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THE SITUATION ROOM

U.S. Estimates Thousands of ISIS Fighters Killed; Yemen's Government Falls, Rebels Hold Capital; Prosecutor's Death Mystery; Interview with Marc Morial; Gitmo Commander Out After Sex Allegation Mystery Death

Aired January 22, 2015 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, ISIS death toll. The U.S. estimates that coalition air strikes have killed 6,000 fighters, including half of the terror group's top command. Is the tide finally turning?

Ally collapses. Yemen's government falls apart after a rebel onslaught, raising new concerns about the fate of hundreds of Americans and the U.S. battle against al Qaeda.

Suicide or murder? A prosecutor is found dead after his investigation suggests top officials conspired to cover up Iran's role in a major terror attack. New details on the mystery.

And scandal at Gitmo. The U.S. base commander is relieved of duty over an alleged affair with a subordinate whose husband was found dead.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: The breaking news tonight in the battle against terrorism. U.S. officials now estimate that coalition forces have killed more than 6,000 ISIS fighters and wiped out half of the top command. Secretary of State John Kerry says the allies have halted the terror group's momentum in Iraq. That comes a day after we were the first to report that ISIS has now established in Yemen and has been clashing with al Qaeda's very dangerous affiliate there.

And now in a move which could set back U.S. efforts to combat al Qaeda, Yemen's government, a key ally in the anti-terror fight, has resigned after rebel forces seized the capital. And that's raising new concerns about the safety of hundreds of Americans in Yemen.

Our correspondents and analysts are standing by. Let's start with our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto. He has the very latest -- Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is the first time the U.S. Military has put out a hard number on ISIS losses, and it is a big number. The estimated 6,000 fighters killed, a significant percentage of the more than 30,000 ISIS fighters that U.S. officials believe that ISIS can muster.

Now, we should caution, this is an estimate. Other U.S. officials I've spoken to stick to thousands killed. Still, it is measurable progress five months into the air war.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO (voice-over): Kurdish fighters are the offensive today against ISIS in northern Iraq. Now for the first time, the U.S. Central Command is claiming significant and measurable losses among ISIS fighters. The result of almost 2,000 coalition air strikes, an estimated 6,000 ISIS fighters killed, including half of their commanders. Approximately 1,000 vehicles and tanks destroyed; and 200 oil and gas facilities, a major source of revenue for the terror group.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Almost 2,000 strikes in Syria and Iraq have had a high degree of precision and accuracy. In recent months, we have seen, definitively, Dashes (ph) momentum halted in Iraq. And in some cases, reversed.

SCIUTTO: Military officials caution that the numbers are just an estimate. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel himself questioned the value of this or any other body count.

CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I've not seen any verification of that number of 6,000 that you refer to. Is that the measurement or a significant measurement of progress. It is a measurement. But I don't think it is the measurement. I mean, I was in a war when there was a lot of body counts every day, and we lost that war.

SCIUTTO: Still emboldened by coalition gains, Iraqi forces are accelerating preparations to retake Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, from is control.

Across the border in Syria, however, where the moderate western-backed ground forces are still awaiting coalition training, ISIS is getting stronger.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: We have rolled back ISIS presence from some of the towns in Iraq. The same can't be said about Syria. In addition to areas where ISIS may have gained ground in Syria, you also have the very disturbing prospect that al Qaeda's franchise, al Nusra, has gained a lot of ground.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: ISIS has an alarming ability to replenish its ranks through recruiting new fighters, and those fighters continue to flow in from Europe and around the world.

And Wolf, these estimates are based in part on pilots' assessments, of course, from sometimes tens of thousands of feet in the air, not necessarily 100 percent reliable, but there are other means, as well, including drone footage and satellite footage. BLITZER: You and I know Chuck Hagel, the defense secretary. He

clearly was not happy that this number was thrown out, not just thrown out anonymously but officially publicly by the United States ambassador to Iraq.

