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U.S. Air Force Vet Charged with Trying to Join ISIS; Israeli TV Exit Polls: Election Too Close to Call; Russia Deploys Missiles, Strategic Bombers; Air Scare on Delta Flight; North Korea Blamed for Nuke Power Plant Cyberattack. Aired 5:00-6:00p ET

Aired March 17, 2015 - 17:00   ET



<17:00:30> WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, U.S. vet joins ISIS? A former U.S. airman with experience working on planes is now accused of trying to join ISIS in Syria. Could he have given the terror group military secrets?

Down to the wire. A surprising finish to a nail-biter election. Will Israel's controversial leader manage to hold onto power, or will the country get a new prime minister? And how will the vote impact ties with Washington?

Rushing the cockpit. A man screaming "jihad, jihad" runs toward the cockpit in a crowded airliner. Could he have brought down the plane?

And new cyberattacks. South Korea says its nuclear facilities have been targeted by hackers in the North. The fallout is growing to include blackmail.

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following two breaking stories right now. U.S. Air Force veteran has been indicted for allegedly trying to join ISIS. Court documents say the former airman, who worked on engines and weapons systems, was headed to Syria but was stopped by Turkish authorities. He's now back in the United States behind bars, indicted by a grand jury.

And neck and neck. Voting is over in Israel, and fighting for his political life, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may -- repeat may -- have finished a last-minute stunner that could enable him to hold onto power. Israeli TV exit polls show his party with a slight, very slight lead over the challenger, Isaac Herzog. One of them will be asked to put together a coalition government. That's no easy task in a bitterly divided nation. We'll go live to Tel Aviv.

And I'll speak with the State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf. Our correspondents and analysts are also standing by for full coverage.

But let's get the very latest on that former U.S. airman. Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, is standing by -- Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, this case is especially unique, because it's the first U.S. military member we know of who allegedly tried to link up with ISIS. According to court documents, 47-year-old Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh from Neptune, New Jersey, who was at one point a mechanic for American Airlines and an Air Force mechanic for four years tried to travel to Syria to join ISIS, according to authorities.

Pugh left the Air Force in the '90s and then worked for several private aviation companies in the U.S. and the Middle East as an airplane mechanic, which in speaking to officials, they say that is alarming because he could have taken his skills to the terrorist groups and helped them in some way.

In January, according to federal authorities, he allegedly flew from Egypt to Turkey, trying to cross the border into Syria. Turkish officials have denied him entrance after he refused them access to his electronics and then Turkey sent him on a return flight to Egypt.

And the criminal complaint says it appeared his electronics had been tampered with once he arrived in Egypt. Egypt reported him to the U.S., and he was arrested by the FBI in January.

Now after a search of Pugh's electronics, the FBI was able to recover some of what was on his computer. In fact, more than 180 jihadist propaganda videos, including an ISIS video that showed the execution of multiple prisoners. The FBI said it also found Internet searches for things like borders controlled by the Islamic State and searches for ways to cross from Turkey into Syria.

Pugh's defense attorney tells CNN that his client will plead not guilty in court tomorrow. And one more thing to add here, Wolf. According to this complaint, there were communications with his Egyptian wife, and this letter he wrote, he apparently said, according to authorities, he said, "I will use my talents and skills given to me by Allah to establish and defend the Islamic State. There was possible -- two possible outcomes for me, victory or martyr."

And Wolf, in talking to law enforcement officials, what also makes this case unique is that this allegedly is someone who was not just influenced overnight by ISIS propaganda. He was influenced right after 911. He allegedly, according to his co-workers, had sympathized with Osama bin Laden. So this is someone who became increasingly radicalized over the past decade or so, according to authorities, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very disturbing development, and we're going to have much more on this later this hour. Thanks very much, Pamela Brown.

There's other breaking news we're following. This time, the election in Israel was supposed to be close, but there's been a stunning finish to the election, with a rocky relationship between U.S. and Jerusalem hanging in the balance.

The prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who seemed to be losing his hold on power, according to polls going into the vote, may -- may be able to hang on. It's by no means certain, though. TV exit polls show his right-wing party is neck and neck with the center left list headed by Isaac Herzog.

One of them will have to form a coalition government. That could take weeks of horse-trading with smaller parties across the political spectrum.

Let's go to Tel Aviv. CNN's global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, is joining us now.

Elise, Netanyahu is already claiming a big win. His crowd there, they're pretty excited, but it's way too soon to declare a victory.

<17:05:07> ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Way too soon to declare a victory in terms of whether Prime Minister Netanyahu will be able to form a coalition, Wolf, but this is a bit of a victory for Prime Minister Netanyahu. As you know just a few days go, four seats behind in the polls.

In the last 48 hours really a media blitz to energize the right- wing base. These were controversial positions that he's been talking about in the last 48 hours, reversing his commitment, his long- standing commitment to a two-state solution with the Palestinians and also talking about fear-mongering, trying to get the right wing to come out and vote to prevent the Arabs from, as he said, kind of taking over and unseating him.

So obviously, it's going to be a long night and a long couple of days as we see whether Prime Minister Netanyahu has the support from the right to form a coalition. But certainly, he has fought his way back and is still in the running, Wolf.

BLITZER: Elise, get that microphone closer to your mouth if you can, because we're having trouble hearing you with all that noise behind you right now. Move it up a little bit like that. That's what I was trying to suggest.

There's no doubt this could take several days at a minimum. The president of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, has already said he hopes to get the process started as early as Sunday, but the negotiations between both of these two big parties with the smaller parties, that could take a while.

LABOTT: There's a lot of backroom dealing that's going to go on over the next several days. There are some -- obviously, the right parties like Mr. Bennett's party, who's an economy minister here in the government. And also some of the other real extreme right-wing parties are going to go with him.

But it's a question of some of these other parties, like Moshe Kahlon of the Kulanu Party, a former Likud supporter, and he is really the king-maker here. He has about nine seats up for grabs. It remains to be seen whether he can bring over enough votes to get that 61 he needs to form a coalition. It's not guaranteed, but for him there's more states on the

right, more seats, and it really is looking very good for him right now to have a mandate to continue to govern in Israel.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Elise. We're going to stay on top of this. We're going to get more information, but it's a cliff hanger in Israel right now. Unclear whether Netanyahu or his main challenger, Isaac Herzog, will be able to form the next government.

What will happen? We'll stay on top of this story, as well.

Meanwhile, Russia is raising its stakes in its show down with the United States and NATO. A year after seizing Crimea from Ukraine, Russia is now sending nuclear-capable bombers to that strategic peninsula, and it's deploying mobile ballistic missiles in a Russian enclave that borders two NATO allies. All of this coming as a major Russian military force is on full combat alert for war games.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is tracking all of this for us. What's the latest, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Vladimir Putin is back in public view after that ten-day absence. But for U.S. intelligence, the question now is not so much where was Putin? The question is what is he up to now?


STARR (voice-over): Raising tensions, Vladimir Putin is keeping everyone guessing. NATO's deputy military commander warning Moscow to tread carefully.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Russia might believe that the large-scale conventional forces that she has shown she can generate on very short notice could, in future, be used not only for intimidation and coercion but potentially to seize NATO territory.

STARR: A classic Cold War Soviet military technique. Escalate tensions to the point no one is sure what Putin is now up to next.

JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: NATO does not seek confrontation with Russia. But Russia must respect its neighbors on their borders.

STARR: Backfire bombers that can carry nuclear and conventional weapons are being sent to Crimea, according to the Russian news agency, TASK. Short-range ballistic missiles are being sent to Kaliningrad next to the Baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which are in NATO.

STEVEN PIFER, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: That's going to be something that I think NATO's going to keep a very close eye on, both with regards to the delivery platforms and also looking for any signs are the nuclear weapons that might accompany those system also deployed? STARR: In the Arctic, Putin has ordered troops to combat alert.

Russia's northern fleet exercising nearly 40,000 troops, 50 warships and more than 100 aircraft.

