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THE SITUATION ROOM
Shocking ISIS Claim; Interview With Idaho Senator James Risch; Source: ISIS Planning to Kidnap Westerners
Aired February 6, 2015 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: So, who is Kayla Mueller? Her family is now releasing photos, new information about the young aid worker who was taken captive by ISIS nearly two years ago.
And the U.S. response. Will there be any changes in America's war against terror if ISIS runs out of Western hostages to threaten and exploit?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Let's get to the breaking news.
U.S. intelligence officials are now scrambling to determine if an American hostage is in fact dead, as ISIS claims. If so, how did she die? The terror group alleges that 26-year-old Kayla Mueller was killed today by a Jordanian airstrike. Jordan's military is continuing its pounding attacks on ISIS targets in Syria in retaliation for the brutal murder of its captured pilot.
But, tonight, there's no proof to back up ISIS' claims at all. A key member of the U.S. Senate Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committee, Senator James Risch, he is standing by to tell us what he is learning. We also have our correspondents and our analysts here in the United States and around the world. They are all working this breaking story.
First, let's get the very latest. Let's go to the Pentagon.
Barbara Starr is standing by, Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, good evening.
For months, the U.S. has been trying to trail what has happened to this young woman. Last summer, there was a rescue attempt, as you know, inside Raqqa, Syria. They were going after several hostages trying to get them out of ISIS' clutches. They thought that the now deceased journalist James Foley was there. They thought other hostages might be there as well.
When U.S. special forces got to the site, when they dropped in from their helicopters, they found evidence the hostages had been there. They found writings on the cell walls. They found some hair samples. "The Washington Post" reporting one of the hair samples was Kayla Mueller. But the hostages had been moved. And now today new signs that this young woman could have possibly perished.
STARR (voice-over): The ISIS claim, Kayla Mueller, a 26-year-old American aid worker, died in a Jordanian airstrike on this building in Raqqa, Syria.
Immediate skepticism. ISIS claims Mueller alone was killed by a second round of airstrikes by Jordanian F-16s.
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: That is obviously very convenient from their point of view, that she would be alone in this building without any other guards, who were all supposedly out at Friday prayers when this airstrike happened to hit the house. And they are, of course, saying that it was from a Jordanian aircraft. How on earth could they know that it was a Jordanian aircraft, rather than another aircraft from the United States or some other power?
STARR: Jordan calling the ISIS claim -- quote -- "the latest low P.R. stunt" and said ISIS is trying to drive a wedge between the coalition.
Key questions, how would ISIS know it was a Jordanian bomb? Is this a way to avoid the backlash of killing a woman? Why would she be left alone in a building? Could ISIS have abandoned her in order to make her a human shield?
JAMES REESE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: If I was ISIS, with the prisoners and hostages that I held, I would put them in key buildings and positions and try to get that out to the coalition against me to maybe deter them from bombing them.
STARR: The Obama administration had been worried about Mueller since she was captured in August 2013. And after the violent video of the killing of the Jordanian pilot emerged, U.S. officials privately expressed growing concern about her fate.
But as Jordan's Queen Rania marched in the streets of Amman against is, it appears the ISIS strategy is backfiring. Arab resolve is growing.
HUSSEIN MAJALI, JORDANIAN INTERIOR MINISTER: We look at ourselves as principals in this coalition. This is our war. This is not the West's war. We are the spearhead of this war.
STARR: Of course, with no sign for months of Kayla Mueller, no proof of life, nothing, the question tonight is, is it possible that she was killed by ISIS some time ago? Tonight, no answers for her family -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The investigation continues. Heartbreaking information coming in. Thanks very much, Barbara. A short while ago, the top spokesman for the government of Jordan
told me his country is very suspicious. He certainly doesn't believe anything that ISIS says. He ISIS calling whatever ISIS says propaganda, the group of proven liars. That's what he says.
Let's bring in CNN's Jomana Karadsheh. She's in the Jordanian capital of Amman.
What else are you hearing over there, Jomana?
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as you mentioned, officials here are very skeptical about this ISIS claim. It's for a number of reasons and really based on the Jordanian experience over the past few weeks.
