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THE SITUATION ROOM
ISIS Shows Weapons Apparently Dropped by U.S.; American Released by North Korea; Interview with Marie Harf; ISIS Shows Weapons Apparently Dropped by U.S.; New U.S. Ebola Travel Restrictions; Awaiting Forensic Tests in Hannah Graham Case
Aired October 21, 2014 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, in the hands of ISIS -- the terror group shows off deadly weapons it says were was air dropped by the United States in Kobani.
Will those weapons now be used against the people they were meant to help?
American free -- he was held in North Korea for five months after leaving a bible in his hotel room.
So what's behind his sudden release and what about the fate of two other Americans who are still being held in North Korea?
And missing student mystery -- we have new details of what investigators are looking for as they test remains found in the Hannah Graham search.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following several fast-moving stories this hour.
New ISIS video shows the terror group has apparently seized one of those pallets of U.S. weapons and supplies air dropped by the United States into a besieged Syrian town. A U.S. government jet, meanwhile, lands in North Korea's capital, picks up an American who was suddenly released after months of detention.
New Ebola travel restrictions go into effect in a move to limit the spread of the deadly disease in this country.
And we have new details on how Virginia investigators are testing remains found in the search for Hannah Graham.
Our correspondents, our analysts, our newsmakers, they're all standing by.
Let's begin with ISIS and our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
She has the very latest -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Pentagon insists if ISIS got its hands on one of those pallets of U.S. gear, that it's militarily insignificant. But it may be the only insignificant thing about the group.
STARR (voice-over): ISIS claims this video shows weapons and supplies they captured from a U.S. air drop around Kobani. So far, the U.S. can't confirm the ISIS claim. But the Pentagon says the 27 bundles of weapons it did air drop to the Kurds, combined with punishing coalition airstrikes against ISIS, have had an effect.
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We do assess that Kurdish forces in the cities are in control of the majority of the city. I would hesitate to put a number figure on that. But we do believe that they are in possession of the majority of it.
STARR: But U.S. officials say ISIS is far from down and out.
In Baghdad, the latest in a growing number of deadly car bombs, leaving widespread wreckage in a Shia neighborhood, every reason to believe ISIS or its sympathizers are responsible.
Newly appointed Iraqi government officials trying to show unity, even working with Iran. But so far, it's not enough to stop the ISIS onslaught.
KIRBY: It's a mixed picture of competence and capability throughout the Iraqi Army and sometimes even within units.
STARR: Iraqi forces slowly are trying to push ISIS back. Troops are on the move north from Baghdad to Baiji, in oil-rich Northern Iraq. U.S. airstrikes against ISIS around Baiji have already begun.
GEN. LLOYD AUSTIN, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: You saw Iraqi Security Forces elements attack north from the Baghdad area up to Baiji. And that assault is -- or attack is ongoing as we speak.
STARR: ISIS appears to be focusing in several key areas -- the oil- rich north, including Baiji, and Mosul, Anbar Province west of Baghdad, and Mount Sinjar in Northwestern Iraq, renewing attacks there after the U.S. struck back this summer when tens of thousands of Yazidis were threatened with genocide.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
STARR: So where do we stand?
Look, there is some progress on the ground backed up by U.S. and coalition airstrikes. But the fact that ISIS can still launch attacks day after day across hundreds of miles of territory shows, many officials will tell you, they still maintain the ability for their leaders to communicate and issue orders to their troops -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Barbara, they.
Let's get some more on Kobani and what's going on right now and that ISIS video, which seems to show at least some of the airdropped U.S. weapons fell into the hands of the ISIS terrorists.
Our senior international correspondent, Ivan Watson, is joining us now.
He's right near the Turkey-Syrian border, very close to Kobani himself.
What are you hearing over there -- Ivan?
What are you seeing?
IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we saw this video come out over social media. And it's clearly what appears to be an ISIS militant next to some kind of parachuted bundle. And then the militant starts to open up crates and reveals boxes full of hand grenades and mortar rounds.
