Return to Transcripts main page


Iraq Official: ISIS Burned Up To 40 People Alive; Obama: "We Are Not At War With Islam"; U.S. Trying to Identify English Speaking Jihad in Video; ISIS Gaining Ground in Libya, Threatening Nearby Italy

Aired February 18, 2015 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news. An Iraqi official tells CNN tonight that ISIS has burned alive up to 40 people. We have a special report on that development coming up.

And in a major speech, the President says the United States is not at war with Islam. He says no religion is responsible for terrorism. Why his words are so controversial.

And a new twist in the road rage murder. A mother of four shot to death, her kids are now defending her against accusations that she was the aggressor. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news. An Iraqi official telling CNN tonight that ISIS has burned up to 40 people alive. The Iraqi official says that the victims include police officers and tribal fighters all near the town of al-Baghdadi in Iraq's massive Anbar province. I want to emphasize though that that town is just nine miles away from an air base in which 400 American military personnel are stationed. The Pentagon spokesman today confirmed that the United States is analyzing images of this slaughter.

Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is OUTFRONT. Jim, when I first saw these reports, of course, we were all hoping that this was an exaggeration, that this could not be true. It seems that indeed this horrific thing has happened. What more can you tell us?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, in a crowded resume of atrocities, this one would stand out. The Iraqi officials saying that some 40 possibly more both Iraqi security forces but also local tribesmen who had stood up to fight ISIS as it advances on this town as you said very close to a U.S. Iraqi base that they were burned to death. Most of them possibly burned to death. Now, I've read situational reports from Iraqi forces on the ground who also raise the possibilities that they were burned after they were killed in the fighting. This is something this ISIS has done in the past to desecrate the bodies. But listen, U.S. officials are not putting this past ISIS. We know that the Pentagon is now investigating this. They are holding out the possibility that they were burned while they were alive bringing back horrible images of that Jordanian pilot.

BURNETT: Those are horrible images. And the Iraqi ambassador, I know Jim is also saying to the United Nations to be clear is alleging that ISIS is harboring human organs for sale. Now, I know the State Department is responding to that accusation tonight. What are they saying?

SCIUTTO: That's right. The State Department, as with these allegations of burning these Iraqi soldiers and tribesmen alive, is in a fact saying, this is very possible because of ISIS' history. We have seen these deeply disturbing comments. The State Department official were not in position to confirm them. We also have no reason to doubt them giving other similar atrocities in the past. So, they are holding out this possibility here. Keep in mind the U.N. ambassador, the Iraqi ambassador of the U.N. did not provide any evidence. CNN cannot confirm it. And it does raise a question if they were harvesting these organs how would they get them out of the country. A country such as Iraq, a war zone onto Europe where they can be sold in anyway. But listen, this is proven, this is a group that it's proven itself very able in many ways. It's something that the U.N. now is investigating.

BURNETT: All right. Jim Sciutto, thank you.

And more breaking news, President Obama speaking late today about ISIS. He insisted that the war against ISIS is not a war against Islam.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Al Qaeda, and ISIL and groups like it are desperate for legitimacy. They try to portray themselves as religious leaders, holy warriors in defense of the Islam. They are not religious leaders. They are terrorists. And we are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.


BURNETT: Not at war with Islam. Now, those words are highly controversial to many and a sticking point with members of Congress as the President seeks their approval for the formal use of force against the terror group.

Our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is OUTFRONT with the President speech. And Jim, it was long, it was detailed. What more did he say?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I don't think you can avoid the headline. The President is defending his decision to stay away from terms like Islamic extremism and Islamic terrorism because he said he doesn't want to give groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda any Muslim street cred by somehow referring as a group as religious figures. The President has pointed out though that Muslims are the victims of ISIS much more often than people from other religious groups. He also know that the young Muslim Americans recently killed in a high profile murder case in Chapel Hill North Carolina, the President then said to people of the Islamic faith, "We offer our live and we offer our support." But his biggest applause line at this countering violent extremism summit came when he rejected critics who say he's taken too soft an approach in describing group like ISIS. Here is more of what the President say.


OBAMA: We all know there's no one profile of a violent extremist or terrorist. So, there's no way to predict who will become radicalize. Around the world and here in the United States. Inexcusable acts of violence have been committed against people of different faiths, by people of different faiths. Which is of course betrayal of all our faiths.


