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Official: ISIS Recruiting on Rise in Yemen; Gunmen Met and Radicalized in Prison; Boehner Invites Netanyahu, Doesn't Consult Obama; Reports: Justice Dept. Expected to Clear Ferguson Office

Aired January 21, 2015 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news. ISIS now recruiting terrorists inside Yemen competing with al-Qaeda. It's the launch, the next major attack in America.

Plus, fewer than 38 hours left for authorities to either pay a $200 million or ISIS says, it will behead two more hostages.

And reportedly heard on AirAsia Flight 8501 black box a quote-unquote, "screaming warning that the plane had stalled." Was it mechanical or human error? Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. And OUTFRONT tonight, we begin with breaking news. ISIS expanding its brutal tactics to a third country. Tonight we're learning ISIS is making significant gains in Yemen. Already a stronghold for Islamic militants who have launched attacks against the United States. Tonight, we can report ISIS militants are recruiting inside of Yemen. The capital city there in chaos. Rebels already seizing the presidential palace and other government buildings. This as two American navy warships are in position in the Red Sea. They say they are ready to evacuate American Embassy personnel. The biggest fear perhaps so for U.S. intelligence official is that analysts are now saying ISIS and al Qaeda may be in direct competition with each other in Yemen. The competition to see who can strike America first.

Brian Todd broke this story about ISIS now in a third country. And Brian, obviously it's a significant development. How serious a threat is this competition? Now you have it face-to-face between ISIS and al Qaeda.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a very serious threat Erin both inside and outside of Yemen and America and its interest tonight. We're told that ISIS has established a presence inside Yemen and is already engaged in at least one fire fight against its rivals from al Qaeda there. If this escalate, it could further destabilize that key U.S. ally in the war on terror.


TODD (voice-over): Disturbing new information tonight on the most dangerous terrorist group taking advantage of the chaos in Yemen. CNN has learned ISIS is now active and recruiting inside Yemen. That's according to a Yemeni official who says ISIS militants engaged in a gun battle against rivals from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in the eastern provinces of Yemen last month.

KATHERINE ZIMMERMAN AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: ISIS maybe in Yemen to compete with the al-Qaeda group there. Yemen is significant in Islam. It is a place where we've seen attacks against the United States. It also has been a major feeder for foreign fighters.

TODD: For years, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has dominated the terrorist foot holding Yemen. And the Yemeni official says, AQAP still out far outnumbers ISIS there with hundreds of fighters compared to dozens for ISIS. A U.S. counterterrorism official tells CNN, AQAP's leadership and key technical experts remain committed to plotting against western targets. In a new video a top AQAP leader renewed the group's call to launch attacks.

KIRK LIPPOLD, FORMER COMMANDER, USS COLE: I think the target as we initially saw is going to be the Europeans simply because of their ease to get on the continent. But ultimately, their aim is the United States.

TODD: A U.S. official tells us American Intelligence is working intensively to track AQAP's their leaders. The most wanted Nasser al Wahishi, AQAP's founder. The man who approves targets and orders attacks. And Ibrahim al-Asiri, the group's master bomb maker who was behind the Christmas Day underwear bomber plot and the attempt to place bombs in printer cartridges, both attacks targeted the United States. Both almost succeeded. Asiri once placed a bomb inside the body of his own brother in an attempt to kill Saudi Arabia's interior minister.

BRIAN FUHRMAN, TERRORISM ANALYST: And he detonated it in a meeting where he was surrendering to the Saudi Prince. And so, this was an assassination attempt. It failed. But it illustrates the lengths with somebody like Asiri will go to try to achieve their target.

TODD: Now, officials and analysts worry, AQAP and ISIS will compete inside Yemen to see who can strike America and its allies first and hardest.

ZIMMERMAN: It could lead an attack against the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa which is vulnerable. And it could also direct attention northward to Saudi Arabia.


TODD: The foothold ISIS has in Yemen is still small according to the Yemeni official we spoke with. But ISIS is trying to lure recruits from AQAP promising them that ISIS has more money to fund operations. We're told AQAP is struggling to raise money right now -- Erin.

BURNETT: Brian Todd, thank you very much with that development. ISIS meanwhile also tonight threatening to execute two hostages in hours. Fewer than 30 hours remain until ISIS terrorists say they will kill the two Japanese men there unless they receive $200 million in ransom.