So it seems at least one parachute of air drops drifted away and wasn't, as the Pentagon reported, necessarily destroyed and did get into the hands of the very people that the U.S. military is trying to kill.
Now that said, it's important to stress that much of that aid did get to the people who need it most, to the defenders of that besieged city. And we got exclusive video coming from inside Kobani of a doctor showing us the precious life-saving medicine and antiseptics and anesthetics and bandages that he got as a result of those air drops, things that he desperately needed. And he thanked the people, the U.S., for delivering the much needed assistance. This is a doctor we've talked to for weeks, who's been treating wounded civilians and wounded fighters who have been hit by the ISIS offensive around that city -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Here's what I don't understand, Ivan. The U.S. is using these air drops, flying planes from relatively far distances, drop these cargos, shipments supposedly for the friendly forces, from the U.S. perspective, in Kobani.
But what, where you are in Turkey, that's maybe a mile or two away from there. And the Turkish government, a NATO ally, is not allowing any convoy to go in instead of using air drops. They could easily have a convoy go in protected and get the job done.
What are the Turks saying?
WATSON: It's kind of incredible when you see the close proximity there. This besieged city and the Kurds, their backs are right up against the Turkish border fence, right next to Turkish troops. So it would be much easier to just hand this kind of stuff right over the fence. Instead, the U.S. is having to parachute this in with planes. Turkey is a NATO ally, but Turkey clearly disagrees with the US. It considers those Kurdish militants battling ISIS to be part of a terrorist organization. And thus, Turkey says no, we don't want to give guns to those Kurdish fighters.
But there's a contradiction here, Wolf, because hours after the U.S. announced its air drops, Turkey made another bombshell announcement. It announced that it would allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters from Northern Iraq to cross through Turkey to reinforce those same Kurdish militants that it calls terrorists.
So Turkey is sending some very mixed and confusing signals about just what it wants to do in Kobani -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ivan, thanks very much.
We're going to have more on this story coming up. But there's other news we're following, including a huge surprise today. A move by North Korea, an American held there for five months all of a sudden has been freed and then whisked away from the communist capital of Pyongyang in a U.S. government jet. There you see that U.S. Air Force jet on the ground in Pyongyang. You see the American flag right there on that plane.
Let's get details from our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott -- Elise, you broke this story for our viewers earlier today.
What are you learning?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you know, Jeffrey Fowle was released after being arrested in May after leaving a bible in his hotel. And, obviously, North Korea takes any religious incidents very seriously. He basically -- the North Koreans kind of let the U.S. know on very short notice, come and get him. And a U.S. plane was sent to North Korea in a very specific time frame, very carefully orchestrated by the -- by the North Korean government.
And now, Jeffrey Fowle is on his way home to his wife and his three young children.
Last month, he spoke to CNN's Will Ripley in an exclusive interview. He sounded really contrite about the charges that he faced, admitted his guilt. And he also said that he apologized to the government and asked for forgiveness.
Take a listen to him speaking to Will Ripley just last month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFREY WOLFE: My family is the biggest thing on my mind right now. I've got the wife and three grade school kids that depend on me for support and my mother-in-law is staying with us, too. So there are six of us in our household.
And when I'm gone, my wife is trying to operate the household by herself. And it's a chore to do with two people, let alone one. But I need to let people know that I'm getting desperate. I'm getting desperate for help. This is -- I understand that there are three Americans in detention now here in the DPRK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LABOTT: And, Wolf, the White House obviously welcoming the news, but focused now on those other two Americans, Kenneth Bay, who was sentenced last year to 15 years for basically proselytizing, 15 years in a hard labor camp. And Matthew Todd Miller, if you remember, that's the gentleman that in July, crossed the North Korean customs, ripped up his tourist visa and said he was seeking asylum. He was charged with hostile acts.
So now the U.S. is really focused on trying to get both of those Americans back home -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Elise, thanks very much.
Elise Labott with that report.
Let's get some more now.
Joining us from the State Department, the deputy spokeswoman, Marie Harf.