SCIUTTO: That's right, and then confirmed with Central Command, Barbara Starr, our own Barbara Starr speaking to Central Command, as well. So clearly this estimate exists. The question is, did the Pentagon want an estimate to get out there in public discussion. He doesn't believe that. And also, it looks like there are some who will always be skeptical, Secretary Hagel chief among them, of any attempt to do this reliably.

BLITZER: He served during the Vietnam War, and every day there were great numbers about how many Vietcong were killed. That didn't prove out to be definitive as far as who won that war.

SCIUTTO: Yes, we know the end result.

BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.

New concerns tonight about the safety of hundreds of Americans in Yemen after the sudden resignations of the president, the prime minister and the entire cabinet. The move comes after rebels seized the capital, Sana'a, demanding a major share of power.

Yemen has been a key ally to the United States in the fight against al Qaeda, which stands to gain from all this chaos.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She's standing by with more. Barbara, what's going on?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, with the Obama administration watching this minute by minute, now basically the entire government of Yemen, the top leadership resigning -- President Hadi, other top officials -- some of them saying they just want to wash their hands of the chaos in Yemen right now.

All of this basically falling apart in the last several hours, because that power sharing agreement that everybody thought might work between the regime and the Houthi Shia rebels really falling apart. No clear understanding now at this hour who is in charge in Yemen, who is running the government, and what is really happening there.

From the U.S. point of view, the U.S. assessment still is that the Houthi rebels pose no direct threat. They are not out to attack the U.S. Embassy. They're not out to attack Americans, but those streets, as you see, are extremely unsettled. So there remains a good deal of concern about the people who work at the U.S. embassy to make sure they are safe.

I think it's very clear that if the U.S. decides, if the White House and the State Department decide that there are just too many Americans there to ensure everyone's safety. They will take some of them, drive them to the airport. That would be a very typical plan, and have them leave the country, try and make that U.S. footprint, that U.S. government footprint in Yemen, even smaller to reduce the potential risk -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Because as you know, Barbara, there are a few hundred American diplomats and military personnel in Yemen right now, but there's thousands -- I don't know how many thousands -- but we were told by the Yemeni embassy here in Washington yesterday, thousands of other Americans in Yemen right now, mostly dual Yemeni-American citizens. So if you have to evacuate all U.S. citizens, that would be a huge job for the U.S. military. The Navy has a couple of ships off the coast, but presumably more would be necessary.

STARR: Well, look, in these kinds of situations, these so-called noncombatant evacuations when the country is in such turmoil, this is why the State Department advises Americans early on not to travel, to potentially think about leaving a country, try and get the numbers of Americans down.

If it came to that, it would be a question for the State Department on how to get those people out, if the State Department would try to charter aircraft to fly them out, if they would try and run helicopters back and forth. There have been -- in countries in the past, there have been any number of ways that they do this.

It would be up to the State Department, first to make a decision that it wants to take on getting Americans out of Yemen who want to leave when it is not possible for them to fly commercially. It should be said at this hour the assessment is that the airport remains open and people can still get to the airport safely. But you look at those streets in Sana'a, the capital, and it does look pretty unsettled, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Stand by for a moment, Barbara. I want to bring in our national security analyst, Peter Bergen; and our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is still with us, as well.

Peter Bergen, from yesterday to today, now that the entire Yemeni government is gone, for all practical purposes -- the president, the prime minister, the entire cabinet -- that does not necessarily bode well, as far as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is concerned and the concerns the U.S. has about this terror group.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: That's certainly true. President Hadi, the president who just stepped down as the Yemeni president, is the first president, I think, of any country to go to the U.N. and say, hey, your American drone program really works. And he actually gave an interview to the "Washington Post" saying it's a highly effective program. So you're not hearing that from many world leaders, and now he's gone. Whoever replaces him is unlikely to have the same attitude.

BLITZER: I suspect whoever replaces him will not support, work cooperatively, Jim, with the United States to continue those drone strikes to try to kill al Qaeda operatives in Yemen with those Hellfire missiles.