NATO directed its forces months ago to be able to move within days against Russia if ordered. In the Black Sea, the U.S. continuing with its exercises, attempting to reassure NATO nations on Russia's borders that the alliance will defend them.

<17:10:00> STARR: Military intelligence analysts don't foresee a Cold War type of confrontation: tank battles, dog fights in the sky. The biggest risk, they say, is the Baltics, that Putin may try to covertly stir up trouble and control territories there, as he did in Crimea.

PIFER: Understand that they're more nervous now than they were 20 years ago.


STARR: And that is the big risk right now. Officials will tell you if -- if Vladimir Putin were to move against the Baltics, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, that could force NATO and the U.S.'s hands. All three of those countries are members of the NATO alliance. NATO and the U.S., of course, are sworn to defend them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara. Thanks very much.

Joining us now, the State Department deputy spokeswoman, Marie Harf. She's joining us from Lucerne, Switzerland. That's where her boss, the secretary of state, is holding negotiations with Iranians officials on their nuclear program. We're going to get to all of that in a few moments.

But I want to get your quick reaction to what you heard, Marie, from Barbara Starr over at the Pentagon, and these latest Russian developments. How worrisome are they, these military maneuvers, what they're doing in Crimea, what they're doing so close to some of the NATO allies? How worrisome is this to the United States?

HARF: Well, Wolf, we're clearly watching it very closely. And we've always said throughout this process that Vladimir Putin has an off-ramp. And that, if he was acting in the best interests of his people, in the best interests of his country, that he would take it. But if he doesn't, we will continue increasing the pressure. My boss, Secretary Kerry, has been very clear about that. That even when we work together on other issues like Iran, like this week in Switzerland, we will continue upping the pressure, and we're going to be watching what he's doing very closely.

BLITZER: Is he doing this -- is he ordering the northern fleet of Russia into some sort of full mobilization now? Is he doing it for show or is something else going on?

HARF: Well, you know, I think if I've learned anything in this job it's not trying to figure out why Vladimir Putin does the things he does. I think that's probably not a game I want to play.

But regardless, we're not worried about why he's doing things. We're worried about what he's doing. That's what we're watching. That's what we're focused on. And we're going to be very clear that, if this kind of behavior continues, there will be additional costs. And the longer these sanctions and other costs are in place, the greater impact they have.

And if this is a longer term battle here, when it comes to getting Russia to take an off-ramp, we are very prepared to stay the course, up the pressure, and hopefully get them back to a better place.

BLITZER: You saw the results from the Israeli elections, the exit polls, at least. Now they're counting the real votes. These are exit polls. We don't know what the official results are.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, he's claiming victory, but it's way too early to claim victory right now. They've got to come up with some sort of coalition government.

What's the U.S. government's reaction to what you know so far about what happened on this election day in Israel?

HARF: Well, Wolf, I think what we know is that it was really democracy in action. We're obviously congratulating the Israeli people on holding an election with huge turnout. This is what democracy looks like. And obviously, it's too early to know what will happen here. But no matter who is the next prime minister of Israel, we will certainly keep working with them. We have an incredibly close relationship with Israel, no matter who's in that job, and that will certainly continue.

And we'll watch the process unfold over the coming days and weeks.

BLITZER: If Netanyahu does emerge as the prime minister, continue -- continuing on his job -- you heard him yesterday say, under his watch, there will be no Palestinian state, no two-state solution, which of course, was his position going into this election. It's the U.S. position for a long time. How alarming is this latest statement from Netanyahu?

HARF: Well, you know what our position is. That the only path forward is a two-state solution with Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace and security. That is what my boss, Secretary Kerry, what the president are very committed to, because that's in the best interests of Israel, of course, and of the Palestinians. So that's what we're committed to.

And, you know, people say a lot of things during campaigns. What we're focused on is the Israeli's moving forward, forming a government. And we will work with whoever is prime minister to see if we can make progress. It is a very tough and difficult area to do so.