Marie, thanks very much for joining us.
I want to show, once again, our viewers, this is the United States government aircraft, a plane on the tarmac in Pyongyang, there, invited by the North Korean government to pick up Jeffrey Fowle.
Tell us what happened.
How did this go down?
MARIE HARF, STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESWOMAN: Well, Wolf, we are very glad that Jeffrey Fowle will be reunited with his family in Ohio very soon. The -- we have been working actively to get him returned home, as we do for the other two Americans.
We had a time window where the DPRK asked for us to facilitate his travel home. The Department of Defense provided that airplane. He left Pyongyang. They stopped in Guam. And now he's on his way back to the United States.
BLITZER: Were these negotiations directly through the -- directly, U.S.-North Korean officials talking, or through the interest section, Sweden, I believe, represents the United States in Pyongyang?
HARF: Well, Sweden does represent us as our protecting power there. They provide consular assistance to our our Americans.
But we're not going to get into the details of how these activities -- how we work with the North Koreans or others that are trying to get these people back home with their families. There are two Americans still there. We want to preserve our space to be able to bring them home, as well.
BLITZER: What did North Korea get in exchange for the release of this American?
HARF: Again, Wolf, I'm not going to get into any details about what may have happened here. What we've been very focused on is doing everything in our power, often, we can't talk about that publicly, again, because we want to be able to continue to work for the release of the other Americans.
But we do everything we can to get them home. We are happy that Mr. Fowle is coming home.
BLITZER: Because it's interesting that they agreed to do this without a high level U.S. emissary going over there, whether a Jimmy Carter or a Bill Clinton or a Bill Richardson or somebody else. Normally, if they have some high profile Americans they're holding, they're willing to release that American, but they want -- they want some respect by sending a high level person over there.
This time they didn't ask for that, right?
HARF: Well, you know, every case is different. You remember Meryl Newman, an American who returned home from the DPRK just a few months ago. I don't want to speculate on how they make decisions in Pyongyang or how they decide when to release these Americans.
But what we are focused on is doing everything in our power, again, not always being able to talk about it publicly, to reunite these Americans with their families.
What we're focused on now is the two who are still there.
BLITZER: And very quickly, is it the U.S. assessment that Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, is still in power?
HARF: Our assessment on that hasn't changed. We have nothing to indicate otherwise. I know senior officials have talked about this before. Obviously, it's a very opaque society and we pay very close attention to it. But, again, our assessment of that has not changed.
BLITZER: But you welcome the move by the North Korean government to release this American, right?
HARF: We do. We absolutely welcome the move. It's a good day for the Fowle family. But what we're focused on now is the other two Americans.
BLITZER: All right. I want you to stand by, Marie.
We have a lot more to talk about, including the latest moves in Iraq and Syria, the war against ISIS.
Marie Harf is standing by. We'll take a quick break.
Much more right after this.
BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news, ISIS showing off what appears to be some U.S. weapons air dropped into Kobani meant for Kurdish fighters but winding up supposedly in hands of ISIS terrorists. We're back with the State Department deputy spokeswoman, Marie Harf.
Have you been briefed, Marie? Do you know what happened? Because they're showing off these U.S. weapons from this cargo that was dropped in Kobani. They say they got it.
MARIE HARF, DEPUTY SPOKESWOMAN, STATE DEPARTMENT: Well, I know the Pentagon is looking into those reports right now. We've certainly seen the videos, but we quite frankly don't know if they're accurate yet. The Pentagon has said what they believe happened to all of the bundles that they dropped. And again, they're looking into it, but we can't confirm it. And look, this could just be ISIL propaganda. We don't know at this point.
BLITZER: Let me ask you what I asked our own Ivan Watson, who's on the border there between Syria and Turkey. It's only a mile or so away, Kobani, this fight that's going on from the Turkish border. Instead of risking U.S. aircraft, having these air drops, why not simply have -- let Turkey go ahead and ship this stuff in to these fighters, who are resisting these ISIS advances? What's wrong with the Turkish government? Why aren't they allowing the U.S. to do so?