SCIUTTO: Well, it's an open question, but I think Peter's point is right, to find someone who is as public and open an advocate is a real question. Next in line is the speaker of parliament. He's an ally of the old leader that was pushed out, al-Saleh; pushed out, in part, by efforts from the west and the U.S. So clearly, they wanted this guy in power. He's gone. It's unlikely that the replacement will be as open to this.

BLITZER: And certainly, the fact that the now former Yemeni government, Peter, was directly helping the U.S., giving them targets potentially, intelligence information on suspected al Qaeda operatives out there, so the U.S. could launch those drone strikes, I'm not holding my breath that whoever comes in now is going to be giving the U.S. that kind of information.

BERGEN: I'm not either. In fact, the last drone strike was December 6. That's quite a long time. We've usually -- we've seen drone strikes, you know, often several a month. The fact that there's been a sort of two-month pause here, I mean, it's hard to interpret, but it seems to be related.

BLITZER: Let me ask Barbara Starr. Barbara, do we know if those drone strikes -- well, we just lost Barbara for a second. But maybe you know.

BERGEN: No.

BLITZER: Maybe you guys know. I'll start with you. Do we know if the drone strikes, those drones are based on ships off the coast of Yemen and fly over Yemen, or are they based in Yemen itself?

BERGEN: I don't think they're based in Yemen itself. They're coming from ships in maybe Djibouti, maybe Saudi Arabia. I mean, they're coming from other places. There is no drone base in Yemen. It's Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, the Arabian Sea.

SCIUTTO: I've been to Djibouti, in that air base there, and you can see the drones based there like you'll see in a place like Jalalabad in Afghanistan, where you have had a consistent drone program.

BLITZER: At what point, Jim, the U.S. embassy in Sana'a. It's a major embassy, very fortified. There's still a lot of U.S. diplomats there, military personnel. We've been reporting at least 100 Marines are guarding that embassy. But at what point do they start destroying hard drives, burning classified documents, getting ready for an evacuation as the U.S. did in Libya, in Somalia, in Syria and we see this pattern.

SCIUTTO: When they reach an assessment, which they haven't reached yet, that those U.S. personnel are in grave danger, you heard Barbara make the point that the Houthi rebels were taking over not seen as a direct threat; but you have other threats. Just simply the loss of law and order and control is potentially a threat.

You know, the first step would be a more calm evacuation. You take commercial flights out under the direction of the U.S. military. If you had a more sudden collapse, you would go the route of sending helicopters from those ships and B-22 Ospreys from those ships now off the coast. But we haven't reached that state. BLITZER: That's a dangerous operation, given shoulder-fired surface-

to-air missiles that some of those terrorists have over there, those helicopters going in or those B-22 Ospreys. They are pretty vulnerable to that kind of attack.

All right, guys, stand by. We're following the breaking news. Much more coming up. Let's take a quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. U.S. officials now estimate that the U.S.-led coalition has killed more than 6,000 ISIS fighters, and they say they've wiped out half of ISIS's top command.

Also new concerns tonight about the safety of hundreds of Americans who are in Yemen right now after the sudden resignations of the president, the prime minister and the cabinet.

Joining us now, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Congressman Ed Royce of California.

Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for coming in. Let's talk about Yemen briefly right now. Are those Americans -- there are several hundred U.S. diplomats and military personnel in Yemen, and thousands of civilians, mostly dual U.S.-Yemeni citizens -- are they safe?

REP. ED ROYCE (R), CALIFORNIA: They are at the moment, because they're protected by Yemeni forces there, as well as our Marines. The question is, who does the commandant for the Yemeni forces answer to? And that is in a state of flux.

BLITZER: Because it looks like that whole government is gone, for all practical purposes. And if these Houthi Shiite-led rebels, if they take charge of the military of Yemen, are they going to protect the United States citizens?

