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Manhunt for Gunmen After 19 Killed at Museum; Death Threats Reported Against Caroline Kennedy; Russia Celebrates Anniversary of Crimea Annexation; Interview with Corey Gardner; FBI Monitored Veteran Before Alleged Plot to Join ISIS; Air Force Vet Pleads Not Guilty in Terror Case. Aired 5-6:00p ET

Aired March 18, 2015 - 17:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, massacre and manhunt. Terrorists storm a museum and slaughter 19 people, most of them tourists. Two gunmen are killed. The search is now underway for three others.

Kennedy targeted -- she's the daughter of JFK and the U.S. ambassador to Japan. Threats to her life are reported on the same day that the first lady, Michelle Obama, arrives in the country.

Pleading not guilty -- a U.S. Air Force veteran accused of trying to help ISIS answers the charges against him.

But does the evidence presented in court tell a different story?

And ISIS recruiter -- to millions, he's a symbol of evil, the iconic killer of ISIS shown in videos beheading hostages.

But why do some young people see Jihadi John as a hero and a reason to join the terror group?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Let's get right to the breaking news. An urgent manhunt is underway for the gunmen who attacked a museum killing 19 people in Tunisia's capital. Seventeen of the victims were foreign tourists. Thousands of cruise ship passengers were in the city of Tunis at the time. Security forces killed two attackers, described by the interior minister as Islamists. The search is now underway for three others.

While Tunisia is a moderate nation and the first country where the Arab Spring took hold, it may also have provided more foreign fighters to ISIS than any other country. I'll talk to Senator Corey Gardner of the Foreign Relations Committee. That's coming up.

And our correspondents and analysts, they're all standing by with full coverage.

But let's begin with our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this lovely North African capital, the city -- the site of bloodshed earlier today, when gunmen opened up in a complex that involves both the parliament and this major museum in downtown Tunis. Seventeen people -- 19 people killed, 22 wounded. The hunt for additional gunmen is on.

It was brutal and it was sudden. Tourists, some of them were getting off buses to visit the museum when they were hit with this hail of gunfire. Fighting broke out. You see pictures of people on the run as security forces rushed to try to bring them to safety. It was what could only be described as a very deadly, very brutal scene.

The question now, who was behind it all?

And, of course, the finger of suspicion does point, potentially -- we do not know for sure -- it points potentially to ISIS.

ISIS adherents in Tunisia have been pledging their loyalty to the organization. There's been an awful lot of social media chatter about ISIS extending its reach. We know that they're are -- they are extending their reach across North Africa into Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. So there is a lot of concern tonight that ISIS has now opened up a new front in Tunisia and that this is another country with a very fragile government where ISIS may try to take hold -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And amidst all of this, Barbara, we're also hearing of new threats against U.S. embassies in that part of the world.

STARR: Across the region, Wolf, in North Africa. In the Horn of Africa the nation of Djibouti, the U.S. Embassy there saying that they have a threat stream, closing the embassy to consular services. Basically, the public not allowed in. And across the way in Saudi Arabia now, the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh and other U.S. facilities, diplomatic facilities across the country closed for several days now. Again, a threat stream that they say that is causing them to shut these areas down for consular services. They are not giving very much in the way of specifics. But let's be clear, Wolf, the State Department doesn't shut things down for no reason -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. And it follows the complete shut down of the U.S. embassies in Somalia, in Libya, in Yemen, certainly in Syria, as well. So these U.S. embassies, they're being shut down across the region.

Barbara, thanks very much.

As the United States steps up security at some of its embassies, there are now reports of death threats -- death threats directed at Caroline Kennedy, the United States ambassador to Japan, the daughter of John F. Kennedy. Word of the threat comes on the same day that the first lady, Michelle Obama, arrives in Japan. And the reports follow the recent stabbing of another U.S. ambassador.

Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

He has much more -- Jim.


Wolf, it's a very sensitive matter. So the State Department, of course, is saying very little about these reported threats to one of the administration's highest profile ambassadors, Caroline Kennedy in Japan.

But these concerns for Kennedy's safety come as the first lady, as you mentioned, is just arriving in Tokyo for an overseas trip. She's due to meet with Kennedy.