They say they were involved in these hostage negotiations to try and release their pilot. And it ended up with ISIS trying to negotiate. They had already killed the hostage. So the Jordanians say, we have heard this from many officials today, why trust this claim from ISIS?
Also, for the Jordanians, they feel that over past few weeks, what ISIS has been trying to do is create rifts here in Jordan, try and turn the population on the government during the hostage negotiations. They feel that this is what's happening again, but this time, that ISIS is trying to create these rifts within the coalition and, ultimately, really trying to embarrass Jordan at a time that this country is really striking back, and this is part of what they say is ISIS' propaganda war here trying to turn what Jordan is doing with their military campaign into propaganda and really put Jordan in a very embarrassing situation.
BLITZER: Yes, but it doesn't seem to be working. No one really believes what ISIS is saying right now.
Jomana, thanks very much.
Kayla Mueller, the 26-year-old American humanitarian aid worker, is believed to be the last American hostage of ISIS. Her family had wanted her name kept out of the media until now. Earlier today, they released photos of the 26-year-old aid worker, along with information about her life and her work with Syrian refugees.
Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM with more on this young woman, how she wound up being taken hostage by ISIS -- Pamela.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
Tonight, we're learning, Wolf, that ISIS sent a note to the Mueller family last summer that it had grown tired of waiting after demanding $6 million in ransom money by August 13, the deadline ISIS set for her execution. Today, a spokesperson for the Mueller family releasing new information about Kayla's desire to serve.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KAYLA MUELLER, ISIS HOSTAGE: I am in solidarity with the Syrian
BROWN (voice-over): Twenty-six--year-old Prescott, Arizona, native Kayla Mueller's passion for helping people is what ultimately brought her to the Turkish-Syria border several years ago. In 2011, she took part in this Syria sit-in video declaring her support for the refugees.
The humanitarian aid worker volunteered with the Support to Life organization in Turkey, where she helped people living in refugee camps. In 2013, she was credited by her hometown newspaper, "Daily Courier," with reuniting a 6-year-old boy with his family. She told the newspaper, "This story is not rare in Syria," adding, "for as long as I live, I will not let this suffering be normal. I will not let this be something we just accept."
In high school, Mueller volunteered with the Save Darfur coalition, among other organizations. She won a number of philanthropic awards and was recognized as a national young leader. She told "The Daily Courier" in 2007, "I love cultures and language and learning about people's cultures."
After graduating from Northern Arizona University in 2009, she lived and worked with humanitarian aid groups. In August 2013, Mueller was kidnapped in the Syrian city of Aleppo, where she was leaving a Spanish Doctors Without Borders hospital.
AKI PERITZ, FORMER CIA OFFICER: What ISIS has been doing for the last year-and-a-half is collecting foreigners for hostages. As we have sort of seen in the last six months, they have been executing a lot of people who really are tangential to the conflict.
BROWN: After the beheadings of three American hostages, Mueller would be the last known American hostage held by ISIS.
BROWN: The family spokesperson says in May of 2014, first made contact to the family confirming Kayla's captivity and providing proof of life, that is ISIS. And since then, we have told there have been communications from her captors. The family had hoped to keep Kayla's situation quiet in an effort to not further endanger her -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And today the family did authorize the news media to go ahead and release her name, show pictures of her. Such a sad story. Pamela Brown, thanks very much.
Tonight, Obama administration officials are being very careful about what they say about this new claim by ISIS out of concern for Kayla Mueller's family and because of the possible consequences for the war on terror.
Our chief security national correspondent, Jim Sciutto, has been traveling overseas earlier with Secretary of State John Kerry. What are you hearing, Jim, about all of this? If this woman is
the final American hostage being held by ISIS, could that change the overall U.S. calculus right now?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the U.S. military, the State Department, all assets of the U.S. government have been following this case extremely closely, in particular trying to locate her, keeping open the possibility of a rescue, as you know, attempted but failed in the past.
That said, if this does bear out to be true, it doesn't mean a substantial change at all really in the U.S. strategy there. They will still continue to target ISIS aggressively, certainly in Iraq, but also in Syria going forward, so not a dramatic or substantial change expected in the coalition plans for strikes against ISIS.