ROYCE: That's the big question, and at the same time, we have just lost our ally, President Hadi, as you know. And that ally had helped us mightily in our fight against al Qaeda in Yemen, so you can bet this is a big step forward for al Qaeda. The southern part of Yemen has always wanted to break away from control. Basically they wanted a caliphate there, al Qaeda did, and this is -- these are some of the concerns, Wolf.

BLITZER: Some of your colleagues, Angus King of Maine, for example, on the Senate side, he's raised fears: Get these Americans out before they're taken hostage by some of these terror groups.

ROYCE: Yes, but we have -- we have the ability to do that evacuation on very short -- on a very short time frame. I was briefed recently on this. We can get our personnel out. We are watching this very carefully.

BLITZER: Because we know the U.S. has at least two ships off the coast of Yemen: the Iowa Jima, the Fort McHenry. There are other ships not too far away. I assume that would be the evacuation plan? ROYCE: That is true, but at this time we're still trying to bring

order out of chaos, still trying to keep Sala, who is the former autocrat, the head of the country, from grabbing the reins. But who knows at this point who might end up influencing the outcome?

BLITZER: Does the U.S. even talk to these Houthi rebels?

ROYCE: At this point, they're very close to the Iranian Quds forces. They were -- they were equipped; they were armed; they were trained by -- by Iran. So those are who they take their marching orders.

BLITZER: Yes. Because their motto is "death to America," which is -- they're pretty blunt about that.

ROYCE: They have the same motto that the Iranian guards have used.

BLITZER: And so this is, at least in the short term, it looks like a nice strategic win for Iran.

ROYCE: Yes, unfortunately in the north it's a win for Iran in Yemen. In the south where al Qaeda predominates, unfortunately it's -- in the north, it's a win for Iran in Yemen. In the south, where al Qaeda predominates, unfortunately, it's a win for al Qaeda.

And that particular al Qaeda unit, of course, has been the home of Ibrahim al-Asari, the bomb maker who attempted several attacks in the United States, including recruiting the Christmas underwear bomber, if you recall. And this is the unit that was responsible, if you go through history, the attack on the USS Cole.

BLITZER: He's still at large, Ibrahim al-Asari.

ROYCE: He is at large. And the -- this is our most toxic, most lethal al Qaeda affiliate.

BLITZER: Want to move on and talk about ISIS. But one final question on Yemen. There haven't been many drone strikes lately. With the government gone now, the Houthis taking charge, is that going to undermine the U.S. ability to launch drone strikes against al Qaeda targets in Yemen?

ROYCE: Yes, it will, Wolf, because Hadi, the head of state, was particularly helpful with the United States in assisting us in targeting the drone strikes that we were using against al Qaeda.

BLITZER: And he would help provide intelligence to go after certain locations where he suspected there were -- there were al Qaeda terrorists?

ROYCE: Very close ally, a very close partner and shared intelligence with us.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens to him now, the president -- former president of Yemen. Do they kill him? Do they arrest him? Do they send him out of the country? We'll see -- we'll see what happens to him. The U.S. ambassador to Iraq today said that, in recent weeks, months,

the U.S.-led air strikes, the coalition strikes, have killed 6,000 ISIS terrorists in Iraq, and he says in Syria, I guess, as well. Is that -- is that what you've heard?

ROYCE: Well, we have been calling for more airstrikes and, as you can see, they have been more lethal. Part of the difficulty we have is that, despite the casualties that are going down in ISIS, if you're recruiting two new fighters for every one you're losing, we're still not making up much ground in retarding or pushing back ISIS.

This is the problem. How do you keep these recruits who are coming over the border from Turkey? They're recruiting on the Internet all over the world now. So although it is true that we are taking out a number of ISIS fighters, the reality is that the number of volunteers that go over that border continue to increase.

BLITZER: One final question unrelated to any of this. But the speaker of the House, John Boehner, has invited the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to come to Washington, originally February, I think, 11. Now they've moved it to March 3. The Israeli elections March 17.