The State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said the reported phone-in threats to Kennedy and another American diplomat in Okinawa last month have not prompted changes to the security posture at the U.S. Embassy in Japan. That is, despite the fact that First Lady Michelle Obama just landed in Tokyo. And keep in mind, former president Bill Clinton was just in Tokyo yesterday, appearing alongside Kennedy before delivering a speech on her father's legacy, which, of course, was cut short a half century ago.

But the State Department says it is making sure that the right precautions are in place.


JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: We take any threats to U.S. diplomats seriously. We take every step possible to protect our personnel. We are working with the Japanese government to ensure that necessary security measures are in place, which is something we would do and continue to do around the world. We're not going to comment on the specific details of any threats or steps we take to address them.


ACOSTA: And diplomatic personnel in Asia, they're already on edge after that knife attack on the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert, who's awaiting a security report on that incident.

And as for that apparent threat to Ambassador Kennedy, Japanese media reports are saying that it was phoned in by an English speaking man. But, Wolf, authorities at this point, either they don't know or they're not saying at this point who that person could be -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, very worrisome developments. And a lot of us are worried about copycats...

ACOSTA: That's right.

BLITZER: -- especially in the aftermath of that attack, that stabbing attack against the U.S. ambassador, Mark Lippert, in Seoul, South Korea. Apparently he was only accompanied by one unarmed security guard at that time.

Very disturbing developments, indeed.

Jim Acosta, thank you.

It's been a year since Russia grabbed the strategic Crimean Peninsula away from Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin of Russia has thrown a party to celebrate. But he's also doing some military chest- pounding in another hot spot, as NATO intercepts Russian aircraft.

Let's go live to our senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance

He's joining us from Moscow -- Matthew.


Well, the relationship with Russia just continues to deteriorate. More saber rattling, as Russian war planes are intercepted in international air space, but as they approach NATO air space.

Also, tension in the north, as well, as Russia places its Arctic Fleet on high alert for maneuvers, forty thousand troops involved in that.

In response, the NATO maneuvers across the border in Norway.

All this happening as Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, celebrates a year since Crimea, that Ukrainian territory, was annexed. And tens of thousands of Russians were in Moscow today joining him in those celebrations.


CHANCE (voice-over): There was music and dancing and Vladimir Putin on a jumbo screen near

Red Square. This to mark the one year anniversary since Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine -- a land grab that redrew Europe's map and shattered ties with the West.

(on camera): Well, the annexation of Crimea was extremely popular. And this whole event has turned into a celebration of Russian nationalism. The opinion polls say the country is fully behind the decision to annex Crimea and only a tiny minority believe that it would be justified to ever consider giving it back.

(voice-over): But at the same time, on Wednesday, NATO jets were scrambled to intercept a number of Russian military aircraft as they neared Latvian air space. Latvia, a tiny Baltic nation where U.S. troops and equipment just arrived for NATO training and where fears are growing about Putin's next move.

MAJ. GEN. JOHN O'CONNOR, U.S. ARMY: Now we're going to demonstrate that same resolve, as we lean forward and demonstrate to Russia and to Putin that we are not broken in our efforts to stand together through this type of aggression.

CHANCE: But Putin has been flexing Russia's military might. Russia's Northern Fleet has been placed on full combat alert for Arctic exercises involving nearly 40,000 troops and 50 warships, rattling nerves in some NATO states.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're nervous in Poland, but particularly in the Baltic states, especially Estonia and Latvia. And that goes back to, for a number of years, the Kremlin has talked about this right that Russia has to defend ethnic Russians or Russian speakers wherever they're located and whatever their citizenship.

CHANCE: The U.S. Army says it will soon be sending armored Stryker vehicles on an 1,100 mile convoy through six European countries to show solidarity with NATO allies.

And Washington is sending a strong message to Moscow.

ASHTON CARTER, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We just want to make the point that as far as NATO allies are concerned, that raises a whole other set of issues that I hope anyone who is considering encroaching upon a NATO ally takes seriously.


CHANCE: Well, there are already U.S. and European sanctions, of course, on Russia over its actions in Crimea and elsewhere in Ukraine, as well.

