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American Dies Fighting For ISIS; President Obama Authorizes Recon Flights Over Syria; Crowds Gather in Ferguson for Rally; Russian Soldiers Detained in Ukraine

Aired August 26, 2014 - 19:00   ET


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next breaking news, an all- American man turned Jihadi, who died fighting for ISIS in Syria. Now growing fears about the other Americans answering the call for Jihad as well.

Plus President Obama makes a promise to protect the American people from ISIS. Surveillance flights now under way near the Syrian border. Are air strikes next?

And alarming new audio allegedly from the Michael Brown shooting now being analyzed by the FBI. What a pause heard amid the rapid gunfire might tell us. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Jim Sciutto in again for Erin Burnett. We begin with breaking news, an American dies fighting for ISIS. CNN learned today that a home grown terrorist, 33-year-old San Diego resident, Douglas MacArthur McCain was killed in Syria over the weekend fighting for the feared, brutal terrorist group known as ISIS.

Intelligence officials tell CNN they had been watching McCain for some time. More now on how a man born in America could die a Jihadi.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): He's an American with an all-American name, Douglas MacArthur McCain, but this 33-year-old man from San Diego went to fight and die in Syria for ISIS, the terror group, U.S. officials now call the gravest of threats.

It was, after all, an ISIS fighter, who beheaded American journalist, James Foley, just last week. McCain's family tells CNN they were notified by the State Department Monday that he was killed over the weekend.

His Uncle Kenneth told me, quote, "We are devastated and we are just as surprised as the country is." McCain was raised Christian, but converted to Islam several years ago.

A police in Minnesota tells CNN that McCain had past run-ins with the law charged in 2003 with possession of marijuana and driving on a suspended license. Several months ago, he told family members he was traveling to Turkey. That was the last they saw him. McCain is not the first American to die fighting as a Jihadi in Syria. Mohammed Abusallah was killed in May detonating a truck bomb near a Syrian military base. In a martyrdom video he's seen tearing up his U.S. passport and urging others to join the fight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think that you've won. You've never won.

SCIUTTO: Abusallah was fighting for an Al Nusra, an al Qaeda-tied terror group. McCain is the first American known to have been killed fighting for is, a group so brutal it was expelled by al Qaeda.

Today American officials believe that 100 Americans are fighting as Jihadis and more than 1,000 westerners. McCain was on a terror watch list. The State Department says they're doing their best to track others.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've increased our capacity. We've increased our tracking. We've increased our coordination, but clearly this is a threat that we take seriously enough to put it at front and center of our agenda.

SCIUTTO: The fear now that when they return home, they may bring jihad with them.


SCIUTTO: We're joined by Pentagon spokesman, Rear Admiral John Kirby. Admiral Kirby, always good to have you on.


SCIUTTO: This case today really remarkable. You have an American Douglas MacArthur McCain caught fighting and dying for ISIS. To the Pentagon, what does a case like this indicate?

KIRBY: Well, again, we can't confirm whether it's true or not, but if it's true, what it reminds us here about is the very real threat of foreign fighters inside ISIL. We're not the only western government that's concerned about this.

There are plenty of others where you have citizens that are getting radicalized going over there and there's real concern that they could take what they've learned and come back home and conduct terror attacks. So I think it's a real stark reminder of the inside threat that foreign fighters can pose from what they're learning in ISIL.

SCIUTTO: There's been something of a mix message from the administration just in the last several days. Because at the end of last week, you had the defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Martin Dempsey, talking about a real imminent threat to the U.S. homeland.

Which the White House seemed to walk back somewhat yesterday saying, well, it could be a treat at some point, but not necessarily today. Is it a threat today?

KIRBY: Well, this foreign fighter issue is what contributes to the immediacy of the threat, Jim. There is no indications right now they are capable of large scale attack on the homeland. We've said that, but that doesn't mean that ISIL doesn't pose an imminent threat.

In one way, the course of the foreign fighters. Another way is they pose a threat certainly to our interest in the region including our personnel and facilities in the region.

So there is an immediacy to the threat and we are all taking this very, very seriously. I don't know that there's been a walking back here. I think we all talking a look at ISIL in a very sober, clear eyed way.