BLITZER: How much concern, Jim, is there about ISIS potentially maybe they will change their strategy and go after other targets, for example, in Europe?
SCIUTTO: There is a great concern.
We saw that bear out just the kind of attack that is of great concern in the Paris attacks at "Charlie Hebdo." It's that thing that U.S. intelligence, European intelligence are very concerned about, whether planned directly by ISIS or ISIS returning fighters as they go home to Europe and perhaps attempt to go the U.S. or people inspired by ISIS, lone wolves, that sort of thing.
But I will tell you, in addition to that, yes, there has been concern about ISIS expanding beyond their borders to take hostages, particularly in areas neighboring Syria, into Lebanon, into Turkey, that possibility. We haven't seen that yet. But that doesn't mean that there is not concern about that, Wolf.
And it is something that U.S. and its partner intelligence agencies will follow as best they can.
BLITZER: Jim, we know there's a war going on in the Middle East right now, in Iraq and in Syria and elsewhere. You are in Ukraine. There's a war for all practical purposes going on there as well. What's the latest?
SCIUTTO: You know, it's exactly right.
Wolf, I was reading "The Kiev Post." The front page is blasted with the word war. They have pictures of the fallen Ukrainian soldiers and filling the pages, and there is a war going on here. Talks in Moscow between the French president, the German chancellor and Russian president, Vladimir Putin, ended just within the last hour with no agreement to end this war.
They do say on Sunday, they will attempt to release some sort of joint statement to resurrect the peace agreement they signed last September, which has been grossly violated since then. But I will tell you, Wolf, listening to U.S. diplomats describe the Russian proposal in advance of these talks as frankly delusional, it's hard to see how they would circle that square or square that circle between the Russian position and Ukrainian position. But they are making an attempt of it.
We will have to watch what that document says on Sunday.
BLITZER: We will see what happens Monday when Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, is here in Washington for meetings with President Obama. We will stay in close touch with you, Jim Sciutto, in Ukraine.
Let's bring in a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, also a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator James Risch, Republican of Idaho.
Senator Risch, thanks very much for joining us.
Let's talk about 26-year-old Kayla Mueller. I assume you have been briefed. What can you share with our viewers about her fate?
SEN. JAMES RISCH (R), IDAHO: Well, I think pretty much what you have reported already.
And that is, there is great skepticism. Certainly, our hearts and prayers go out to the family. But having said that, their claim, the claim that's made is made by people who are murderers, they're rapists, they're robbers. They burn people alive. There's no reason to believe that they have any credibility whatsoever, that this isn't just simply propaganda in order to try to stop what's going to be a real barrage on them.
They have made the Jordanians very, very angry. And the statement that was made earlier, I'm hearing now, which I haven't heard up until the last six months, with Arab nations saying, this is our war. Yes, West, we want your help, but this is our war.
BLITZER: Yes, Jordan is certainly stepping up in the aftermath of the brutal killing of their pilot. It's awful to think about it. Is it the working assumption right now that Kayla Mueller may have been killed by ISIS a while ago, but they only announced that she was dead today for propaganda purposes, alleging that a Jordanian airstrike killed her?
RISCH: You know, I wouldn't say that that's a working assumption. I would say we don't know.
And even if they produce, heaven forbid, her deceased, that doesn't tell you anything about what happened, when it happened or anything else. And so, obviously, the intelligence community is sifting through what they can go through to try to make some confirmations. But you can't -- you can't go by anything -- you can't use anything that they say to help make this decision.
BLITZER: Do you know when...
RISCH: When I say they say, I mean you can't go by anything that ISIS says.
BLITZER: ISIS, you don't believe a word they say, for good reasons, as you point out.
But when was last time, if you know, they actually provided proof of life that Kayla Mueller was alive?
RISCH: You know, Wolf, it has been some time since I have seen that. I wouldn't want to say at this point, without being sure about that. It has been a while.
BLITZER: We heard from our own Tom Fuentes, the former assistant director of the FBI, those still photos of that building that was bombed that ISIS claims was bombed by Jordan and that Kayla Mueller was inside and she was killed, supposedly by Jordanian airstrikes, there was no smoldering, no smoke, even though that would have been going on for days.