Tomorrow, European leaders are going to be meeting to discuss what else they can do, what next

Steps they can take to get Russia to change its course -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Matthew Chance in Moscow, thanks very much.

Let's get some more now.

Joining us, Senator Corey Gardner.

He's the freshman Republican from Colorado.

He's a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Thanks so much, Senator, for joining us.

Let's talk about what's going on over there. Russian military jets, they were intercepted near Latvian air space. Latvia, of course, a member of NATO. U.S. troops had just arrived there for NATO training.

What is going on?

Is this a direct threat from Putin? SEN. COREY GARDNER (R), COLORADO: Well, again, I think we have

to make it very clear that the illegal annexation that occurred a year ago, of Crimea will never be accepted by the international community. This is a violation of international law.

What we have to do at this moment is make sure that we are reassuring our NATO allies that we are standing strong behind our commitments. Our European partnership and NATO allies need to know we are there fully committed to our NATO alliance.

BLITZER: So far, it's been a year and certainly, the Russians under Putin have no inclination to withdraw from Crimea.

Is that going to be a fait accompli, if you will?

GARDNER: No. This is, again, an illegal act. It was an illegal annexation under international law. The communities around the world will not accept this.

But I think in hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, hearing from President Saakashvili, the former president of Georgia who was acting as President Poroshenko's spokesperson around the globe as this crisis goes on, we hear from him the need for the United States to encourage and increase its commitment to speed the deployment of lethal and non-lethal assistance. And our conversations with Victoria Nuland and others to make sure that we are doing everything we can to live up to the promises that we have made to the people of Ukraine.

The people of Ukraine, who have alerted us that they believe there are right now 10,000 Russian fighters still in Eastern Ukraine. And obviously, still supplying heavy weaponry to rebels.

BLITZER: Victoria Nuland, the assistant secretary of State for European Affairs.

So what does Putin ultimately want?

What is he up to right now?

GARDNER: Well, I think he's right now flexing his muscle. He's testing the temperament of the United States and the allies that we have in NATO to see what he can get away with.

And I think we have to send a very strong message that we will not accept this. This is something that the international community will not stand for.

But along those lines, I think we have to do our part in stepping up what we have committed to do. Talking to various Department of Defense officials, talking to the State Department, understanding what it would take when we send the assistance that we have promised under legislation that we have agreed to, the length of time that it would take to train and provide training to Ukrainian forces to utilize that equipment, that's something that can no longer wait. And the longer we wait, according to people like President Saakashvili, the more serious the situation becomes and the further into the (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: A lot of nervousness going on right now in Eastern Europe.

Senator, please stand by.

We have much more to talk about, including ISIS.

Was ISIS behind the massacre in Tunis today?

Much more with the Senator Corey Gardner, when we come back.



BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news. Terrorists massacring 19 people, 17 of them tourists, at a museum in the Tunisian capital. A manhunt is now under way for the surviving gunmen.

[17:17:59] We're back with Republican Senator Cory Gardner. He's a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, do you know if ISIS, a lot of suspicion ISIS may have been behind this Tunisian museum massacre. What do we know about that?

GARDNER: There's a lot of speculation as to which jihadi terror group may have been behind this heinous attack. I think Chairman McCaul, the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, had stated that he believes there are 3,000 Tunisians who are members of ISIS, and so logically, you can draw a conclusion that could be part of the group that may have been responsible or one of the groups that may have been responsible for this.

But again, we're trying to learn more information about this heinous attack. We have to make sure that we're committing our full resources to finding and investigating the truth of what happened.

But, you know, Tunisia represents a very strong U.S. ally. It's a post-Arab Spring democracy that probably makes it a prime target for these actors who want nothing more than to bring down the emerging democracy of Tunisia.

BLITZER: We see what's happening right next door to Tunisia in Libya, which for all practical purposes is now a failed state and ISIS has got a foothold in Libya. Actually got a little foothold in parts of Egypt, as well. My concern is that ISIS may be moving towards Tunisia. That's a real fear, isn't it?