HARF: Well, the Turkish government is playing a key role here, and I heard Ivan also mention about the fact that they've agreed to allow Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters to cross through their territory to join the fight. That is a significant step, and we very much welcome it. We have a capability here where we are drop these weapons, Iraqi Kurdish weapons that we are giving to the Syrian Kurds, obviously well aware of the history here with the Turk. We are aware of the sensitivities, and in this case, because we had a capability, we're using it.
BLITZER: Have the Turks changed their mind and agreed to allow U.S. warplanes to take off from their bases in NATO facilities inside Turkey so the U.S. doesn't have to make a long journey from the Persian Gulf?
HARF: Well, we're continuing those discussions with the Turks right now about exactly how we will work together, specifically and operationally on this coalition. And we're not always going to talk about those discussions publicly, but they're ongoing.
BLITZER: But there's no positive response from Turkey on the use of their air bases yet, is that right?
HARF: Well, I just don't think we're going to get into those kind of operational details about the discussions or what we may or may not be doing.
BLITZER: What about the new Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi? He makes his first trip -- I think it's his first trip abroad since becoming prime minister. he goes to, of all places, Iran. What message does that send?
HARF: Well, it's our understanding, Wolf, that this is part of a series of regional visits he will make to the neighboring countries. Iran and Iraq share a long border. They have a long relationship. It's our understanding that this is just a routine visit with one of their neighbors.
And Iran could take this opportunity make clear to the Iraqis that the prime minute should continue to govern in an inclusive way to make sure they support a more inclusive future for Iraqi.
BLITZER: Because, as you know, the former prime minister, Nouri al- Malaki, he had a very close relationship with the Iranians, to the detriment as we now know of his own country, because ISIS came in and took whole swaths of Iraq, because so many of the Sunnis there didn't trust the Shiite-led government in Baghdad. Do you envisage a similar kind of scenario developing now?
HARF: Not at all, Wolf. Prime minister al-Abadi is governing in a very different way. What he's done so far is reach out across the spectrum to Sunni, Shia and Kurds. He's appointed ministers from across the political and sectarian spectrum here. So we are judging him by his actions, and he's a very different person than Nouri al- Malaki. We'll watch what he does, but so far, he's been doing everything the right way.
BLITZER: All right. One final question. Will he allow the United States to ship arms directly to the Peshmerga Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq? Or do they have to go through the central government in Baghdad?
HARF: Well, we've been providing arms to both the Iraqi security forces and to the Kurdish forces. All of this is coordinated, obviously, but we've been doing so in the way that can get to them the quickest. So we've really seen an unprecedented level of cooperation between the Kurdish forces and the Iraqi forces.
BLITZER: You know the Kurds -- excuse me for interrupting, Marie. You know the Kurds complained they're not really getting what they need because it's being held up in Baghdad.
HARF: Well, we have provided them with assistance very directly. We've talked to Baghdad about it. We're all working together here. We know they have urgent needs, and that's why we've been providing them with this assistance.
BLITZER: All right. Well, good luck. Marie Harf is the deputy spokeswoman at the State Department. Thanks very much for joining us.
HARF: Thank you, Wolf. BLITZER; Coming up, new travel restriction because of the Ebola
crisis. We have the latest from the Department of Homeland Security. New steps announced.
Also, as we await the results on the remains found in the Hannah Graham search, we're getting new details about how the discovery was made.
BLITZER: We're following new developments in the Ebola crisis, including new travel restrictions from the Department of Homeland Security.
Our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is over at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta with all the latest details. What are you learning, Elizabeth?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there are going to be new stricter measures to try to keep another Ebola patient from reaching U.S. shores.
COHEN (voice-over): Tonight, the Department of Homeland Security says that all passengers arriving to the U.S. from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea must land at one of the five airports with enhanced Ebola screening. Those airports are New York's JFK, Dulles, O'Hare, Newark and Atlanta.
