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Turkey Condemns Attack on U.S. Sailors; Spacecraft Lands on Comet 311 Million Miles Away; Obama Admits Initial ISIS Strategy Wrong; Interview with Senator Saxby Chambliss; Grand Jury to Hear Brown Family's Pathologist; Ferguson Pastor in the Frontlines of Protests

Aired November 12, 2014 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news, the president of the United States admits his ISIS strategy is not working. Tonight he said he must get rid of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Plus American sailors violently attacked on a Turkish street. Bags pulled over their heads, a crowd chanting, "Yankees, go home."

And two window washers at the World Trade Center, the tallest building in the United States, dangling by a single cable, 68 stories above at the streets of New York. We're going to talk to the firefighter who led the daring rescue.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news.

The president admits his initial ISIS strategy was wrong. Tonight President Obama ordering a review of U.S. policy on defeating ISIS and also saying Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go.

And major development tonight as the president is actually in the middle of a trip to Asia.

Senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is traveling with the president but I want to begin with our foreign affairs correspondent Elise Labott who broke this news.

And, Elise, as this day was going on, no one expected this at all. This is a significant admission.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, Erin, the administration has been talking about this for weeks. You know, many of the president's top national security advisers, including Secretary of State John Kerry have been calling for a more robust strategy with Syria and because the president and his advisers are -- they're coming to the realization that you aren't going to defeat ISIS without a plan to get rid of President Assad.

The U.S. and many allies see it as the reason ISIS was able to gain strength. It seems that they've realized the initial strategy to confront ISIS in Iraq first, take on Syria after that. This reexamination, the administration had hoped that would give time for the U.S. to vet, train and arm a moderate rebel force who would then go after ISIS and eventually Assad. Officials telling me they realized now they don't have time for this so-called Iraq-first strategy because this opposition is beleaguered, it's battling two fronts, the regime and ISIS.

And if you wait until the Iraq piece is finished, the -- the opposition could be obliterated by that time that the U.S. pivots from Iraq to Syria.

BURNETT: There is, though, Elise, such a lack of intelligence in Syria. There is such a lack of all right, get rid of Bashar al-Assad. Fine. Take him out tonight.

What the heck replaces him?

LABOTT: Well, this is the problem, Erin. You know, there is no viable alternative right now to Assad. The opposition still dysfunctional, unorganized. You know, can't get their act together. But there are discussions about how the administration and others, allies, can work on some kind of political transition.

Secretary of State John Kerry, General John Allen, the envoy to the coalition, is talking about, you know, definitely working on a political transition. There is also talks about expanding and accelerating the train and equip program.

But, Erin, as you know, the problem is the vetting of those rebels hasn't even started so it's going to be very difficult to talk about expanding a program when you don't even have people to train.

BURNETT: It sure is. And of course even if they speed it up, the timeframe they gave, what, nine, 12 plus months? I mean, even speeding that up is still not fast at all.

All right, Elise Labott, thank you very much. Elise broke that news.

Jim Acosta is with the president in Asia, in Myanmar, tonight or tomorrow morning for you, Jim.

Look, the president is on a major trip to Asia.


BURNETT: As Elise said, he's been getting a lot of criticism for his policy. Why would he announce this right now, tonight?

ACOSTA: Well, we should point out the president is not announcing a change with respect to his strategy for dealing with ISIS in Syria. I did hear from a National Security Council spokesperson who said there is no change in strategy when it comes to Syria. They do believe that Bashar al-Assad has to go and one thing that they do point out is that the president and his national security team, they're constantly reviewing their strategy for dealing with ISIS in Syria. And the White House has been pretty upfront about this, Erin, in the

last several weeks. They do understand that there is sort of a fundamental weakness when it comes to their strategy in Syria because they don't have that trained, vetted moderate opposition on the ground in Syria that can really take the fight to ISIS. They have a little bit -- a better advantage in Iraq where they have the Iraqi Security Forces.

That's why you see the president doubling those efforts, doubling the number of troops heading into Iraq to advise and train those Iraqi Security Forces. But they do recognize they have a problem in Syria and so that might be part of this process, this ongoing review in terms of what they're doing with ISIS in Syria.