The White House says the president is not going to meet with Netanyahu while he's in Washington so close to an election. They don't want to interfere in domestic Israeli politics, fellow democracy. Secretary of State John Kerry says he's not going to meet with Netanyahu. This has become really awkward the way this whole thing has been handled, hasn't it?

ROYCE: Well, I think it's hard to say whether this is going to help or hurt Netanyahu in the election in terms of coming to the United States right before the election.

But it is the case that, with heads of state, we regularly have them speak before the Congress. We recently had the South Korean head of state come before the United States Congress. And I remember that was something engineered, orchestrated by the speaker, because I remember our conversation...

BLITZER: But that -- but the White House and the State Department were involved in that.

ROYCE: They were involved, but it was led by the speaker.

BLITZER: In this particular case, the White House and the State Department were blindsided completely.

ROYCE: Well, they were approached after the invitation was extended, but I believe that was the same circumstance that we faced with the South Korean head of state.

BLITZER: You think the South -- the White House and State Department were only told after the invitation was...

ROYCE: I believe that's the case. I'm doing this by memory, but I had the discussion with the speaker about the invitation. We discussed the closeness of the relationship between South Korea and, in particular, the problem that South Korea faced vis-a-vis North Korea.

In this particular situation, you're talking about the problem Israel faces in terms of its security relative to Hamas and Hezbollah. And so giving the platform for the head of state from Israel to talk about this particular problem, which right now is before the United Nations, as well, in terms of Israel's attempt to defend itself against those attacks from Hamas.

I do think Congress needs to hear the arguments, if the head of state from Israel wants to make those arguments to the Congress.

BLITZER: We'll see if the prime minister actually comes two weeks before the election. It's a close election over there in Israel. The opposition parties are pretty upset about this, as you can imagine. We'll see what happens. Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for coming in.

Coming up, suicide or murder. A prosecutor is found dead after his investigation suggests top officials conspired to cover up Iran's role in a major terror attack.

And scandal at Guantanamo. The U.S. base commander is relieved of duty over an alleged affair with a subordinate whose husband was found dead. Lots of news happening today, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Was it suicide or murder? We're learning more now about the death of a prosecutor whose investigation suggested that top Argentine officials conspired with Iran to cover up its involvement in a major terror attack.

Brian Todd is joining us now. He's looking into this extraordinary story for us. What are you finding out, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we pressed Argentine and Iranian officials on this. They are on the defensive tonight, because there are so many unanswered questions about this prosecutor's death and plenty of motive, in Buenos Aires and Tehran, to take him out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): He was found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment with a bullet in his brain, a gun and shell casing on the floor, despite having the protection of a 10-man security detail. That was hours before he was due to testify on explosive allegations he'd made in a notorious terrorism case.

Tonight, the mysterious death of the Argentinean prosecutor Alberto Nisman is gathering intrigue and enveloping the leaders of two powerful governments.

MATTHEW LEVITT, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: Hollywood would not accept a script like this. This is completely out of the pages of a spy thriller.

TODD: Just after Nisman's death on Sunday, Argentina's president called it a suicide but now she says she doubts it. Investigators say there was no gun residue found on his hands, as there likely would have been if he had pulled the trigger.

Mark Dubowitz is a friend of the prosecutor.

MARK DUBOWITZ, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: Alberto had been threatened many times and actually in February 2013, he received photos and threats and photos of images that were very deeply disturbing showing Alberto and his daughters.

TODD: Nisman was investigating the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people. He was about to testify about his report saying Iran was behind the attack. Tehran denies that. But Nisman was also about to testify that Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's government was trying to cover up Iran's involvement in exchange for better trade with Iran. Her aides vehemently deny a cover-up. But were they involved in Nisman's death?

DUBOWITZ: The argentine government certainly could have been involved in this and they had a reason for that.

TODD: I spoke by phone with Argentina's Foreign minister.

(On camera): Was the Argentina government involved in this prosecutor's death?