When an ISIS fighter killed on videotape the American journalist, James Foley, last week, they made an explicit threat to the U.S., to the president, saying, if you strike us, we are going to kill Americans.

From your perspective, is it a concern that as the administration, for instance, considers airstrikes in Syria in addition to airstrikes already taking place against ISIS targets in Iraq?

Does it concern you that those strikes will spark more attacks against Americans? Whether they are being held in Syria or perhaps abroad, in Europe or in the U.S. homeland.

KIRBY: We certainly don't want any more attacks on western targets or our citizens. That said, this is a threat that has to be dealt with. It has to be dealt with by more vehicles than just airstrikes in kinetic action. There's got to be a holistic approach to this thin, a regional approach to this.

But you can't let yourself be intimidated by a group like this. They will respond to force and to coercion and we have to keep that as an option on the table, of course. But ultimately what's going to defeat them is a rejection of their ideology and that can only be done through good governance, in Iraq and in Syria.

SCIUTTO: We've heard criticism from both Republicans and Democrats of the administration's response to ISIS so far, calling it deliberate, calling it slow, not up to the task. Just in the last week, you had two very stark reminders of the direct threat from ISIS.

The killing of James Foley, now an American, one of an estimated hundred Americans fighting for ISIS and other groups in Syria and Iraq today. Is the administration's response being outpaced by events on the ground?

KIRBY: I don't think so. Not at all, Jim. Look, I mean, we've been focused on the ISIL now for months. Everybody is focused on just the last couple of weeks when we've been conducting kinetic airstrikes. But we bolstered our presence in the Persian Gulf. We increased intelligence and surveillance flights over Iraq. We've done a lot to help arm Iraqi security forces. We've accelerated the material assistance we've them. We've worked and I announced today, seven nations now are a part of a U.S. effort to help provide arms and ammunition to the Kurds. We are off and running in that regard. There's been a lot of efforts here, a very -- yes, deliberate, but deliberate is not bad, but a very focused and certainly an urgent effort to get at this threat.

But ultimately this is a threat that the Iraqis have to face themselves. This is not something that other nations are going to be able to solve for them and it's not something that's just going to be able to solve through military action alone.

SCIUTTO: But if ISIS is a threat to the U.S., are we going to leave it to the Iraqis to protect U.S. interest?

KIRBY: Nobody said that we are going to leave it to the Iraqis, Jim. As I said, we are conducting operations in supports of Iraqi security forces inside of Iraq and I think those operations will certainly continue as they need to continue.

But this is a long struggle and it's not something that is going to be solved simply through military action, not even just American military action. This is right now acutely a regional threat and so it needs to be dealt with in the region and we're working with our Iraqi and our Kurdish partners to do that.

SCIUTTO: Rear Admiral John Kirby, thanks very much for joining us. Always good to have you on.

KIRBY: Thanks for having me.

SCIUTTO: Joining me now is CNN national security analyst and former CIA operative, Bob Baer and also CNN military analyst, Retired Colonel Peter Mansoor. He was with General David Petraus in Iraq during the troop surge there.

Bob, if I could begin with you, help our viewers understand how a man who grew up a Christian in Minnesota could end up fighting and dying with ISIS in Syria?

BOB BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Jim, these people are outsiders. I've run across any number of them. They are looking for a cause that usually had some trouble at home. Unemployed, they can't find work. They've got personal problems and all of a sudden they see a war that's attractive to them.

They show up in Syria, plan to do who knows what, but then they become indoctrinated. And they're put on the front and they fight. And what's turned out is this indoctrinated fighters like this American and the Europeans or the British person who killed Foley. They are more radical and even the locals.

I've heard this consistently and of course, the big fear is and this is the implicit fear is they are going to get radicalized, trained in weapons explosives and come home and launch attacks. And as we go into this war, I think that's a pretty good chance it will happen. SCIUTTO: Well, it's a tremendous fear. I've heard it from U.S. intelligence officials for months and months now. Colonel Mansoor when you were in Iraq dealing with al Qaeda in Iraq, the precursor to ISIS, one thing you didn't face there was Americans and Europeans in the numbers we see with ISIS now joining the fight there. How much does that raise this challenge from ISIS?