And as Amber Vinson and Nina Pham, two caregivers stricken with Ebola, remain in intensive care, the CDC is setting new guidelines which, had they been in place weeks ago, could possibly have prevented them from contracting the deadly virus while caring for a Liberian man in Dallas.
TOM FRIEDEN, CDC DIRECTOR: We may never know exactly how that happened, but the bottom line is that the guidelines didn't work for that hospital. Dallas shows that taking care of Ebola is hard.
COHEN: The new guidance focuses on three areas. First, rigorous training and practice for caregivers prior to treating an Ebola patient. This includes infection control training with taking on and off personal protective equipment. The goal is what they call a ritualized approach.
Second, no skin exposure and new protective equipment mandates, including coveralls and single-use disposable full-face hoods. No more goggles.
And finally, the CDC says a trained monitor should watch each worker taking on and off their personal protection equipment to ensure adherence.
FRIEDEN: The guidelines provide an increased margin of safety. They provide a consensus on better protecting healthcare workers, because even a single healthcare worker infection is unacceptable.
COHEN: Meanwhile, Nurse Nina Pham is in fair condition at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Her condition has not changed since Friday.
And while Amber Vinson's condition is being kept private at Emory University Hospital, her mother tells CNN --
DEBRA BERRY, AMBER VINSON'S MOTHER: She's doing OK, just trying to get stronger every day. Being -- labored with the illness, she tries to pace herself.
I just look forward to the day where the tears that I fight back, I won't have to fight, because they'll be happy tears.
COHEN: The new travel rules will go into effect tomorrow -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Elizabeth Cohen at the CDC in Atlanta, thanks very much.
Let's get some more now. Joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM, CNN medical analyst, Dr. Xand Van Tulleken and in London, his twin brother, Dr. Chris Van Tulleken. Guys, thanks very much.
Chris, first to you. What's your reaction to these two nurses' conditions? How alarmed should we be? Should we be encouraged that they may be on the mend, based on what we're hearing?
DR. CHRIS VAN TULLEKEN, PHYSICIAN: I think we should be encouraged they 're on the mend. I must say, it was a great surprise to my team in London. We had a patient with Ebola, with my colleagues, and to catch a parent with Ebola from a patient, I believe, there has to be an egregious breach of protocols. And I think we were surprised that the protocols in Dallas were as lax as they were and as unpracticed. You have to practice very, very hard not to contaminate yourself when you're wearing these suits.
BLITZER: Clearly, Xand, they're learning new details about how to deal with this, learning from mistakes that occurredin Dallas, for example. But my own suspicion is they still have a long way to go.
XAND VAN TULLEKEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: It's really interesting. The CDC has finally updated its guidelines on their websites. If you're a healthcare provider now, wanting to know how to manage a patient with Ebola, you can find some guidance. But what you find is several pages of prose. What we don't yet have is clear guidance from the CDC in the form of pictures, infographics, the kind of protocol you can stick on the wall. And they've also not published a full, comprehensive set of what should a hospital do when someone with Ebola or suspected of --
BLITZER: What's taking so long?
X. VAN TULLEKEN: This is -- they're up against it, because they're doing it in the middle of a crisis, and these things are painstaking to do. And these are national guidelines for the largest, most thorough health system in the world, so it's not easy to do, but they've had many months to do it. So I think there are a lot of people still turning the screws on them at the moment. The best they have is a link to the MSF and the WHO protocols.
BLITZER: You think, Chris, you're better prepared in London where you are in dealing with this Ebola threat?
C. VAN TULLEKEN: I think it's inappropriate to be smug about these things. I think, you know, in the United Kingdom, we look very much up toward certain aspects of American healthcare. But yes, I do think that's the case.
It's very hard for me to imagine how that could have happened in a scenario we have in London. We look after patients in an isolation ward. Everyone is category four trained and category four protected.
I believe very strongly, and I think my colleagues would say the same, that the odds of a healthcare worker being infected are vanishingly small. And indeed, it's not a source of anxiety among the nurses and doctors that are on the teams that look after these what we call category four parents.
BLITZER: Xand, do you agree?