GARDNER: Well, again, Chairman McCaul made the statement that there are Tunisian, 3,000 Tunisians in ISIS. I think that's a legitimate concern. I think that's something that we know from our reports from the State Department about the ISIS troops moving into additional countries, spreading and not being contained. It's a very large concern. BLITZER: The whole region seems to be on fire right now. Take a

look at what's going on with U.S. embassies, Senator. In Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa, the State Department announced for security reasons they're going to shut it down tomorrow, at least for a day, to see what's going on, to reassure Americans who might be there.

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a huge embassy there, that's been shut down for all consular services all week. And in recent months, they -- the U.S. permanently shut down its embassies in Yemen, in Somalia, in Libya, of course in Syria over the past few years. What's going on in that part of the world?

[17:20:06] GARDNER: It's a very large concern as the United States faces threats from ISIS in other parts of the continent. If you are looking at Africa, looking at Boko Haram, look at what they are doing pledging allegiance to ISIS as they try to grow this cancer. They are spreading; the malignancy is growing, and I think that's the challenge that we face.

Obviously, our embassy security, our diplomatic security, a concern not just in the Middle East and those regions but around the globe. The attack on Ambassador Lippert, the threats to Ambassador Kennedy. I spoke personally with Ambassador Lippert in the days following the attack as the chair of the East Asia subcommittee making sure that we were doing everything we can to find out what had happened. Senator Rubio and I asking the State Department for -- for -- telling us more information about what is happening to security efforts there and getting behind -- getting to know what's behind these attacks and this increase in threats.

BLITZER: His face was slashed, as you know, by this knife guy, this guy with a knife, who just came in there, slashed him. He's out of the hospital. He seems to be OK. But is it true he only had one unarmed security guard with him at the time?

GARDNER: Well, that's exactly what we're trying to get to from the State Department, information. We've asked for a briefing, Wolf. We will be holding a briefing of the East Asia subcommittee with the State Department officials to find out exactly what happened. I don't want to jump to conclusions.

But this is something we take very seriously. And you mentioned that the talks of what's happening in the embassies and the threats to ambassadors in the Middle East, those nations. This is something that cannot be repeated whether it's in South Korea, whether it's in Japan or the threat that our officials may face in nations like Venezuela, at a hearing yesterday. We talked about the safety of our diplomats in Venezuela and concerns about the regime and whether or not they pose threats.

BLITZER: Because if American ambassadors are in danger in safe countries like Seoul, South Korea, a close ally of the United States, or Tokyo, Japan, where Caroline Kennedy is the U.S. ambassador, there was a death threat phoned into the U.S. embassy last month that we only now are learning about, you can only imagine what must be going on for U.S. ambassadors who are in more hostile parts of the world, right?

GARDNER: And that just shows you the seriousness of the challenges that we face as a country. I think if you look back six years, eight years, we're in new territory when it comes to threats abroad to American officials, to American diplomatic efforts. We've seen what happened at Benghazi. We've seen attacks on American officials, and we're now seeing them more prevalent, it seems like, and hearing these threats, at least in recent days.

BLITZER: You've got to beef up security for these diplomats around the world, even if they're in supposedly relatively safe cities.

Let me get your quick thought on this U.S. Air Force veteran who was apparently trying to sneak in to Syria to hook up with ISIS. He was stopped by the Turks in Turkey. He was sent back to Egypt and then extradited to the United States. He's been charged in New York. What do you make of this development? Because apparently, he did have some sophisticated avionics background?

GARDNER: I think this issue of foreign fighters, Americans or Europeans, people around the globe who are trying to get in to join ISIS and join with ISIS fighting on their behalf, is a large concern.

We have been talking to our allies in the region and talking to nations like Turkey about what is happening on their border, how we're addressing this flow of foreign fighters.

But when you talk to officials at the State Department, I don't think we have a good handle on exactly how to stem this flow of foreign fighters, despite the fact that we know they have less territory. ISIS has less territory in Iraq than they did. We know that we've been pushing back and hitting them hard in Syria.

But the question is how, then, do these foreign fighters continue to join forces with ISIS? That's a very large challenge. And it goes to this recruitment effort around the globe they have been successful in, and the efforts that we have to pick up in the United States and our allies to counter these, whether it's recruitments over the Internet, whether it's recruitments in Europe or the United States. What we can do as allies to counter that recruitment effort and slow this stem of foreign fighters.