BLITZER: All right. Marie Harf, I want you to stand by. You're in Lucerne, Switzerland. That's where the secretary of state, John Kerry, is holding his negotiations with Iranians. We're going to talk about where this is moving right now, these nuclear negotiations with Iran. We'll also talk about the latest ISIS developments. Much more from Lucerne, Switzerland, with Marie Harf when we come back.


BLITZER: Let's come back to the breaking news. A stunning conclusion to Israel's election today. The TV exit polls showed the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in neck and neck finish with his rival, Isaac Herzog. One of them will be asked to form a coalition government. The outcome could have a huge impact on ties with the Obama administration.

Netanyahu, by the way, in a tweet, Marie Harf, just already claiming victory against all odds. He says a big win for Likud, a big win for the country of Israel. Herzog and his opposition party saying not so fast. They say Likud keeps misleading. They say negotiations underway for a new government to be formed by Isaac Herzog. You want to react quickly to those two statements from Netanyahu and Herzog?

HARF: Well, I hadn't seen them. I just heard them from you.

But as I said, I think it's too early to make predictions about what will happen here. As I understand it, the Israeli system sometimes takes days or weeks, and we'll just see how this process plays out.

But no matter who is prime minister, we will keep working with them, keep having a very close relationship on all the issues we work together on, and that will absolutely continue.

BLITZER: How do those negotiations in Lucerne, Switzerland, where you are right now with the secretary of state and the Iranian officials, how are they working out in terms of this nuclear deal?

HARF: Well, these are tough conversations, Wolf. We're coming up on the deadline at the end of March, and we still have a lot of work to do. A lot of the issues that are remaining are technical. That's why Secretary of Energy Moniz is also here with my boss, participating in the talks.

But a lot of them are political, and this is really the time that Iran needs to prove to the world that they're willing to take the steps they need to to show everyone that their program is exclusively peaceful.

We're not there yet. We have a lot of work to do, but we're getting pretty close to the end here, so we're working very hard to see if we can achieve that.

BLITZER: Is it true that 90 percent of those so-called technical issues have been resolved?

HARF: Well, I don't think I would put it the same way. We still have a number of outstanding technical issues. We have made progress. I would say that. We are closer to a deal today than we were yesterday or the day before.

But as we've always said, this is all part of one equation here. You can have part of it agreed and part of it not agreed and you won't get to a deal. We need to have all of it agreed to by everyone, not just us and the Iranians, the P5+1. We just aren't there yet.

BLITZER: What can you tell us, Marie, about this former U.S. airman who's now been arrested. He's being held in the United States. Apparently, the accusation is he went to Turkey to try to sneak in to hook up with ISIS. He was extradited back to Egypt and then back to the United States.

What can you tell us about this individual?

HARF: Well, this is obviously a law enforcement matter, so they're probably best equipped to speak about it. But broadly speaking, certainly the intelligence community, law enforcement, the State Department, anyone who can play a role here is very focused on specifically Americans who are trying to travel to fight with ISIL, who are trying to support ISIL in some way. It's something we're very focused on, because it's a pretty big challenge. Obviously, here in Europe, where we are, it's probably an even bigger challenge, giving the proximity. But we're very concerned about Americans. We're very focused on it, and I think you saw today the law enforcement community taking an action they thought was appropriate when it came to one of these threats.

BLITZER: He was an expert on weapons and avionics. How worried are you that he potentially could have shared sensitive U.S. weapons, avionics intelligence with ISIS?

HARF: Well, I don't have any details on that, of course. And I don't think we should jump to conclusions. This is an ongoing law enforcement matter, again, and I think more details will come out as we go forward with that process.

But of course we would be concerned about anyone, any American who had any information they were trying to share with ISIL. And as we talked about before, you don't even have to go fight with ISIL or train with them to be inspired by them and to be a threat. So that's certainly something we're focused on, as well.

And again, you saw law enforcement take action today when they believed they should do so.