HECTOR TIMMERMAN, ARGENTINE FOREIGN MINISTER: No. Absolutely not. The government of Argentina was not involved. Second, nobody, I mean, wanted more Mr. Nisman to leave and to answer the question than the president of the Argentina and myself.

TODD (voice-over): Analysts say Iran also had a strong motive to kill Nisman for his relentless pursuit of Iranian officials in connection with the 1994 terrorist bombing.

LEVITT: Iran has a long, long history, as Nisman noted in detail in his report, including with evidence collected from countries where these other assassinations happened of carrying out assassinations around the world.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: The Iranian regime has been accused of assassination plots here in the U.S. -- the killing of a former Iranian diplomat in the Washington suburbs and the failed plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the U.S. at an upscale restaurant in Washington.

The Iranians denied involvement in that. We tried to get Iranian officials to respond to the comments that they could have been involved in the Argentine prosecutor's death. They have not responded -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Brian, there are also some serious questions about access to the prosecutor's apartment, right?

TODD: That's right. A lot of questions there, Wolf. The apartment's front door was locked from the inside. There were reports that the door could only have been opened from the inside but a locksmith who helped his mother gain access to the apartment says anyone could have opened that door with a wire or something else.

There are also reports that there are other entrances to that apartment. So those questions are unanswered tonight as well.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, what a mystery this one is. Thanks very much.

Let's discuss this and more. Joining us once again, our CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen. Also joining us, CNN intelligence and security analyst Bob Baer, he's a former CIA operative, and the former congresswoman, Jane Harman, a key voice on national security issues, he's now president and CEO of the Wilson Center. She's joining us from Davos, Switzerland.

Jane Harman, if this wasn't a suicide, who do you suspect could have been responsible for this prosecutor's death and how would it relate to this bombing of this Jewish community center, what, 20 years ago?

JANE HARMAN (D) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Well, the bombing was done by Hezbollah. I remember being told that this was a great example of their reach and we suspected in the '90s that they would come across the southern border and hurt us in America and the two plots that were just mentioned, one in the suburbs and the intended assassination of the Saudi ambassador were tracked to Iran. They had every reason to worry about this report.

Obviously we don't know the final answers but it would seem to me, I'm a trained lawyer but not a prosecutor, that suicide is enormously improbable.

BLITZER: So -- I do want to be precise, Jane Harman. So when you were briefed on what happened in Buenos Aires back in, what, 1994, the allegation was Hezbollah was responsible for that bombing, but was there also allegations that Iran, which has a close relationship with Hezbollah, directed Hezbollah to launch that kind of terror operation?

HARMAN: Well, I actually don't recall that being said but nobody misses the fact that Hezbollah is a proxy for Iran. That's been known for two decades.

BLITZER: Let me ask Bob Baer to weigh in on this.

Bob, what's your assessment?

ROBERT BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Jane is absolutely right. In 1992, Israel assassinated the head of Hezbollah and in revenge, Iran ordered a special unit in Lebanon to hit two targets in Argentina. One was the embassy and in 1994, was the Jewish center there.

There's no question, we would know the man who did it, there's a smoking gun on this with Hezbollah and there's no doubt in my mind that the Iranians directed. An operation like this would not have occurred without permission from Tehran and in fact, the man who carried out these attacks in Argentina was assassinated in 2008 in Damascus. A man named Imad Mughniyeh.

BLITZER: And Imad Mughniyeh, correct me if I'm wrong, Bob Baer, he was the one the U.S. accused of blowing up the U.S. embassy in Beirut and the U.S. Marine barracks outside of Beirut that killed, what, almost 240 U.S. Marines.

BAER: You are exactly right. He did it and he also did Khobar barracks. He hijacked an American airliner, TWA 47. I tracked him for 20 years. He was really a bad guy. And it doesn't surprise me he was assassinated in Damascus.

HARMAN: Right.