BLITZER: Very quickly, correct me if I'm wrong...

GARDNER: Stem the flow, I'm sorry.

BLITZER: But there were some -- there were some young people from your state of Colorado who apparently were trying to join up with ISIS, right?

GARDNER: We had a woman arrested at Denver International Airport several months ago, and then of course, there were three young women who were caught in Europe attempting to join. This is a threat that isn't just something that Europe or the Middle East faces. This is something that we're dealing with at home in states like Colorado and around our country.

BLITZER: Senator Cory Gardner, thanks so much for joining us.

GARDNER: Thank you.

BLITZER: Up next, the U.S. Air Force veteran who allegedly tried to join ISIS in Syria. He goes to court in New York City on terror charges. We're getting disturbing new details about the warning signs that the U.S. government seems -- seems -- to have ignored until it was almost too late.


[17:29:11] BLITZER: Breaking now, new details about the case against a U.S. Air Force veteran who federal prosecutors say abandoned his allegiance to the United States and tried to get into Syria to join ISIS.

CNN's Miguel Marquez was in the courtroom in Brooklyn, New York, today when the suspect pleaded not guilty. Tell us how it went, Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It went fast, Wolf. This is a man who the judge says he wants to be done with by the end of summer, unlike many terrorism cases. He was charged with the attempt to support a foreign terrorist organization between May of last year and January of this year. He was also charged with trying to destroy evidence or destroying evidence, namely four USB drives that they said he stripped, trying to keep them from getting whatever evidence was on there.

The judge in this case telling the attorneys, "Don't plan on taking a summer vacation. I want to get this case done with and fast." The attorneys say they are ready to go. Amazingly, unlike most of these terrorist trials, the judge saying, "Everything is here. We need to get going. We can get this done" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So he's not going to get out on bail any time soon, right?

MARQUEZ: There is no bail for this individual. The only thing he said in court today was his name. His lawyer spoke for him on his behalf, even putting in his plea on his behalf. This is a guy who won't be going anywhere. It's the first time we've seen him since he was locked up in January -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Miguel Marquez, thanks very much.

This latest case is raising disturbing questions about whether the government ignored warnings about the suspect's terrorist sympathies, allowing him to gather information that could have put many people in danger. Let's go to our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown. She's working this part of the story -- Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. There are new questions and details about why Tairod Pugh wasn't tracked more closely. In fact, the FBI was aware of him for more than a decade, that he had become radicalized, according to court documents.

And back then he allegedly told co-workers at American Airlines he sympathized with Osama bin Laden and felt the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies overseas were justified.

But despite the apparent red flags, he continued to work as an aviation mechanic and then later worked for the U.S. Army as a contractor in 2009 for DynCorp, which experts say would have required a background check. That company would not comment on this matter.

A former Air Force colonel I spoke with today said the fact that Pugh was able to slip through the cracks and be given front-row access to U.S. military members in Iraq because of his contracting status, as well as aircraft and weapons systems, having access to those, shows that there is a major gap in the system and how contractors are screened.

And among the most concerning issues to U.S. investigators, people I've been speaking with, is the fact that Pugh allegedly was carrying a cell phone when he was arrested that had pictures of an airplane bathroom, airline seats, overhead compartments. People I've been speaking with say that's alarming given his expertise, his alleged ideology.

They say even an aviation enthusiast likely wouldn't have those types of pictures on their phone. And Pugh allegedly recently wrote a letter to his Egyptian wife about being a Mujahid. That means a person engaging in jihad. And court documents revealed back in 2002 the FBI was told by one of his associates that he wanted to fly to Chechnya to fight jihad.

And again, as Miguel said, he pleaded not guilty in the New York courtroom today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Pretty shocking that this guy could get clearances to be a U.S. military contractor with that kind of a background. Apparently, the government knew about him, as well. We'll have much more on this. Stand by, Pamela.

I want to bring in our national security analyst Peter Bergen, our law-enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes. He's a former FBI assistant director. Our CNN military analyst, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling; along with our CNN intelligence and security analyst, Bob Baer. He's a former CIA operative.