Will Ripley is OUTFRONT. And Will, you've been seeing this obviously also to the eyes of the Japanese media. The big question is, the United States has said they should not pay. They should not pay. Will the Japanese pay ransom?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on the phone): Well, the fact that the Japanese government is now publicly saying that they want to open a line of communication with ISIS indicates that at least they are willing to sit down at the table and talk. Japan, unlike the United States is not entirely against the idea of paying ransom. Even though no ransom is ever been officially paid for the release of a hostage here. There is speculation that a previous incident with hostages in Iraq that there was a deal worked out under the table. And so, perhaps Erin, the Japanese government at this point is willing to at least talk to ISIS of course. A $200 million figure is totally unrealistic and that would not happen. The questions is, what would the Japanese government be willing to give, if anything, and what would ISIS be willing to take.

BURNETT: And obviously, it's a crucial question. Of course, there's been reports from some we have spoken to that, you know, France has paid up to $18 million to free journalists from ISIS. So, there's a precedent for paying.

OUTFRONT tonight, Philip Balboni, the president and CEO of the news website Global Post, his reporter James Foley, of course known to all of you was held hostage and executed by ISIS in August. And Tim Clemente, a former FBI counterterrorism agent. Tim, I want to start with you just because there's a couple of things that are really different about this situation. At least it sit out to me. One of them, this is the first time ISIS has said, we want the ransom and here's the deadline. Literally gotten, the Japanese have been very specific. 12:50 a.m. Eastern Time is when they think it expires. ISIS before said, you know, we'll kill if you don't but there was not a deadline. So, why do you think there's been a change in tactic to something so specific?

TIM CLEMENTE, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM AGENT: I think it gives them a pr quo. First of all, it creates pressure on the Japanese government. It makes ISIS look like they are the stronger negotiator in this. The Japanese sit down and literally negotiate with ISIS over that $200 million amount. They're trying to beg and pled from ISIS to have mercy on the Japanese government and reduced the amount to make it affordable. And ISIS giving the time line now just shows, look, we're the ones that lead this bargaining table. You come to us. And we'll dictate whether or not we allow our terms to change. It's a power position, obviously.

BURNETT: And it seems, perhaps that's working. I mean, so other countries pay ransom. As I mentioned France. James Foley of course as you know tragically was killed by ISIS, was beheaded. Four French journalists were reportedly with him when he was being held captive. France, according to many reports, they've never confirmed with the government itself, but France reportedly paid up to $18 million. At least one German magazine reported that number. So, do you believe that ransom could work? Would it have worked for James Foley? Would have saved him?

PHILIP BALBONI, SUPERVISOR TO JAMES FOLEY WHO WAS KILLED BY ISIS: I think so. We've seen, it wasn't just the French, Erin. It was Italians, German and Danish. All those hostages were brought back and safe in their homes tonight. And while it's not entirely clear that a ransom was paid in every case, we know from our own investigation that in most cases a ransom was paid. And just recently two Italian aid workers were freed by ISIS. And the Italian government has said a ransom was not paid. That may be true, that may not be true. But what is clear is that the Islamic State wants to rid themselves, if you will, of these hostages. And so, there is a means to that end.

BURNETT: And to that point, Tim, I'm curious. Because one thing that we have heard was that they were, quote-unquote, "running out of hostages." Right? That these beheading videos have helped them. They have helped them recruit. It certainly helps them with some that it appears that they have the same guy and the same voice standing there threatening this time. The west and America have failed to take this guy out. But why then, would they take out two at the same time? If western hostages or, you know, obviously, in this case Japanese, are so valuable they don't have that many of them, why would you kill two at the same time?

CLEMENTE: Well, I think they're using the two because I think they're trying to use leverage against the Japanese government. The Japanese government has have offered $200 million to support the anti-ISIS efforts not directly in combat in anyway, but to support the efforts against them. I think the ISIS members that have these two hostages, they are realizing, look, this is a onetime play. Let's throw the same number back at them. The 200 million, and it becomes a lose-lose situation for Japan. They cannot win in this. Either they pay and do what the Iraqi government considers to be financial supporting terrorism by paying ransoms or they let their citizens die. They cannot win in this. ISIS no matter what comes out stronger and more powerful force in this.

