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THE SITUATION ROOM

Officials: Known Terrorists Among 270+ Prisoners Freed; Battle Lines Forming Over Obama's 'Historic' Deal; Interview With Rep. Eliot Engel of New York; Feds: Philadelphia Woman Tried to Join ISIS; Third U.S. ISIS Arrest in Two Days; More Details from Recovered Black Box of Germanwings Flight 9525; Are Budget Airlines Safe?; North Korea Recruiting Women for "Pleasure Squad". Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 3, 2015 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[17:00:19] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, terror tailspin. Al Qaeda empties a prison, freeing dozens of known terrorists. Are bomb makers among those on the loose, and will Americans be more at risk?

American ISIS. The feds say a woman who calls herself Young Lioness knowingly helped terrorists and even bought an airline ticket to go join them. This makes three terror cases against American women in just two days. What is the attraction?

Intentional acceleration. The newly discovered flight data recorder shows the Germanwings co-pilot sped up his airliner's deadly plunge into a mountainside. What else is the black box revealing?

And pleasure squads. We're picking up reports that North Korea's reclusive leader has decided to carry on a bizarre family tradition, recruiting young women for what's called entertainment.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KEILAR: The breaking news, alarming new developments in the war on terror, including another arrest of a U.S. woman who allegedly bought a ticket to fly from Philadelphia to go join ISIS in Syria.

The feds now have rounded up three U.S. women in two days. This comes just as we're learning more about a prison break where dozens of al Qaeda members apparently got away, including members of a group that's threatened to bomb U.S. airliners. Our CNN correspondents, analysts and experts are working their own sources. They're standing by with the very latest information, and I want to begin with CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Brianna.

In the Middle East today, two Saudi border guards were killed in an exchange of gunfire across the border with Yemen. They believe it was by Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen. This area now becoming a flashpoint that could threaten the U.S. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): Gunfire and unrest continuing in Yemen at the jail where 270 inmates broke out, dozens linked to the terror group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP, the group that has repeatedly attempted to attack U.S. aircraft.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYSTS: While the Houthis and Yemeni forces are fighting each other, no one is paying attention to AQAP. That's why they've been allowed to break into a jail, freeing several hundred of their prisoners.

STARR: A senior U.S. military official tells CNN in the short run, AQAP may be just trying to survive the chaos. But in the long term, the threat may be increasingly tough to detect. Operatives are staying out of sight, using trusted couriers and secure Internet communications links. U.S. commandos are gone from Yemen. There are only communications intercepts and satellites watching overhead.

MARIE HARF, ACTING STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: There's a great amount of concern about what AQAP was able to do in terms of the prison. Fighting remains ongoing on the ground, and the situation is fairly fluid.

STARR: As Yemen unravels, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia back weak government forces who are desperately fighting Iranian-backed Houthi Shia rebels. With the aid of U.S. intelligence, the Saudis are stepping up airstrikes against the rebels, who are trying to move south to the strategic port of Aden.

ADEL AL-JUBEIR, SAUDI AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: We don't have troops, formal Saudi troops in Aden. The issue of using ground troops is always something that is on the table, but the decisions will be made depending on the circumstances and the need.

STARR: In the north, Saudi ground combat forces moving to protect the border with Yemen to stop any incursion. The Saudis making clear they will not allow the Houthis to get more Iranian weapons.

AL-JUBEIR: We have targeted the air force. We have targeted air bases, we have targeted ballistic missiles. We have targeted heavy weapons depots.

STARR: U.S. naval warships on nearby patrol keep watch for any Iranian weapons being smuggled in.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Now if this becomes a full-blown proxy war between the U.S. and Iran, the worry is in the middle will be that al Qaeda group in Yemen free to plot and plan against the United States -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Barbara Starr for us at the Pentagon.

A surprising turn of events in Iran today. The country's president is praising the new nuclear deal with the U.S. and other nations, promising Iran does not lie when it promises to abide by the agreement.

Members of Congress, they are not so sure. The battle lines already are forming for what looks to be a titanic battle over what President Obama is calling an historic deal.

Let's bring in CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta -- Jim.

[17:05:04] JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brianna. When it comes to this nuclear deal with Iran, the White House has no shortage of critics, from Congress to the Middle East.

