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Feds: Six Americans Tried to Join ISIS in Syria; U.S. Warships Move Closer to Yemen; Interview with Sen. John McCain; North Korea Threatens U.S. Ambassador. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 20, 2015 - 17:00   ET


[17:00:12] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: ISIS recruiting. It's happening here in America, and federal prosecutors say six more Americans have been charged with trying to reach Syria to join the terror group. That brings the total in recent months to nearly 30. Why isn't the U.S. doing more to stop it?

Security sweep. After a series of high profile insider incidents, the TSA steps up security screening for airport and airline workers. How safe is your flight?

Killed in custody? Another suspect dies after an arrest. But police say that arrest was made without incident and without the use of force. So how and why was the suspect's neck broken?

And ambassador threatened. After praising the recent slashing attack on the U.S. envoy to South Korea, North Korea warns that if he, quote, "doesn't watch himself he might have to deal with something far worse."

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

We begin this hour with stunning new signs that ISIS recruiting efforts are taking hold inside America. Six more U.S. citizens have now been arrested and charged with supporting terrorism. Federal prosecutors say the young men, all from Minnesota, tried every means possible to travel to Syria and join ISIS. That makes more than two dozen such arrests this year so far. And what makes the latest case especially ominous, and officials say the recruiting is taking place among circles of friends and family.

And breaking this hour, Baltimore police release new video of an incident that sparked outrage. The arrest of a suspect who later slipped into a coma and died, his spine nearly severed. We have the latest on that investigation and the accusations.

And I'll speak live this hour with Senator John McCain. There he is. He's chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and our correspondents and analyst and guests, they're all standing by with full coverage.

But we begin with American terror arrests. Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown has the very latest -- Pamela. PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, officials I've speaking with say this is a significant case today. Minnesota authorities say the men knew they were on the FBI's radar over the past year, but despite that would not give up their goal of fighting with ISIS in Syria.

Officials say the six young Somali men, Americans, were part of a large group of friends and relatives, and today they appeared in federal court in both Minnesota and San Diego on material support to terrorist charges.

Now, according to the criminal complaint we've been looking at, over the past year, the men repeatedly tried to get to Syria and most recently concocted a plan to go from Minnesota to San Diego, cross the border into Mexico and then onto Syria, all with the help of another young Somali man by the name of Abdi Nur, who the FBI says successfully made it to Syria and then tried to recruit his friends to come, the FBI saying he got there in 2014.

Also the FBI says it has been keeping an eye on these men over the last several months, and that it even enlisted the help of one of the friends in the group, who turned against them and then began secretly recording them. The FBI says that undercover informant was key in making these arrests. Here is what the U.S. attorney in Minnesota had to say about that.


ANDREW LUGER, U.S. ATTORNEY FOR MINNESOTA: One friend in this group decided to leave, and to cooperate with the FBI. That cooperating witness agreed to record meetings of the co-conspirators, and some of the information gathered through these conversations is set forth in the complaint.


BROWN: And according to the complaint he alluded to there, one of the men told the undercover informant, "The American identity is dead. Even if I get caught, I'm through with America. Burn my I.D."

Authorities made it clear today that the men's overarching goal was to make it to Syria, not launch an attack on the homeland. And to put this into perspective, Wolf, since January authorities have made at least 26 ISIS-related arrests, and I am told by officials there are more to come.

BLITZER: I'm sure there are. All right. Thanks very much, Pamela, for that report.

Let's bring in our justice reporter, Evan Perez. Evan, as Pamela just noted, 26 ISIS-related arrests in America. These are just the latest. More on the way. What are you hearing?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this case represents the best look that the FBI has gotten so far into the way ISIS is recruiting Americans, and other westerners. Until this case, we've had a lot of people who have been self-directed. People who are getting recruited on the Internet. People who are just sitting at home, looking at propaganda videos.

In this case, they're talking about peer-to-peer recruitment by friends and people who are family members, taking them, or trying to bring them overseas to Syria to join ISIS. And that's a big, big break for the FBI.

BLITZER: And you're also learning about new U.S. potential airport security risks. What are you hearing?