And as a result, he and so many other analysts are now saying, this was just phony. These were destroyed buildings and ISIS just put them up there to make this allegation. I suspect you agree with that analysis.
RISCH: Well, I do.
I think underscoring all this is, how in the world could she have been killed without any ISIS people being killed? That just doesn't make sense at all, that somehow they were all out of the building. So, it just -- that doesn't make sense.
And the identification of the aircraft that did it, the Jordanians are not the only ones that are running sorties in there. It could be any one of a number of countries that ran a sortie that was in there at the time.
BLITZER: I assume the U.S. military, the U.S. intelligence community, the entire national security apparatus is now going through all sorts of collection means, if you will, to try to determine the fate of this young woman, right?
RISCH: Well, yes, and they have been. I think the report that had you earlier was that there was a lot of focus on this is correct.
I can tell you though that there's a lot going on as far as what's going to happen in the immediate future. There's a lot of talk going on about that right now. There has been for some time. But over the last few weeks, things have started to come to a head. And I think next week you are going to see some -- you are going to see Congress involved in this.
BLITZER: I want to pick up that thought. Hold that thought for a moment, Senator. We have a lot more to discuss. We will take a quick break. We will resume the breaking news coverage right after this.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: We're back with Senator James Risch.
And we're following the breaking news, the new claim by ISIS that an American hostage, a young American woman was killed by a Jordanian airstrike. Lots of skepticism. No confirmation at all. Most people believe ISIS is simply lying.
You mentioned, Senator, that you expect next week new action by the Obama administration to deal with this war on terror, this war against ISIS. What are you driving at?
RISCH: Well, you know, Wolf, myself and a lot of others have been very critical of the administration, because we haven't seen any -- a strategy, a real objective strategy for dealing with this.
The administration has heard this. But they are also hearing from our allies in the region that think that we as the United States need to do something about this. Nobody wants to do this. But having said that, every once in a while you wind up in a position where you have to do something.
We all know that ISIS has had aspirationally the desire to hit the homeland and to hit Europe. We have reason to believe today that it is moving beyond aspiration and we're going to have to do something. And the administration has been talking with Congress. And that's a good thing, because, in the past, as you know, that hasn't worked as well as it should have.
BLITZER: So, what I'm hearing, correct me if I'm wrong, Senator, pretty alarming that you are getting information that ISIS may be plotting attacks here in the United States? Is that what you are suggesting?
RISCH: Well, Wolf, probably as far as I want to go is that we all know that it has been aspirational. We have reason to believe it is moving beyond aspirational.
And as a result of that, we're going to have do something, as much as we don't want to do something. We're probably going to have to. Obviously, there's a huge debate in Congress about the -- quote -- "boots on the ground" -- end quote -- aspect of this.
I'm one of those -- and you have heard me say it before -- that you don't really need the boots on the ground as much as you did in conventional wars, as did you in the past. The Arab nations are now talking providing the boots on the ground. They have said that before. We will see if they step up.
ISIS has really misjudged the reaction of the rest of the Arab world. They are angry. They are becoming scared. And I have heard -- in the past, we have always heard when we sat down and talked with the Arab leaders, we talked about al Qaeda, they would wring their hands. They would say, well, I hope you can do something about it.
They have moved beyond that. And the word is no longer you. The word they use now is we. And they also use the term, as you heard me say before, that this is our war, although they certainly want our assistance.
BLITZER: I'm hearing that certainly from Jordan, which is a close friend and ally of the United States. But what other Arab countries are stepping up to the plate right now?
RISCH: Well, you are hearing it from the entire region. Over the last week, myself and other members of Congress have met with the head -- obviously, I was with the king of Jordan last week and also with heads of state from Qatar, from Saudi Arabia, from other -- the UAE. The Arab states in the region are concerned. They are worried.
BLITZER: And so they are getting ready to step up. And do you anticipate a significant acceleration by the United States, a major shift in strategy in the coming days by the United States as a result of not only what the Arab allies are doing, but as a result of what has happened?
RISCH: I do.