BURNETT: And so, you're bottom-line is, that the stance the U.S. government is taking, that not everyone in this country agrees with, but certainly when you do is that you don't pay terrorists. You don't give them money no matter what because it encourages them, it gives them financial wherewithal. But you're saying no. It wouldn't matter. It's okay to pay ransom?

BALBONI: That question was to me?

BURNETT: Yes, yes, Phil to you.

BALBONI: I think the public policy of not paying ransom is fine. I think it's probably the right thing. But here needs to be a much more nuanced approach. And I think our policy for dealing with hostages is a failed policy. And I think the facts speak for themselves. Jim Foley, Stephen Sotloff lost their lives. There's a young American woman, I believed you talked about it on your program before.


BALBONI: Seventeen months in captivity, still being held by the Islamic State. And Jim Foley's traveling companion John Cantlie still being held by the Islamic State after more than two years. I think there's two things that need to happen. One, the government needs to open up a line of communication with the kidnappers to try to resolve the case. And I think the families of the hostages need to be permitted to do what they feel is best. And if that is a ransom payment, and that was certainly true with the Foley's and I know the family of the young woman whose name has not been revealed, and they wish to pay a ransom but it's not easy to find three and $5 million. But the family needs to be empowered and not impeded in having the opportunity to bring their loved ones home.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thanks very much to both of you. And of course, as we said, there's a 26-year-old American woman right now held hostage by ISIS.

OUTFRONT next, new information about the Paris attackers. Officials fear more attacks could be coming. There's a reason.

Plus, increasingly criminals are turning to Islamic extremism during their time behind bars.

Has prison become a breathing ground for terrorism? Our special report. And breaking news, the New York Times and CBS reporting at this hour. Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson is expected to be cleared by the Justice Department. It's a major development. And we have much more to come out this hour.


BURNETT: Tonight, authorities fear, more suspect from the Paris attack are still on the run urged by the gunman to leave France before the attacks. We know that there are about half a dozen suspects. At this time, officials fear they could pose a huge and new danger.

Pamela Brown is in Paris tonight reporting for us. And Pamela, what are your sources telling you about the danger posed by these suspects?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell Erin, they are very concerned. As you said, it's believed around half a dozen people associates Amedy Coulibaly and the Kouachi brothers left France and went into Syria. Of course, a black hole and really a terrorist safe haven just before the Paris attacks.

And it's believed that the suspects urged them to leave before they launched the attacks. But really the concern here is that they could have the same intent and of course capabilities as the suspects and we saw what happened here in Paris. And so, now, authorities are concerned that not only could ISIS recruit them, could they be used in propaganda videos but also, are they plotting against the west. These are people with western passports, could they come back and launch an attack here? As one source I spoke to says, the fact that they are in this war torn area with terrorists like ISIS exponentially raises a concern -- Erin.

BURNETT: I would imagine it does. Of course, with the suspects on the loose, many of them obviously not apprehended, real fear of another and bigger attack. Pamela, thank you so much live from Paris.

And there are growing concerns that even if more people connected to the French terrorists are actually caught, putting them in jail could actually make things worse. It could make them more extreme. This is because prisons around the world including right here in the United States are actually becoming a breeding ground for terrorists.

Nic Robertson has our OUTFRONT report.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Inside a French jail, prisoners hang bed sheets from a window. Yo- yoing they call it flaunting lockdown. Spreading messages. A gaping hole in prison security.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It's becoming a university of terrorism.

ROBERTSON: Cameras are banned yet prisoners including kosher supermarket killer Amedy Coulibaly shot this themselves several years ago. According to journalists at the French newspaper Le Mond were documenting prison life.

The jail is Flury Narijis (ph) on the out skirts of Paris. The same jail where years earlier "Charlie Hebdo" killer Cherif Kouachi met Coulibaly in 2005 and 2006 where both men were radicalized by fellow prisoner and al Qaeda recruiter Jamal Begal (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: For both young men been in contact directly for seven months with Jamal Begal (ph) has had a terrible effect on them.

ROBERTSON: Seventeen year veteran warden at the same jail tells me, he's more powerless than ever to keep order.


ROBERTSON (on camera): That's impossible.