But White House aides tell us they have just about every top official in this administration reaching out to skeptics, starting with the president, who plans to speak with the top four leaders in Congress by the end of today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Even as he was on the road, President Obama was on the phone, dialing up nervous lawmakers who aren't sold on his nuclear deal with Iran. The president's already tried and failed to convince his biggest critic, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: This deal would pose a grave danger to the region and to the world and would threaten the very survival of the state of Israel.

ACOSTA: Netanyahu made that case to the president in another tense conversation between the two leaders that he's making an historic mistake.

NETANYAHU: The deal would not shut down a single nuclear facility in Iran. The deal would legitimize Iran's nuclear program.

ACOSTA: Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress are raising questions about the administration's talking points on the deal that claim Iran will be required to grant access to international inspectors to investigate suspicious sites anywhere in the country.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: The administration believes that these verifications, these examinations, these basically right to inspect, is going to be sufficient. I have real concerns about that.

ACOSTA: The White House is responding to the skeptics with a full- court press, from the president and vice president on down, pleading with members of Congress to avoid passing legislation as talks with the Iranians continue.

Senate Foreign Relations chairman Bob Corker has a bill that would require congressional approval of the deal, while senators Mark Kirk and Bob Menendez have a measure that would apply tougher sanctions on Iran. That bill's fate is unclear, with Menendez facing federal corruption charges. SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: I'm angry because prosecutors

at the Justice Department don't know the difference between friendship and corruption.

ACOSTA: The White House argues those bills could backfire and drive Iran to pull out of the talks as the U.S. and other world powers try to craft a final nuclear deal by June 30. In that scenario, aides say, the U.S. will get the blame.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Our argument to them is that diplomacy is the best way for us to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: And the argument, that argument will be made to Democrats, but congressional aides tell us that as many as a dozen senators from the president's own party could support the Corker bill that would give Congress a final say on the nuclear deal. That may be enough votes, Brianna, to override a presidential veto. But we'll have to watch it closely -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes. We will be waiting. Jim Acosta, thank you. And we will be watching Sunday at 9 a.m. Eastern when you anchor CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION." See you then.

ACOSTA: That's right. Sounds good.

KEILAR: With us now in THE SITUATION ROOM we have New York Congressman Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congressman, thanks so much for talking with us. I do want to talk to you about Iran but first, I want to ask you about this situation in Yemen. Al Qaeda fighting and managing to release almost 300 prisoners in a coastal city there. Have you been briefed on this situation? Can you share anything with us?

REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D-NY), HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Well, the only thing I can really say is what's really been said. Yemen is terrible. It's certainly been overrun, and the government is destroyed. Iran has played a large role in that. That's what makes some of us a little bit nervous about doing any kind of a deal with Iran, because Iran has been such a bad player in the region and a bad player around the world, supporting Hezbollah and Hamas, so it really all ties in.

KEILAR: Yes. And supporting the Houthis there in Yemen, as well.

ENGEL: Yes. As well.

KEILAR: U.S. officials are calling this situation dire. It was, as you know, just less than a year ago when President Obama cited this as an example of a place where the U.S. counterterrorism strategy had been a success. Can you explain how the U.S. missed this drastic change just over the

last several months? Was this bad intel that the president and other officials were given?

ENGEL: Well, I don't know if it's bad intel. I mean, I just think when you have al Shabaab thugs affiliated with al Qaeda, who have no respect for human life, running around and killing civilians, willy- nilly, killing Christians and doing all kinds of horrific things, I don't know how you could really guard against that. We're facing the same fight in terms of ISIS, as well, and this just seems to be the pattern nowadays. I think to a very large extent, unfortunately in the Middle East, all bets are off. We're seeing unprecedented barbary, and this seems to get worse and worse.

KEILAR: As we're talking about Yemen, though, just because this certainly and definitely understanding what you're saying about terrorists in places all over that region and then the outlying areas of it being a problem.

[17:10:03] But specifically when it comes to Yemen, this was a place where the peace was so -- either it was so fragile and the U.S. was calling it a success, or it missed how fragile the stability was, right?

ENGEL: Look, everything is fragile. In Libya, we helped get rid of Gadhafi, and we thought that was good. We thought the government that was installed would be a Democratic government and now look at Libya. Libya's a no man's land again. This has been happening straight on, unfortunately.

KEILAR: All right. We have many more questions for you, Congressman, but I need to take a quick break.

ENGEL: OK.

KEILAR: We'll be right back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:15:24] KEILAR: We're following multiple breaking stories in the war on terror, including a prison break of known terrorists in Yemen, dozens of them.