The strategy, as I said, we have been very critical of. The administration now is vetting some possible strategies, I think trying to get members of Congress on board. And once that happens, I think if the president comes to Congress, obviously, if he asks for a authorization, Congress is going to have to wrestle with that, but I think at the end of the day, does give them the authorization. What that looks like, we will see in the coming days, the coming days and the coming weeks.
But once that happens, I think the president will be in a much, much better position to go to our allies in the region and coalesce them to go and do what has to be done.
BLITZER: Because what I have heard -- and correct me if I'm wrong, Senator, because you are on the inside. You know this better than I do. I have heard the White House is now finalizing language for a new resolution authorizing the U.S. military to use force in this war against ISIS and other terrorist organizations.
I assume you would support that language, that legislation if it comes before you.
RISCH: Wolf, it's going to depend on the exact language. But there have been detailed discussions along the line that you have just suggested in very recent days.
And I suspect you are going to be reporting on this in-depth next week.
BLITZER: Yes, I suspect you are right. Certainly, that's what -- that's what we have been hearing now for days, that the administration, even though the president has said he doesn't think he legally requires new authorization to use military force, he would like a bipartisan voice, a bipartisan level of support from the House and the Senate authorizing the use of military force.
And what I hear you saying is, if he gets it, then we can see a stepped-up U.S. military action against ISIS, right?
RISCH: I think that's a fair statement. I wouldn't say it exactly that way. But I think that's a good general characterization of what's going on.
I think the administration has learned the hard way that when you are talking about using military force, it really needs bipartisanship and it really needs the first branch of government being heavily involved, as well as the second branch of government. They need to come together on this.
We're all Americans. This is not a partisan issue. This is an American -- this is an American issue that we need to work together on.
BLITZER: Because a lot of the military experts say, certainly airpower alone will degrade ISIS. But to really destroy ISIS, which is the U.S., the Jordanian, the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, all those countries you mentioned, to do that, you really need ground troops.
Certainly, the Iraqi military has proven they are not up to it. Kurds, while they are ferocious fighters, very courageous, they need help. The Free Syrian Army, that doesn't seem to be going anywhere. Is there in the works, Senator, a ground invasion, if you will, being planned right now to go ahead and destroy ISIS?
RISCH: Probably planned is too advanced a word. It is certainly being discussed.
But, as I said, most members of Congress are reluctant to sign on to a full-scale putting boots on the ground in this fight. Having said that, the other Arab nations are talking much more boldly than they have in the past about actually putting boots on the ground there.
Going along with what you said before, airpower is great. Airpower can do a lot of powerful things. But a lot of times, to get completely cleaned up, you are going to need boots on the ground.
BLITZER: Yes. Certainly, when I spoke to Jordan's foreign minister last night in Amman, Nasser Judeh, he made it clear that Jordan is ready for all of these options, including Jordanian combat troops, if necessary. But what they also want, obviously, is a coalition. They don't want to go in alone. They want others to be involved, and certainly the United States.
I assume the U.S. would be there in a supportive role, right?
RISCH: Clearly, a supportive role.
And you are absolutely right. The Jordanians right now are champing at the bit. The ISIS really miscalculated with what they did with that pilot. The king reported that his country has really, really come together as a result of what happened. The pilot, as you maybe reported, was a member of a very large tribal group that is quite powerful in Jordan. And those people are very, very unhappy. BLITZER: And Jordan does have a good military, good intelligence
service. And they are very courageous fighters, right?
RISCH: Yes, that and, most importantly, they have been a strong, reliable ally of the United States.
BLITZER: Senator Risch, thanks very much for joining us.
RISCH: Thank you, Wolf. Thank you for having me.
BLITZER: Thank you.
Much more breaking news coming up.
Is ISIS growing increasingly desperate? Could that prompt attacks inside the United States? And what are the options now for the war against ISIS? We will have a closer look at what the U.S. can do, what the U.S. should do. We just heard a lot of news from Senator Risch. We will follow up.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, ISIS claiming that an American hostage, 26-year-old aid worker Kayla Mueller, was killed by a Jordanian airstrike. There's absolutely no proof backing up the terrorist claim at all. There's a lot of suspicion the terrorists are lying.