COL. PETER MANSOOR, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: We don't know who they are, all of them and they're able to fly into the United States without getting a visa. This is a tremendous national security challenge to our intelligence agencies and homeland security agencies.

SCIUTTO: And there have early, some people have gotten through even if they are tracking them. Bob, I wonder if I can ask you this, when these air strikes started in Iraq, you heard a direct threat from the ISIS fighter who killed the American, James Foley.

You continue these attacks we'll take the fight to you. We will kill Americans. How much of a concern is that, that as you step up military action there, you may spark reaction from is, on Americans whether inside Syria or the homeland in Europe.

BAER: You can count on it. I'm not worried about our forces in Iraq, they're so well trained they can take care of themselves it's Europe and the United States. The problem is we have a situation where they have an academy, if you like, where people are indoctrinated for suicide bombers, westerners and Syrians and Iraqis and the rest of it.

As the administration looks on they can't let this continue on like the order of the assassins from the 11th century and hundreds of young men from the gulf going there who presumably could return home.

And why you have the Gulf Arabs so worried at this point. This is truly a cancer and spreading. I spoke to someone who had just been in Rocca saying they're worse than al Qaeda and Taliban.

SCIUTTO: It's amazing they were expelled by the al Qaeda. You heard the rear General Kirby saying the U.S. is stepping up its efforts significantly against ISIS and heard the president vow to protect Americans against is. Do you have any fear the administration has been natural too slow to respond to the threat?

BAER: The administration has been very deliberate. When you're talking about going to war, deliberate is good. I think the time for deliberation is quickly coming to an end. The administration has to decide two things.

First, is ISIS a threat to the United States? I think it is, many people think it is. If it is, what are we going to do about it? We need to put the ISIS Islamic state on the defensive.

We can't be bullied because they claim to ramp up murders against journalists or conductor attacks. They want do that any way. It's incumbent upon the administration if they deem the Islamic state a threat, to act.

SCIUTTO: Thanks very much for joining us.

OUTFRONT next, as ISIS gains ground, Obama approves surveillance flights over Syria while Syria warns the U.S. against air strikes. Just how will this work?

Plus, a series of gunshots recorded accidentally, the day the moment that Michael Brown was killed. What that audio may reveal about how he perished.


SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

President Obama has authorized reconnaissance flights over Syria according to a U.S. official. And those flights have begun along the Syria/Iraq border as ISIS militants continue to gain ground in that war ravaged nation. Flights inside Syria seen as a forerunner of possible U.S. air strikes against ISIS in Syria could begin at any point. We begin tonight with Barbara Starr. She's at the Pentagon.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From President Obama a threat and a promise.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Justice will be done. We have proved time and time again we'll do what's necessary to capture those who harm Americans and we'll continue to take direct action where needed to protect our people and to defend our homeland.

STARR: But as the U.S. prepares to potentially militarily confront ISIS, the Pentagon will say little about the reconnaissance flights President Obama authorized over Syria.

KIRBY: I'm not going to talk about intelligence matters.

STARR: An administration official tells CNN that drones have flown over Iraq near the border with Syria to pick up whatever intelligence they can about ISIS troops, convoys, weapons and training camps just inside Syria, anything on targets that could be hit to disrupt their brutal campaign of murder and intimidation.

U.S. satellites have already gathered some information. ISIS communications are also being monitored. But now the U.S. needs to get real-time intelligence. It will be tough. One of the type of drones being used, sources say, a global hawk like this. It can fly at up to 60,000 feet and especially equipped to gather targeting information on fixed and mobile targets. Exactly the type of information on ISIS the U.S. wants.

Washington will not acknowledge if drones have penetrated Syrian air space, a move that would violate Syria's sovereignty, U.S. officials say. But once the Intel is in hand, would U.S. bombers have to cross into Syria to strike? Perhaps. One option, b-1 bombers flying at high altitude dropping precision bombs, but many say air strikes alone will not defeat ISIS. REP. MIKE TURNER (R), OHIO: These isolated military actions can only

result in more difficulty. The president needs to put together his national security team, the department of defense and put together a plan.


