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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With California Congressman Ed Royce; Homeland Security Funding Battle; Deadly Bacteria
Aired February 25, 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: Stand by for more of my interview.
Deadline nears: new warnings of dramatic consequences on the front lines of Homeland Security if Congress doesn't approve new funding for the agency very soon.
And deadly bacteria -- stunning new data on the risk of being infected during a visit to the doctor, what you need to know before your next exam.
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: Breaking news tonight.
New arrests in New York City exposing the murderous influence of ISIS right here in the United States. The FBI nabbing three men accused of plotting to carry out attacks in the terror group's name, with possible targets ranging from the popular tourist attraction of Coney Island to the president of the United States.
The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Ed Royce, he is standing by live, along with our correspondents and analysts. They're all covering the news that is breaking right now.
First, let's go to our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, with all the latest details just coming in -- Pamela.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a very unique ISIS material support case. It's concerning because it involves several individuals living in the U.S., conspiring and allegedly wanting to launch an attack against high-profile U.S. targets in the name of ISIS if they couldn't link up with the terrorist group overseas.
BROWN (voice-over): The FBI says one of the men arrested today, Abdurasul Juraboev, boasted about wanting to kill President Obama and blow up Coney Island in New York City. Another man, Akhror Saidakhmetov, proposed shooting police and FBI agents, plans they allegedly said they would put into place if they weren't able to join is in Syria. WILLIAM BRATTON, NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: Two of the
individuals were seeking to fly to Syria. One was arrested at the international airport, JFK International Airport, as he was ready to board the flight. A second individual had a later flight scheduled. He was arrested at home here in Brooklyn.
BROWN: Tonight in court documents, prosecutors point to conversations online, including one last summer in which Juraboev allegedly wrote about his desire to "shoot Obama and then get shot ourselves. Will it do? That will strike fear in the heart of infidels."
That alarming post brought FBI agents to his front door.
JOHN MILLER, NYPD DEPUTY COMMISSIONER: They came as federal agents, as members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force. They identified them as such.
BROWN: Even after being interviewed by the FBI, Juraboev began communicating with an ISIS Web site administrator in Iraq who encouraged him to join the terrorist group overseas, according to court documents. Investigators say later communications revealed Juraboev and his co-worker, Saidakhmetov, began coordinating travel to Turkey, often seen as a gateway into Syria by foreign fighter fighters.
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: To prove a conspiracy, you only have to show that there's been a material effort or forward step in furtherance of the conspiracy. And, clearly, those communications would indicate that there has been a forward step in the conspiracy.
BROWN: In court documents released tonight, both suspects are accused of purchasing round-trip tickets to Turkey with the help of their friend Abror Habibov, who allegedly provided more than $1,000 for their travel.
Saidakhmetov allegedly told a confidential informant if he was detected at the airport, they could kill a police officer and use the officer's gun to shoot other law enforcement officers that arrived on scene.
BROWN: And that same man, according to the FBI, discussed hijacking a commercial flight to Turkey and diverting it to ISIS. His attorney just held a press conference moments ago. And he said the federal government used a ham-fisted approach and claimed the men were interrogated without the benefit of counsel.
Wolf, the attorney said he has every intention of fighting the case.
BLITZER: Stand by, because we will get more information.
But we're getting new information from New York right now on the terror suspects, both from the prosecutors and the criminal defense attorneys.
Let's go to our national correspondent, Deborah Feyerick. She's outside the federal courthouse in Brooklyn.
What are you learning, Deb?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one thing we know is one of the reasons it took so long for this hearing to happen is because the men asked for a Uzbek translator. It was supposed to happen at 2:00. They weren't arranged until 5:00 p.m., after 5:00.
The judge was visibly annoyed, actually, not understanding that in fact they had asked for a translator, even though it appears the men do both speak English. They are both from Brooklyn. A third man was arrested in Florida. He is the moneyman. He owns kiosks at malls. He is alleged to have funded these two men in their travel to Turkey to go to Syria.
The two men were -- when they entered the courtroom, it was almost surprising. They are from Uzbekistan and from Kazakhstan, not much taller than 5 feet. Very dark hair. One of them, the 19-year- old, has sort of shoulder-length, chin-length hair. He was wearing a green hoodie, jeans that were rolled up along with red and black high- top sneakers, the laces had been removed. The other man also wearing a gray hoodie. He was wearing an army-color sort of skull cap.