DUFANDIL (ph): Yes, it's really odd to do.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The French aren't the only country with this problem. This reform terror convict in the UK told me about rampant radicalization in British jails two years ago.

(on camera): Over here, this is al Qaeda here.

ROBERTSON: And when U.S. troops showed me around Camp Boca prison in Iraq in 2008, they were having the same problem. Radicalization.


ISIS Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi grew popular here. In the U.S., Alton Nolen, a Muslim convert who is accuse of beheading a former co- worker last year is believed by police to have radicalized in jail. Carlos Bledsoe shot and killed a soldier outside a military recruiting office in Arkansas 2009. He converted to Islam and said he plotted Jihad while in jail. But it's in front where the problem is becoming acute. (on camera): The French justice ministry says, 283 people are from

French jails on terrorism charges. They judge 152 of those to be radical Islamists. And there's growing concerns that they may be trying to radicalize others. The French government says they are close to 67,000 people in jails here. An experts estimate as many of 60 percent of those are Muslims.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Paris.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, our national security analyst Bob Baer, former CIA operative. And Bob, obviously Nic is talking about Paris but it's also happened here in the United States. We've seen multiple examples of it happening. So, what is the U.S. supposed to do about it? The first thing that they do when they find somebody who has done something or use to go ahead and put them in prison. And then we know are increasingly finding that that's where someone converts or that is where someone becomes radicalized.

BOB BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, exactly, Erin. The Department of Justice told me a long time ago, almost a decade ago, that this is one of their main fears is Americans would become radicalized. And, you know, from their standpoint when you're in jail, one of the safest groups to join are the Islamic ones. And that's where it starts. You know, the brotherhood is very dangerous and the Islamic is very organized, very safe.

BURNETT: But when you say safe, sorry, I just want to interrupt, but what does that mean? Safe.

BAER: They don't turn on each other. And they protect each other from the different gangs. The narcotics gangs or the Mexican gangs on the rest of it. So, it's a safe place to go when you're in federal prison or even a local prison. And there's a strict hierarchy and there's a rule of law. But they also start reading the Koran and they have somebody who is usually self-taught who is teaching them Islam. And there's some cases where Islam may teach the prisoners, is radical jihad. They don't necessarily need to plan an attack but they need to justify it in people's minds. And, you know, for criminals and marginal types and the rest of it, they find I don't know a calling in life, you could almost say.

BURNETT: So, what I'm curious about is you're now in the situation, we're discussing with France but even in the U.S. where you say you have somebody who you think was involved or who was suspected or who has been in Syria. And that alone, people are saying, well, that's enough to detain. So then you detain people. Some of whom may be planning something horrible and some of whom may not. But the ones who are not, what is the concern that, you know, they suddenly get radicalized? And I'm thinking about Guantanamo Bay, right? Put people into Gitmo with suspicion but not proof, does that actually end up making people to come more extreme?

BAER: Oh, I think the Guantanamo prisoners, you know, a good number of them, they're going to be more radicalized. And they're going to go back home and they're going to join a Jihadi group and attack American interests. It's just inevitable. They may not have committed a crime here to far but they will in the future.

And there's nothing you can do to predict that. It's amazing this precise, been a couple of years interviewing Jihadi prisoners in Israel. And just a close knit society in this whole commitment to Jihad. And one guy tried to blow himself up and his vest didn't go off. And he was 50-years-old. He wasn't young. And I said, what will you do when you get out? He says, I'll find another suicide vest and blow myself up. It's a problem. But what you do with this people, they still communicate as we saw in France even when people are put in isolation, there's ways to talk in prison and to recruit people.

BURNETT: Bob Baer, thank you very much.

And next, a poke in the eye for President Obama. It takes a whole new battle to, it takes a whole battle to a whole new level.

And inside the cockpit of AirAsia, reports that a quote, "screaming stall warning" was heard. We'll tell you about it.


BURNETT: Tonight House Speaker John Boehner define President Obama breaching protocol extending an invitation to Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. That of course is America's closest ally in the Middle East and the speaker inviting Netanyahu to speak before Congress without telling the White House first. And this is a major speech. It is a speech passionately loudly against one of the President's most cherished goals, a nuclear deal with Iran.