STARR: And there's always the law of unintended consequences. A senior U.S. official tells me if the U.S. were to undertake air strikes against ISIS inside Syria, one of the problems is it might actually benefit Syrian president Bashar al-Assad whose forces are also battling ISIS -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. I want to bring you now Amy Davidson, she is executive editor of "The New Yorker" and Peter Beinart, CNN political commentator, also contributing editor at "the Atlantic."

I wonder if I can begin with you Amy. Are air strikes the answer or part of the answer against ISIS?

AMY DAVIDSON, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE NEW YORKER: Air strikes alone aren't going to do anything. And there's a real -- many scenarios in which air strikes could actually be counterproductive. Barbara mentioned unintended consequences. If we just go -- this isn't a situation where we just need to show the terrorists force, where a display of anger and justice that President Obama mentioned is going to be the most effective thing. This is happening in a situation in Syria where ISIS is our enemy. We've also been working very hard to overthrow or to support the people who are challenging Bashar al- Assad. And ISIS is also fighting Assad.

If we just go in there and bomb ISIS, we not only have to think about whether it's going to actually benefit Assad and be counterproductive in other ways but whether it might benefit ISIS. One thing that General Dempsey said last week when he was talking about the U.S. military's option was the ultimate way to defeat ISIS is to make it that all of the Sunni Muslims in the region between Damascus and Baghdad don't feel completely disenfranchised. If they see Sunni rebels fighting against Assad suddenly see us taking sides and think we've thrown out all of their grievances and their interests for this moment for a military strike, we're also going to possibly strengthen is.

SCIUTTO: Does that mean -- I mean, ISIS would love to pick a fight with the U.S., Peter. It raises their profile. It shows that they can stand up, that kind of thing. Is that one of these unintended consequences that if you take the fight to them, that oddly enough, it might benefit them?

PETER BEINART, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: I'm not sure that it would benefit them. Yes, their profile is being raised. But on the other hand, it's not fun to have the world's most powerful military dropping the most powerful bombs in the world on you.

I think the problem is you can't take territory from the air. You have to have a ground ally. You look at the president's Kosovo, for instance, Afghanistan, always we had an ally, even the Kurds in Iraq. We don't really have an ally and Barack Obama said that. And Barack Obama has said that again and again and again basically we don't think that the non-jihadist rebels, the supposed free Syrian army, we don't think they're really very effective and a lot of other people have said the boundaries between them and the jihadists are not clear either.

SCIUTTO: He's also repeatedly ruled out putting U.S. troops on the ground there. He did that again today. So it begs the question then, you know, the U.S., the president, the American public clearly doesn't want Americans on the ground in another Middle Eastern war. If air strikes aren't enough, how do you square that circle? What's the solution to respond as it becomes more of a direct threat to the U.S.?

DAVIDSON: There's no military solution that will work alone. But if there's going to be one, it has to be in conjunction with diplomacy and with a political discussion, a political discussion about the future of the Iraqi government. Also a political discussion at home just so the Obama administration thing that America will grow stronger if we go into this without a discussion of the real possible consequences and costs among Americans.

SCIUTTO: And goals, what are the goals here? Because many have said that's exactly the debate this country did not have in the advance to war in Iraq. The cost, how long are we going to be there and what's the endgame?

DAVIDSON: The last thing our military needs is to be sent into an action that's ill defined that doesn't have, really have all the different (INAUDIBLE).

BEINART: The enemies that President Obama spoke out so strongly about not wanting mission creep but in fact this is exactly what we're doing. If you look at the rationale, it started with protecting the American embassy and American personnel in Iraq. SCIUTTO: And protecting the Yazidis.

BEINART: And protecting the Yazidis, right. And then this dam, the Mosul dam could have been a threat. Now because we've acknowledged that we're fighting against ISIS so we have to fight them on both sides of the border. And it is striking that a president himself who has been so resoundingly opposed to allowing this to get bigger is doing exactly that.

SCIUTTO: A good reminder to viewers because a couple weeks ago that was the mission as defined. Lo and behold you're talking about action against Syria across the border.