They didn't say very much during this hearing. They said they understood the charges against them. They had an opportunity to speak with their lawyers. They are being detained. But again it was very surprising, because the information against these two individuals and what they plotted, really people were expecting I think some people of greater stature.
But when they walked in, they are very diminutive. As a matter of fact, the 24-year-old, his job was at Gyro King. He had asked his boss actually if he could leave as early as this weekend because he had to go travel. The FBI believes he was trying to move his ticket up after his friend was arrested on the jetway getting into the plane to head to Turkey.
All of this happening very quickly, but the case began back in August. A confidential informant approached the men, one of them in a mosque, talking to them, getting their plans, understanding sort of where their mind-set was. Both of these men planned to travel to Syria. They had no intention of coming back. Interestingly, the 19- year-old, his mother actually confiscated his passport because she feared that he was going to go travel abroad.
He was distraught about that. That's why he had that plan B to either join the military and funnel information to ISIS or shoot up the army. He also had a plan to buy an AK-47 and target cops and FBI agents. That was if he couldn't get overseas. However, with the help of the confidential informant, he was able to get travel documents. That was why he was very thrilled actually.
He said his heart felt lighter and he had a certain joy. He called his mother, told her he was going to Syria. She hung the phone up on him. Right now, those men behind bars. They are being detained. They will be back in court on March 11 -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Right. Clearly, the FBI had to move in arrest, make the arrests today because one of the individuals was getting ready to board a flight at JFK International Airport in New York for Turkey. That's why this -- the three of them had been under surveillance since last summer. But now they had to go ahead and make the arrests.
Earlier today, you were in that same courthouse covering another trial related to an al Qaeda plot where there are new details about the Osama bin Laden raid. What can you share with us about that?
FEYERICK: Wolf, this is so interesting. That's how the day started out, with the trial of a man by the name of Naseer. He's accused of providing material support to al Qaeda.
And today in documents that were seized during the Navy SEAL raid on the bin Laden compound when bin Laden was killed were introduced into evidence. The FBI agent who got the documents testified that the Navy SEAL team came off with the documents along with the body of bin Laden. The defendant didn't seem to blink when they said that.
But the documents really show just the hatred that al Qaeda has towards the United States, that it is their goal to hit America. They detailed several plots, including one against the U.S. and the writing says it would be best if that plot was carried out on the anniversary, the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
That was the subway plot here in New York. That was stopped actually just in time. But it also really says that it's not just about hitting America. It's about hitting them both right in the heart of the country, also economically. And one of the documents actually praises the underwear bomber, saying, look, this is an individual who caused America to spend some $40 billion trying to protect its borders and change up the transportation system, which it did.
That's where TSA came from or part of it was beefed up right after that. So it was very interesting. Again, they said America had abandoned its support of Israel. America had to stop its attack on Muslims. This ideology, Wolf, very similar to the ideology of the young men who are going to fight ISIS. It's really a continuum between the two cases. Really interesting, Wolf.
BLITZER: Very interesting, indeed. All right, Deb, stand by.
I want to bring in the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Ed Royce of California.
Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for coming in.
I don't know if you heard about these three before the official announcements today. But you have obviously learned a lot of these terror suspects arrested today. What's your reaction? REP. ED ROYCE (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, Wolf, if you went back a
decade ago, you wouldn't have found young men with these attitudes, 20 years ago certainly in places like Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan.
I remember being in Central Asia, talking to those in local government, telling me that because of Gulf state money coming in and setting up these madrasas, these Deobandi schools, that young men were now learning jihad and they were changing the culture.
BLITZER: Whether in Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan.
ROYCE: These two examples, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyzstan at the time. This third example is Kazakhstan.
But this is the area where this is going on. Gulf state money is flooding in.
BLITZER: Be specific, Gulf state money.
ROYCE: Money from -- to set up Wahhabist institutions.
BLITZER: From which countries?
ROYCE: So, that would be from Saudi Arabia. That would be from Kuwait, Qatar.
And the difficulty here is that once those institutions are set up...
BLITZER: The madrasas.
ROYCE: These particular madrasas.
BLITZER: The schools where they teach this kind of Islamic fundamentalism, if you will.
ROYCE: Well put. These are called Deobandi schools, these particular jihadist ones.
And in one case, I remember there were 12 young men who were decapitated because they tried to leave the school. As the local official told me, this is not a Central Asian custom. This is a Gulf state custom. They are changing the culture. They are teaching jihad.