Dana Bash is OUTFRONT on Capitol Hill tonight. And Dana, this is a historic moment. It was done completely behind the President's back and the announcement came just hours after he warned Congress not to get involved with the Iranian's nuclear negotiations at all.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're exactly right, Erin. There's so many layers of intrigue and drama here. You have three very powerful men with complicated personal relationships and of course a very real issue in differences over how to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.


BASH (voice-over): GOP sources admit to CNN, Congress traditionally coordinates with the White House before asking a world leader to address Congress. Not this time.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MAJORITY LEADER: I did not consult with the White House.

BASH: It was a back channel between John Boehner and Benjamin Netanyahu who both want Congress to pass new sanctions against Iran which the President opposes. (on camera): Is this just a way to sort of poke the President in the

eye on an issue like Iran where you know he very much opposes what you want to do?

BOEHNER: I don't believe I'm poking anyone in the eye. There's a serious threat that exists in the world. And the President last night kind of papered over it.

BASH: It was just hours earlier that Obama warned Congress more sanctions against Iran would jeopardize delegate diplomatic nuclear negotiations.

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: Between now and this spring, we have chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear armed Iran. And that's why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress.


BASH: As he spoke the President had no idea what John Boehner had been planning for weeks to bring the Israeli prime minister to stand in the very same place and tell Congress the opposite.

BOEHNER: We have a shared cause. And we have common ideals and now we must rise to that moment once again.

BASH: Boehner is taking advantage of a long history of tension between Netanyahu and Obama. Like Netanyahu's infamous lecture in the oval office.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAEL PRIME MINISTER: So I'm sure you'll appreciate that Israel cannot permit such a state to have the ability to make atomic bombs to achieve that goal.

BASH (voice-over): Last year, anonymous senior officials badmouthed Netanyahu with strong language. One calling him a chicken-blank.

The speaker isn't just undermining Obama, he's assisting Netanyahu, a hawkish Israeli leader Republicans like and is on shaky ground in Israeli election scheduled next month. A high profile U.S. speech on a nuclear Iran which Israeli's see as an existential threat could help. And Boehner has some high profile Democrats on his side who thinks the president's diplomatic talks with Iran is a fool's errand.

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran.


BASH: Pretty remarkable words from a Democrat, a powerful Democrat, about fellow Democrats in the White House.

Now, Erin, the obvious question is, what is the administration saying about all of this privately? They are not happy with either the House speaker or the Israeli prime minister. Publicly, they are shall we say diplomatic, using words like unusual and bizarre -- Erin.

BURNETT: Right, right. Of course, this is a big moment. And it is, what I want to say, a poke in the eye, a slap in the face. It's significant. It's something probably even stronger than either one of those euphemism indicate.

All right. Dana Bash, thank you very much.

Jim Acosta is at the White House.

Jim, this is a huge development. You know, when you look at last night at the president telling Congress they know this is near and dear to his heart, right?


BURNETT: And he's saying you all need to stay away from this. John Boehner sitting behind him like a Cheshire cat, no reaction at all. He knows that in several hours, he's going to be announcing a major, joint session of Congress with an address by Benjamin Netanyahu.

ACOSTA: Yes. I mean, Erin, it's safe to say the White House was not pleased. Maybe that's the understatement of the week. But that is the case. A White House official told me the first they heard of this was not from the Israelis, it was when they got a heads up from Speaker Boehner's office only minutes before the announcement, because the president was on the road in Boise, Idaho, today.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest did not have an on-camera briefing. He did tell reporters on Air Force One, the White House believes the decision to accept Boehner's offer was a, quote, "departure from protocol", speaking of diplomatic language. Earnest said the standard procedure in case like this is that a head of state normally notifies the White House when announcing a trip to the U.S. That did not happen here.

And asked whether the White House is annoyed, Earnest said the administration is reserving judgment until after U.S. officials speak to their Israeli counterpart. Now, Netanyahu speech comes, as Dana mentioned, after the president warned he will veto Iran sanctions bill that's passed while negotiations are under way with Iran over their nuclear program. It's also worth nothing, Erin, the White House is not saying at this point whether the president will even meet with Netanyahu when he delivers that speech to Congress next month.

So, a read between the lines here. This is yet another chapter in that long saga of frosty relations between the president and Netanyahu.

BURNETT: It certainly is. And, of course, America's biggest ally in the Middle East, the Israeli American relationship is so important. This is a historic moment.