But, you know, the president is here in Asia. He's here in Myanmar today. He's been trying to rebalance his foreign policy on Asia and he's been having to put that on the back burner from time to time because of things like ISIS. And so the president will obviously see this story and have to take a look at it as he's traveling this part of the world.

But, Erin, no question about it, this is going to be a big issue for the president to deal with when he gets back to Washington. The administration is asking Congress for a vote to authorize military force and there is going to be a big debate about the president's strategy for dealing with ISIS both in Iraq and in Syria.

BURNETT: There certainly is because I think, I guess, just to state the obvious to our viewers, you don't order a review of your strategy if you think it's working.

Thanks so much to Jim Acosta.

Senator Saxby Chambliss is the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee.

Senator, good to have you with us tonight. You know, the president actually explicitly called for Bashar al-Assad to go back in August of 2011. There was a statement at the time where he wrote, "The time has come for President Assad to step aside." At that time he pressed Congress for support, he didn't get it then.

Will Congress, do you think, support him now?

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), VICE CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, I think certainly there was no disagreement back in 2011 between the president and Congress, and Hillary Clinton, that Bashar Assad should go. The president and Secretary Clinton said at that time that he would be gone in a year.

Well, here we are three years later, Erin, and he's still there. That just tells you that our strategy inside of Syria has not been working very well.

BURNETT: So let me ask you about this -- the Bashar al-Assad side of things. Right? Because it just seems a bit complicated, right? The United States said let's kill Moammar Gadhafi, the bad guy, and obviously Libya now is a failed state, run by various militias. Egypt, Mubarak left and was replaced with turmoil until another military general took over.

I know you that have said it's imperative Assad be removed as well. But what replaces him?

CHAMBLISS: That's the problem we have, Erin. There is no plan out there. If Assad were to be taken out with a rocket tonight, who would take over as the leader in Syria? Nobody can answer that question. And I think that's a -- that is a -- not an underlying problem, it's a very overt problem that I hope in these new discussions the president now said he's going to have that he will tell them, look, guys, we've got to develop a leadership plan for Syria if we are going to go after Assad.

And certainly we should continue to. So let's -- let's just hope that there is somebody inside of Syria that is capable of taking over who can do so in a way that does not propel the bad guys to leadership roles.

BURNETT: And of course, I don't know if what you are saying, if that is questioning democracy, but when I hear that, it makes me think of, you know, what happened in Egypt where it was a democratic election of the Muslim Brotherhood, that the United States sort of went along with, and then realized the United States didn't like.

And one thing that might happen, and who knows if this would happen, but certainly the stronger group inside Syria, outside Bashar al-Assad right now, is ISIS, they want to get rid of Bashar al-Assad. So now there's this strange irony that it would be the United States and ISIS on the same side trying to get rid of Bashar al-Assad.

How does the U.S. support the same end goal as ISIS and not help ISIS?

CHAMBLISS: Well, it's one of those issues, Erin, that just tells the American people what a complex part of the world the Middle East is. And I know it's difficult to understand that we would have the same goal as ISIS and at the same time we're in a fierce fight with them. But the fact is, they want to take over leadership of that country. They've made it very clear that they want what they call a caliphate, which is a state where Sharia law is imposed in Syria and Iraq and Jordan and Lebanon and even into Israel.

They think that's their -- that's their direction that they are receiving from their so-called folks on high. So it's not surprising that they would want to see Bashar Assad gone, it's for a different reason than what we want to see him removed for.


CHAMBLISS: But certainly we do have a common goal there and it is very ironic.

BURNETT: So according to a Georgia paper, you recently said the fight against ISIS will probably require American soldiers leading a coalition of ground troops. Is that the truth of what the United States is looking at here, given the morass of Syria, given ISIS' strength there, given the vacuum that would happen if Bashar al-Assad was toppled?

Isn't this something that would require American troops? I mean, is Syria going to be like Iraq was a decade ago?

CHAMBLISS: Erin, we have never had a successful military conflict in which the United States is engaged, where we didn't put boots on the ground. Boots on the ground are going to be required here. General Dempsey has said that, in effect, and he's dead right. The president has committed an additional 1500 on top of the 1500 to 1700 we've already got there.

I support that decision. Now I don't support the United States going into Syria or into Iraq in a combat -- on a combat mission. But the fact of the matter is, everybody that's inside of Iraq today is in the middle of a combat zone.

BURNETT: That's right.