So, now we have a generation. And the other concern at that time in this region was the purchase of television stations, radio stations, newspapers. So, as the culture changes to this confrontational view towards infidels, towards fighting the infidel, you find more and more young men that are swept into it.
BLITZER: It sort of reminds me of Dagestan and the Tsarnaev brothers in the Boston Marathon attack. They were radicalized in this kind of way as well, at least as the allegations in this particular Brooklyn case go.
Mr. Chairman, I want you to stand by. We have a lot more to discuss, including what the FBI director, James Comey, had to say. He now says all 50 states, there are surveillance operations against terror suspects now in all 50 states of the United States. We will be right back.
BLITZER: We're back with the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ed Royce.
Mr. Chairman, stand by for a moment, because I want to get the latest on what's going on, even as we're seeing these new terror arrests in New York City today. The nation is counting down to a deadline that will impact the nation's homeland security.
Tonight, there are new developments in the battle over funding for the Department of Homeland Security, that funding due to run out in just two days.
Let's bring in our chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. She has got the very latest -- Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the head of the TSA warned today that about 50,000 agents that protect America's airports would work without pay and some critical operations there could be suspended. And we saw the homeland security secretary on Capitol Hill, where he practically was all day going door to door begging lawmakers not to let his department shut down.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I'm waiting for the Senate to act.
BASH (voice-over): With two days left until the Department of Homeland Security runs out of money, the two top Republicans who run Congress, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, met after not talking for two weeks.
BOEHNER: Our staff talk back and forth. But, listen, Senator McConnell has a big job to do. So do I.
BASH: But it's really a window into their challenges of governing.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I would be happy to have his cooperation.
BASH: Conservatives are furious that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave in to Democratic demands to fund Homeland Security without blocking the president's immigration plan. Boehner wants his rank and file to know he had nothing to do with it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, Harry Reid is still running the Senate. That's a sad day.
REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA: There's no way on God's green earth that I'm going to support any effort to fund illegal conduct.
BASH: Republicans refusing to compromise is a familiar headache for Boehner. But with the majority now in both chambers of Congress, conservative expectations are even higher that leaders won't back down from fights against the president's policies.
(on camera): Are you concerned that if you bring up a clean bill to fund the Homeland Security Department like McConnell says he will do in the Senate, it will be the end of your speakership?
BOEHNER: I'm waiting for the Senate to act. The House has done its job to fund the Department of Homeland Security and to stop the president's overreach on immigration. And we're waiting for the Senate to do their job.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The clerk will call the roll.
BASH (voice-over): But with the Senate moving forward on funding Homeland Security, the tough choice will squarely fall in Boehner's lap, fund the department or let conservatives down.
Despite the no-win situation, Boehner aides dismiss any notion that he would be in trouble. And they point to him pleasing conservatives by inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak next week, angering the White House.
SUSAN RICE, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: On both sides, there has now been injected a degree of partisanship, which is not only unfortunate. I think it's destructive of the fabric of the relationship.
BASH: And Secretary of State John Kerry went even further while testifying on Capitol Hill today, Wolf. He made some pretty unusual and personal criticisms of the Israeli prime minister. He said he was wrong in opposing the nuclear talks with Iran, just as he was wrong in his support for George W. Bush in the war are Iraq -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Dana, thanks very much.
We're back with Ed Royce, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
I think he was before your committee, the secretary. Your reaction to what he said? Give me a quick reaction to what Secretary Kerry said, the negative comments he made about Prime Minister Netanyahu.
ROYCE: Well, remember, this is a very consequential discussion here, because so far 80 percent of the concessions have gone to Iran.
Now, if Iran gets undetectable nuclear breakout capability, or, as the IAEA say, if Iran refuses to give us the evidence about their thousands of pages of documents the IAEA has about their efforts to build this bomb, then it's not just Israel that is the loser in this. It's the United States.
So, I think certainly the prime minister has every right to speak out. And I think Congress being a separate institution has the right to invite the prime minister of Israel to talk about concerns which, frankly, are joint for the United States and...
BLITZER: Let me play a clip. This is Susan Rice, the president's national security adviser, speaking to Charlie Rose. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICE: What has happened over the last several weeks, by virtue of the invitation that was issued...
CHARLIE ROSE, HOST, "THE CHARLIE ROSE SHOW": By the speaker of the House.
RICE: .. by the speaker and the acceptance of it by Prime Minister Netanyahu two weeks in advance of his election, is that on both sides there has now been injected a degree of partisanship, which is not only unfortunate. I think it's destructive of the fabric of the relationship.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Destructive, that's a strong word.