But we just heard here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Senator James Risch, who's a key member of the intelligence committee and the foreign relations committee, saying that ISIS is now, in his words, moving beyond its aspirations to actually go ahead and attack the U.S. homeland.
Let's get some more. Joining us, our national security analyst, Peter Bergen; our military analyst, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling; our law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes; and our CNN justice reporter, Evan Perez.
Peter, those were strong words. He says they are moving beyond aspiration; we're going to have to do something. We have reason to believe it is moving beyond aspirational. Those are strong words. What do you think he's driving at?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, what we know in the public record is that about 20 Americans have either joined or attempted to join ISIS or al Qaeda in Syria. That's a very different number than what you see in Europe where we've seen hundreds, going from one particular country like France. So I'm a little skeptical about that claim. Yes, we have seen Americans who have been in touch with ISIS over the Internet, but does that mean they're going operational in this country? I'm skeptical.
BLITZER: What you have heard, Evan? Because this is a significant statement by this senator, Senator Risch, that they obviously had aspirations to go after the U.S. homeland, but now it's moving beyond aspiration.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: You know, this is something that I ask about every -- every meeting I have with law- enforcement officials. And repeatedly, I hear that they don't believe that ISIS has any kind of operational cells actively are that are capable of doing anything like that.
They do believe there are people in touch talking with -- you know, with people here who are -- who want to join ISIS who want carry out attacks and who are inspired by ISIS's message. But the idea of something has gone to that phase, we just haven't heard. They've been looking, also, for the signs of funding and any kind of operation that could resemble what Shabaab had a few years ago. And they haven't found that.
BLITZER: But there's no doubt, Tom Fuentes, that you don't need cells. You just need a few guys who are out there, look what happened in Paris a couple weeks ago. You could cause a lot of damage or kill a lot of people, if they're -- if they're out there right now.
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: To that point, Wolf, nothing has changed. I mean, that threat has been out there. There are standing orders to people around the world that sympathize with them or want to support them to go kill somebody with a knife, with a gun, with a hatchet, to run them over with a car. That's all still there. And it's been there. That's not a new development.
But the logistical support, everything that would go with trying to set an attack in motion from ISIS stronghold of either Syria or Iraq, to send it here to do the attack, that they have not picked up. I haven't heard of anything new coming up on that.
BLITZER: Maybe Senator Risch has more information than all of us have. He's a member of the intelligence committee. We'll see what else is going to happen.
General Hertling, you also heard him say that as early as next week, there may be a more robust U.S. military strategy emerging, now that countries like Jordan, some of the other friendly Arab countries, are stepping up to the plate. They're ready not only to launch airstrikes but maybe even deploy ground troops to not only degrade but to destroy ISIS. And the U.S. may be ramping up its own involvement.
What do you make of what you just heard from Senator Risch?
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think the president stated very succinctly, Wolf, that when the commanders on the ground, General Lofton in CentCom, General Terry in the theater, and the chairman, all say we think we're prepared to perhaps suggest additional advisers, we might do that. I don't know if we've reached that point yet. The question would be advising who and where.
So I think we are certainly preparing for potential offensive operations within Iraq and potentially in Syria. But I also think there's going to be very close coordination with other countries like Jordan. And I think Jordan's stepping up is significant. Because as you heard and reported earlier, their ministers and their king are all saying, "We want to be a bigger part of this." And that's the first time we've heard that from an Arab country in a very long time.
BLITZER: Jordan is really stepping up right now. They are obviously very, very angry, understandably so, with the brutal murder of their jet pilot.
Tom Fuentes, you're totally skeptical that the ISIS claim that a Jordanian airstrike bombed the building in Raqqah and killed that 26- year-old woman. You say that seems to be bogus, based on the still photos that ISIS itself released.
FUENTES: If they bombed that building earlier today, it should still be smoking. They should be smoldering, ashes in it, smoke coming out of it for the next couple of days. So the claim that that building is the site of a fatal bombing today, I'm skeptical of that.
BLITZER: General Hertling, you agree?
HERTLING: I definitely agree, Wolf. And not only that, but knowing that construction techniques that are used in both Syria and Iraq, if that building had been bombed, there wouldn't have been a building there to put on a photograph. It would not only have been smoking; it would have been a hole.