Plus the third arrest in two days of Americans who allegedly were trying to help ISIS. All three of the suspects are women, two in New York and one in Pennsylvania.

We're back now with the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Eliot Engel.

Thanks again for being with us. And let's talk sort of locally for you. You represent a district that's just outside of New York City, so it's not really far from where these two women were arrested in Queens, and they were charged with conspiring to build an explosive device. Have you been briefed on this? Is there any new light you can shed on this? ENGEL: Well, part of my district, a large part of my district is in

the Bronx, which is part of New York city, in Westchester, which is just outside of New York city.

Look, it's very disconcerting, you know. You wonder why people would -- what the allure is for people to join these radical terrorist organizations to wreak havoc on average citizens. I mean, New York of all places, where we had the tragedy of September 11, 2001. Who would ever think that anyone living in New York would have any kind of sympathy with terrorism? So it just makes no sense whatsoever.

But again, it shows the fact that they were apprehended, the wonderful job that is being done to get these people before they can do harm to the population.

KEILAR: Yes, certainly, and that's the concern, is that there may be -- that there are so many instances. Are law enforcement officials able to get all of them.

I want to turn now -- I want to talk to you about the Iran deal, this nuclear framework that Iran and six other nations have come to agreement on. What's your reaction to this framework?

ENGEL: Well, we're not going to know all of the details until June 30, so it's very difficult until we know all the details to really comment on it. But there are some questions. I mean, there are obviously some good things out of this deal. The fact that Iran has to reduce its centrifuges by two-thirds. That's certainly something that's good. There's going to be inspections for 25 years involving their uranium, their mills and their mines. That's certainly good.

The fact that Iran right now is only two months away from breakout and having a nuclear bomb. This would push it back to a year. So there are some good things. But there are also some unanswered questions.

Iran continues to be a bad player in the region. Bad player, we talked before about Yemen. Iran has been giving aid to the terrorists in Yemen. Iran, again, supports terrorists like Hamas and Hezbollah. They support the Assad regime, which is killing its own people. They're really just bad players in the region. So it's troublesome.

The question really boils down to can you trust the Iranians? Is this deal, not a perfect deal, better than any alternative? An alternative would probably mean sanctions and bombing strikes. So we're really dealing at a point where there's really no good deals here, because unfortunately, we let Iran get to the point where they are two months away from breakout. If this had been eight or ten years ago, it would have been easier.

KEILAR: If this does -- if this does push two months back to one year, and you're highlighting the idea of less centrifuges, less high- tech centrifuges, less uranium, I guess there's an open question about what kind of inspections will they be spot inspections, surprise inspections. What specifically do you need to see in terms of those unanswered questions to know that this is something that you could support? ENGEL: Well, you know, when the negotiations started, I thought we

made a mistake by not saying to Iran while we're talking, while we're negotiating, "You stop enriching." We didn't do that.

So Iran continued to enrich all throughout the discussions, and so if that was the case, whoever would think that at the end when you came to a final deal, that Iran would agree not to enrich?

So it's really just a balance, and we're really going to have to see which -- which is better. It's very complicated, because again, Iran, they keep yelling death to America, death to Israel. This is not something that we want to hear from someone that we are partnering with to have -- to have an agreement. It's very, very troubling.

We do know that the Senate could here in a few weeks take up this bill that would give Congress a say, would give the Senate a vote on any sort of agreement that is reached.

[17:20:08] Would you vote, perhaps, for something like that? Would you vote for more sanctions? What do you want to see?

ENGEL: Well, I think Congress has to -- has to be involved in this. I just don't think this is something that the executive branch should decide on its own. We have a robust Congress. We have a Congress, this House of Representatives and a Senate, and I think there needs to be an assent by the Congress. How that assent takes its form again will be up to discussion.

Congress imposed sanctions on Iran. Only Congress can lift those sanctions. And I think there has to be some kind of an assent with this deal. This deal is too important for Congress to play no major role in it.

KEILAR: Are you -- are you OK with putting sanctions on hold for now for the next few months?

ENGEL: Well, I'm going to listen and see, and I think it makes sense to see what happens between now and the end of June. But I'm still undecided about all these things. I think we have to -- there are many, many unanswered questions, and we're going to have to see how that plays out.

The IAEA, the atomic control agency, gave Iran a set of 12 questions of which they've only answered half of one. I think Iran needs to be much more forthcoming before many of us are comfortable with this deal. But you know, again, a lot of people worked very hard on this deal, and my hat's off to the -- our negotiators who did their best.