ROYCE: Why would the spokesman for the administration be ratcheting this up to say that this is destructive of the fabric of the relationship?
Can't we get back to a debate about the issue at hand? And the issue at hand, as I say, is very consequential. If they end up with a -- you just saw the report on North Korea earlier. If we end up with Iran having 100 ICBMs and the nuclear weapons to put on top of them because we have not got an agreement which is verifiable, then on our watch we have done with Iran exactly what happened with North Korea. And that's the issue here.
BLITZER: And you want the military use of force resolution, correct me if I'm wrong -- I think you told Hugh Hewitt the other day, you would like that resolution now before Congress, the draft the president put forward, not only to deal with ISIS potentially, but also military use of force potentially to be used against Iran.
ROYCE: I did indicate that that, I thought, would be a step.
But I think that's on the table anyway. The president has already said that if Iran develops a nuclear weapon, he would take action. The point would be to put that in the authorization of use of force. Upon reflection, I would think there would be two downsides to that.
One, I'm not sure that that would directly influence Iran. And, second, that would make it more difficult for us to get the votes to pass it. Iraq don't think that's the way forward.
BLITZER: I want to play this clip. This is James Comey, the FBI director, speaking about the surveillance of terror suspects, ISIS and other terror groups, here in the United States, because I was alarmed when I heard it today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: Those people exist in every state. I have homegrown violent extremist investigations in every single state. Until a few weeks ago, there was 49 states. Alaska had none, which I couldn't quite figure out. But Alaska has now joined the group. So, we have investigations of people in various stages of radicalizing in all 50 states.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That's pretty alarming stuff. And it comes at a time when the Department of Homeland Security is in danger of losing its funding. Where do you stand on this?
ROYCE: Well, I think that you see today that the bill is going to come out of the Senate. It will come to the House. There's a clear majority in the Senate and the House to pass this legislation.
BLITZER: A clean bill without any connection to immigration?
ROYCE: And I think the other part of this issue will be won in the courts. It will be won in the courts, as you saw the initial judge's decision, because it's clear to me that it's overreach on the part of the president, these executive orders. But that, I think, ultimately gets decided there.
BLITZER: So, you want a clean bill to pass the Senate funding the Department of Homeland Security, and then that bill without any additional amendments involving immigration or whatever, a clean bill, to be allowed to come up for an up-or-down vote by the speaker of the House?
ROYCE: At the end of the day, we have got to fund the Department of Homeland Security. And we have got to do that by the end of business at the end of this week. And I think that's exactly what's going to happen, Wolf.
BLITZER: You think the speaker will go along with you? Because I spoke with some of your more conservative colleagues who say they won't vote for it unless there's a specific piece of language in that legislation that does not allow the president to go forward with his unilateral actions on immigration.
ROYCE: And we passed legislation to do that. But, as you know, it takes 60 votes to get something out of the
Senate. That's why the avenue now of going into the courts, which actually is working in terms of producing results, is the way forward.
BLITZER: Because it's all on hold now anyhow, the president's executive actions on immigration, because a federal judge in Texas says it's unconstitutional for him to do so.
BLITZER: Let's see if you can get that done by Friday midnight, because we all want the Department of Homeland Security funded.
Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for coming in.
ROYCE: Thank you.
BLITZER: We are going to stay on top of the breaking news, the arrest of three men in New York City suspected of wanting to go ahead and plot with ISIS. We will be right back.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. We're getting new details emerging of the three men arrested in New York City allegedly trying to join ISIS and plotting attacks inside the United States with President Obama among the possible targets.
Let's get some more now on the breaking news.
Joining us, our chief security national correspondent, Jim Sciutto, our justice reporter Evan Perez, our military analyst retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, our CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen, and our law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes.
Jim, I know you are doing a lot of reporting on this. How serious are these allegations, these actual threats that supposedly these three individuals were prepared to carry out?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Listen, aspirationally, they were very serious, what they were talking about. They clearly wanted to go to Syria to fight. That's Syria -- serious in its own right. And one was ready to board a plane to do so.
If they weren't able to go, they said they were going to try these other attacks, shoot the president, FBI officials, et cetera. Real questions in light of their experience, their age, et cetera, whether they had the means and the skill to carry out those attacks.
But one thing we've learned with lone-wolf attacks, which are ISIS-inspired attacks, whether in Europe or in Canada we saw recently, is you don't need a lot to carry one of these out. Even if you're not actually shooting at the White House, it's very easy to, you know, as you saw with the Ottawa shooting, get a soldier in front of a memorial.