BAER: Or that he carried out this operation in Argentina. He has networks all over the world. He even set off bombs in Paris at one point in the '80s.

BLITZER: Let me get Peter Bergen's assessment. You remember covering all of this as well, right?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. I mean, I think as Brian's piece points out, the Argentineans also have a sort of strong reason potentially to do this as well, as much as Iran is, because whatever the prosecutor was going to say was going to be very embarrassing to the Argentinean government for covering up the fact that the Iranians were involved in this plot.

BLITZER: But you heard Hector Timmerman, the foreign minister, the son of Jacobo Timmerman, who was a great Argentinean, you heard him flatly deny that the government had anything to do with the death of this prosecutor.

BERGEN: Well, it wouldn't be the first time that a government official has lied about something like this.

BLITZER: It's an awful, awful situation. All right. We'll stay on top of this story.

Jane Harman, very quickly, this -- the collapse of the government in Yemen right now, this does not bode well for the U.S. war against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula which is based there.

HARMAN: No, it doesn't. It is really important that we find al- Asiri, the bomb maker, in Yemen who is capable still I think of figuring out a way to get somebody in there, so many foreign fighters, 18,000, I think, in Syria alone, somebody with a clean passport to wear this, go on an airplane and blow up an airplane.

I hope it never happens but if we don't have cooperation of the Yemeni government we may not have with this new Houthi government, we are going to have no access. And we already have limited intelligence on the ground to find these targets. The other point I want to make about this is let's talk about Iran.

At a time when the U.S. is sincerely trying to make a nuclear deal with Iran and I believe that the president is trying, that doesn't mean he'll succeed and it should only be ratified if it's a good deal, but nonetheless, why is Iran causing mischief in Yemen and surely it's causing mischief in Yemen and why might it be causing mischief in Argentina?

BLITZER: All right. Jane Harman joining us, Bob Baer, Peter Bergen, guys, thanks very, very much.

Coming up, the Navy removes a top commander amid allegations he had an affair with a woman whose husband died mysteriously.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: New questions are being asked tonight and there are new fears of -- as well of trouble potentially in the streets because of reports the federal government won't bring any civil rights charges against the former Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson. He's the policeman who shot and killed the unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

Let's bring in the National Urban League president, Marc Morial.

Marc, thanks very much for joining us. What's your reaction to this news? It looks like the Justice Department is concluding there's not enough there, there's not enough evidence to bring these kinds of civil rights charges against Wilson.

MARC MORIAL, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: I would certainly wait until the Justice Department publicly confirms what its decision would be, notwithstanding any decision by the Justice Department, it's not going to stop our continued advocacy for police reform, for police accountability, and for the need, Wolf, to bring communities and law enforcement together.

At this point in time, I certainly think we need to ensure that the Justice Department has made a decision before I or anyone else jump -- before we jump out prematurely, if you will, and begin commenting on what they've done and why they've done it.

BLITZER: Fair enough. Let me play a little clip. This is the president today. He has just been doing an interview on YouTube with some folks out there and he spoke out about the issue of race. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's something I think everybody, not just African-Americans or Latinos but everybody should be concerned about because you get better policing when communities have confidence that the police are protecting and serving all people and not -- and not in any way showing bias. And that's something that we should all have an interest in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I assume, Marc, you agree with the president?

MORIAL: I think the president is certainly right on point, Wolf. I just had the opportunity to visit three college campuses over the last several days and I heard the same, that the concern about police community relations goes beyond the African-American community, goes beyond the Latino community, and even goes beyond those who live in urban communities because it's a broader and it's an overall issue.

And we all share the same objective, Wolf, and that is public safety. I think it can be achieved through respectable policing, that is not overly aggressive, and that's the aim that we all have. We are working at this very moment here in Florida through an urban -- at an Urban League leadership conference on what our recommendations will be, our suggestions to the president's task force headed by Commissioner Ramsey.