ACOSTA: And you can hear the President, those comments trying to strike a balance saying that Muslim leaders, he went on later on his speech and say, Muslim leaders in the U.S. need to do more to push back on this notion that there's a clash of civilizations between Muslims and other faiths and White House officials, Erin, they know that this nuance stands from the President is controversial. Press Secretary Josh Earnest conceded to be during the briefing today that they've taken flack on this language that they're using but they do welcome it and the President we should note will give another speech tomorrow, another formal speech tomorrow on this subject over at the State Department when he addresses hundreds of foreign officials from around the world on the global challenged both by violent extremism. Today was more of the micro challenge in the United States with pilot programs and cities like Boston, LA, tomorrow more of the global challenge that the President will talk about -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Jim Acosta, thank you very much. And more on that crucial debate of whether this is radical Islam the U.S. is at war with. But the message on the President tonight was not just significant to Americans. But the words obviously were meant for the entire world.

Barbara Starr is OUTFRONT at the Pentagon.

Now Barbara, the President chose his words very carefully, right? When it comes to characterizing this war against ISIS. Part of it is because there's this giant coalition. Some countries, you know, are participating a lot. Some really not so much. But it's a giant coalition and perhaps he wanted to be very careful to not associate this with a religion because his key partners are Muslim countries.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Many of the key members indeed are Muslim countries with millions of people of the Islamic faith. And I think that one of the things you're seeing is the President reaching out to these coalition members and offering this message because the feeling is one way to maybe break ISIS' grip on being able to recruit Islamic, especially young men and women of the Islamic faith to their cause is to say that it is not Islamic. That this has nothing to do with Islam. If the President says we're not at war with Islam, the alternative is we are at war with Islam, certainly not. So, I think that they're hoping that this begins to resonate in the region with members of coalition. We have already seen that in Jordan. And just consider this, earlier

this week, the grand mufti of Egypt ruled that after that videotape came out of those Egyptian Christian men being slaughtered by ISIS in Libya, the grand mufti came out and said that had nothing to do with Islam and that that Christian blood was the same as Islam-Christian blood in Egypt. He called them his brother. So, this is beginning to resonate. I think you're going to see more of it and you're going to see the U.S. trying to get more traction for that message that this is not war against Islam right in the heart of the Islamic world -- Erin.

BURNETT: And of course, it's an important distinction to make. If it now two men who were both at today's terror summit with President Obama. One served his deputy assistant secretary for Intelligence and Analysis at the Treasury Department, that's Matthew Levitt. And James Zogby, also with me from the Arab-American Institute. Good to have both you have with us. Matthew let me start with you. And get straight to the heart of this. Okay? So, first, let me play a little bit more what the President said about this crucial issue of why he's saying, this is not war with radical Islam. Here he is.


OBAMA: We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam. No religion is responsible for terrorism, people are responsible for violence and terrorism.


BURNETT: Okay. Graeme Wood though, a contributing editor for "The Atlantic" write, I want to quote him. "The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic, very Islamic." He puts the emphasis on the word very. "Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers but the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam."

Matthew, why won't the President say, this is an Islamic movement? I get you don't want to imply all Muslims have anything to do with ISIS but is the U.S. wrong to not acknowledge that they are a radical Islamic group?

MATTHEW LEVITT, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: Look, on the one hand we are not at war with Islam. Full stop, end of story. And you want that to be the clear not only for the people abroad as your correspondent just said but today's conference was about Muslims in the United States. We want Muslims to feel that way. We also have to be able to call spade to spade and when people are carrying out acts of violence in the name of religion, then we have to deal with that. And for that, we need Muslim Americans and other Muslims to partner with us and they are. I think today's conference was a good turning point. I would like to hear the President more specifically say, not only that we're not at war with Islam but we are at war with this radical interpretation of Islam and I think that we're moving forward. I have never heard the President get as close as he did today.

BURNETT: Not close, not quite there but close. So, James, let me just, you know, for some people are very skeptical here, I want to get to the heart of this. Let me place something else the President said about ISIS.


OBAMA: They do depend upon the misperception around the world that they speak in some fashion for people of the Muslim faith. That Islam is somehow inherently violent. Of course, the terrorist do not speak for over a billion Muslims who reject their hateful ideology.