BLITZER: Or a police officer.
SCIUTTO: Or a police officer. It's easy to take over a chocolate cafe in Sydney. Each of these cases, it shows that there's a very low bar. You don't actually have to be very skilled to carry out some of these attacks.
BLITZER: We learned in the criminal complaint that the U.S. was watching these three guys since August 2014, last summer, after they made some postings on an Uzbek-language website sympathetic to ISIS. So the question is, why were they arrested today?
BERGEN: Because the FBI wants to let the whole thing go as long as possible. What you want to do is you want to let the plot go until the point that somebody is actually getting on the plane. You want to find out who their contacts are, what their plans are. You want to build the best possible case against them. And you want to gather as much intelligence as possible.
BLITZER: So they were arrested, basically, because one of them was about to board a flight from JFK for Istanbul, Turkey.
BERGEN: As you know that you've got everybody identified that they're going to get in this plot, that they're going to do an attack, take it down, or leave the country, take it down. So they hope they get as much as they can get. You hope they have everybody identified in this plot. And once the person is on the jet way, getting on the aircraft, it's time to close the case.
BLITZER: And I assume there are plenty more of these alleged plots out there right now that the FBI is still investigating. But they haven't made any arrests.
FUENTES: Director Comey said about a month and a half ago in the largest secure video conference ever held by the FBI homeland security with all of the joint terrorism task forces in the country, every FBI office, every fusion center, in that conference he said the FBI currently has 1,000 counterterrorism investigations ongoing.
Now, each case, that has one person minimum. So that means there's more than 1,000, maybe as high as five thousand individuals the FBI is trying to monitor right now and see at what level of aspiration, at what point does it turn operational? How many resources can they devote? And they can't follow all of them.
BLITZER: Evan, we heard the FBI director, James Comey, say today that these radicalized individuals -- and Tom just mentioned them. They're being tracked now, he says, in all 50 states, Alaska the last state. They now have surveillance on these individuals in all 50 states. So the question is, what is going on right now in the United States? What are you hearing from your sources?
PEREZ: That's right. All 50 states. And you know, just the other day I was talking to a federal prosecutor about why we hadn't seen any one of these cases, these types of cases in New York City. You know, biggest city in the country. We've seen them come out of Denver, out of Chicago, out of Texas, out of Florida. And you know, it is -- it was something kind of remarkable.
And John Parlan (ph), the head of the national security division, says that, you know, he is prosecuting more than 25 of these cases all across the country. And now we have one here in New York City. And, you know, from what the -- these documents that the FBI filed in court today, we're talking about a real cell, in essence, that was working here to try to figure out not only perhaps going overseas, but if they couldn't, perhaps doing something here.
BLITZER: And right now, the U.S.-led coalition is preparing for a major new offensive against ISIS in the Iraqi city of Mosul. U.S. Army chief of staff tells me the battle will likely drag on, in his words, for months upon months.
We have more now of my conversation today with General Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff. I asked him about the role American troops might play in that critical fight against ISIS.
BLITZER: If the president of the United States, the commander in chief, says to you, General Odierno, "Go ahead and get rid of ISIS in Mosul," what do you do?
ODIERNO: Well, we would -- we would go in, and we would conduct significant ground operations supported by the other domains: space, cyber, air, sea, land, whatever we needed to do this.
But the problem is, it's not an enemy that stands out with a uniform and an order of battle. It is an enemy that hides in the population, that use suicide attacks, that uses techniques that simply are not conventional in any way. So we have to have a force that is able to combat that kind of thing.
So we have some experience in that. I think we would be able to do it. But it would be -- it would be different than just defeating armored columns and air forces and other things. We'd have to go in and really defeat them among a population that is not part of ISIS. That's what makes it difficult.
BLITZER: This is going to require not just street to street but house to house combat. So if the U.S. objective is to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS, which the president says is the U.S. objective, but he also says no U.S. combat ground troops, who is going to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS?
ODIERNO: It has to be Iraqi security forces, you know, to include the Peshmerga forces in the north. And they're going to have to conduct the operation. What we'll have to determine as we go through this is how much support do they really need. And as this goes forward, we'll have to make recommendations on how much support the U.S. needs to give to be successful. But this is going to take time. This is not going to be a short-term issue.