DAVIDSON: We've got justified rage because we've seen a journalist executed on film. But what we have to figure out is how to really address that and not just plunge in. You know, and also keeping in mind with the Assad factor that sometimes the enemy of our enemy is our enemy also. It's not as simple -- we can't pretend this isn't really complicated, that there might be trade-offs and there might be trap. SCIUTTO: And the idea that the U.S. and Syria and Bashar al-Assad are

on the same side, in some ways, now against ISIS is just remarkable.

Amy Davidson and Peter Beinart, great to have you.

We want you to weigh in with your thoughts and questions about ISIS. Please join me tomorrow at noon eastern for a live facebook chat. You go to and we will take your thoughts and questions as well.

OUTFRONT next, an unexpected development in the Michael Brown case. The FBI now examining an audio recording taken by chance the very moment that Brown was gunned down.

Plus, a united airlines flight forced to make an emergency landing in Chicago. Why two passengers were removed from the jet?


SCIUTTO: Tonight, a startling new clue in the shooting death of Michael Brown. CNN has obtained a radio recording allegedly taken from the exact moment that Office Darren Wilson open fired on the unarmed teenager. It was recorded unintentionally during video chat by a man who lives near the scene of the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. We would like you to listen to the recording for yourself and just keep in mind you're going to hear this man's conversation with the shots in the background.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are pretty.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're so fine. Just going over some of your videos. How could I forget?



SCIUTTO: Now, a forensic audio expert analyzed that audio for CNN. And he says that there were six gunshots, a three second pause and then, four more shots -- a total of 10 shots. Some focused on that total number, others on that pause, a three-second pause between them.

At this hour, crowds are marching through Ferguson, Missouri. You're looking at live pictures. The protesters now making their way to the exact spot where Michael Brown was killed more than two weeks ago now.

Our Sara Sidner is OUTFRONT from Ferguson.

Sara, you're right in the middle of the protests. They've been quiet for a number of days. What's the mood at tonight's march?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's interesting. Tonight, it really is about unity. You'll see signs where people are holding up signs of unity and for support for Michael Brown's family. They were just -- you know, talking about justice. And that's what this community wants.

We're in West Florissant, where some of the major protests have been happening. What you're seeing is somewhere around 100 or so people. And we're not talking about just one age group or just one color. There are white folks here, there are African-Americans here. There are children here. There are families here. They started at church and they're going to go all the way down to Canfield where Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer, what sparked all this off 2 1/2 weeks ago.

It is calm. It is mostly silent. And what you're hearing every now and then is they walk down this main stretch here is you're hearing people honk in support of the folks who have come out today in a peaceful manner to try to make sure that what happened here in Ferguson is never forgotten and that there is change -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: It's nice to hear that it's a mixed group. Now, I know the rapper Common led a moment of silence for Michael Brown at the Video Music Awards on Sunday, but today, he also showed up down where you are in Ferguson. He tried to avoid the spotlight there.

I know you met him. What did he have to say to you?

SIDNER: You know, he said, look, I don't want all the media from around the world to see me here right now. I am here right now in Ferguson, on Canfield, right where Michael Brown was killed. And I'm here to show my support and to try and get people to understand that we have to change things.

Those are his words.

And then, he walked off. He was here. He met also with Michael Brown's biological father who was out on the scene, happened to be there at the same time. He hugged him.

Then, he talked directly to one of the cameras that were there from the community. A community activist was out. And he spoke to the community itself, and that's what he was there for.

Here's what he said.


COMMON, RAPPER: This is Common. I'm here in Ferguson because I care about my people. We all know what happened here, Ferguson with Mike Brown. God bless his soul. I know that we got to change the situation. I want to change it for our future. I want to change it for the people that's here right now. I want it to change all across America, for black people across America.


SIDNER: If there's one word that you can take from this particular rally and from two others today is the word "change." The community here wants to see change. Mostly they want to see the relationship between police and the African-American community change, but they also want to feel a sense that people around the country and right here in Ferguson care about what happened to Michael Brown and his family -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: And, of course, the big question is, does that attention get translated into real change over the coming weeks and months?

Thanks very much to Sara Sidner in Ferguson.

OUTFRONT tonight, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, here with me now, as well as legal analyst Mel Robbins.

Great to have you both on.

Jeffrey, you've listened to this audio recording of the shots in the background. You have the six shots, you have a pause, you have four more shots. We already know from the autopsy that Michael Brown was shot six times.