BURNETT: We all know Islam is a peaceful and beautiful religion for many. But when I heard the President say that, I thought about this, a Pew study that shows the majority of Muslim Iraqis, 60 percent honor killings of women who have engaged in premarital sex or adultery is justified. Honor killings are to use the President's words, inherently violent. They are part of radical Islam but they are supported by 60 percent of Iraqis. In the President's push to emphasize the peaceful nature of Islam, do you think he's at risk of implicitly endorsing these kinds of believes which are common?

JAMES ZOGBY, PRESIDENT, ARAB AMERICAN INSTITUTE: No, no, no. I think the President was right on. And I think I would disagree with Matthew slightly. I think the President went all the way in this speech, not just came close. I think he was very strong on we're not at war with Islam because we're not. But he also presented a challenge not only to Muslim Americans in the Muslim world but to Americans in general to understand the nature of this enemy that we're fighting and how we best combat it. When he says we're not at war with Islam and that Islam is not a terrorist religion he's not validating honor killings in Iraq. Honor killings is not an Islamic behavior. It's a behavior that exists in a patriarchal traditional society which Iraq happens to be. It also happens to be a practice that occurs in many other traditional societies that are patriarchal and it's deplorable. The question is not Islam, many of the behaviors that are attributed to Islam are really behaviors of more traditional and backwards societies. And I think we have to understand that.

BURNETT: That distinction. All right. It's fair point. But let's take a look at life for women under ISIS. Right? You have to be accompanied by a male guardian. You must wear double layered veils. You must wear loose gowns and gloves. That's according to their latest treaties that they put out. But let's talk Saudi Arabia, an ally of the United States. Right? We all have been there. You cannot drive a car if you're a woman. You can't leave the country if you're a woman without a male guardian approval. You have to wear loose gown and cover your head. The thing is, those things sound the same. And one of those countries is an ally of the United States, a more moderate brand of, let's use the word, Islam.

ZOGBY: It's true. And Saudi Arabia is actually modernizing. It's changing slowly, very slowly. Some might say glacially, but it is changing. I've been going to the kingdom for 25 years, I've been studying it and polling Saudi, attitudes and behaviors now for well over two decades, my brother and I have been doing it. And frankly, the attitudes are changing and Saudi Arabia is moving in a different direction. The difference between Saudi Arabia and ISIS is that ISIS is a terrorist movement that absorbs these traditional behaviors and behaves rather brutally to everyone. Muslims and non-Muslims. Saudi Arabia has the traditional behavior and does in fact commit some, I think the floggings, et cetera, there's a debate in Saudi Arabia over that.


ZOGBY: But it's not a terrorist country and it doesn't aggressively pursue terrorism as a tactic as ISIS does. They're totally different creatures.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much to both of you. And of course, the question with Saudi Arabia and other members of the coalition is still whether funding for ISIS, why so much funding still comes from their countries. Thank you both very much.

OUTFRONT next, a masked terrorist. The voice of that gruesome ISIS video where 21 Christians were beheaded in Libya. He sounded American. We have the voice analysis.

Plus, as ISIS gains ground in Libya, just across a very narrow channel, Italians are terrified. Is Europe the next target? And Libya, the stepping stone.

And the mom killed in a road rage incident. Police now say she and her son went in pursuit of the man in the other car. Who fired the first shot?


BURNETT: Tonight, intelligence officials are trying to determine if the masked man in the most recent ISIS video in which 21 Christians are beheaded is an American recruit. An analysis of this voice is now underway and Jim Sciutto is OUTFRONT.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): Another highly produced video from ISIS featuring a masked terrorist calling on Allah just before what purports to show the gruesome beheading of 21 Christian captives in Libya.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: All praises due to Allah, the strong and mighty and may blessings and peace be upon the ones sent by the sword as a mercy for all the words.

SCIUTTO: Now, investigators are studying the video trying to determine if this man's speech identifies him as an American.

BILL KRETZSCHMAR, ENGLISH LANGUAGE STUDIES EXPERT, UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA: It was certainly North American that the best sign of that is that he said ours after vowels and words like mercy and world where as if he were from British influence it would be mercy or word.

SCIUTTO: And there are other clues that might help narrow the time the speaker may have been in North America.

KRETZSCHMAR: Could have been 10-years-old to start. He may have been in America or in Canada from ages 10 to 16. Something like that. Some considerable period of time.