BLITZER: Very disturbing story in the "New York Times." I want to get your quick reaction. Half a billion dollars, 500 million dollars' worth of U.S. military weaponry, aircraft equipment, other mechanical equipment sent to Yemen in recent years could have actually been seized now by these Iranian-backed Houthi rebels or even al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. What's going on? Has the U.S., in effect now, contributed half a billion worth of military hardware to either al Qaeda or these Houthi rebels in Yemen?

HARF: Well, I know the Department of Defense is looking into those reports right now. And I think, again, they're probably best to speak about that.

What I would say is when it comes to Yemen, obviously, it's a very complicated situation and one we're very concerned about. That's why we closed our embassy there, given security threats. And the Houthi are fighting AQAP. They're certainly not fighting on the same side.

And we said to the Houthi that they have -- there's a process in Yemen that they should abide by, that they should use, through its constitution, if they want to affect political change. They obviously aren't doing that. We're very concerned about it. And it's something we're watching very carefully.

BLITZER: I just want to clarify it was a "Washington Post" report, not a "New York Times" report.

Marie Harf, thanks very much for joining us. Marie Harf joining us from Lucerne, Switzerland, where the secretary of state is negotiating his nuclear deal with Iran. We'll continue to watch that story.

Coming up, a major U.S. ally blames North Korea for yet another cyberattack.

Also ahead, we have new details about a very threatening incident aboard a U.S. airliner. Passengers subdued a man who rushed the cockpit screaming jihad.





<17:29:41> BLITZER: Right now Russia is upping the ante in the showdown with NATO. It's sending nuclear capable bombers to Crimea and ballistic missiles to a region which shares borders with NATO allies.

Let's dig deeper. Joining us, our senior national security analyst, Peter Bergen; our military analyst, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling; and "Washington Post" columnist David Ignatius.

General Hertling, on this Russia threat, do you think Putin actually would try to grab some NATO territory, using these large- scale military forces? How much of a threat do you believe this really is.

HERTLING: Well, I certainly don't think it would be a very smart move, Wolf. He's done enough in Ukraine and I think has generated some support within the European nations and especially the 28 nations of NATO to counter what he's doing.

But he's certainly doing some things that are concerning in this area. But truthfully, over the last several weeks, NATO and the United States has also been doing some things to counter some of these threats in an attempt to reassure the allies and demonstrate freedom of movement, especially in the Baltics, Baltic countries.

BLITZER: David Ignatius, is Putin certainly flexing his muscles for domestic political reasons? Or is something worse going on?

DAVID IGNATIUS, "WASHINGTON POST": This kind of move is popular at home for Putin. What's disturbing about this rattling of the nuclear saber, if you will, is that Putin in Ukraine has been using what analysts call hybrid warfare, meaning something closer to covert intelligence operations than conventional use of force or nuclear weapons. This moves the game into a different and more dangerous phase.

BLITZER: It certainly does. All right. Peter, let's talk about this former U.S. Air Force airman, if you will, an expert on avionics, a mechanical avionics expert. All of a sudden, now arrested in the United States, extradited from Turkey, then back to Egypt and then the United States. The allegations is he was trying to sneak into Syria to join ISIS right now. This would be the first former U.S. military veteran, if you will, to actually join with ISIS, although others have joined with other terror groups.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: That's correct. We've seen a number of U.S. military veterans fighting for jihadi groups, and also for some of the anti-Assad groups that are more moderate. But this is the first U.S. military veteran who's allegedly trying to join ISIS.

You know, he's also a lot older than the average. I mean, he's 47. We've seen teenagers, principally people in their early 20s. He also didn't certainly develop an interest in this. Most recently, he, according to the complaint against him, he was voicing support for Osama bin Laden around the time of the 911 attacks. So he's -- he doesn't really fit the profile of a lot of the kids that we've been seeing going over the last several months.

BLITZER: We remember Major Nidal Hasan from Fort Hood, Texas. He went out and killed some of his fellow soldiers. And he was clearly sympathetic to that kind of jihadi movement.

BERGEN: Right. And he was monitored. The FBI was sort of tracking some of his communications but didn't do enough about it.