Guys, stand by for a moment. I want to take a quick break. We have much to discuss. How did this guy slip through security, get clearances to work as a military contractor with that kind of background? Much more right after this.


BLITZER: Our terror experts are standing by and I want everyone to get ready. We have a lot to discuss. But before that, we have some new information about the man known

to millions around the world as a symbol of pure evil, the iconic killer of ISIS shown in videos beheading hostages. But some see -- hard to believe -- some see Jihadi John as a hero, and he's become a magnet for would-be jihadists.

Brian Todd has been looking into this part of the story. What are you finding out, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight a Turkish official tells us a 21-year-old British woman was just stopped at a bus terminal in Ankara on suspicion of trying to get to Syria.

There is a clear pattern tonight of young British nationals attempting to get into Syria in recent days to join ISIS. And analysts believe this man, Jihadi John, is a powerful draw for many of them.


TODD (voice-over): For many, he's become a symbol of fear. The masked face, the voice of ISIS's reign of terror.

MOHAMMED "JIHADI JOHN" EMWAZI, ISIS SPOKESMAN: This night (ph) will become your nightmare.

TODD: In one horrifying video after another, Jihadi John, who we now know is a British militant named Mohammed Emwazi, presided over the beheadings of American and British hostages. He may have killed some himself. But to these three British teenaged boys, stopped this week in Istanbul before getting to Syria, or these three British schoolgirls who got to Syria, allegedly to join ISIS, Jihadi John may well be the terror group's best recruiter.

MUBIN SHAIKH, FORMER JIHADIST: Individuals like Emwazi, a.k.a. Jihadi John, are seen as the hero figure to them. This is an individual that wields power, and for a lot of these kids, they see this guy as the -- you know, the quintessential jihadi bad boy.

TODD: Analysts say for ISIS, Jihadi John is a brand. They believe ISIS leaders and the executioner himself are well aware of his notoriety. Observers see a link between the beheading videos, the news reports of Jihadi John's identity and background, and the recent flow of young people to try to join ISIS. For boys, he's seen as someone who walks the walk, battling the governments which they believe have pushed them to the margins. For girls...

HARAS RAFIQ, QUILLIAM FOUNDATION: He is used as somebody who is promoted as the ideal embodiment of the male foreign fighter who is masculine, who is virile, who actually is doing something, and almost like a sex symbol or a heartthrob.

[17:40:06] TODD: This is the same man who a Spanish journalist once held by ISIS calls a psychopath. In the "Sunday Times of London," Javier Espinosa wrote that Emwazi told hostages how they would die. Quote, "The second blow opens your neck. You would make amusing guttural sounds."

RAFIQ: He's sick. He's mentally tortured. And he's reveling in the fame and the notoriety he's actually achieved by becoming this brand for ISIL.

TODD: And once lured in, those teenagers discover a life very different from what they imagined.

SHAIKH: They'll be sent off to fight and especially for a lot of these kids who, I mean, they just don't have the combat experience, I doubt they've taken a bullet. They're going to find out real fast that it's not the video games that they've been practicing on all this time.


TODD: U.S. and British officials tell us they are more aware than ever of the pull that Jihadi John and other ISIS figures have online and in social media.

This week, Scotland Yard launched a radio and print campaign targeting mothers in immigrant neighborhoods. Here is a poster of that campaign. They're pleading with mothers to talk openly with their kids, especially their daughters, about the dangers of traveling to Syria -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And there is disturbing new information, Brian, on the number, number of young women who've actually gone to Syria from Britain, right?

TODD: That's right. We've been talking to the people at Scotland Yard over the past few days about this, Wolf. They say that over the past year, 22 women and girls have been reported missing to police by their families. These are from Britain. Families who fear that these young women have traveled to Syria.

BLITZER: Very disturbing development indeed. All right, Brian, thank you.

Let's get back to the breaking news. Terrorists massacre 19 people, including 17 tourists, at a museum in the Tunisian capital. A hunt is now under way for three of the gunmen.

Let's discuss what's going on. Tom Fuentes is here with us right now.

Tom, what do you make of this massacre, if you will? It looks like a pretty sophisticated operation.