SCIUTTO: The linguistic analysis process is similar to that used to identify the terrorists commonly known as Jihadi John featured in earlier videos that appear to show the beheading of western hostages. Authorities say they have been able to identify him as being from Britain. His name known to intelligence officials. One linguists tells CNN the speaker could have learned his English in Montreal, Canada because of what he called residential patterns similar to Montreal residents of foreign descent.


U.S. believes there are some 150 Americans who have either attempted to go to fight in Iraq and Syria or have done so successfully. ISIS of course ever are conscious of the propaganda impact of its videos is often featured. Foreigners in its videos, both from Europe and from North America, Erin, they are prize recruits not only for their propaganda value but also for the possibility that they might return home someday and carry out terror either on the U.S. homeland in Europe or elsewhere.

BURNETT: All right, Jim. Thank you very much. And joining me OUTFRONT now, Robert O'Neill, the Seal Team 6 member who killed Osama bin Laden and was involved in more than 400 combat missions and Tim Clemente, retired FBI counterterrorism agent.

Good to have both of you with us. Robert, as a layperson when I watch this video the first thing I noticed was that the speaker was different from the speaker we've heard in any other video. It sounded like he had learned English from an American speaker. You've watched it. What does it sound like to you?

ROBERT O'NEILL, FORMER SEAL TEAM SIX MEMBER: Thank you for having me, Erin. I did watch it. Actually, I was with another Navy SEAL. And we both commented right away while this guy sounds like he's from the United States definitely North America. Pretty obviously that he wasn't from London like Jihadi John. So, I wasn't necessarily surprised, they do have Americans over there fighting the jihad. And, you know, they've obviously used him on purpose to prove that they have a lot of westerners fighting for ISIS.

BURNETT: And Tim, I want to play again this very brief clip that we're showing of this speaker. Here he is.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: All praised is due to Allah the strong and mighty and maybe us exempt peace be upon the one sent by the sword as a mercy for all the worlds.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: So, Tim, it doesn't seem like American-English is his first language. But the question is, do you think he spent time in the United States? Are you able to make any sort of guesses to how much and what capacity?

TIM CLEMENTE, FORMER FBI COUNTERTERRORISM AGENT: Yes. Clearly he has a foreign accent on top of the American accent.


CLEMENTE: But I agree with Rob. He sounds like he was in North America, we can't -- I can't -- so I wouldn't be able to determine exactly where. But he spent a considerable amount of time in North America to be speaking like that or with North Americans. You know, he's not first. Obvious, we have hundreds of these individuals. You go back to al-Shabaab in Somalia, we had Omar Hammami from Alabama. You had Anwar al-Awlaki who lived in Northern Virginia here that was part of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. So, it's a coup whenever they can get a Westerner to be part of their spokes outlet. It's not called the spokesperson but they have a spokes outlet, they used social media, they used everything else, but having that American voice, if he is an American or anything like an American accent is a big recruiting tool because it's a coup on for them against us.

BURNETT: And Rob, the speaker also looks different than the other terrorist in the beheading video. Every other one of them is wearing black head to toe. But in the clip I just played, you can see he's wearing camo and what appears to be at a glance of bullet proof vest. You've had to evaluate this kind of images to figure out who's in charge, to -- raids, to figure out who is the person of power. What's your impression of how significant this man is?

O'NEILL: My initial impression of this is he's wearing digital camouflage just like the executioners in the burning of the pilot. They're wearing that as well and obviously they did that in Syria. Now these beheadings in Libya, what's it's doing is showing a solidarity of leadership that the people that are actually doing the dirty work of wearing uniforms and that's probably just kind of just saying, hey, we are a state and we are an army. And I think that that was along with using, you know, westerners to do some of the beheadings and needs some of them, they're showing that they're united.

BURNETT: And Tim, based on this video along, will U.S. intelligence be able to figure out who this man, his name, his past, his story or not.

CLEMENTE: I think if we have sources close enough to the individuals that this guy is related to, we will. And that's going to be whether he's from Cairo originally and then resided in the United States or Canada. People at both ends of that life know him. And there are probably people that were close to him that he worked with him in the past. Went to school with her or whatever. That know him well enough to recognize the voice, see enough of his eyes, to think hey, that's somebody I knew and hopefully those people will realize how wrong he is in what he's doing now and help identify him. BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to both of you. An important

moment to see someone who at least has spent time in the United States in this kind of a position in ISIS.