What does this recording tell you about how that shooting took place?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I'm not sure it tells a lot. I think it is suggestive and it's important that we have it, but it's not necessarily incriminating of the officer, it's not necessarily exculpatory of the officer.

You could say that it was him trying to see what happened and Mike Brown kept coming at him, that's why he fired after the pause or you could say even though he had fired six shots and perhaps hit him, he kept firing, which would be an incriminating version. It just underlines for me the need to see all the evidence, how all the pieces fit together.

And it's good that the investigators will have this audio tape, but it's only one piece of the puzzle, and I'm not sure that it tells us --


SCIUTTO: You never want to try these things in the public media, especially since you're getting piecemeal, all these things piecemeal.

TOOBIN: Yes, piecemeal, yes.

SCIUTTO: Mel, I know you have a different point of view. Before the audio, you said that the case didn't have legs. Why do you feel that the pause in particular in this audio is so important?

MEL ROBBINS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it's very important because what it shows, Jim and Jeffrey, is it shows a moment of contemplation on the part of the officer before he fired those final four shot, one of which was the kill shot that ultimately killed Michael Brown. And what we didn't have before this is we didn't have any physical or audio evidence of the moment that the shooting took place. We only were going to have witness testimony and the physical evidence of the scene.

This gives us, Jim, a ruler against which a jury can potentially measure the testimony of every single witness in the case.

And to Jeffrey's point, we don't know what happened in those three seconds, whether or not Michael Brown was lunging at the officer or whether or not he was turning around with his hands up. But what it does tell us is something major happened in those three seconds because Michael Brown wasn't dead yet and those final four shots that ultimately killed him hadn't been fired, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Jeffrey, I want you to respond. But just for the sake of the audience, let's play the audio one more time. Take a few seconds. Then, you can have another chance to look. Here we go.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are pretty.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're so fine. Just going over some of your videos. How could I forget?



SCIUTTO: You know, it's incredible. You have those six shots. You can hear them, the pause. You hear another four.

I mean, 10 shots is a lot for an unarmed teenager.

TOOBIN: It's certainly a lot. But I have to say three seconds sounds like a lot when we're sitting here in the calm of West 58th Street. You know, in the life or death struggle that was going on there, you know, I'm not sure three seconds is as big a pause as it sounds now.

And as for the order of the shots and whether or not in fact the fatal shots were the last shots, you know, we don't know exactly how that unfolded. All we know of Officer Wilson's version of events is this woman Josie who called into a radio show. I mean, again, I think it underlines the need to wait before we draw any conclusion.

SCIUTTO: Let the grand jury listen.

Mel, when you listen to that pause, let's just deal with this one piece of evidence and acknowledge it's only one and we don't have the complete picture, but how would that jury respond to that? Would they look at that and say, hey, wait, the policeman, the officer had time to judge the situation and perhaps see that he wasn't armed? Do you think that's how a jury will view this?

ROBBINS: Absolutely. He either, Jim, had time to judge the fact that Michael Brown was lunging or he had time to judge the fact that he was turning around with his hands up. And depending upon what the witnesses say, they'll be able to measure this against the timeline of the shots.

And one more thing that I wanted to point out -- we do actually know the last shot was the kill shot because it was to the top of the head and the medical examiner has said that a hundred percent he was falling forward when that shot went into the top of his head. So, it was the last one.

But I think the other thing that's interesting, and this goes to Jeffrey's point, Dorian Johnson has said that there was a struggle inside the car and the gun went off there. If that's true, why are there six shots that quickly happening if it went off during a struggle and now the kids are running away?

So I think that the importance of this is that we now have, if it is substantiated, if we know that this is actually a legit recording, we now have a ruling against which to measure everything and that's a major development in this case.

TOOBIN: And it's certainly good that this tape exists because if you care about getting the truth of this event, the more evidence, the better -- and this is, apparently, and we need to have it confirmed, but it certain he seems to be an audio tape of how the shots unfolded. That's only good for getting more information and getting at the truth.

SCIUTTO: And what needs to happen now is for the grand jury to listen to all of these pieces of information together so that they can make a judgment.