X. VAN TULLEKEN: I think it is important to say -- and Chris is right, but Chris is at a really leading center. I mean, it's the hospital for tropical diseases, the equivalent of somewhere like Emory Hospital. And I think in a just general hospital and in rural hospitals somewhere that wasn't in London, a major center, I think it would be reasonable to expect the U.K. hospital to struggle as much as the Dallas hospital did.
BLITZER: Is it too early? I know, Chris, they're still monitoring, looking at a bunch of people, several dozen people who may have been in contact with either the two nurses or the Liberian man, Mr. Duncan, who passed away, but is it too early to think that the U.S. is now on the verge of potentially being Ebola-free?
C. VAN TULLEKEN: I think we can't say that until that magic 21 days has elapsed. Of course, the 21 days is a number that actually a recent research study shows is probably accurate, but it's -- there can be no dogma about Ebola. We can't know that for certain.
I think it's extremely unlikely that there will be any more secondary infections in the United States. I think the safe money is on none, at most, one and I think they will be caught early. They're under tight surveillance, and I think this will be easily contained.
I do not think we are going to see an epidemic in any western countries or anything like an epidemic.
BLITZER: We're just getting word, Xand, and I think is good word from the NIH, the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, outside of Washington, D.C., where Nina Pham is now being treated, her condition has just been upgraded from fair to good. That's very encouraging.
X. VAN TULLEKEN: That's really good. At this stage, this many days in, that kind of progress does suggest that she is on the mend and that we'd be surprised by deterioration. So I mean, we are all cheering for these ladies. I have to say, it is extraordinary they have had to go through it, especially the amount of scrutiny. So I really hope -- and that's fantastic news if that is the direction she is going.
BLITZER: And Chris, once the 21 days is over with, let's say Nina Pham, and we all hope and pray that Nina Pham has a complete recovery, once she is released from Bethesda, Maryland, from NIH, from the hospital there, reunited with her friends and her family, is it completely over for her or do they have to watch her for several months, maybe years to make sure there's no lingering effect, no recurrence? Is it completely over, in other words?
C. VAN TULLEKEN: It's a great question. As far as we know, and I think I would say with great certainty, once you clear this virus, you clear it. It does not remain dormant in your body. We're pretty confident about that. And I think it's wonderful news that she's recovering.
I think that this estimate, this number that's often quoted, a 90 percent mortality rate we will see as a huge overestimate. The worst estimate in this outbreak is 50 percent in West Africa. And in fact, if you go to parts of rural West Africa and you look for Ebola antibodies in the population, you will see between 10 and 15 percent prevalence in areas of Guinea and Liberia.
So, this is an infection that we know people can get and make a stable recovery from, even in a remote setting.
BLITZER: All right.
C. VAN TULLEKEN: So I think their chances are very good, and she shouldn't be worried.
BLITZER: All right. Now, I'm looking at -- you guys are identical twins. Is that correct?
C. VAN TULLEKEN: Yes.
C. VAN TULLEKEN: As far as we know.
BLITZER: Except for the beard, it looks like one of you has a thicker beard than the other beard. Xand, why is that?
X. VAN TULLEKEN: I'm really emulating you, Wolf. You know, this is the -- this is the aim.
BLITZER: All right. And Chris, I take it --
C. VAN TULLEKEN: He's long been an admirer. BLITZER: -- you have -- Chris, you have to show your older brother
a little -- a greater respect. What, he's seven minutes older than you are?
C. VAN TULLEKEN: I don't trust anyone with a beard, Wolf. How about that?
BLITZER: All right. Well that's fair enough. Hey, guys, thanks very much. The twins, Xand and Chris van Tulleken. Guys, thanks very much for joining us.
C. VAN TULLEKEN: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: We're counting down to a crucial debate in Florida. Republican Governor Rick Scott, former governor Charlie Crist, he's now a Democrat. But they'll be facing off tonight, 7 p.m. Eastern, on CNN, right after THE SITUATION ROOM. It's their final debate before the election, and this time, they should be arguing about the issues instead of a fan.