BLITZER: If you take a look at Yemen, Libya, Somalia, the U.S. embassy shut down in Somalia right now, obviously in Damascus, Syria, as well. When I say the region seems to be on fire, there's a potential there for this to simply further escalate right now.
ODIERNO: I mean, we don't know what's going to happen. But it certainly is -- I tell everybody it's the most uncertain I've seen the environment in my almost 40 years in the army. So -- so I'm not saying it's most dangerous but certainly incredibly uncertain.
BLITZER: All right. General Hertling, you heard the Army chief of staff say he's been in the army for 38 years. It's the most dangerous he's seen it in those 38 years. I assume you probably agree.
HERTLING: I agree, Wolf. Going back to the fight in Mosul, I think you have to put this in perspective. Mosul is about the same size as the city of Philadelphia. It has about the same population. No matter how many ISIS fighters are in that now, whether it's 2,000, 5,000, or 10,000, is mixed in with the population of 1.7 million, which is how many people live in Mosul, it's going to be a very difficult fight.
I fought in Mosul. We didn't have that many al Qaeda fighters going against us. The chief was with us, walked some of the ground when our soldiers were fighting there. It took us a month to clear a few hundred al Qaeda fighters. It's going to take a very long time for the Iraqi security forces.
BLITZER: And if it's not bad enough, today the U.S. embassy in Amman, Jordan, tells Americans, don't get near any high-end malls in Jordan right now, whether you're tourists or you live there, because there's plots against these shopping malls right now.
BERGEN: Yes. Well, we've seen attacks on western targets in Amman before. The three attacks on American-owned hotels in 2005 killed 60 people. You know, Jordan is very much a target for these groups.
BLITZER: Shopping malls in Jordan, the Mall of America in the United States. We heard from the secretary of homeland security over the weekend. And it goes on and on and on.
Guys, stand by. More on the breaking news coming up.
Also, other stories we're following, including potentially a deadly infection people may be contracting in their doctor's office. Disturbing new details from health officials. That's coming up, as well.
BLITZER: We now have these sketches just coming in. This is from the arraignment earlier today in a Brooklyn federal courthouse. Two of the three terror suspects arrested. Two of them from Uzbekistan, one from Kazakhstan. They are residents of Brooklyn, accused of trying to get out of the United States, wanted to go to Turkey and then sneak across the border into Syria to align themselves with ISIS.
But if they couldn't get there, the fear was they were going to come back to the United States or just get in the United States. And they were making all sorts of threats against local police officers, FBI agents, including the president of the United States.
These are the first images we're actually getting from inside the courthouse, inside the courtroom in Brooklyn earlier today. We're going to have more on this breaking news. That's coming up.
But there's other important news we're following, including this. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now reporting a dramatic increase in the number of infections caused by a potentially deadly bacteria. And the troubling word from health officials that many patients may have contracted it at their doctor's office or dentist's office.
Our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is working the story for us. What are you finding out, Elizabeth?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, we think of doctor's offices as places we go to get better. But in fact, those offices may harbor bacteria. This bacteria is called C. difficile, and it is potentially deadly: 15,000 deaths per year, approximately, in the United States.
Now, most of the time when people get C. diff, they get it from hospitals, typically. However, in this case, the CDC looked at a large group of people who had not recently been in the hospital. And -- but most of those people had recently been to a doctor or dentist. So this is a big red flag for the CDC.
And so they now want to do more research to figure out what's going on in these doctors' offices. They do know from previous research that when scientists have gone into doctors' offices, they've been able to swab this bacteria off of surfaces in the doctors' offices.
BLITZER: So what, the suspicion is the doctors and the dentists, they don't keep their offices clean? Is that the fear?
COHEN: You know, I think here's what's going on, Wolf. You know, doctors and dentists are very good at making sure their tools are sterilized and that they change paper on the examining table, all of that thing.
I think there hasn't been as much emphasis on the surfaces. When you sit down and touch the chair, when you touch the counter, when you touch a table. I think that that has not been a real place that they have been spending a lot of time on.
BLITZER: Disturbing information. Elizabeth, thanks very much.
More breaking news coming up, including new information about the New York City terror arrests and the three men who allegedly were trying to hijack a plane for ISIS. Plus, the growing questions about Vice President Joe Biden on
running for president of the United States. There are new questions now after a series of some new and embarrassing gaffes.
BLITZER: The breaking news ahead: three men arrested in New York City suspected of planning an ISIS attack in the United States. Excuse me. All that coming up.