Certainly with this guy, he was on the radar of law enforcement later on. He dropped off, and now he's accused of this, trying to join ISIS.

BLITZER: General Hertling, had he succeeded in getting into Syria from Turkey and joining ISIS directly, how much of a threat, potentially, could that have been in terms of helping them better appreciate U.S. military hardware, stuff like that?

HERTLING: Yes, truthfully, Wolf, not much, Wolf. Let's go back a little bit, though, if I may. This guy was in the military in 1986 to '90. He's been out of

the Air Force for 25 years. As Peter said, he did attempt to be very supportive of al Qaeda in the late 1998, right after he basically converted to Islam in '98. He also said he wanted to be a jihadi in Chechnya.

So this guy was working in Kuwait as an aircraft mechanic on private airplanes. So I think the biggest part of him potentially getting over into Syria as he traveled from Egypt to Turkey and then attempted to get into Syria, because he was living in Egypt, would have been the propaganda value of having a former service member. And that's the biggest thing.

Again, certainly, an aircraft mechanic who happened to have served in the Air Force 25 years go. I don't think this is a big deal, truthfully.

BLITZER: Do you think, David, the U.S. is doing enough to prevent Americans from joining ISIS?

IGNATIUS: Well, this is really a question of communications. There's a lot of monitoring that's going on, even with all of our concern about privacy. This is a real propaganda hit for ISIS. There's no question about it.

I'm sure General Hertling's right. In terms of practical damages, not much.

I think the military will be on red alert now about people who are vulnerable to this kind of -- you know.

BLITZER: The other disturbing development in Pakistan today, as you well know, Peter -- you're an expert on this subject -- the lawyer who represented the Pakistani doctor who actually helped the U.S. find bin Laden in Abbottabad and eventually kill him by a Navy SEAL team, that lawyer has now been assassinated. He was driving in the car, and he was shot and killed.

BERGEN: Yes, he was killed by a Taliban sniper (ph). But I think it's important to recognize that the doctor who's supposedly trying to help the CIA to find bin Laden had no idea that he was involved in the hunt for bin Laden. The CIA said he wasn't going to tell him that. It was a very closely-held secret. And so I think people have misunderstood, both in the United States and in Pakistan. The world is not...

<17:35:00> BLITZER: He may not have known he was helping, but he wound up giving some help, and he's serving 33 years in jail now in Pakistan.

BERGEN: Yes. For a separate -- on a separate treason charge, unrelated. But the point is that he didn't really help, really. He was working with the CIA, but nothing really came of his efforts.

BLITZER: What's disturbing is now they -- somebody, as you say -- you pointed out the Taliban shot and killed his lawyer, which is a very disturbing development.

All right, thanks very much, guys, for all of that.

Coming up, we also have new details about a frightening security scare aboard a U.S. airliner. Passengers had to subdue a man who ran towards the cockpit screaming jihad.

And later, North Korea blamed for a new cyberattack, this time on nuclear power plants.


<17:40:22> BLITZER: The head of the U.S. Secret Service was on Capitol Hill telling lawmakers he's frustrated by his agency's latest scandal but needs more time to change the culture there.

Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. He has the latest -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Secret Service director Joe Clancy called for patience today, telling Congress it will take time to reform his agency. Frustrated lawmakers who are fed up with the agency warned Clancy to hurry it up.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Secret Service director Joe Clancy was in the line of fire, pressed on a string of embarrassing episodes, from last fall's fence-jumping incident at the White House and accusations of agents drinking and driving around Washington, Clancy conceded he has big problems to fix.

JOE CLANCY, SECRET SERVICE DIRECTOR: It's going to take time to change maybe some of this culture.

ACOSTA: That didn't sit well with lawmakers, who demanded answers about an incident earlier this month, when its alleged two agents showed up at a suspicious package investigation at the White House after drinking at a party.

REP. NITA LOWEY (D-NY), APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE: I can't believe you said it would take time to change the culture. Can you explain to me why it's OK for a member of the Secret Service to get so inebriated that they would take a car and run into a barricade?