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Wolf, I'm not sure how sophisticated it is for a handful of guys with AK-47s to just start blasting away. And I think, you know, the question is they were right next door to the parliament. Was that the initial place they were going to attack and then maybe were repelled by the security at the parliament, went next door to the museum full of tourists, shooting at tourists getting off the tour buses. It doesn't take much. These guys do not have to be trained as

Navy SEALs to launch these attacks.

BLITZER: Yes, but three of them are still at large right now.

FUENTES: That's right.

BLITZER: So they must have had some plan. Two of them were captured and killed in the process.

Tunisia supposedly -- correct me if I'm wrong, Peter -- the largest place, the largest contributor of terrorists to ISIS, foreign terrorists going to ISIS to hook up in Syria and Iraq. Is that right?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It is. And it's sort of puzzling, because Tunisia is one of the few countries to emerge out of the Arab Spring sort of relatively unscathed with a relatively peaceful transfer of power between secular and Islamists and Islamists and their secular parties. It also has an OK economy because of the tourist industry it has.

So why Tunisia is producing these thousands of foreign fighters for ISIS, I don't really know what the answer is. It's hard to explain.

BLITZER: The number we've heard is about 3,000 Tunisians have left to go fight with ISIS in Syria and Iraq. General Hertling, you were a commanding general in Europe. And I know Tunisia is a place U.S. intelligence community watches very closely. Why is that?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: We watched it very closely, because it's one of the nations in what is called the land of the Maghreb by al Qaeda affiliates, AQIM, and we were seeing a lot of rat lines coming across the Mediterranean Sea and affecting Europe. So we had to pay a lot of intelligence potential to it.

And there's also a historical link. As you know, you've been to Tunis, you know that the Battle of the Kasserine Pass between Germans and Americans took place in Tunisia during World War II.

And in addition to that, you have the linkages. That's where a lot of Europeans go for vacation. It's a beautiful area. And we actually have an American battlefield cemetery there.

But to get to Peter's point, the fact that they do have an emerging representative government is actually pushing some of the more extremist Muslims to join al Qaeda in the land of the Maghreb and do these kind of actions.

Al Qaeda of the Maghreb in North Africa. It's a very disturbing development. ISIS, al Qaeda, different organizations but obviously both really, really dangerous.

Bob Baer, one of the suicide bombers -- you know this -- responsible for that attack in Tripoli, Libya, was Tunisian. Libya, of course, for all practical purposes right now, a failed state. Lots of terrorism going on there. Couldn't the attacks going on in Libya spill over next door into Tunisia, what's happened today only be just the beginning?

BOB BAER, CNN SECURITY AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Wolf, I think it's inevitable. You look at that border between Tunisia and Libya, it's wide open. It's porous. You can get people across, weapons, and as you know, Libya when Khadafy fell, all those weapons caches were all looted, surface-to-air missiles, heavy weapons. You've got a lot of Tunisians who have gone across the border for training. They're getting combat training.

So it doesn't really come as a surprise that Tunis got hit. But I'd like to go back to Peter's point. This was a very secular country. I used to live there. It was amazing. It was almost French at that point. And the fact that they'd switched over to this jihadi mentality is not a good sign.

BLITZER: Peter, I was there, right after the glow, the height, the optimism of the Arab spring. And it started in Tunisia. Things seemed to be moving in a great direction not only there but throughout North Africa. Of course, elsewhere in the Middle East. But that has collapsed for all practical purposes totally, right?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think it remains to be seen in Tunisia. This is one event. But it's only obviously collapsed completely in Libya. I mean, to call Libya a failed state is almost too polite at this point. I talked to U.S. government officials who estimate about a 12th of the country is under control of these jihadi groups like ISIS. And you know, which is not an outcome that anybody could have predicted immediately after the fall of Gadhafi.

BLITZER: General Hertling, let me get your quick thought about that U.S. Air Force veteran who was arraigned in a Brooklyn -- a federal court in Brooklyn trying to sneak across from Turkey into Syria to join forces with ISIS. He had been on the FBI's radar screen at least going back to 9/11, when he was expressing sympathy for bin Laden.