Thanks very much, Jeffrey Toobin, Mel Robbins. Great to have you both on this.

OUTFRONT next, 10 Russian paratroopers captured on Ukrainian soil as the presidents of Russia and Ukraine come face-to-face for talks. Is peace possible under those circumstances?

Plus, if you have chronic pain, one study is suggesting you might want to reach for pot instead of a painkiller. Does it add up?


SCIUTTO: After months of increasing tensions, Russian President Vladimir Putin met face-to-face in a bilateral meeting with the Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko. Poroshenko tweeted after the meeting, quote, "We have reached an agreement in providing peace and freedom to all those unlawfully detained." Both sides have alleged they're taking up hostages throughout the conflict.

This just hours, though, after Ukrainian said it had captured 10 Russian paratroopers inside Ukrainian territory.

Diana Magnay is OUTFRONT.


DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, Ukraine has released video testimonies of 10 Russian paratroopers captured, they say, on Ukrainian soil. Now, Russia's defense ministry has told state media that it was a mistake and that these paratroopers have never intended to cross the border. They have done so by accident.

But that does ring hollow certainly to Ukraine and to a broader audience, especially with these claims that Ukrainian has made all along in this conflict that there is a steady flow of fighters and weapons from Russia into the conflict area of the eastern Ukraine which bolsters the efforts of the pro-Russian rebels against the government. And especially when you think back to Crimea when Russia consistently denied that it had any troops on the ground there beyond its fleet only weeks later after annexation to admit that these little green men, as they were called, were, in fact, Russian troops.

Meanwhile, there's been some very, very high level meetings in the capital of Belarus, Minsk between President Putin and President Poroshenko.

This is really important. The two haven't met for a sit-down bilateral meeting since this conflict began. It's difficult to see, though, that any kind of talks between the two will resolve the issue.

Russia denies that any troops are crossing the border into the conflict area. It says that military escalation won't solve the problem.

Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian president, says the only way forward is to seal that border once and for all. But it is 2,000 kilometers long. It is very porous. And in many places, there are no fences, which is what these paratroopers said. They said they crossed the border overnight. They didn't realize that they'd entered foreign ground -- Jim.


SCIUTTO: Diana Magnay in Ukraine.

OUTFRONT next, a surprising new study for relieving pain. Is pot actually safer than pain killers? Our Sanjay Gupta is OUTFRONT, next.

Plus, a travel gadget touted for being, quote, "as devious as it is ingenious", now being blamed though for diverting a flight full of passengers.


SCIUTTO: Tonight, a potential victory for supporters of medical marijuana. A new study finds that states that legalize marijuana for medicinal use have fewer deaths from overdoses of prescription painkillers. Researchers say that states that passed laws legalizing pot use between 1999 and 2010 saw a 25 percent drop in prescription pill fatalities. With 100 million Americans suffering from chronic pain, could pot be part of the answer?

Dr. Sanjay Gupta is OUTFRONT.

Sanjay, what do you make of this? It's remarkable. Twenty-five percent is not an insignificant drop.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, I think for people who have been studying this issue for a long time, this isn't a big surprise for them, because, you know, pain and chronic pain are some of the most common indications for which medical marijuana is prescribed.

And I think it's been known for some time, Jim, that either as an alternative or at least as an adjunct, you know, something that can decrease the amount of pain pills you require, medicinal marijuana can really fill that bill. It tends to bind to some of these receptors in the brain that cause an anti-inflammatory response, and that can decrease one's, you know, overall pain perception and their need for these pills.

SCIUTTO: So, dangers -- potential dangers. I know that the National Institute for Drug Abuse, it still considers marijuana addictive. Is there an addictive danger when using medicinal marijuana to treat pain?

GUPTA: Yes, look, I think that there is a component of addiction. Some would say it's more of a psychological addiction as opposed to a true tolerance, where the body is physiologically changing because it's craving the drug.

But here's the main point, Jim, and I think when you look at these pain pills, and by the way, 80 percent to 90 percent of the world's pain pills are consumed in the United States, accidental overdose is the number one cause of preventable death in this country, more so than car accidents. Those are pain pills. There's not been a documented case that we could find of marijuana overdose.