CHAMBLISS: So they've got to be prepared. But what we've got to do is the United States is prepared to provide leadership from the standpoint of logistics, intelligence, supply and command and control, but we need the Arab countries to put the boots on the ground that are going to be led by our folks.

That is the type of involvement that we need to have from a boots-on- the-ground standpoint. They are flying missions and this is key. The president did a good job of putting a coalition together of U.S. and our allies, including Muslim countries, who are dropping bombs on other Muslims. They've got to step up their game, though.


CHAMBLISS: And put boots on the ground to be led by U.S. and NATO troops.

BURNETT: We'll see if they're willing to do that, to put their lives at risk if the U.S. only leads.

Thanks very much to you, Senator. I appreciate your time tonight.

CHAMBLISS: OK. Good to be with you.

BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, a surprise witness at the Ferguson grand jury tomorrow. The pathologist that was hired by Michael Brown's attorney. Will his testimony help the family?

Plus American sailors violently attacked in Turkey. Bags pulled over their heads. We're going to show you this video and tell you exactly what happened there. A very disturbing story.

And a dramatic rescue hundreds of feet above New York City streets. In fact about 70 stories above the street. We're going to talk to the firefighter who led it. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: In just hours an unexpected witness will appear before the grand jury looking into the death of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri. An attorney for the family of Michael Brown tells CNN the pathologist who was hired by the family and conducted the second autopsy will now testify.

Is this a game-changer?

OUTFRONT now, our legal analyst, Mark O'Mara and Areva Martin, a civil rights attorney.

Good to have both of you with us.

Mark, let me just start with you. The grand jury decision was really expected any day. It seems that there is now this last-minute decision to have a new witness. The Brown family pathologist testified.

Why would they do that? Is that unusual at the last minute?

MARK O'MARA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the whole thing has been unusual because I think what McCullough is doing is being overly inclusive with the information he presents to the grand jury. He's taken a couple of months to do it. I think what he's doing is maybe inflating both whatever decisions made by the grand jury and all of the information. So having Baden come in and testify now, maybe not really last-minute.

Don't forget the grand jury itself may have said we want to hear more evidence, we want to hear from this pathologist. So rather that being a real game-changer necessarily, I think just putting everything they can in front of the grand jury, every witness they want, every witness they can think about so that whatever the decision, it is defendable.

BURNETT: So, Areva, does this decision here to have the pathologist for the family testify help or hurt the family's case? Because when you looked at it, there weren't really any major discrepancies between the two autopsies, the official one and the family one, because the family one was not able to determine without a doubt that Michael Brown was shot and killed while his hands were up and he retreating which obviously is key to the family's case because they say he had his hands up in surrender.

AREVA MARTIN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: I think, Erin, the pathologist testifying is really, really important to this case. Beyond the legal issues that the pathology -- his testimony presents, is the issue of trust. You know, this whole case is about whether this community can trust whatever decision comes from this grand jury. We know that the community wanted Robert McCullough to recuse himself.

We also know that there are some concerns about whether there's going to be a fair presentation of the evidence and Robert McCullough said he was going to present everything. He had witness testimony --

BURNETT: He, of course, is the prosecutor. Just so people know.

MARTIN: Every document. So this information is very critical, I think, to say into this community that this grand jury will hear everything, including those things that might be favorable to the family's case.

BURNETT: Does it, Mark, indicate anything, though, about which direction the grand jury was going to go. Obviously much of the reporting had indicated that they were unlikely to return an indictment. Obviously who knows but that was what the reporting had been. Does this decision to bring this witness forward show that that really was the case, that the prosecutor wants to make it loud and clear, look, they heard everything, they heard the family's pathologist?

O'MARA: I think what you just said is the most significant part about this whole thing, is that they are going to present every witness, every piece of evidence so that when it is done, it is done in a proper way, it is complete, and when it's going to be reviewed, of course we know it's going to be, it's going to be able to be defended, and nobody will be able to come in and say, we should have had this, I should have had this presented, or you didn't bring forward this witness.

So I think what they are doing is just been absolutely complete and then the next step should be transparency.

BURNETT: All right. So, Areva, let me ask you, though, to the point that Mark was making, that this would be absolutely complete, no one would be able to question it. If the grand jury does not return an indictment, and you do have this witness testify, does that solve it? Everybody is going to say, OK, they did -- they did hear everybody, now it's fair and square?