KEILAR: All right. Congressman Eliot Engel, thank you so much for being with us in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And coming up, the alarming string of arrests of American women accused of wanting to be jihadists. What is this appeal here?

Also, as alarming details come out about the co-pilot blamed for crashing his plane, travelers are asking if budget airlines are safe. We have some answers coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:26:27] KEILAR: Breaking news today. Authorities charged a Philadelphia woman who allegedly bought an airline ticket to fly to Syria and join ISIS. The suspect went by the name Young Lioness. Court papers allege one of her many tweets supporting jihad says, "if we truly knew the realities, we all would be rushing to join our brothers in the front lines and pray Allah accept us as martyrs."

This comes just a day after two New York women were charged in an alleged ISIS-inspired terrorist bomb plot.

CNN national correspondent Jason Carroll is covering the latest arrest. Three in two days. This is a lot, Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Seems like all we're doing is talking about criminal complaints these days. We start out with this one in Philadelphia.

As you say, she went by the name the Young Lioness. Her real name is Kiana Thomas. She's 30 years old, a U.S. citizen from Philadelphia. According to the criminal complaint, she's accused of attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization.

Let me read just one quote here that spells it out. It says that Thomas attempted to travel overseas in order to join, fight with and martyr herself on behalf of ISIL.

Federal authorities say as far back as 2013, she began tweeting jihadist comments on Twitter. Also back in 2013, Brianna, she allegedly sent an electronic communication to a known Somali terrorist. Also, several times last year, again, according to the complaint, she communicated several times with another known terrorist. That one happened to be in Syria.

Federal authorities then began looking at her travel plans. She got a visa to go to Turkey. She then just recently bought a ticket to travel to Barcelona, Spain. That's when they moved in and made the arrest.

The plan here seems to be not as specific as the one that we saw with the two women arrested in New York City yesterday, but serious still, nonetheless.

KEILAR: Tell us about those two women who were arrested in the Bronx. It seems like people who knew them were surprised, utterly surprised that they were in trouble for allegedly doing this.

CARROLL: Well, shocked, in fact. As you know, CNN spoke to several of the neighbors of both of these women: Noelle Velentzas, 28 years old, married, mother of a young daughter in elementary school; and her friend, Asia Siddiqui, 31 years old.

Also Velentzas's husband, he was just as shocked as their neighbors, Brianna. In fact, he is speaking out about what happened. He said he was stunned when authorities showed up and made the arrest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABU BAKR, HUSBAND OF NOELLE VELENTZAS: I'm surprised, just like it was a knock at the door and everything changed. I didn't see anything like this happening, didn't see anything like this coming. Just right now, lost for words.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARROLL: Loss for words. Both Velentzas and Siddiqui, both of them from Queens, New York, both of them roommates, they are charged with trying to conspire to use a weapon of mass destruction.

We should also point out, Brianna, that Siddiqui's attorney came out and says that his client is not guilty. He says that, when we pressed him for more information about his client and the case, he made it clear that he wasn't going to try it in front of the press, that he was going to try it in the courtroom -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Jason Carroll, thank you so much.

With us now in THE SITUATION ROOM we have CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen; CNN counterterrorism analyst and former CIA counterterrorism official, Philip Mudd; and CNN intelligence and security analyst and former CIA operative, Bob Baer.

[17:30:00] So this is the question, Phil. We see three women in two days. What is the allure here? Some people might think that this is nuts that they would want to make this trek, whether it's to Syria or that they would want to do something at home inspired by ISIS.

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Look, this game has changed so much since I was at the threat table at the agency in 2001- 2002. Back then, we were chasing a relatively small terrorist group that didn't own space. They didn't own geography. They were focused on the 9/11 attacks. Fast forward to 2015, you have a group ISIS that owns geography. They're not focused only on terror attacks, they're focused on building a society, a culture. And you need women for that culture.

There's another major change. We never talked about social media in 2001-2002. We talked about guys in the tribal areas of Pakistan who were the 9/11 architects. Social media enables people to participate in the al Qaeda movement, women in Philadelphia, women in New York, in ways that we couldn't have even anticipated just a decade plus ago. So big changes.