OUTFRONT next, ISIS gaining ground in Libya sending that country into a deeper chaos and raising real fears in Europe. Does the militants could attack there and attack there easily? Attack during tourist season, next.

Plus, the road rage incident that left a mother of four dead. New information reveals there was a shoot-out. So, could her shooter, the man who killed her actually claim self-defense?


BURNETT: And more on our top story. The growing threat of ISIS. The Italian government tonight deploying counterterrorism police to protect major tourist sites after a new ISIS video warns that the group is, quote, "south of Rome." New ISIS expansion into Libya is now just about 100 miles from the southernmost coast of Italy. Barbie Nadeau is OUTFRONT in Rome. And Barbie Italy is afraid.

BARBIE LATZA NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's right. Italy is on high alert after right now after a video by ISIS showing, warning that the group is south of Rome right now. This comes of course after a previous warning last October when the jihadist group said they would hang their black flag over St. Peter Square. The nation is deploying anti-terrorism troops up to 500 special police to patrol the tourist site including 500 in the city of Rome.

BURNETT: I mean, that's pretty amazing that they are that concerned. And obviously tourist, western tourist, American tourists are soft targets and significant targets for ISIS. I know that in Italy they are also worried about how ISIS militants may get into the country. That it may be very easy for them to come from Libya.

NADEAU: That's right. They are very, very concerned, at least the defense and interior ministry are very concerned about an influx of migrant boats coming from Libya. We've had over 4,000 people coming in the last five days that the 64 percent increase over last year. And the Italian navy is doing what they can to rescue the migrants. So many of them are Salem seekers. But they are concerned right now that they don't know if they'll be able to tell the difference between potential jihadi fighters and true Salem seekers looking for a better life, a safer place fleeing war -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Barbie, thank you so much. Gives a whole new perspective on the chaos in Libya and what it means for Europe and the rest of the world. Thank you.

And Libya is now calling on the United Nations to lift the arms embargo against it so it can fight against ISIS. The terror group is filling a power vacuum frankly left out for the defeat and death of Dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The images released by ISIS tells a chilling story. The man driving this car earlier poses and smiles in pictures we won't show you. He's wearing a suicide vest. He drives away then this picture.

ISIS claims the man was one of its fighters who attacked a Libyan check point in Benghazi. CNN cannot verify the validity of the ISIS claim. But the propaganda message is clear: ISIS claims it's moving further into Libya, also symbolized by the mass execution of Egyptian Christians on Libyan shores, a dark turn for the country, when just four years ago -- jubilation as the Arab springs sweeps across Libya in 2011.

Rebels seeking to oust decades-long dictator Moammar Gadhafi lead a civil war. The dictator clinging to power begins a bloody battle with his own people. An international coalition responds with military support of the rebels and airstrikes.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Colonel Gadhafi needs to step down from power and leave. That is good for his country. That is good for his people.

LAH: The rebels defeat him. He's murdered in the very streets he once controlled. Cameras from around the world captured celebration. That was then.

PROF. JOSH LOCKMAN, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: I think it's safe to say that the Arab spring is dead.

LAH (on camera): So, essentially, we left and there's a shell.

LOCKMAN: We left and there's a shell.

LAH (voice-over): A power vacuum without the dictator, Libya dissolves into chaos, political infighting and sectarian violence -- ripe breeding ground for ISIS.

LOCKMAN: As in Syria and Iraq, ISIS has successfully taken advantage of harboring itself in either failed states or states on the way to failure. ISIS has manipulated that situation to its advantage.

LAH: With fears it's strengthening in Libya and beyond its borders.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Los Angeles.


BURNETT: And OUTFRONT now, the military commander who led allied forces during the 2011 mission in Libya, the former NATO supreme allied commander, Admiral James Stavridis.

Good to have you with us. Appreciate your taking the time.

Let me start with this question about Libya being a haven for ISIS, just 100 miles away from Italy and the rest of Europe. ISIS has threatened Italy with a quote, "We're just south of Rome." And you just heard our reporter in Rome talking about how Italy is

deploying counterterror police to major tourist sites. They're worried about militants smuggling easily into Italy.

How serious is the risk?

ADM. JAMES STAVRIDIS, LED 2011 ALLIED AIRSTRIKE CAMPAIGN IN LIBYA: It's extremely high, Erin. Partly, it's the geography. Think about the distance between the United States in Florida, and Cuba.