MARTIN: I wish it were that simple, Erin. I think the community is going to be more receptive to whatever happens because the family's pathologist did testify. But this community is outraged so I don't think there is any one piece of evidence that's going to quell what we know is going to be, you know, amazingly long and probably intense protests if there is a no indictment return from this grand jury.

I don't think you can convince the people on the ground in Ferguson that Michael Brown was not shot, there wasn't excessive force, that he wasn't surrendering. The community is pretty convinced that he was shot without provocation and that Darren Wilson should be arrested and should be charged for his murder.

BURNETT: Mark, we now have you back on camera. But there is also the question about whether we know who caused this pathologist to testify. We don't know whether the grand jury actually asked, right, as opposed the prosecutor, which I think could be a significant distinction, right?

O'MARA: We don't know. And you're right. If the prosecutor did it, he did it for completeness. If the grand jury did it, they did it because they have a question that they think that Baden can answer. So if it was the grand jury, we might say they want to know what he reported and how that fits into the other autopsy and forensic evidence that they found out about.

BURNETT: Areva, to your point, though, that the community is convinced, I mean, this is a really tough situation to be in, isn't it? Because it doesn't matter what the grand jury ends thinking the facts are if the community isn't going to respect it, but you don't want to have an indictment, or do you? Just because the local community wants one, if the grand jury doesn't think the facts merit it?

MARTIN: Well, I think we want to have trust in the grand jury process.


MARTIN: And the community wants to know that all of the information was presented to this grand jury. But, you know, we have to go back to those witnesses. So many of them came forward, those who had no connection to Ferguson, no connection to Brown saying that this young man was surrendering. So it's got to be pretty hard to overcome those visual images that were played out on the television for the -- you know, two weeks following Michael Brown's death.

And I think the community again is very concerned about transparency. They are concerned about bias because of the long history of very negative relationships between the Ferguson Police Department and the African-American community.

BURNETT: Fair point. Quickly, Mark, before we go, I know the "Washington Post" have reported there were six or eight, I don't remember which, but six or eight African-Americans who had testified supporting Officer Wilson, that they testified in front of the grand jury, they didn't want to talk publicly.

When you talk about transparency, are their names going to be released? Are we going to know exactly who they are?

O'MARA: You know, they have the right to protect some names of witnesses upon their request and with authority from a judge involved in the case. I think that what's going to happen is the transparency is going to be across the board, names are going to have to come out.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to both of you.

And today another plea for peace in Ferguson as officials urged protesters to focus their energy on healing and not violence after the grand jury's decision.


CHARLIE A. DOOLEY, ST. LOUIS COUNTY EXECUTIVE: So what the decision may be, I might not like, you may like it, but might be the reverse, but can we not think about after we get the verdict, how do we move forward? How do we begin to heal?


BURNETT: And tonight we want to introduce you to one protester, a white woman.

Our Sara Sidner is OUTFRONT in Ferguson.


REV. RENITA LAMKIN, PASTOR, ST. JOHN AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH: If hate compels the fight, the fight is lost before it has begun.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Reverend Renita Lamkin says she's in the middle of one of the biggest fight for the believer's life. When she's not here praying for her congregation, she can also be found here, on the streets of Ferguson, marching against police brutality and the killing of Michael Brown, and waiting for the grand jury decision.

LAMKIN: I've heard the predictions, being pulled into secret meetings. I've received anonymous messages. If all of that prediction holds true, it is going to be very scary.

SIDNER: Where will she be? Where she always is. Standing in between police and protesters when tensions explode.

That's her there on August 13th when teargas flew and military vehicle rolled in.

LAMKIN: I just was praying, you know, that's it. Just interceding, asking God to build a line to -- to draw a line that couldn't be crossed on either way.

SIDNER: She said that night she left with bruises, hit with a police projectile. But she keeps going back and has been criticized for it. Accused of inciting protesters, that's her wearing a scarf to cover her face.

LAMKIN: Really, all I'm doing out there is praying. I'm very aware of the presence of evil and how, as I'm seeing this, as a spiritual warfare.

SIDNER: She said the war she and others are waging is against the policing system in America.

LAMKIN: There is a nation of exhausted people. And we are exhausted with this policing system having carte blanche opportunity to gun our children down without accountability.