KEILAR: So there is some allure, there has to be, in order for women to want to travel or to do something on behalf of ISIS. What is that allure?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, they are buying the claim that a perfect Islamic society is being created in Syria and they are buying that claim as Phil says through social media and it's a claim that, you know, Dabiq magazine, which is ISIS' sort of in- flight magazine, it's in English, we've just seen issue number eight. They are putting out a huge amount of material in English explaining this to the people that might be interested.

And it's interesting in Jason's comments about the woman from Philadelphia. She tried to fly to Barcelona. Well, ISIS is now advising people not to fly to Turkey which is next door to Syria, to fly to other places, and then buy another ticket so you are less likely to be -- if you buy a ticket for Turkey now, it's a real signal.

KEILAR: From the U.S.

BERGEN: From the U.S. It's a real signal.

KEILAR: Pretty obvious.

BERGEN: So people are going to pay a lot of attention. So all of this is in English. It's very easily accessible. Anybody watching this show can find this stuff.

KEILAR: Yes. That's amazing.

OK, so, Bob, you know, it does seem like every day you've got someone who is being arrested with similar charges. When you think of that, I mean, just over the last two days what we've seen, especially this idea of a plot here in the U.S., what are the chances that one slips through the cracks?

ROBERT BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Oh, Brianna, I think it's very good. I mean, you look at all of these arrests and these people have gone up in social media. It's flagged to the FBI, then it's a matter of getting into the data bases and watching them to see if they go out and buy some sort of arms or improvised explosives. So we're pretty much -- and the FBI will admit this getting the low-hanging fruit.

It's the clever one who doesn't go up on social media, doesn't travel to Turkey, decides that he can identify with the Islamic State and goes out and makes an improvised device sort of like the Oklahoma City bombing where they went out and practiced and they knew what they were doing. That is what's got the FBI scared and rightfully so.

KEILAR: Yes. Or in the case of -- the same case of the women in Queens versus, say, this woman who is making moves, saying things on Twitter, making contacts with terrorists overseas. You used to sit, you mentioned, in these threat assessment meetings. How much has that changed and how much in a meeting of these government threat assessment meetings do you have officials worried about people like these women in Queens or maybe even proposing things like keeping an eye on bomb making materials or tracing pressure cookers or something?

MUDD: Boy, this story, let's book end this. Let's go back to the beginnings and let's fast forward to today. When we started this, we're focused on al Qaeda guys who sent mostly Saudis to the United States to conduct attacks. Later in 2003-2004, for example, they are attacking in places like Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. Today, reverse it. We have people in the United States not being sent by al Qaeda, but instead saying, I'd like to join, I'm in Queens, I don't really know that much about the organization, but I'd like to participate.

Fundamentally different. A 180 from what we faced 15 years ago.

KEILAR: These are the biggest threats, you think?

BERGEN: Well, I mean, the question is the scale of the threat. Look, I mean, 9/11 involved 19 hijackers, a huge infrastructure, and they did this very big attack. I mean, lone wolves, there's a natural ceiling to what they can do. I mean, we saw in Boston two lone wolves, brothers, kill four people. It was a great tragedy for Boston and for the nation but it wasn't a national catastrophe like 9/11.

So we've managed the scale of the threat. If lone wolves is the only threat we have, really right now in the states, it's a relatively small threat. One person can do damage but it's a very limited form of damage compared to a massive organization like al Qaeda at 9/11.

KEILAR: Yes. Peter, Phil, Bob, thanks so much to all of you.

And coming up, after the devastating Germanwings crash, there are new concerns tonight about budget carriers. Are they compromising your safety to save money?

And North Korea's young leader is said to be recruiting young women for, quote, "entertainment." We have a kind of disturbing report ahead.

[17:35:03]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: We are getting new information from the second black box recovered from the Germanwings crash site. Investigators say the co- pilot changed the speed of the plane multiple times in those final moments.

CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown Is in Dusseldorf with the latest on the investigation.

What are you learning, Pamela?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, this is disturbing new details coming from that flight data recorder that was just uncovered. Investigators say that this shows that Andreas Lubitz changed the driver setting multiple times to increase the speed of that airplane as it headed toward the French alps.

[17:40:09] It also said in this first reading that he changed the autopilot to engage the airplane Investigators say that this shows that Andreas Lubitz changed the driver setting multiple times to increase the speed of that airplane as it headed toward the French Alps. It also says in this first reading that he changed the autopilot to engage the airplane down to 100 feet and that he also tried to deactivate the alarms on the plane. We've been speaking to aviation experts about this and they say that

the passengers likely in those final moments would have known that the plane was speeding up and that obviously it was descending, and what this new data does, Brianna, is it bolsters investigators' belief that this was a deliberate act, that this was voluntary and premeditated.