But, first, the Vice President Joe Biden, he's notorious for some of his gaffes and now, they are drawing extra scrutiny as he shows an increasing sign he may -- repeat, may -- want to run for president of the United States and raising questions about whether he should.
Our senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar is here with more.
What are you learning? What's the latest about the vice president?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Vice President Biden has been hitting some politically very important states lately, including New Hampshire. He's also had a couple of moments that have raised eyebrows.
KEILAR (voice-over): Vice President Biden in the key primary state of New Hampshire today --
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Much of the country's future will depend on the policies we choose in the next two, four, six years.
KEILAR: -- after recent travels to the early contest states of Iowa and South Carolina.
But Biden's latest gaffes are stealing the spotlight away from speculation about his presidential aspirations.
ASH CARTER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: For they're trust.
KEILAR: Like his strange on Defense Secretary Ash Carter's wife Stephanie and this claim about Somali immigrants in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.
BIDEN: It's large, very identifiable Somali community. There's an awful lot of driving cabs and are friends of mine, for real. I'm not being solicitous. I'm being serious.
KEILAR: And it turns out, factually incorrect. Only 15 Somalis live in the entire state, according to the Census Bureau, and Wilmington cab drivers told CNN they knew of no Somalis driving taxis.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: No one is asked to respond to every time Joe Biden says something, and he says something every day that people should be responding to.
KEILAR: Marco Rubio, who is considering a run for president and other Republicans are incensed. And on late night TV, Biden has become a punch line.
DAVID LETTERMAN, TV HOST: Ever heard of a second to second lady?
KEILAR: The missteps are nothing new. Over the years, Biden's become known for them.
BIDEN: This is a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) deal.
KEILAR: He's taken criticism for some like this one, talking to largely African-American audience about Mitt Romney in 2012.
BIDEN: They're going to put y'all back in chains.
KEILAR: But often, his handsy-ness and comments --
BIDEN: No dates 'til you're 30.
KEILAR: -- are likened to those of a crazy but lovable uncle.
But as they veered toward the more bizarre, it's raising questions about appropriate behavior for someone eyeing the White House. And with Biden a distant second to Hillary Clinton in polls of Democratic hopefuls, suggestions that Biden isn't a serious contender. Judging by his joke last night at a Black History Month event, maybe even Biden realizes that.
BIDEN: I'm going to be in that room if anybody wants a photograph. I would not blame you if you didn't.
KEILAR: Poking a little fun at himself. But sources close to the vice president had been saying for sometime now that he will make up his mind on whether to run by the summer. Now, Hillary Clinton is expected to make it clear that she's running or that she's not, we expect that she is running, if it isn't a full of campaign, Wolf, by the spring. So, obviously, whatever she does is going to factor into his decision.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by, because I want to bring in Dana and Gloria.
Gloria, do you think he's going to run for president of the United States, again? He's tried to run before.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I think twice, right? I think the chances are minuscule. I talked to somebody who's close to him and, you know, he's been in New Hampshire and the way this person put it to me is this, she said, look, he sees all the people in the pool having a lot of fun and he kind of wants to jump in a little bit because they're having all the fun and he's not. So, he wants to stay relevant and involved and not be a lame duck vice president, which is about the worse thing you could possibly be. But I do not expect him not to run unless, of course, Hillary Clinton were to implode at some late day.
BLITZER: Or if she were to decide not to run.
BORGER: Right, well, or --
BLITZER: If Hillary Clinton doesn't run, you think he will?
BORGER: I'm not even sure about that. I think he probably would --
BLITZER: But he has, Dana, visited New Hampshire, South Carolina, Iowa. If you're a politician, you start visiting those three states, what does that say to you?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's no question in my mind that Joe Biden would love to run for president. As you said, you know, you talk to people close to him, I have too. I mean, it's blatantly obvious.
BORGER: They're having fun.
BASH: Yes, it's blatantly obvious. And because Hillary Clinton hasn't announced, why not get out there and stay relevant?
The one thing I will say, though, is that the point that Marco Rubio made in your piece about the fact that he can get away with things that many other politicians can't, never mind Democrats, mostly Republicans, he's right about that. I've heard that from so many people. We all do tend to think of there's Uncle Joe again, just saying these crazy things. But when you look at the substance of what he said and you do think if any Republican or even some other Democrats say these kinds of things, it would be a career ender.