SIDNER: Those with opposing views would say there is accountability and that's what the grand jury is for. Initially, even some protesters weren't so welcoming to her, saying --

LAMKIN: This isn't your fight. It's not a white person's fight. It's, you know, not the place. SIDNER: Lamkin now receives death threats for protesting but she

keeps at it. Mother of two mixed race children says she has plenty to fight for.

LAMKIN: When I see the anger in their faces, the kids' faces, I mean, I -- you know, I've seen that anger in my own children's eyes. I've seen that pain.

SIDNER: That pain evident on a recent Sunday at her church when one of the fiercest Ferguson protesters visited and ended up breaking down, sobbing in Pastor Lamkin's arms.


SIDNER: Now she's hoping that she can be a voice of calm when that grand jury decision comes down but she has been accused of yelling at police. Usually what we see her doing, because I've seen her out here many, many, many nights in the past couple of months that I've been here, she's always standing in between the two and she's often talking to both sides, mostly trying to make sure that nobody gets hurt -- Erin.

BURNETT: Sara, thank you very much. As we said, indefatigably reporting from Ferguson, day in and day out.

Well, OUTFRONT next, American sailors on leave in Turkey, thugs pelting them with rocks, bags put over their heads. What was behind the attack?

And I'll talk to the New York firefighter whose company led the team that pulled two window washers to safety after dangling 70 stories above the ground.


BURNETT: Breaking news, the Turkish government tonight condemning an attack on three American sailors on the streets of Istanbul today. The brazen assault was caught on video.


CROWD: Yankee, go home. Yankee, go home. Yankee, go home.


BURNETT: Here you see at least one sailor surrounded, a bag then pulled over his head.

Barbara Starr is OUTFRONT with more.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The attack begins with anti-American slogans shouted at three U.S. Navy sailors on shore leave in Istanbul, Turkey. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You declare that you are a member of U.S. Army and

now because we define you as murders, as killers, we want you to get out of our land.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Then the assailants throw objects, slash red paint and physically assault the sailors. About 20 men swarmed them, shoving, grabbing.

CROWD: Yankee, go home!

STARR: And then they put bags ore -- over their heads. The sailors put their hands up and do not resist. No one comes to their aid. The assailants chase the Americans as they run, still chanting --

CROWD: Yankee, go home.

JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: This event clearly crossed the line from peaceful protest to violence and threats.

STARR: The Turkish Youth Union, an anti-government group, claimed responsibility, putting out a statement saying in part, "Bags we put over American soldiers are for the nations from Palestine to Syria."

BOBBY GHOSH, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: They went to a place where they expected to see American sailors and they were carrying banners with Mustafa Kemal's photograph in them, and their group's emblem, they had the bags with them. So, this was clearly something that was planned.

STARR: The incident especially sensitive because it happened in Turkey, a NATO ally the U.S. wants help from in the war against ISIS in next door Syria and Iraq -- the besieged Syrian city of Kobani within eye sight of the Turkish border. The U.S. is pressing for the use of Turkish bases and to have Turkey host training of moderate Syrian rebels.

It comes as the U.S. strategy and coalition commitment is being called into question. Pentagon leadership will face a Republican-dominated House Armed Services Committee hearing.

REP. BUCK MCKEON (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: I don't think the White House administration is totally in tune with what needs to be done.

STARR: Republican patience is running out.

MCKEON: But I want to hear from them, is what they are going to do to fix the strategy.


STARR: As for those three Navy sailors, the Navy leadership is applauding them for keeping their cool and not doing anything to further escalate the situation. Still, they had to have been traumatized -- Erin.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Certainly had to have been. Barbara, thank you very much.

An incredible self possession to put their hands up and didn't fight back.

Joining me now, CNN military analyst, Major General James "Spider" Marks, and former Navy SEAL, John McGuire.

John, let me start with you. I want to show that video again when you see the SEALs -- not the SEALs, I'm sorry -- the soldiers get attacked here and put their hands up and don't resist. What's your reaction when you see this?

JOHN MCGUIRE, FORMER NAVY SEAL: You know, I've got to give them a good grade, you know? They certainly didn't look very confident. But they kept their cool and they didn't panic. They stayed together. And they got out of the situation.