ACOSTA: Clancy responded that surveillance video may reveal a less sensational version of events than what was originally reported in the case. But the director admitted he wasn't told about the incident for five days.

CLANCY: And we had a good stern talk about that and then instructed the staff to go out to their management to insure that these events, any event of misconduct or operational errors have to be relayed up the chain.

ACOSTA: With decades of experience as a top agent who became director just a month ago, Clancy explained there are deep-rooted issues to such a high-pressure job.

CLANCY: There is an element within our agency that does cope with the stresses that many of you have mentioned today by using alcohol. There's no question we have that element.

ACOSTA: It's an element members of Congress are skeptical Clancy will address.

REP. JOHN CARTER (R-TX), HOMELAND SECURITY SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: You have to be a very set chain of command regulated from top to bottom or something dangerous is going to happen. Whether it's the president, the pope, people at the U.N. or whatever. Those are big responsibilities, and I think your chain of command is haywire. Work on that.

ACOSTA: But Clancy said changes are coming. To thwart jumpers, a taller temporary fence around the White House may go up this summer. To replace the outdated training facility that CNN visited eight years ago, the Secret Service wants to build a new mock White House at a cost of $8 million.

CLANCY: We think it's important to have a true replica of what the White House is so we can do a better job of this integrated training between our uniformed division officers, our agents and our tactical teams.


ACOSTA: As for that alleged drinking and driving incident earlier this month, Clancy and the White House say they're awaiting the results of an inspector general's investigation, but I'm told lawmakers may be viewing that surveillance video of the incident as soon as today; and Wolf, the White House was asked again if the president has confidence in Joe Clancy and the White House says he does -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

We're also getting new details about what happened aboard a United Airlines event after a passenger ran toward a cockpit screaming jihad. Other badges subdued the man, held him until the plane made an emergency landing at Dulles Airport, outside Washington, D.C.

Let's go to our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh, who's on the scene over there at Dulles Airport for more on what happened.

Rene, what do we know?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this was a tense situation midair. We're talking about 7,000 feet up in the air. Passengers on board say this man charged right towards the cockpit, but he was intercepted, tackled, taken down to the ground. Take a listen to the unruly passenger apologizing just seconds after other passengers intercepted him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're talking to the...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't move. We're going to get you off this plane, buddy. We're going to get you off this plane.


MARSH: United Flight 1074 from Dallas going to Denver was only in the air for roughly about five minutes before the pilots had to start to descend and turn around and come right back here to Dulles.

Take a listen to the moment that the pilots called air traffic control, putting in that emergency call.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He ran forward towards the cockpit, and he is being restrained by other passengers. The cockpit is secure. And we would just like to return to the airport and have the authorities meet him.

MARSH: All right. Well, we do know that they were able to land. No other passengers were injured.

At this hour, Wolf, the unruly passenger is at a local hospital. He is under observation. They are checking out his mental state. If it's determined that he is mentally ill it is quite possible that he may not face charges.

We should point out he has not been arrested or charged with anything at this point -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We'll get more information.

Thanks very much. Very disturbing development, Rene.

Coming up, Kim Jong-Un's North Korea is accused of yet another cyberattack. The target this time, nuclear power plants.

And right at the top of the hour more on the shocking arrest -- shocking arrest of a U.S. Air Force veteran who allegedly was trying to join ISIS.

What information was he trying to pass along to terrorists?


<17:50:33> BLITZER: We're following new and deeply troubling accusations that Kim Jong-Un's North Korea is behind another cyberattack, this time targeting nuclear power plants.

Brian Todd is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He's got details.

What do we know, Brian? BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, if North Korea conducted

that cyberattack, it would have been a brazen move coming at about the same time as the Sony hack.

Also tonight we have new information on a possible counter attack online against North Korea. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said, quote, "There were some cyber responses to North Korea for the Sony hack," but McCaul didn't say who was responsible for those cyber responses.