CNN's Jake Tapper is moderating. Stay tuned after THE SITUATION ROOM for this debate.
We'll be looking ahead at some other stories coming up THE SITUATION ROOM in the meantime, including an exclusive talk with the former head of U.S. counterterror operations -- there he is -- Matt Olsen. He is warning that, despite the air campaign in Syria, the imminent threat posed by an al Qaeda offshoot hasn't lessened at all.
But up next, we have details of what led to a major break in the search for a missing University of Virginia student, Hannah Graham.
BLITZER: We have new details on the Hannah Graham case, as Virginia authorities await forensic test results on remains found in the search.
Our Brian Todd is joining us live from Charlottesville, Virginia, with the very latest. Brian, what's going on?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, new information tonight on the procession of the crime scene. The skull is with the medical examiner's office in Richmond. As of a few hours ago, the rest of the skeletal remains were still at the crime scene.
And tonight, we're getting a disturbing new account of what one man saw on that property three weeks ago.
TODD (voice-over): This crime scene is where Bobby Pugh saw something unusual on September 30 and decided to call the authorities searching for Hannah Graham.
BOBBY PUGH, ALERTED POLICE TO CRIME SCENE: Heading to work, happened to glance to my left at a house that I knew fairly well and noticed the roof, as well as a tree in the back corner of the property, was full of buzzards.
TODD: Pugh is a landscaper who was working near this abandoned property on Old Lynchburg Road outside Charlottesville. After he first spotted the buzzards, he went off to work, but when he drove by later, he noticed something about the type of bird he saw.
PUGH: It wasn't your normal deer carcass on the side of the street buzzard. This was 20 to 30 what we call black-headed buzzards, which are competitive scavengers. They are pretty, aggressive scavengers.
TODD: Pugh says he didn't get out of his car, because he didn't want to trespass on the property. Human remains were, in fact, found here. Most of the remains are still at the site, but the skull has been brought to a forensic lab in Richmond, according to a police source close to the investigation.
Why the skull?
BRANDON GARRETT, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA LAW SCHOOL: If there isn't any ability to DNA test blood or flesh or body fluid, there's none of that left, teeth can be really important.
TODD: The family of Hannah Graham has already provided DNA for authorities to compare any samples they find. This forensics lab is also expected to handle the testing for evidence that could link the remains of the victim to a suspect.
JEFFREY BAN, VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF FORENSIC SCIENTIST: All of a sudden, you find a DNA type on clothing that there's no reason for that to be there. That's when you've got the "aha" effect there. Like, aha, we found something that might be probative.
TODD: But Virginia's chief DNA analyst says getting conclusive samples is not always a sure thing.
BAN: The, you know, bloody clothes were found out in the woods, so they've been sitting out in the environment for a long time. So you've got degradation. You have sun. You've got moisture. You've got chemical things, you know, that could cause degradation.
TODD: No word yet on when the forensic results are going to be announced, but at the crime scene, searchers are going to continue to look for additional evidence around and even beneath the remains.
They're also going to look for any other potential bodies that may be on that property, according to a police source who spoke with our Jean Casarez -- Wolf.
BLITZER: You know, Brian, the landscaper you interviewed, he said he saw buzzards on the property, what, on September 30, reported them that morning. Why was it until October 18 that the remains were actually found on that property? TODD: Well, that's unclear, Wolf, but Bobby Pugh tells me that he
doesn't blame the police authorities for that delay. He says when he called him that morning, they told him that they would act on his information. But they also told him they were slammed with tips. He said they were getting up to 300 tips a day and a lot of ground they had to cover in that search, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. That's the latest from Brian Todd. He's on the scene for us in Charlottesville. Thanks very much.
Let's go in depth with investigative journalist, Coy Barefoot. He's joining us from Charlottesville right now, as well.
Coy, we're hearing from a police source that the skull found by the searchers has been sent to Virginia's chief medical examiner's office in Richmond, but that other skeletal remains are still at the crime scene. How did authorities know to go to this site? What is the latest? What are you hearing?