Now, there are certainly a couple of things they could have done to maybe handle it a little bit better. But overall, I give them a good grade. They were by themselves and stayed together.

BURNETT: And when you say handle it better, what specifically do you mean?

MCGUIRE: Well, you know, the world is changing and I heard in your shows that this is a fringe group and there is evidence that makes me believe that, and there wasn't that many people and they were videotaping it and no one got hurt. But in other places of the world, you're going to run into danger is -- I don't know if they were getting tickets or using the ATM, I couldn't tell from the video, is maybe when the guy were getting tickets, the other two maybe had his back to him so they could see the crowd. So, they maybe they could assess the threat a little bit better. But overall, I thought they handled it pretty good.

BURNETT: All right. General Marks, let me just play again what was said to the sailors so our viewers can hear it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because we define you as murders, as killers, we want you -- we want you to get out of our land.


BURNETT: And, you know, General, we talked about this as a perhaps fringe group, but nonetheless, this is shocking that this would have happened in Istanbul, in the biggest city in Turkey, in the financial capital of an American ally. This clearly reflects a deep hostility towards the American military.

What do you say to that?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it really is a challenge in our relationships with Turkey. They have always been -- since their membership in NATO, we have always tried to work very, very closely with the Turks. We have a good mil-to-mil -- military to military type relations with them and we have routinely exercised those capabilities.

But the Turkish government walks a very thin line between a secular government, which they have, and a very large, very influential Islamic presence in the country that wants to increasingly put its presence on top of the government. So, it's not unusual to see a Turkish youth union like this and an anti-government organization like this, it was clearly anti-U.S.

But the United States has had many chances to work with the Turks in the past. We've often taken that relationship for granted and I think we understand more fully that this is a delicate relationship that takes very much hands-on presence in order to get it right.

BURNETT: And, General, of course, we should note, Susan Rice said weeks ago that Turkey was at the final stages of signing a deal to let American forces use a base in terms of the war in Iraq and Syria. And that hasn't yet happened. There have been real issues in the relationship with this ally.

But what about, when you look at what happened today, this happened in Istanbul and it happened at port, which is a very busy area and anyone who's been there knows it's very busy, they are getting tickets, there's a lot going on. Does it surprise you no one stepped in, no security forces, no one got involved?

MARKS: I am. Very much so. And I think as described, the video was taken, it was completely staged. This was not an ambush by any means. This was a planned encounter. It was an opportunity to try to elicit a reaction from the sailors.

They did well, as described. They did well to break contact and get away and not escalate this.

So, what really concerns me is that local police were not involved. No one else got involved. But the good news in all of this, Erin, is that no one got shot, no one got killed, no one got stabbed.

So, I think, at the end of the day, you could line this up and say, yes, it was an event that occurred that was completely planned and it could have gone far worse. Thank goodness it didn't. Thank goodness the sailors are OK.

BURNETT: It could have been worse but still unbelievable pictures there for Americans to see.

Thanks to both of you.

And OUTFRONT next, two window washers stranded nearly 70 stories in the air. We're going to talk to the man who led the rescue today.

Plus, scientists landing a space probe on a speeding comet more than 300 miles -- million miles -- 300 million miles, sorry, it is hard to envision it, away from Earth. The amazing pictures are ahead.


BURNETT: A terrifying scene above the streets of New York City today. Two window washers were working from the top of a nearly 1,800-foot one World Trade Center when a cable on their scaffolding gave way. It fell and left them dangling by a single wire on the 68th floor. They were hanging there for more than a hour. New York firefighters broke through three glass panels to get to the men. Both were taken to the hospital and treated for hypothermia.

The Freedom Tower officially opened just last week. It stands on the site of the Twin Towers which were destroyed on September 11th, 13 years ago.

And joining me now is Lieutenant William Ryan who was part of the FDNY team who rescued the window washers.

And, Lieutenant Ryan, it must have been a stunning call to get. When you first got that call, what did you think and how did you decide how you were going to rescue the two window washers?

LT. WILLIAM RYAN, FDNY: OK, you look at the location, and you see what we had. Obviously it has some substantial significance. There were two sets of scaffolding up on the north and south side. So we are on the south side, the scaffolding is compromised. And we got to try and find what floor it's on, what elevator access, and what's the best area recourse at that point.

