ask but got no response. Cuomo has said the whole point of the commission was to use it as leverage to get anti-corruption legislation passed. Cuomo did get the Public Trust Act passed by the end of March and around that same time, Wolf, he shut down the commission -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jason Carroll reporting from New York -- thanks very much.

Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Go ahead and tweet me @WolfBlitzer. You can always tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.

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hat's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The news continues next on CNN.