BLITZER: What have you -- because you've been getting some good briefings, too, Evan. What are you hearing about the ISIS claim which most people think is just a flat lie?
PEREZ: I think that that's the -- that's where U.S. intelligence and law enforcement is toward, that indeed, this is a false claim, that this is to be done by a Jordanian airstrike.
Now, whether or not that hostage is still alive, it's most likely that she was killed some time ago. And that's the working theory they're going on. They don't have enough intelligence to make that firm conclusion yet, but they do believe, based on past behavior by ISIS, that it's most likely she was killed some time ago and now they're using the story, concoct a story to try to explain it, perhaps because of various pressures they're getting as a result of the Jordanian attack.
BLITZER: Peter, you've been studying this terrorist group for a long time. Is that a good analysis?
BERGEN: I'm not sure about the issue of whether the hostage is alive or not. But I mean, a group that will burn somebody alive clearly has no problem about lying. So I think that there's no reason to believe this claim on any level.
BLITZER: You don't believe them at all?
FUENTES: The similarity, Wolf, is that they did not parade out the Jordanian pilot during all of the hostage negotiation over the two Japanese hostages, because he'd already been dead all that time. So she's not been paraded out either. They haven't talked about
her; they haven't shown her. Suddenly, you know, they are claiming she's killed in the building. So that to me indicates that they would have been using her all along if she was still available to be used.
BLITZER: And as you know, General, there's one theory out there that the U.S. had launched a rescue operation for some of the other American hostages and her in Raqqah in this area that was bombed today by these Jordanian F-16s, but it was a failed rescue operation. When they got to that building, there was no one there. They did see some DNA, some hair samples that they suspect, at least according to some reports, may have belonged to this 26-year-old woman.
But the theory is, after this failed rescue operation, ISIS may have gone ahead and just simply killed some of these Americans. What do you make of that reported theory that's out there?
HERTLING: Well, I think when we -- when Special Operations forces launched attack last summer, there was the huge potential that they saw more than one hostage being held together in the same place. And I believe that that shows ISIS's lack of understanding of how Special Operations work. They were probably huddling them all together, thinking they were safe in Syria.
But once that first strike came in, they realized, "Oh, man, they can come after us anywhere. We need to start separating these folks a little bit." And I think that's probably what occurred. As to whether or not that's when they made some decisions on what to do with the hostages, it's conjecture.
BLITZER: General, I want you to stand by. Everybody stand by, because we're getting some new information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. A Middle East security source now telling CNN, intelligence indicates that ISIS outfit based in Raqqah -- that's in northeastern Syria -- has been developing plans since at least the middle of the last year to kidnap more western and international hostages in neighboring countries, including -- including Lebanon and Jordan, with then a view of bringing them back to Syria.
Peter Bergen, this is alarming new information that we're just learning. They don't have enough hostages that are still available inside Syria or Iraq. So they may go into Lebanon or Jordan, find an American or a European, kidnap that person, and bring him or her back into ISIS areas, whether in Syria or Iraq.
BERGEN: I would add to that list Turkey, by the way. I mean, Robin Wright, a frequent guest on your show, was in southeastern Turkey relatively recently and was advised, along with other reporters, by the FBI that there was a serious risk of being taken hostage for American journalists in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in southeastern Turkey.
And then by the way, this is how often journalists get taken. Their fixers or their drivers turn out to be people interested in money who are ideologically aligned. And then we've seen this happen in Afghanistan with Taliban kidnaps of western aid workers and journalists.
BLITZER: So what that says to me, Tom Fuentes -- and you've been involved in -- you're a law enforcement guy and you've worked all over the world. What it says to me is, if you're an American, it may not necessarily even be that safe to go to Turkey or Lebanon or Jordan, because someone could kidnap you and ship you off to ISIS.
FUENTES: That's true. Those threats have been out there. And the warnings have gone out to people to take care. The State Department has put out warnings to U.S. citizens traveling in the region and throughout the world. Threats in each country, in each region. And that's been a standing threat out there to be aware of that possibility.
As Peter said, that's often done by the drivers or the local people that are hired to expedite getting you around and then they're working for the other side and they're being driven off the grid in their territory and don't realize it.