[17:05:05] PEREZ: Well, Wolf, Jeh Johnson, the secretary of homeland security, put out some new regulations today to guide the TSA to help them put a -- get a handle on how to secure behind the scenes of the airports, and this is really in response to an incident in December where, in New York the D.A. announced that there were a couple of former and current Delta Airlines employees who were smuggling guns from Atlanta Hartsfield Airport to New York.

Now under these new regulations, the TSA is going to try to do fingerprint criminal history records on everybody who has access behind the scenes at airports, Wolf, and they're going to make sure that the TSA screens all airline employees, no matter who they are before they go through every checkpoint, Wolf.

BLITZER: Evan Perez, thanks very much. Pamela Brown, thanks to you, as well.

As the Saudi-led coalition steps up airstrikes on Iranian-backed Sunni rebels in Yemen, the United States is stepping up its own involvement. The aircraft career USS Theodore Roosevelt and other American warships. They are now moving closer and closer to the waters off the shores of Yemen, prepared to intercept any Iranian armed shipments to the Shiite rebels.

Let's get the very latest. Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, has that -- Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, these are interesting movements now. Today you have nine U.S. Navy warships in and around the coat of Yemen, here in the southern Red Sea, along this strait here, as you get into the Arabian Sea, as well, and the most recent additions, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, as well as the guided-missile cruiser, the USS Normandy, which had been up here in the Arabian Gulf, taking part in Operation Inherent Resolve. That, of course, the operation, the air campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq up here.

So they were taken out of that theater, around here to be in position off the coast of Yemen.

So why are they there now? The truth is, it's a number of missions. One, is to keep these straits open. This is a very important trade route. You've got the Suez Canal up here. They've got to keep that safe. This is a choke point here. They could be worried about that closing off. Two, give the president military options inside Yemen, if he were to decide to strike there. Remember, we've closed the embassy there. Taken U.S. Special Forces off the ground there, as AQAP, the Houthi rebels have taken over territory. You have an aircraft carrier off here. You now have military options, cruise missiles, airstrikes et cetera.

But another mission here is to monitor the possibility of Iranian warships or vessels coming from Iran, Iranian trade vessels or other flagships, carrying weapons from Iran to the Houthi rebels here.

Remember, keep in mind, the U.S. and Iran, though we're having these nuclear negotiations, are on opposite sides of the war here. You have Iran supplying weapons to the Houthi rebels. You have the U.S. supporting the Saudi-led air campaign against those rebels, and now you have the U.S. in position to monitor those ships.

Keep in mind, the U.S. does not have permission or authority to board Iranian flagships, but they could monitor them, the possibility of intercepting them, as more arms go that way.

Very sensitive subject in light of those nuclear negotiations, but all these ships now, nine of them in position to give the president more options.

BLITZER: More options indeed. All right. Thanks very much, Jim Sciutto, for that report.

Let's get some more now. Joining us, Senator McCain. He's the Arizona Republican. He's the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Senator, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: You just heard Jim Sciutto report the U.S. Navy -- you're familiar with the U.S. Navy, increasing its presence. The aircraft carrier battle group, the Theodore Roosevelt moving closer to Yemen, potentially to intercept warships, that the Iranians are sending some warships to that area to bolster the Houthi Shiite rebels. What's your analysis? What's your response to this latest development? It sounds pretty ominous.

MCCAIN: Well, it is a bit ominous, whenever you have ships at sea that have opposite objectives. Then the Iranians have been steady suppliers of the Houthis, usually by sea.

I've seen a dial (ph) that was huge, that carried a lot of weapons, that the Iranians carried the weapons also, and they provided training. There's no doubt that the Houthis are the -- are the vassals of the Iranians. So that is a very serious, serious situation.

Another situation here, I think, Wolf, that we have to worry about is, I'm not sure that airstrikes alone from Saudi Arabia will be enough to break the advance of Houthis.

And, of course, because of this upheaval and chaos, al Qaeda has stepped into it, and they're gaining traction, as well.