It's a short stretch of water. The ISIS fighters can either slip in with the waves of illegal migrants or they simply can hire a boat and come ashore on one of the islands. We have to remember the country of Malta, an island country between Italy and Libya, and, of course, huge symbolic value if they were able to get a strike up toward Rome.

BURNETT: And, of course, it was the chaos and the emptiness left after the NATO, the mission. It was successful. Gadhafi was gone, and now it's been fighting ever since.

ISIS dedicated the cover of its magazine to its desire to invade Italy. And in this they said, "We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses and enslave your women by the permission of Allah, the exulted. If we do not reach that in time, our children and grandchildren will reach it and they will sell your sons as slaves to the slave market. Every Muslim should get out of his house, find a crusader and kill him. The Islamic State will remain until its banner flies over Rome."

Obviously this is the ISIS propaganda we have heard so much of. The question is, when you now have ISIS in Libya, with a stronghold in Libya as opposed to Syria or Iraq, how serious of a threat is that for Europe? Does that change the game?

STAVRIDIS: I think it does. I think it will enable Europe to begin to focus. I would like to see NATO look at this. Of course, the Italians or any other nation can convene in Article 4 discussion within NATO to ramp up measures to protect within NATO borders. Obviously, across the short stretch of water, the Italians have got to be there.

But it needs to be more than just Italy, Erin. It's really got to be NATO. It's got to be the coalition against the Islamic State. We ought to be working closely with Egypt, which has already conducting bombing missions and we ought to be sharing intelligence aggressively, particularly with our Italian colleagues, but really broadly throughout NATO.

BURNETT: Do you have any regrets? I mean, Moammar Gadhafi obviously was a terrible dictator. I remember being in the country when he was the leader and the fear a lot of people had. But at the same time, there was a stability, the world knew where the country stood. There wasn't ISIS.

Do you have any regrets? Should the world have regrets? Would he have been better? STAVRIDIS: No, I don't think so, Erin. I think you have categorized

it correctly. Gadhafi was such a horrific dictator. We have only begun to learn what he did to that country.

This is a period of real turbulence. It's ugly. But over time, you look at Libya, which has oil, relatively educated population, terrific geographic advantage with a long coastline. They've got the abilities to overcome this.

Frankly, if you had spoken to Frenchmen in the wake of the French Revolution, when the guillotines were running in Place de Concorde, they would have perhaps longed for stability. The long term hope for all these societies, I would argue is, in fact, democracy as difficult as that is at the moment.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much.


BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, the road rage shooting leave a mother of four dead. Tonight, there's a new twist in the story. Could the suspect now actually defense, say that he was protecting himself against her?

And 100 finalists have been picked for a chance to fly to Mars and live there for the rest of their lives. Would you do it? You'll meet them, coming up.


BURNETT: New developments in the case of deadly road rage. Tonight, there are questions about why a mother of four was shot and killed in her driveway after a road rage incident. Police say the victim, her name is Tammy Meyers, pursued her killer before she was gunned down. The manhunt is still on for her killer. They have not found him.

But tonight, Tammy Meyers loved ones are defending her.

Sara Sidner is OUTFRONT.


SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The family of slain mother Tammy Meyers defending her actions after police revealed new details indicating Meyers may have escalated a road rage incident that eventually turned deadly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My mom was protecting me this night. She was doing what every mother would do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Emotions get ahead of what you should do, you know? I think there might have been case of that.

SIDNER: It appears there was aggression on the part of both Meyers and the suspect before it turned into a homicide. (on camera): We want to take you along on what police say was the sequence of events. Investigators say Meyers was finishing up a driving lesson for her daughter in this parking lot right outside of the school, just a couple of minutes from her home. Meyers then left the school and at some point, she came upon the driver who would kill her.

LIEUTENANT RAY STEIBER, LAS VEGAS METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPT.: A vehicle came up apt a high rate of speed behind her and pulled off to the side and cut in front of her. As the vehicle did that, her daughter had reached over and honked the horn.

SIDNER (voice-over): Police say Meyers and the driver shown in this police sketch argued.

(on camera): Eventually, Meyers and her daughter drove home to get help. They arrived home safely but then Meyers picked up her son who grabbed his gun and they both got back into the car, to drive along and find the driver she had just argued with.

They found him. Police have not said however what happened during that second encounter. What we do know is that Meyers and her son then returned home. This time police say the suspect followed. Shooting at Meyers, killing her. Her son fired back.