BLITZER: Yes, and this 26-year-old woman was kidnapped hold on a second -- was kidnapped as she left a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Aleppo.
All of you, stand by for a moment. We've got major breaking following here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We've got to take a quick break. Much more right after this.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news that ISIS may be planning to go to neighboring countries and start kidnapping Americans and other foreigners.
Paul Cruickshank, you've got some new information. Tell us what you're learning.
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERROR ANALYST: Yes, Wolf, a regional security source telling me that intelligence indicates that an ISIS outfit in Raqqa in Syria has been developing plans since at least the middle of last year to kidnap Western and international hostages from neighboring countries including Jordan and Lebanon and bring them back over the border into Syria. The cells in Raqqa were developing these plans. Obviously, significant concern that ISIS maybe looking to capture more hostages, more Americans, more internationals, more Europeans so that they can haul them and use them for these terrible propaganda purposes.
BLITZER: You know, Gloria Borger is here, our senior political analyst.
You've been checking. How is the president dealing with this growing threat? He's seeking more authorization --
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
BLITZER: -- potentially to take some new steps. BORGER: Right, he believes he needs the authorization for
military force and he's going to propose that within the coming weeks. I think the debate in Congress aside from the left wing and Democratic Party who may not want to give it to him. The debate in the Congress is going to be about the scope of the use of force.
For example, should the president be granted the authority for combat troops? He probably won't ask for it but there are a lot of Republican presidential candidates I might add in the Senate who will say, you know what? We ought to give him the authority to use combat troops where he needs and that's going to be the kind of debate they're going to have.
But the more you see these kind of atrocity, the more we hear the news that Paul was just talking about, I think the easier a lift it becomes if Congress.
BLITZER: So, if Americans in neighboring countries targets like Jordan or Lebanon, Tom Fuentes, are potential targets of ISIS for kidnapping, to bring them back to Syria or Iraq. What should the U.S. be doing about that?
FUENTES: Well, doing what they're doing now, trying behind the scenes to get these countries to get tougher, to commit to doing combat troops from their countries to go into Syria, to go into Iraq and help battle with ISIS. We have the other side, Saudi Arabia and other countries that we're hearing nothing from. What about them?
So, ISIS is a threat to all of those countries, all of those monarchies, every country in the area and everybody is sitting back up until now, at least Jordan stepping up and waiting for the U.S. to commit ground troops. In the U.S., for our perspective, at some point, America is going to get sick of ISIS kicking sand in our face and say, you've tipped it to far, we've had enough.
BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by. We're going to continue to follow the breaking news. We have new details about the aid worker that America claims was killed in an air strike by Jordan, discounted by so many.
Also, to learn more about how you can impact your world, help those affected by ISIS, visit CNN.com/Impact.
BLITZER: I hope you'll join me later tonight for a CNN special report, "Voices of Auschwitz", survivors opening up about the horrors inside the death camp and their lives now 70 years after the liberation of Auschwitz.
I went to Poland to explore my own family's experiences at Auschwitz.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Arbeit Macht Frei. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What will set you free? Meaning that was a
place for working, which was not true.
BLITZER: It was for slave laborers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. It was this kind of camp. But work was the instrument of extermination prisoners here.
BLITZER (voice-over): It's one thing to learn about the Holocaust in school or from books. But to see these places firsthand, some untouched since the war, can be overwhelming.
(on camera): Most of the Jews who were brought here came by cattle car.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then began selection.
BLITZER: Who lives and who dies.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly.
BLITZER: In my particular case, my grandparents died here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Probably they were driven right away to the gas chamber. People who walked in, they really believed they were in the shower room.
BLITZER: So they thought maybe they were going to get a shower. But instead --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was the gas chamber.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: "Voices of Auschwitz" is a really powerful, important documentary. It airs later tonight only here on CNN, 9:00 p.m. Eastern. I hope you'll watch.
Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Go ahead, tweet me @wolfblitzer. You can tweet the show @CNNSitroom. Please be sure to join us again Monday right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
You can always watch us live or you can always DVR the show so you won't miss a moment.
Thanks very much for watching. Have a good weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.