So, then, we came up with a couple of plans, one would be lowering a scaffolding down to the guys and they would transfer over. The other option would be to cut the glass on the floor to best access them, which ultimately wound up being most successful.

BURNETT: So, talk to me a little bit about that because that image, when you cut through the glass, is pretty incredible. This is a building we've been told and you mentioned its significance, obviously. The New World Trade Center building, the tallest building in the United States, a building where the windows are supposed to be impenetrable.

But you were able to -- how did you do it? Did you cut? Did you smash? How did you break through?

RYAN: No. It is a diamond blade and you cut it in sections. You cut it small and add on from there and you peel each piece back. You put some laminate on it and put some suction cups and you cut to a shape of a door, and we pull everything back one section at a time. Very slow and very calculated. We were worried about the pressure in the building being off-set and being an additional problem.

So, we just had to do that we gingerly and go through a series of steps to make sure that worked without an issue.

BURNETT: Right, and you mentioned the pressure. I mean, you are talking about being on the 68th and the 69th floor. So, that would have been a significant issue. Once you were able to do that, what happen then? I mean, the window washers had been trapped there sort of dangling

there for more than hour. Frankly, the nation was watching. What was their condition when you got to them?

RYAN: Well, they were good. They understood. We lowered them a radio, squad 18 lowered them a radio, and some ropes so we substantially tied them off so the fire department had them secured.

So, they knew they were safe and we were speaking to them in plain English on the radio to explain what they were doing. And we explained we were coming from above and we're going to try to come through the doors.

And the biggest concern was the scaffolding was moving a little bit, once we cut that glass out and there was some sharp shards of glass -- and for lack of better terms the guys were stepping from the scaffolding into the building over a lot of sharp glass and that became an issue. Once we got past that, we were confident we were successful.

BURNETT: You mentioned the significance of this building. This is a building that has international worldwide significance, the new Freedom Tower, One World Trade Center, the building that replace the Trade Centers from 9/11.

Was that something on your mind when you got the call today?

RYAN: You know what, you get the ticket, and it does strike a cord real quick, but you do into business mode. And this is our job. This is what we do. And you put that in your pocket and you go to work and you do your job.

BURNETT: All right. Lieutenant Ryan, thank you so much.

RYAN: Thank you.

BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, 10 years in flight and hundreds of millions of miles from home, a space probe touches down on a comet. New details on the dramatic link.


BURNETT: Now, let's check in with Anderson for a look at what's coming up on "AC360".



Yes, we have much more of the breaking news tonight. The unprovoked assault in broad daylight against U.S. sailors in Istanbul, Turkey. And an interview you'll only see on "360", the district attorney spoke with our Randi Kaye on the details of the investigation into the death of the McStay family, allegedly killed by a friend.

This man, Chase Merritt who Randi Kaye interviewed is part of CNN's special investigations, in the McStay's disappearance. You're going to hear how investigators pieced together clues that led them to the alleged killer.

Those stories and my story with Mike Rowe about the jobs somebody's got to do, like window-washing high rise buildings, which you've been reporting on and working at sub-zero temperatures. Plus, tonight's "Ridiculist" and a whole lot more at the top of the hour -- Erin.

BURNETT: Pretty incredible when you realize, you know, it was a warm day in New York but you get hypothermia when you're that high up. It was amazing.

All right. We'll see you in a few minutes, Anderson.

Well, the little space probe that could. This is a probe called Philae, like Philae fish. It weighs about 220 pounds and it's about the size of a washing machine. Its landing spot was a comet less than three miles long and 311 million miles away from Earth. By the way, it was also moving at many thousands of miles an hour.

So, why don't you do the math? That's right. You can't, unless you are an astrophysicist. The journey took 10 years. The probe will take photographs and t can run nine experiments on the comet.

Tom Foreman is in the virtual room with a look at the probe's journey.

Tom, just even imagining that there are human beings capable of doing this invigorates me with hope for the whole human race. This is incredible.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it really is. This is speed dating like you've never seen it before. These things hooked up going 41,000 miles an hour. If you could drive that fast, you could drive from New York to L.A. in four minutes and the first two minutes would be just getting through Jersey, you know that.

Let's talk about this. This is what it was trying to hook up with. It's trying to hook up with this comet out here, 67P. The comet is not still. It's moving in these big loops through the solar system.