COY BAREFOOT, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: It's a terrific question. I can confirm that over the -- out of the more than 4,000 tips that were called into the tip line, Wolf, two of those were for this specific property. It's 11 1/2 miles from downtown Charlottesville, out Old Lynchburg Road in a very heavily wooded, rural part of Albemarle County.
I've talked with another source who called in on Monday morning, October 6th, at 9:45 a.m., for that same reason. He noticed all sorts of buzzards around the house. It's a really chilling scene to contemplate something out of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds," with the house all covered in these large buzzards all around the yard and up in the trees.
And I should point out that it was not an abandoned property. This is a 2 1/2-acre parcel that includes two residences, a small three- bedroom house and a little cottage. They were rentals that were not currently being rented. So they are not technically abandoned but they were empty at the time.
BLITZER: Authorities there explaining why this autopsy -- it's been several days now, it seems to be taking so long?
BAREFOOT: No, I haven't heard word on that, but we do know that, of course, there -- most of the remains that were discovered on Saturday are still on site. And I know from talking with forensic anthropologists that this kind of work can take a long time.
You literally have to dig the site and sift through the soil. You may find some DNA in the soil and we believe it's been reported that these were -- remains were found in a dry creek bed. We've had a lot of rains over the last few weeks so it's probably a safe assumption that some of these remains or perhaps the DNA and the materials were washed downstream. So it could be quite a big area that needs to be studied very, very closely.
BLITZER: And they want to be precise and they want to be 100 percent accurate.
I want you to stand by, Coy. We have got a lot more to discuss. We are getting other information as well. We'll take a quick break. Much more right after this.
BLITZER: We're getting new details on the Hannah Graham case. So let's continue with the investigative journalist Coy Barefoot. Coy, a police source has told us investigators will be searching this area. It is a remote area, as you well know. Because there's some suspicion, it could have been used potentially as some sort of dumping ground for other bodies.
So what's going on here?
BAREFOOT: There are a number of law enforcement folks, Wolf, who are down in that area. Aerial photographs that have been taken show dozens of law enforcement vehicles lining the road. They are searching the woods and yes, some of them believe that perhaps that could be an area where someone, a perpetrator, was dumping bodies, perhaps. That is certainly a theory that they're working on. And that can only be answered in one way.
Carefully looking very closely over every inch of that ground. Again, this is a two and a half acre parcel. But it is owned by a family that owns hundreds of acres, of wooded acres in that area. And remember, these remains were found five miles from where Morgan Harrington was found in January of 2010. The suspect Jesse Matthew grew up in this part of Albemarle County.
BLITZER: You've also told us, Coy, that the suspect in Hannah's disappearance, Jesse Matthew, he grew up, what, only four miles away from where these remains were found? Are you learning anything more about Jesse Matthew? Any connection he might have had to this specific property?
BAREFOOT: I have been looking into that very closely. There was at one time a retirement home that was located here, but I looked very closely today for hours trying to track that down to see if perhaps he might have worked there. And I have learned that that home never actually opened. So he couldn't have worked there.
I can report for the first time here, Wolf, that Jim Camblos, Charlottesville defense attorney, actually paid a visit to the jail today to his client, Jesse Matthew. They met privately for a while at the jail this afternoon. And we believe that that's the first time that Jim Camblos has had an opportunity to sit down with Mr. Matthew and explain the charges that were announced yesterday in the city of Fairfax.
Three felony charges, rape, abduction with intent to defile and attempted capital murder. And we can only assume that this afternoon, Jim Camblos was explaining all of these charges to his client.
BLITZER: We'll check back with you tomorrow, Coy. Thanks very much. Coy Barefoot has been in Charlottesville looking at all of this since
this story unfortunately broke.
Thanks very much.
Coming up, why U.S. airstrikes in Syria may not have stopped a little known terror group with ambitions to attack the United States.
And what were they thinking? Three young American teenage girls. They fly to Europe allegedly trying to join jihadists in Syria. We have details just ahead.