Jim Acosta, thank you so much from the White House.

I want to bring in, OUTFRONT now, presidential historian Douglas Brinkley.

All right. Doug, let me just ask you, you just heard Jim, you know, giving us a little bit new information there, saying his understanding is that John Boehner's office called the White House just moments before this announcement. Yes, that is certainly a breach of protocol. This is a big deal, isn't it?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Oh, yes, it's unprecedented. It's also very weird and strange in many ways.

But look, we've had 114 foreign leaders come to a joint session of Congress. That's not unusual. But during World War II, when Winston Churchill came in '41 and '43 and later in 1952, and again, he came in 1952, it was always to meet the president and then go to Congress. In this case, it's unusual because Congress is maybe the only person, group, body that he's going to meet.

I'll be interested to see if President Obama extends an invitation to Netanyahu to the White House, or of he gives him the cold shoulder.

BURNETT: Which would I know in and of itself being historic. But the bottom line is there that the president and Benjamin Netanyahu are completely on the opposite side of this. You know, Benjamin Netanyahu says that Iran is an existential threat. Back at the U.N., in a famous speech in 2013, he referred to the new president of Iran, President Rouhani as a wolf in sheep's clothing, who thinks he can have his yellow cake and eat it, too. And those are some of the more tame things that he has said. It's hard to imagine the president actually meeting with Prime

Minister Netanyahu given the president's view that he wants to do a deal with Iran.

BRINKLEY: It does seem very doubtful, doesn't it? I mean, Netanyahu is up for re-election. He's struggling. The fact is, in the end, it might be the White House that says we don't want to meet with you.

This is a low ebb mark in U.S.-Israeli relations. We've had worse moments. Eisenhower in the Suez, crisis breaking with Israel.

But in the end, the question for the president and American foreign policy is what's best? The president seems admit that he's not going to allow sanctions to Iran to continue and he has Great Britain does far backing his action.

BURNETT: He certainly does. Of course, a lot of these countries that are backing want to do business with Iran. It's lucrative. They have a lot of oil. This has been dragging on as we all know now for more than a year, where sanctions have been pulled back. And they kept saying, oh, it's no problem, throw them back on again quickly.

But what I understand from people who do business there, that is not necessarily the case. That doesn't mean it's necessarily a bad deal, but it's not as easy to put those sanctions back on as the administration may indicate.

Is the president doing this deal because he said he wants to? Because he needs it for his legacy, as opposed to doing it because he thinks it's the right thing to do.

BRINKLEY: I think that would be too cynical, in President Obama. I think he's doing what is in American interest but that doesn't mean it's going to be the right decision.

We've got to be clear that Iran is not our friend. They are our enemy. And if you're Israel, they are a real existential threat. I mean, a nuclear weapons in that country is a disaster for Israel.

But the president's last night said we can't rush to war. That's his big M.O. We rush to war in Iraq. We rush to war in Afghanistan. We're not going to rush. Let's give this a try. Let's lift the sanctions. Try to make it an Iran with nuclear capacity and then we'll see what happens from it.

It's dangerous strategy by the president but it's the course he has.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Doug Brinkley. Appreciate your time.

And next, breaking news: CBS and "New York Times" reporting Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson will be cleared by the Justice Department in the shooting death of Michael Brown. More details on that breaking development ahead.

And a stall warning reportedly heard in the cockpit of AirAsia Flight 8501. They said the word used that we heard was, quote, "a screaming stall warning" just before the crash.


BURNETT: Breaking news: "The New York Times" and CBS are reporting that FBI investigators have found no evidence to support charges against Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. He was the white officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager last August. As you will remember, it was the lack of an indictment by a grand jury in November that sparked violent riots from Ferguson and massive protests across the United States.

Don Lemon was there. He covered the story extensively from Ferguson and he's OUTFRONT now.

Don, a lot of people had a lot of hope that this result would be different. They kept saying, well, the Justice Department's going to look that this and they're going to come to a different decision.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I think a lot of people did. But those of us, and people who had been reading the evidence that came out from the grand jury when it was release and listening to the accounts from the officer and from people who are on the scene, I think most people, it's not a surprise to most people, because the evidence backed up, the DNA evidence backed up what Officer Darren Wilson said.