And so, when this probe was launched ten years ago when Facebook was just starting, it started making big loops through the solar system, too, all with a plan of hooking up in space, and that's what they've done, about 311 million miles away, as you pointed, kind of in the cosmic neighborhood of Jupiter.

And take a look at this thing. The overall craft called Rosetta is the mother craft. It got close to this. From there, it let go of Philae. And Philae went dropping down.

After this incredible journey of 10 years, this little robotic craft had to drop for seven hours, free-falling to the surface while all these scientists just held their breath waiting, Erin, for that magical moment when it would touch down and hopefully everything would be OK. And it was. BURNETT: I mean, that is I mean, unbelievable. And then you end with

this seven -- then after all that distance, seven hours of just free- fall, and it worked. Now, the comet probe had a Twitter account which someone on earth was no doubt tweeting. They knew it was happening out there. It said it had a problem when it landed.

The tweet says, "I'm on my surface but my harpoons did not fire."

I don't know what a harpoon is in a comet landing, Tom, but no doubt you do. What happened?

FOREMAN: About the size of a washing machine, weighs 220 pounds. But not out there, out there on a comet like this it weighs very little at all so it has to hold on to the comet or it can drift away.

The harpoons were down in the bottom of this. They were designed so they could fire into the comet and anchor this thing in place. They didn't seem to work but they had backup systems which seem to have worked. And that's why they can turn their attention to all the other things in here -- the thermometers and -- measuring all these different devices.

BURNETT: All right. So, all those things in there. They didn't just do this for sport. They want to be on this comet for a year. It's been exhausting flying around for 300 million miles. They want to sit for a year.

All right. What's Philae going to do?

FOREMAN: Well, what it's going to do is try to find out, frankly, where we all came from. Some of the oldest material in the universe maybe inside the comet as it drills down into it and see how it behaves closer to the sun.

Hopefully, some new clues about where we all came from, where the earth came from but, frankly, Erin, just the technology developed to make this happen is stuff we're all going to benefit from. That's how the space race works, Erin.

BURNETT: Tom Foreman, thank you very much.

And OUTFRONT next, what does Kim Kardashian have to do with the comet landing today? Well, only Jeanne Moos has the answer.


BURNETT: So, what do the comet and Kim Kardashian have in common? Well, something sadly. A lot of buzz over their respective tails.

Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you were landing something the size of a washing machine on a speeding comet, your face would look like this, too. That's the flight director with his hand on his mouth, wiping his forehead.

JAMES GREEN, DIRECTOR OF PLANETARY SCIENCE, NASA HEADQUARTERS: How audacious. How exciting to dare, to land on a comet.

MOOS: It was like the movie "Armageddon" or "Deep Impact" -- minus the astronauts. But instead of coming to destroy the comet, lander Philae came to study one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Science fiction has become science fact.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like a bullet hitting a bullet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What humanity has done is where we have caught a comet.

MOOS: And this is how it looked the moment European Space Agency scientists learned they'd caught it.


MOOS: For a second they became almost too giddy to go on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are live, I guess, so we can't be happier than what we are now.

MOOS: So giddy, they dropped the mike.

The flight director didn't just drop a lander on a comet. He dropped an F-bomb in Italian.


MOOS: Even Star Trek's Captain Kirk sent good wishes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am so excited.

MOOS: And the lander itself tweeted its arrival, "Touchdown. My new address, 67P." That's the comet's designation emblazoned on team t- shirt.

These Europeans know how to throw a watch party. You don't hear NASA talking about a robot meeting a comet like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're moving in for the kiss.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The comet needs the breath mint.

MOOS: That's become the comet stinks from mixtures of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide.

(on camera): Do I hear it singing?

MOOS (voice-over): That's what they call noises from the comet that their instruments picked up. A special Google doodle celebrated the successful landing. (on camera): Wait a minute. This just in. We're hearing that the

space agency has chosen its next mission and this one requires landing in unbelievably difficult terrain.

(voice-over): Forget the tale of a comet inspired by newly released photos of this other worldly object. The agency will attempt to touch down on the tail of Kim Kardashian. Talk about a celestial body.

Jeanne Moos, CNN --


MOOS: -- New York.


BURNETT: It would be even more audacious than then attempt in space.

All right. Thanks so much for watching.

"AC360" starts now.