So, you know, it's tough to get into the moral, you know, sort of putting those against each other, but if one can actually help treat pain and not lead to these tragic overdose deaths, I think, you know, it's got to be considered a viable alternative. And as you just said, in these states that have medicinal marijuana laws, you've already seen a decrease -- 1,700 people lived in 2010 that would have likely otherwise died because of medical marijuana laws in those states.

SCIUTTO: It's another conversation to have at some point about, you know, are pain medications overprescribed in the U.S. --

GUPTA: The answer is yes.

SCIUTTO: A simple one. But in this case, you know, there's still debates ongoing in many states, very divisive about whether to legalize. Does this give a real argument to legalize in these other states? Might it turn the debate in some states?

GUPTA: Yes, I think it could. In some ways, and I've been following this issue for a long time. I'm surprised there hasn't already been enough evidence for some people to vote in favor of this. I've seen situations, aside from pain, where not only does medicinal marijuana provide benefit, but it provides benefit when nothing else had. So, this isn't just in those cases some kind of supplement to what

already exists, this is something that sort of treats a patient that doesn't have any other options. So, I think there's a real desire, especially, for cases of epilepsy, for example. This pain thing, it's the most common reason it's prescribed.

And the fact that you're seeing a decrease in pain pill prescriptions and pain pill overdose deaths, I think, look, people have got to pay attention to that. That's real time. That's happening right now.

SCIUTTO: No question, the number one killer, as you say. I'm sure a lot of people do not know that.

GUPTA: That's right. Number one.

SCIUTTO: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, so good to have you on. Appreciate your thoughts.

GUPTA: You got it, Jim. Anytime.

SCIUTTO: A flight nearly ends in a fistfight. Is one person's right to recline another person's right to decline? Jeanne Moos is next.


SCIUTTO: Now to the story of a guy who just wanted a little extra leg room on his flight to Denver.

Listen, I'm 6'3", so I can emphasize. But did this one leggy flyer go too far? Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A new air war has broken out, in the air space over your knees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The knee defender is a device that keeps people from reclining their airline seat into your knees.

MOOS: You put what amounts to two hunks of plastic on the legs of your tray table to stop the seat in front of you from going back.

(on camera): Do you get your knees crunched?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometimes. And I grin and bear it.

MOOS (voice-over): But no one was grinning on the United flight from Newark to Denver that had to be diverted to Chicago after a fight broke out. A 48-year-old male passenger deployed the knee defender to stop the seat of the female passenger in front of him.

(on camera): When she couldn't recline, she flagged down a flight attendant who told the man to remove the gadget. He refused and the female passenger threw water in his face.

(voice-over): They were both kicked off the plane. Oh, sure, when it happens to others, it's funny.

But as this reviewer of the knee defender joked --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The captain has turned off the seat belt sign. Please feel free to move to the cabin and punch in the head the guy with the knee defender in seat 14B.

MOOS: The device was invented by 6'3" Ira Goldman.

IRA GOLDMAN: I was tired of being bumped in the knees by reclining seats.

MOOS: This was one of the early versions.

GOLDMAN: The seat won't recline.

MOOS: Now, it looks like this and sells for $21.95. In the words of Conde Nast Traveler, "As devious as it is ingenious." And everyone we talked to agreed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think they're kind of evil.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That sounds terrible.

MOOS (on camera): Why is it terrible?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To make someone else uncomfortable. Everyone's crowded together.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It causes confliction, problems. People pay for their seats and they want to push it backward or forward. That's your God-given right.

MOOS: The knee defender comes with a courtesy card to hand to the passenger in front of you. "I have provided with you with this card because I have long legs and if you recline your seat, you will bang into my knees."

The FAA doesn't prohibit the knee defender, though airlines can and United does.

(on camera): But, hey, the story about the fight on the plane seemed to be great for the knee defender's business.

(voice-over): The Web site crashed due to unexpectedly heavy demand.

But whether you consider it a knee defender or a knee to the flying public's groin, can't we all just remember what Louis C.K. says about the wonder of flying?

LOUIS C.K., COMEDIAN: You're sitting in a chair in the sky.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


SCIUTTO: I'm Jim Sciutto, thanks for watching tonight.

"AC360" starts right now.