KEILAR: All right, Pamela Brown for us there in Germany, certainly very alarming.

And there are some new concerns tonight about so-called budget airlines like Germanwings and whether in the wake of disasters like this crash, they are as safe to fly.

This is what CNN aviation correspondent Rene Marsh has been looking at.

What have you found?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, Germanwings Flight 9525's co-pilot Andreas Lubitz set the plane on a deadly collision course the moment his captain left the cockpit for a bathroom break. The captain told Lubitz he didn't have time to go before takeoff. Now some have said a prime example of the enormous pressure some budget airlines pilots are under to stay on tight landing and takeoff schedules. The crash now fueling a debate about whether budget carriers are safe to fly.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH (voice-over): Until the Germanwings deadly crash, the low cost carrier had a spotless safety record but now the incident is drawing scrutiny about how safe budget carriers are.

AMY FRAHER, AUTHOR, "THE NEXT CRASH": Pilots are often asked to fly more while being paid less, which increases stress in their lives.

MARSH: While investigators are focusing on medical issues and not pilot pay or experience, critics believe the cost-cutting airline culture could have deadly consequences.

FRAHER: These kinds of things cumulatively have added up to create a situation where pilots are basically distracted, they are having labor disputes with management.

MARSH: Commercial airline pilot James Schilling says low cost does not mean low safety.

JAMES SCHILLING, COMMERCIAL AIRLINE PILOT: Low cost carriers do make their living at trying to keep the tickets as low as they can. But everybody, whether you're a low cost carrier or one of the international major airlines, you have a minimum standard that you have to meet.

MARSH: Low-cost carriers like RyanAir, Easy Jet, JetBlue, Spirit and Southwest Airlines, have good safety records with no fatal accidents. FRAHER: They don't look at near-miss accidents. They don't look at

the kind of accidents that potentially could occur, the statistical studies have limitations.

MARSH: Some argue it's not who you fly but where you fly. Africa had the worst safety record. For every one million flights, 6.83 had a catastrophic end. Experts blame weak government safety regulations. In the U.S., only .20 ended with a crash.

SCHILLING: There are places throughout the world where safety and security is not as good as it is here in the United States.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH: Well, Analysts say these carriers are able to keep prices low by charging flyers for everything from baggage to seat choice to priority boarding. The low cost carriers themselves say their safety record proves they do not cut corners on safety -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Rene Marsh, thanks for that report.

I want to dig deeper now. We have David Soucie, former FAA safety inspector and our CNN safety analyst, as well as Tom Fuentes, former assistant director of the FBI and our CNN law enforcement analyst.

We are also joined by Kit Darby, he's a retired United Airlines captain, and Reichen Lehmkuhl, a former U.S. Air Force captain.

Kit, to you first. I don't mean to make this sound trivial by any means, but this idea that this may have come down to this bathroom break in a way, that this was why the pilot left, I mean, it seems to common -- stand to common sense, you'd think someone would go to the bathroom before takeoff. It's what passengers do. But when you are looking at perhaps the tight schedules of budget airlines, is that something that may have factored into this?

KIT DARBY, FORMER UNITED AIRLINES CAPTAIN: Well, the bathroom break is obviously very important but it -- you know, having flown for many years, his explanation of it makes perfect sense. I mean, there are times when things come up and you simply don't have the time to go. Normally it would be perfectly permissible to do it at altitude.

The difference here might be that in Europe there would be only one pilot in the cockpit. Here in the U.S. there would have been a flight attendant and many people say well, a flight attendant, what could she do? Well, one thing she could do is open the door and all of us tend to behave better in the presence of others. So I do think it's an important step that was missing in the European procedures.

KEILAR: Is having that -- what do you think about that, David, having that extra body in the cockpit, you think that needs to change to be more in line with U.S. carriers?

[17:45:03] DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Yes, absolutely. And (INAUDIBLE) has already taken steps to do that, which is really the first time they've done that to take something before an accident investigation is completed without waiting for the results, and yet making a regulatory change or mandate right away, that's very -- it's unprecedented and it's something that had to be done right away, though.

KEILAR: Right. And you have the U.S. already having this rule in effect that you have to have two people in the cockpit, whether it is the two pilots. If a pilot comes out, someone else goes in there. And, you know, you also have different rules about rest time, for instance.