Again, if "The New York Times" and CBS's reporting is right, there's not going to be a federal --

BURNETT: A federal charge.

LEMON: A federal charge.

Mr. Wilson told investigators that he tussled with Brown through the window of the car, and Brown tried to grab his gun. That was supported by the bruises on his face and the DNA evidence, that never veered from what the officer said.

BURNETT: But then, there are some who will say that's been a lot of criticism of the prosecutor here. Some of the key witnesses admitted they lied. They made stuff up. They point-blank lied. They decided not to charge those people but some of those witnesses were key this terms of version of events Darren Wilson said.

LEMON: Those witnesses were key to the investigation in St. Louis, Missouri, but I don't think those witness were key to the federal investigation.

BURNETT: So, they didn't go back and say the fact that they lied might give us more reason for a case?

LEMON: They conducted their own independent investigation. They interviewed more than 200 people. They looked at all the evidence. They had their own autopsy and on and on.

And this is the Justice Department, which is headed by an African- American, which was put in place by an African-American president. So, that's it. You know, that's it. Those are two separate investigations.

BURNETT: I understand your point. Does this put incredible pressure, as Eric Holder is about to leave, on the Justice Department. No charges in the George Zimmerman case. None in this case.

Then you've got that Eric Garner case in New York, cell phone video with the alleged, obviously the grand jury didn't indict there. Does this put incredible pressure on the Justice Department?

LEMON: I think it does put an incredible pressure. Just because there's no charge here doesn't mean there aren't issues, and you know that, and everyone watching this, that there aren't issues with police departments and how they investigate and police around the country and their relationship to the community especially people of color.

Yes, it does put incredible pressure on the Justice Department but as we know Eric Holder will be gone soon. That will be in the hands of someone else.

So, just because this particular outcome has happened doesn't mean there aren't issues that don't need to be looked at.

BURNETT: Right. There's so many people that will be angry. What is Michael Brown's family saying about this now?

LEMON: The family isn't saying anything personally. CNN reached out to Benjamin Crump, who is the family's attorney and he said, I don't want to, until it is announced by the Justice Department, I don't want to say anything -- because they have commented on things before that weren't true. They are hoping this one isn't true. So, they don't want to comment on it until they figure it out. Yes.

I also reached out to Darren Wilson's representatives. No comment thus far as well.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Don.

LEMON: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, new details about what went on in the cockpit of AirAsia Flight 8501. The plane was climbing twice as fast as it should have, and we are now learning today that the stall warning reportedly heard was the sound of a screaming stall warning on the black box. Did an updraft take down that flight?

And Jeanne Moos on the cheating scandal that's rocking the Super Bowl and why everyone is now squeezing footballs.


BURNETT: We have new details about the terrifying last moments of the AirAsia Flight 8501. Indonesian officials are learning from the black boxes that the jet stalled after climbing what is fair to describe at an astonished rate. They say it was about 6,000 feet per minute. That would be double the normal climb rate for an Airbus A320 we're told.

This is the stalled warning the pilots would have heard again and again.




BURNETT: A crash investigator told "The Wall Street Journal" the stall warning kept on screaming in the background. They used the word "screaming in the background". Obviously, that sounded a bit different, but that is the word we're being given to describe how it sounded on that tape as pilots were trying to recover the plane.

OUTFRONT tonight, our aviation analyst, Miles O'Brien.

Miles, this now is the confirmation we're getting today that the black boxes are confirming that plane did go into a stall. When you hear that, what do you make of it?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, it's not a big surprise, Erin. And let's be clear when we talk about stalling, just so people understanding, we're not talking about the engine stopping. We're talking about an aerodynamic stall, meaning the plane gets too slow, the air isn't moving fast enough over the wings for it to maintain flight. Now, you could imagine a scenario and we don't know, but you could imagine a scenario where this plane gets caught in the middle of a thunderstorm and is flying on its automated systems and gains too much speed, gets into an over-speed situation in which case the computer on board decided the thing to do is to raise the nose, slow it down, perhaps spool down the engines, in other words, turn them down a little bit.

And when you get into that situation, when that event that caused this, if it's an updraft or whatever it may be ends, suddenly, your very nose is high, your engine spool down and you find yourself in a stall very quickly, and at that point, what can happen -- this is the worst part of it -- is the computers give up the ghost and hand control of the pilots who may or may not have the time to do what they need to do to recover the aircraft.