Now again this comes, as we mentioned, as we get word of another alleged cyberattack from North Korea which could have been more devastating than the Sony hit.


TODD (voice-over): Inside of a South Korean nuclear power plant, technicians drill for a cyberattack. This was in response to a real hack of South Korea's nuclear plant system in December. Tonight, South Korean prosecutors say North Korea hackers were behind that attack, stealing and posting blueprints and training data from the South's nuclear power plants. That's according to Yonhap news agency.

Investigators say the data stolen was, quote, "far from critical," but that South Korean nuclear power company runs 23 reactors and experts on cyber war fighting say this could have been much worse.

JASON HEALEY, THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL: If they could have found that physical path from the Internet to the nuclear control rooms, then they could have had just the same access as the operators, the highly trained operators in the plants themselves. They could have potentially caused a catastrophe.

TODD: Just last week, the hackers posted more documents and demanded money or they would hand over sensitive information to other countries.

Kim Jong-Un has a secret cyberattack team called Bureau 121. And a larger cyber branch called the Reconnaissance General Bureau, commanded by General Kim Yong Chol, a former bodyguard for Kim Jong- Un's father and grandfather.

Could they have been behind this hit?

HEALEY: I strongly suspect that the North Koreans would have used Unit 121, you know, Reconnaissance General Bureau. A nuclear power plant is a hard target. This is not like trying to take down somebody's Web site.

TODD: This attack occurred at about the same time as the Sony hack. It's one thing to steal dishy e-mails about Angelina Jolie, another to target nuclear reactor. But analysts point out both hacks also carried with them warnings of physical violence.

In the Sony case, a threat to hurt theatergoers. In the nuclear plant hack, a threat to destroy the facilities. Analysts say it's unlikely that North Koreans have the capability to do that to South Korean or American reactors, but it does reflect the brazen aggression of Kim Jong-Un.

BRUCE KLINGNER, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: We know less about him. We don't know if he understands the concepts of red lines like his father and his grandfather seemed to. So this is new. The threats of physical violence could well qualify under U.S. law as acts of terror.


TODD: North Korea denies hacking the South Korean nuclear plant system just as they deny the Sony hack. When we asked how they might respond to this, South Korean and U.S. officials would not comment.

But, again, Wolf, this comes as we heard from the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee that someone retaliated against North Korea for the Sony hack with, quote, "cyber responses." That's significant.

BLITZER: Very significant.

Could the North Koreans potentially launch some sort of cyberattack, let's say, against South Korea's nuclear power plants or anyone else along the lines of that Stuxnet cyberattack that reportedly the U.S. and Israel jointly did to slow down Iran's nuclear program?

TODD: It's a key question because, you know, they want to do something like that. The cyber experts we speak to, Wolf, say they are really just not there yet. They say that the North Koreans are not as proficient at cyber warfare as the Americans, as the Russians, as the Chinese, but they are aggressively working to get better and it's worth noting most of their hackers, many of their hackers, some of the hacker servers that they use are inside China.

So they have access to some of the stuff but they are not quite there yet where they can launch a Stuxnet type attack.

BLITZER: But they're learning and presumably getting better all the time.

TODD: They are learning. They are getting better.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Brian Todd, for that report.

Coming up, a U.S. Air Force veteran trained at maintaining weapon systems is charged with trying to join ISIS in Syria. How much damage could he actually have done?

And Russia's President Putin raising the stakes with a showdown of NATO, deploying advanced missiles and nuclear capable bombers.

Where is all this headed?



BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Air Force -- ISIS, a U.S. veteran and trained airplane mechanic charged with trying to join terrorist forces in Syria. Was he planning to share his expertise with the enemy?

Putin threat. The Russian leader moving nuclear capable weapons to the borders of U.S. allies in Europe with nearby troops now on full alert. What's his next move?

Midair emergency declared as a passenger rushes the cockpit, screaming "jihad."

<18:00:02> How close did he come to possibly bringing down a United Airlines flight?

And shocker. Rising Republican star Aaron Schock resigns from Congress as an ethics investigation heats up.