Do you think that American carriers are safer?

REICHEN LEHMKUHL, FORMER U.S. AIR FORCE PILOT: You know, Brianna, I actually do believe American carriers are safer. And this goes along with -- I have spent most of my commercial pilot experience instructing commercial pilots and you know, we really hammer down how important it is and how much safer they are as pilots when they have proper crew rest and when they follow these procedures like we have here in the U.S. for having two crew members in the cockpit.

So we were talking earlier about or in your clip, you were talking about minimum standards for U.S. carriers, and I know just from teaching it that our minimum standards are super, super high. So yes, I do feel safer when I'm flying on an American carrier.

KEILAR: Tom, I want to ask you about these revelations. We're learning from the information that we got from the second black box like this one here that the pilot sped up that rate of descent right before the crash. What does that tell us in terms of what are investigators reading that as?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Brianna, my speculation is that he was doing research into how strong the cockpit doors really are and he may have had some doubts about how strong they are and when the captain was trying to break it down and re-enter, he may have thought I'd better hurry up and crash this thing, that he might get in and stop me.

KEILAR: OK. And Reichen, I want to ask you about kind of looking historically at this, you handled a case for a similar crash in Mozambique. The pilot locked out his co-pilot out of the cockpit, took down the plane. Ultimately, when you look at that case, when you look at this one, does the fault rest with the airlines for letting people, pilots like this through the screening process?

LEHMKUHL: Yes, I'm still litigating or working on litigating this case through the law firm at Girardi and Keese in Los Angeles. And it's almost an identical situation except you switch the pilot and the co-pilot. We had the co-pilot in the bathroom and then banging on the door while the pilot took the plane down on this Mozambican airline in Africa.

To answer your question, under the Montreal Convention, which is the rules of international flight which both of these flights were, it's always the airline's fault. You know, the airline is actually held liable even if there's a terrorist act on the flight. So in the wake of the fact that it's probably nearly impossible to have prevented what just happened here on the Germanwings crash, the airline is the one who is going to be responsible.

KEILAR: All right. Reichen, thank you so much. David, thanks for being with us. Kit as well and Tom, thank you very much for being on the panel today.

Coming up, North Korea's volatile young leader is said to be recruiting young women for a pleasure squad. We'll have details on that next.

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[17:53:01] KEILAR: Some disturbing news out of North Korea tonight. The country's young leader is allegedly now recruiting women for what are called, quote, "pleasure squads." This report comes as the nuclear armed power fired four missiles off its west coast in provocative show of force.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty has been monitoring all of these developments. Very different developments. This is a bizarre story -- Sunlen.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It sure is. And this the ninth time, Brianna, just this month that North Korea has tested these missiles. But some see this as especially antagonistic given that the secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, will be in South Korea next week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SERFATY (voice-over): With tensions already high as the U.S. and South Korea conduct military drills, more saber rattling towards the West. Today North Korea test firing four short-range missiles traveling 84 miles before plunging into the sea. A Pentagon official saying, quote, "We urge North Korea to refrain from provocative actions that aggravate tensions, instead focus on fulfilling its international obligations and commitments."

Meanwhile, the North Korean leader is setting his sights on his personal indulgence. Kim Jong-Un is now reinstituting so-called pleasure squad. According to Chosun Ilbo, a pro-North Korean newspaper, a tradition enjoyed by his father and his grandfather, employing a group of young female companions, handpicked based on good looks and measurements, to be at their disposal right by their side for personal entertainment whether by synchronized swimming or just a shower of affection.

GREG SCARLATOIU, COMMITTEE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN NORTH KOREA: Kim Jung- Il died in December 2011, there is a mandatory period of mourning. So it is possible that the son refrained for these practices in observance of those compulsory three years of mourning. Now that he is out of that period, he may be in the process of resuscitating these joy brigades.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SERFATY: And next month Kim Jong-Un will take his first trip outside the country as the leader. He is due to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Russia. But his pleasure squad, Brianna, will not travel with him.

[17:55:15] KEILAR: Will not travel with him. All right. Thanks for clearing that up, Sunlen Serfaty. Very interesting report. Thank you.

And coming up, known terrorists broken out of prison on the loose. This includes members of a group that wants to sneak bombs onto U.S. airliners.

Plus Iran's president promises to abide by the new nuclear deal but can the U.S. trust Iran?

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