KEILAR: There's a few things going on. I think the fact his background when it comes to his record on women's issues, he was -- he drafted --
BLITZER: Very good record on --
KEILAR: Yes, the Violence Against Women's Act in 1990 and it's been this sort of pet issue of his that he's really seen through the decades. And then you got I think the fact that a lot of people really like him and they think that he's taken this kind of warm and approachable trait and pushing it over the line of what's OK.
And then, there's also a generational thing. I think this is one of the reasons why Marco Rubio is right. Someone Marco Rubio's age, I don't know if they would get away with what Joe Biden gets away with. Now, at the same time, does that make it OK? No. I think there's a lot of people, including Democrats who say, ah, I wish he would rein it in a bit.
BORGER: You know, I have a couple of things here, first of all, when you compare sort of Biden faux pas to say, Giuliani, which a lot of Republicans were doing this. My response to that is, Biden is clumsy but he's not hurtful in that sense. And I think that what Giuliani said was genuinely --
BLITZER: That the president does not love America.
BORGER: That the president does not love America. You know, I think -- I think that was a hurtful thing. Also, I think, we in the press say all the time where are all of the authentic politicians? OK, well, you have one in Joe Biden.
So, you get a moment of authenticity, a candid moment, and then you kind of rip him apart for it. And so, I think there has to sort of be balance somewhere. Yes, he goes overboard and, yes, they're trying to rein him in and it's not succeeding. But, you know, he is who he is at this point.
BLITZER: Where do we stand on the Department of Homeland Security and funding it beyond the deadline?
BASH: It's still up in the air, completely up in the air. The Senate is moving forward. They had a vote to start the debate finally, today, two days ahead of that deadline. Probably have a final vote either tomorrow or Friday, on the deadline day.
BLITZER: The same bill.
BASH: The same bill.
BLITZER: It has nothing to do with immigration, strictly funding the Department of Homeland Security.
BASH: Fully funding the department.
BLITZER: It will pass.
BASH: It will pass the Senate. But the big question, we've seen this movie before, is the House, what are House Republicans going to do? You heard on my piece earlier John Boehner isn't going there because he's trying to sort of walk this line of wanting to fund the department, but also not wanting to anger conservatives again who want them to really push back on the president.
So, we don't know what he's going to do. It's entirely possible. Maybe even I would say probable that he won't pass that clean bill. He'll do something else whether he demand a conference committee with the Senate, or he's gong to try to attach something else.
Two things I think -- either it's going to -- we're going to have a temporary shut down or pass a stopgap measure just to keep the department running probably through the week while they try to figure this out.
BORGER: Because Republicans are going to get blamed for it one way or another. They know what happened during the shut down. Some of them say we won pretty big in the midterms so the blast government shutdown didn't hurt us very much. But this is Homeland Security at a time when we're all sort of
worried about ISIS. We see the news today. I don't think it looks good for any of them. But when Republicans control the Congress, I think it's a problem.
BASH: Exactly. And, look, in some ways, they set up this problem for themselves at the end of last year by kicking the can down the road on homeland. They funded the whole government except for this part.
And it's very clear by the fact that Mitch McConnell, the new Senate majority leader, caved to Democratic demands pretty early on.
BLITZER: He didn't have the 60 votes in the Senate, in the Senate, you need 60 votes.
BASH: He needs 60 votes, but there are ways to fight. There are ways to fight the way John Boehner has in the past. And the fact he caved is proof that he knows that the Republicans have to show --
BLITZER: But you know, Brianna, the Republicans have an excuse now. The whole immigration plan is on hold because a federal judge in Texas said it's unconstitutional. It's going to go through appeals. So, right now, that's not even an issue.
KEILAR: No, and you were asking a Republican about that earlier today. But I think when I look at this, I look at the long view because I'm covering presidential politics for 2016. And I think what does this do for a Democrat, for instance, Hillary Clinton? She said yesterday, and it's sort of just caught my ear, as all of this was going on, what would she want to happen? She said she wants people to work together. This is something that I can see her very much --
BORGER: I've never heard that.
KEILAR: But I think this is -- this is something that really is hurtful to Republicans when you're talking about sort of the long term political landscape.
BLITZER: My suspicion is they will pass it. The Department of Homeland Security will have money. It's a tenuous time in the war against terror right now and it will be counterproductive if they --
BORGER: But who blinks first?
BLITZER: Let's see how it works. I suspect it will be worked out. Guys, thanks very, very much.
Remember, you can always follow on Twitter. Please tweet me @wolfblitzer. You can tweet the show @CNNsitroom.
Please be sure to join us again tomorrow right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
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