BURNETT: So, Miles, I guess this comes to the point that is so fearsome about this, which is that, when you describe this, it seems like it could happen to anyone. When we look at the airspace that night, there were a lot of other planes around. This is actually a crowded area of airspace, that's why they had to ask for permission to climb which they asked for it which they didn't receive. You know, there were multiple other airlines all in the area.

So does that lead you to think that this was a mistake that could have been avoided or is it something that is just so random, you hit that updraft, it doesn't matter how well-trained your pilot is, if you're the one on that plane, you don't have a shot?

O'BRIEN: Well, here's the thing. You should never fly into a thunderstorm. The rules say you're supposed to stay 20 miles away from them.

Thunderstorms are very localized, very dynamic, very short-lived, so a terrible cell which could take a plane out of the sky which hits one aircraft, an aircraft nearby might have an entirely different experience, might have a relatively smooth or an uneventful flight, shall we say. So, this could be random in that respect. However, this is very similar, at least on the face of it, to what happened to Air France 447 and you don't like to see the crash being repeated.

BURNETT: So, what would it have felt like for passengers and crew to be in the stall in at least three minutes went by from the warning to the plane hit the water?

O'BRIEN: Well, we don't know and we won't know until we get the flight data recorder, but you can imagine the aircraft being in a nose high position, the crew trying to put the nose over but having to manually trim the horizontal stabilizer, something that they would not be accustomed to doing. The plane dropping like a rock, in a high nose attitude, reaching terminal velocity. It would be horrifying.

BURNETT: It would be horrifying. Thank you, Miles.

And next, Jeanne Moos on the other story of the day. Deflate-gate -- everybody is talking about this. We've got some answers. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Tonight's money and power, a lot of pigskin in the game.

So, Super Bowl XLIX is 11 days away. Employees at Wilson Sporting Goods, those are people who make balls, had been working to get 120 game time football stamped and laced for big day. You think they could go through that many balls apparently. It's $18,000 worth of footballs.

Never in the NFL has so much been riding on the actual ball. CNN Sports has learned the league is investigating the possibility that the New England Patriots intentionally deflated their game time footballs during the AFC championship.

But is deflate-gate frankly just a lot of hot air?

Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A lack of air in footballs sure hasn't resulted in a lack of air time.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Deflated balls.



MOOS: Deflate-gate is spawning everything from cookies to cartoons. In this case, mimicking Salvador Dali's famous soft timepieces.

The NFL has reported finding that 11 of 12 Patriot footballs were underinflated, just inflated the controversy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eleven out of 12, they should say, you're not the winners. The other guys go to the Super Bowl.

MOOS: Some pass judgment in tweets, "Cheaties, breakfast of chumps" and "this is what the Patriots are playing for, deflated Super Bowl trophy."

Deflate-gate was a gift to late night comics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They've been using deflated balls for quite a while. Take a look.

MOOS: Even the vice president was asked his opinion.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hadn't been a receiver, I like a softer ball. That's all I can tell you. (LAUGHTER)

MOOS: Grown men and women succumb to attacks of the giggles.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Patriots responds about their balls.


MOOS: Of course, a couple of companies ran with the ball. Krispy Kreme noted, "Ours are fully filled."

(on camera): Now, notice what I'm not holding, I mention this because I feel like I'm one of the only ones not holding one today.

(voice-over): Or even two.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a less inflated one than that ball.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That ball, a little bit.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This you can see --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have very small hands.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my God. It makes a difference.

MOOS: Not since Mr. Whipple.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Whipple, please don't squeeze the Charmin.

MOOS: As a squishy object being objected to so much fondling. If only the Patriots listened to the little rascals, quarterback Tom Brady wouldn't be trying to laugh off softball questions.


RADIO HOST: Would you care to weigh in on that in.

TOM BRADY, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: I think I've heard it all at this point.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BURNETT: Here's a thing I don't get about it. If they're guilty of the deflating, they get a draft pick and a hefty fine but the game doesn't be replayed. So, if it's really a big deal, they'll replay the game, so, I don't get why it's a big deal. Sorry.

Thank you so much for joining us. Be sure to set your DVR to record OUTFRONT so you can watch at anytime.

"AC360" begins right now.