(voice-over): Despite the criticism that Meyers may have had a hand in escalating an already tense situation, her family says no one should have died over something so trivial.

BRANDON MEYERS, SON OF ROAD RAGE VICTIM TAMMY MEYERS: I did what I had to do to protect my family. Everyone can think what they have to think. I did it for a reason. I'd do it for anyone I love.


BURNETT: And, Sara, I know you had chance to see the family today. Did they give you any further details?

SIDNER: They came out of their home behind me and the car that Tammy was driving is also there, with a makeshift memorial building on top, flowers, a bible. They did not want to talk but they did say that they were very busy, they're in mourning, and they're now having to plan her funeral -- Erin.

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

Of course, the tragedy that the person who did this is still at large. They have not found him.

OUTFRONT tonight, criminal defense attorney and our legal analyst, Danny Cevallos.

Danny, now, this new detail, right? We know the victim, Tammy Meyers, came home after the initial road rage incident. So, the incident happened, she went home. She got her son who was armed with a gun. They went out together to find the other driver. They did find him and she ended up losing her life. She was killed.

Does this make her the aggressor in any way in this case?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It sounds like it. And remember, the narrative we're getting is almost exclusively from the Meyers side.

But remember, this is not case of someone defending their home. Initially, they were probably the aggressor. After all, mom comes home and gets her son and gets into the car with a firearm to go confront someone.

So, generally, the initial aggressor cannot avail themselves of self- defense unless they completely retreat, which under these facts might have happened, if they returned completely to the home. This entire case will come down to, who actually shot first? Because right now the narrative is that the people in the car shot first. But you better believe that when and if those people are found, they will say, the exact opposite. That, in fact, they were fired upon first and they were acting in self-defense. You can almost bet the farm on it.

But if that car pulled up and initiated firing out the window at the mother and son then even though mom and son may have done something very dumb in getting in the car and driving and confronting people, if they completely retreated and were no imminent threat, then those in the car will not be avail themselves of self-defense.

BURNETT: So -- but it sounds like we're not going to know. First of all, there's the shock they haven't found the suspect who killed Tammy Meyers. But you're saying he's not going to be able to claim defense until they can determine who shot first.

But what's shocking to me is so far there hasn't been any eyewitnesses. This is a suburban area. Does that surprise you? Do you think there are people who might be able to give us the answer of what really happened?

CEBALLOS: When people see crime, it's a well known fact that they unofficial suffer memory loss because the reality is it's usually safer to not get involved, unfortunately. But it might also be the fact that nobody saw it.

Critical here is the police have almost completely adopted the Meyers narrative. That narrative comes from, don't forget, two people who arguably did something very foolish coming home, getting a gun and going back out to confront people. The real fascinating part will be, what the people in the car -- what will their story be? I can promise you this: it will sound nothing like the Meyers'.

BURNETT: It will sound absolutely nothing like it. And, of course, the tragedy is that someone actually lost their life on this.

Danny, thank you.

And OUTFRONT next, do you have what it takes to colonize Mars and never return? I mean, this is like -- you have to be a certain kind of a person, because this is not contact the movie people. This is the real deal. You can really go to mars and there are people who are going to go. You'll meet them next.

And back on planet Earth, Jeanne Moos with the Bostonians who surrendered the cabin fever and took the snow challenge.


BURNETT: Tonight's money in power, the mission to Mars. One company said they have $6 billion they're raising to send two dozen people to Mars by 2025. It is a chance of a lifetime, it is, of course, a one- way ticket.

And some scientists say the visitors would only survive 68 days once they were there. So, there's a lot of caveats but guess what? People don't care -- 200,000 people applied and 100 of them are still in the running. They are narrowing it down and they are getting ready to train. These people are really going, everybody.

Are they crazy or are they inspired believers? And what will be the future of humankind?

Jason Carroll is OUTFRONT.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mars one has just taken another step to bring mankind where it has never stepped before. Meet the Mars 100. Just 100 candidates now remain in a competition for a seat on a one-way trip to the Red Planet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to go to Mars, not just to be a part of history but to inspire people around the world.

CARROLL: Initially, more than 200,000 applied for the Mars One astronaut selection program from all over the world. A year ago, that number narrowed to about 1,000. That's when we first met six of them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wanted to go into space since I was 3 years old.