How does a guy like this get clearances to become a U.S. Army contractor in avionics?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, Wolf, that's very concerning to me. I know the history. I mean, he was a U.S. Air Force veteran but long time ago, 25 years ago. But he worked for American Airlines, he worked for Griffin Airlines in Kuwait. He actually came out of Egypt to attempt to get into Syria.

And then I found out today as they did the trial that he actually worked for Dyncorp in Iraq. I mean this guy could have been one of my aviation maintenance guys when I had helicopters there.

You know, the security clearance capability of some of American industry is not quite as good as the American public. And what he did was basically say, you know, he agreed with the bombings in Africa and he wanted to join the Chechen rebels. That's not something that's going to keep him, as Tom will tell you, on an FBI watch list. It is disturbing but companies aren't going to pass that kind of information.

And if they don't, this guy and people like him could end up working for Defense contractors and being even in combat zones that could hurt soldiers and in this case attempt to hurt American citizens.

BLITZER: They got to do a complete post-mortem review to see what happened here and learn some lessons from that.

Stand by. Coming up at the top of the hour, we're going to have more on the breaking news. The death threats against President John F. Kennedy's daughter, who is now serving as the U.S. ambassador to Japan.

But up next, important developments in the investigation of that recent drone crash over at the White House, along with new worries about their potential use as weapons in a terror attack.


[17:52:23] BLITZER: The government employee whose drone crashed on the White House grounds several weeks ago won't face federal charges, even gets to keep his sensitive job. But the embarrassing incident is racing serious new questions about the possibility of small drones being used for terror attacks.

Let's bring in our aviation correspondent Rene Marsh. She's working the story for us -- Rene.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, that White House drone incident, it really highlights the potential threat to national security as more and more drones take to the skies. Tonight, some members of Congress say there's a real concern the federal government is currently unprepared to protect the homeland from rogue drones.


MARSH (voice-over): Tonight, new concerns in Washington that drones could be used to carry out a terrorist attack.

REP. SCOTT PERRY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: A lone wolf or maybe even a group of actors that would use them. We already know that they have discussed planning and surveillance using drones to conduct their operations.

MARSH: On Capitol Hill Wednesday, experts warned, nuclear power plants, military bases and government buildings could all be at risk.

TODD HUMPHREYS, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AUSTIN: Even consumer grade drones can be rigged to carry out potent attacks.

RICHARD BEARY, INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF CHIEFS OF POLICE: The concerns are real. There is nothing to stop the criminal element from purchasing a UAS and using it to cause localized or catastrophic damage.

MARSH: Authorities foiled a 2011 terror plot targeting the Pentagon and the U.S. capitol with a remote controlled plane packed with explosives. In January of this year, a drone crashed onto the White House lawn.

HUMPHREYS: Could be carrying explosives, could be carrying some noxious agent. And here we are with a lot of questions about how to defend the White House and other critical infrastructure from an attack like that.

MARSH: The Secret Service is running drills to figure out how to intercept rogue drones. Around the world, drones continue to breach sensitive areas without being caught. In France, drones were recently reported over at least seven nuclear power plants.

And at a campaign event a drone crash in front of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Here in the U.S. tonight officials say they are unclear who is in charge of protecting the homeland from rogue drones.

PERRY: When you can fly an unmanned aerial vehicle right next to a head of state and nobody knows it's coming, nobody is aware what the intentions are, what might be on board, certainly, that's a national security threat.


MARSH: Well, a government official tells me there is an interagency effort under way to figure out the best defense against rogue drones. But still no clear answer to the question of who is leading this effort? I have asked a few agencies and still don't have a clear answer tonight.

[17:55:06] BLITZER: This is a very disturbing development indeed.

All right, thanks very much, Rene, for that report.

Coming up, a manhunt is under way right now for terrorists attacking a museum and massacring 19 people, most of them Western tourists. Is ISIS opening a new threat?

And death threats are reportedly directed at Caroline Kennedy. She's the daughter of JFK and the U.S. ambassador to Japan.


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Terrorists on the loose. Gunmen storm a museum full of Western tourists, killing at least 19 people and wounding dozens more. Tonight, an international manhunt for at least three heavily armed men, killers on the run.