We've got to be proactive in this regard and we've got to look at those things that are going to help move the ball. I've also heard from a number of our local leaders that the condition and the situation and concerns about policing is widespread but that there are a number of communities out there that have made tremendous progress in building bridges between police and community and what we need to do is replicate those approaches.

BLITZER: And finally, I assume your message to the people of Ferguson, Missouri, St. Louis County there, and all over the country, assuming the Justice Department comes out with a decision saying they are not going to file any civil rights charges against the police officer, Darren Wilson, is one of nonviolence. If you want to protest, do it peacefully, right?

MORIAL: In every instance, Wolf, I think the civil rights community in this nation, and I'm talking about historic civil rights organizations, embrace the idea that protest should be in the spirit of Martin Luther King, nonviolent and be designed in a way that we express our point of view without hurting any person or hurting any property. But the same goes true, goes for law enforcement who might be called on to respond.

They also should not be provocative or instigating in how they might approach it. So certainly there needs to be -- if there are going to be responses, we want them to be peaceful and nonviolent but focus on what the aims of this are and that is to improve the relationship between police and community and also to try to create a level playing field in the criminal justice system.

BLITZER: Marc Morial of the National Urban League, thanks very much for joining us.

MORIAL: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, a mysterious death leads to allegations a top U.S. Navy commander wasn't just having an affair. There were other serious allegations now out there. We're watching what's going on. The Navy has just removed him from a very important job. Stay with us.

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BLITZER: A prominent U.S. military commander has been reassigned amid some shocking allegations he had an affair with the wife of a civilian who died under mysterious circumstances.

Captain John Nettleton used to command the U.S. Naval station at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. To be clear, that's not the same as the nearby U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo for suspected terrorists. He was the commander of the overall naval facility.

Our national correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. You've got details of a very, very sad story.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's sad and it's also very mysterious. The Navy is now saying it has relieved Nettleton of his duty what they are saying due to the loss of confidence in his ability to command.

Well, I spoke with the U.S. military official who told me that it was over an inappropriate relationship. But that alleged relationship only came to light after the discovery of a body. Well, now Nettleton has been temporarily reassigned to a post in Jacksonville, Florida.

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MALVEAUX (voice-over): This Navy Captain Nettleton in charge of the naval station at Guantanamo Bay has been removed from his post. Now under investigation for having an alleged extramarital affair with a woman whose husband was a civilian worker on the base. This according to a U.S. military official.

It all began when 42-year-old commissary worker and former Marine, Matthew Tur, a father of two, married for 19 years, who had moved with his family to the base four years ago, was reported missing January 10th by his wife. The next day, Ter was discovered by the U.S. Coast Guard dead in the Guantanamo Bay.

During the course of the investigation into his death, a U.S. military official says they uncovered the alleged fair between his wife and Nettleton.

CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The base commander has relieved. It is now in the purview of the appropriate authorities.

MALVEAUX: While Nettleton is being removed for alleged adultery, which is a crime under military law, Pentagon officials have not said Nettleton is in any way connected to Matthew Tur's death. A military official told CNN initial indications are that Tur's death was a suicide, though there has been no final determination.

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: You have a naval officer who had an affair. It's inappropriate. Was there a climate, was there a culture that he allowed to exist? MALVEAUX: But Nettleton's alleged love triangle and reassignment

while a black eye for the Navy has nothing to do with the Guantanamo prison.

MARKS: Inside the prison itself, he nothing to do with that. That is run by intelligence agencies, run by the Army to ensure that everybody in there is well cared for and everything is going appropriately.

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MALVEAUX: A U.S. military official I spoke to says Nettleton has not been named a suspect in Tur's death. His widow has not spoken about this alleged affair -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a sad story, indeed.

All right, Suzanne. Thanks very much.

Coming up, terror concerns bring tighter security for tens of thousands of U.S. troops and civilians at bases all across Europe. We're taking a closer look.

And with scandal swirling about the NFL just ahead of the Super Bowl, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is now speaking out on what is being called deflate-gate.

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