CARROLL: Out of this group, just two advance to the final 100. Leila Zucker, a married 46-year-old ER doctor from Washington, D.C. who is, well, excited.

DR. LEILA ZUCKER, MARS ONE CANDIDATE: Spaceship! Spaceship! Spaceship!

CARROLL: And Daniel Carey, a 53-year-old data architect from Virginia, husband and father of two.

DANIEL CAREY, MARS ONE CANDIDATE: The whole impact and possibility becomes a lot more real and sharp as the numbers get smaller.

ZUCKER: It's still a long shot, so nothing is really changed. It's still just us, the candidates.

CARROLL: Bas Lansdorp is cofounder of the Mars One mission and has put a decade of research into it. The goal? Not only to get people there by 2025 but also to televise the finalists and their training.

BAS LANSDORP, CO-FOUNDER, MARS ONE: I want to really make clear that it is absolutely not our goal to make big brother in space. It's our goal to share the most exciting story of the 20th century in a beautiful way with the rest of the world.

CARROLL: Mars One partnered with Lockheed Martin which is already building a lander to conduct experiments on the planet in 2018. However, some scientists not on board with the idea of a one-way trip and question whether Mars One will be ready for liftoff in 10 years from now.

ALEX FILIPPENKO, ASTRONOMY PROFESSOR: I don't know 2025 or 2030 or 2035 are realistic, but I think it will happen. Again, you know, our human nature is to explore.

CARROLL: But is exploring a planet millions of miles away worth leaving family behind? When asked, here's what Carey told me last year.

CAREY: I don't know if I have what it will take to turn my back on my family. But this is the only thing that would make me even think about trying.

CARROLL: And now?

CAREY: I told my daughter and she was like, I am really conflicted because I want to support you and on the other hand, I really don't want you to go. And my son was a little less, you know, like, that's great, dad. With my wife, it's a lot more tense.


BURNETT: I mean -- it's amazing though. I mean, some of these people have such idealistic views of why they want to do this.

All right. We went from 200,000 to 100. Now where from here? They're not all going to get to go.

CARROLL: Right. They're not all going to get to go. Later this year, they're going to cut that group of 100 to down to six groups of four and theoretically what will happen next is those groups would then train for the next eight years and then they would see who would be the final group that finally gets to go.

I mean, these people are dedicated to science. I know a lot of people when we were doing the story said, Jason, these people have to be whacky, but they really are a dedicated group.

BURNETT: They are. Would you go?

CARROLL: I would watch someone go. BURNETT: There we go.


BURNETT: Ah, all right.

CARROLL: For round trip, I'd go.

BURNETT: Yes, round trip changes everything.

CARROLL: Changes everything.

BURNETT: All right. OUTFRONT next, if you are looking for a challenge a little more down to earth, that maybe all of us could manage, Jeanne Moos is next. Strip to your underpants and jump, people.


BURNETT: Today, getting a lift ticket to Loon Mountain is getting a whole new meaning. Jeanne Moos explains.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Why are a few knuckle head Bostonians choosing to deposit themselves in snow banks wearing shorts?



MOOS: If the fall doesn't get you, the frostbite might.

MARTY WALSH, MAYOR OF BOSTON: So I'm asking people to stop their nonsense right now when it comes -- these are adults jumping out windows.

MOOS: Jumping off car roofs. Teetering on railings. Leaping off porches. Launching themselves downstairs.

But it's the high flying high jinks that have Boston's mayor frosted.

WALSH: First of all, it's a foolish thing to do. And you could kill yourself.

MOOS: There's a name for this behavior.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boston blizzard challenge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a blizzard challenge.

BURNETT: Some involve less challenge than others. The mayor asked people to act responsibly.

WALSH: This isn't Loon Mountain. This is the city of Boston.

MOOS: Loon Mountain, are you accusing your citizens of acting loony?

Nah, the mayor meant Loon Mountain, the nearby ski resort in New Hampshire. On its Facebook page, Loon Mountain is milking the mention by doctoring by the Boston's skyline with the resort's gondolas. If you're going to dive banks, stick to the shallow end of the pool to practice your butterfly and your backstroke.


MOOS: Because you're going to give the mayor a stroke if you keep this up.




MOOS: And you wouldn't want the mayor to flip out.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BURNETT: Just when I was about to say it was all me, there came that woman and ruined my line.

Thanks so much for joining us. "AC360" starts now.