So this is an incredibly serious situation. As you mentioned earlier, the position of Yemen, and look across those straits in Somalia. There's a possibility or a scenario that one of the world's busiest waterways could be impeded or even closed. That's a worst-case scenario. I don't think it's going to happen, but I think it's something we need to be concerned about.

[17:10:02] BLITZER: Because in the statement, the Pentagon said they're moving the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the aircraft carrier, the battle group, the guided missile cruiser, USS Normandy, ships I'm sure you're familiar with, in part to ensure the vital shipping lanes in the region, that they remain open and safe.

But here's the question: would you support U.S. air power from that aircraft carrier to be used to help the Saudis deal with these airstrikes in Yemen?

MCCAIN: I would, as I'd have to have forward air controllers on the ground. And it would have to be a -- an assessment that there was no other option, because it is a very serious escalatory step, as you know.

And as much as I love air power, air power alone is not the decisive factor in these -- in a conflict. So you'd have to say, if you're going to use U.S. air power, what else is going to happen in order to make sure you're able to stop the Houthis and now al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula?

BLITZER: Because AQAP, which arguably, may be the biggest terror threat to the U.S., they have really intensified. They've grown in the last few weeks in the midst of this chaos. The failure of this so-called state in Yemen right now.

MCCAIN: Yes, and will continue to have this kind of environment be the most conducive to their expansion, and their success.

But, again, it was very obvious to many of us that this did not have to have happened. We did not take care of the -- of the regime that was in place, the president that was there, and it is a symptom of our failure throughout the Middle East.

BLITZER: Well, let's talk about some of those failures. One of the great failures, obviously, being in Libya right now. I want to ask you about this new ISIS video showing another mass killing, beheadings, people shot in the head, Ethiopian Christians in Libya. This is the second ISIS video purporting to show a mass killing of Christians by ISIS. Remember, the Egyptian Christians who were beheaded in Libya, only a few weeks ago.

What's going on over there? Because we know, when the U.S. got rid of Gadhafi, together with the Europeans and the Italians and others, I know you supported that operation. There was great hope that Libya was going to emerge in a different Democratic state, part of the Arab Spring. It's turned out to be a total disaster.

MCCAIN: It certainly has. And I can tell you that, at the end of World War II when we defeated the Germans, if we had just taken all our marbles and gone home and done nothing, there's a possibility that Europe would certainly not be what it is today.

When, after Gadhafi was removed, and by the way, he was removed without a single loss of a single American, airplane or person. Lindsey Graham, Joe Lieberman and I begged them -- we begged them -- to help with securing the weapons, to a civil society, assistance to the wounded. They had 30,000 wounded and nobody to take care of them. We begged them to do the right thing, and that was help these people restore democracy.

It didn't have to happen, Wolf. It was, we just basically left, left them alone. Another manifestation of leading from behind, and this could have been avoided. We could have restored a functioning government in Libya.

BLITZER: So when we see what's going on in Libya now, we see thousands of people fleeing. We saw what happened over the weekend. These people apparently drowned, because their ship capsized. Several hundred if not 1,000 people.

Here is the question: what responsibility does the United States have now to deal with this humanitarian crisis in Libya, given the fact that the U.S. was so involved in getting rid of the previous regime of Gadhafi?

MCCAIN: We have to obviously do everything we can to assist on the humanitarian side. There's boats that are coming out, hundreds of people being killed.

Frankly, I think containment now of what's happening in Libya, because it's spreading not only to the east, but also to the south, and we need to assist other countries in the region to try and stabilize the situation there.

I would not send American troops into Libya. I'd have to have a plan. I'd have to have a strategy, of which there's none anywhere in the Middle East, by the way, especially Syria. But I would encourage other countries, especially Egypt, to try to get involved in trying to restore some kind of sanity and stability there, because if the ISIS takes over, then you're going to have another enemy, another hotbed of radicalism that is intent on attacking the United States of America.

BLITZER: Was it a mistake to get rid of Gadhafi?

MCCAIN: Of course not. The people rose up. People seem to forget that the Libyan people rose up against this guy. He was at the gates of Benghazi with armored tanks and artillery and was going to kill thousands of people. We took him out with air power, without a single American boot on the ground.

[17:15:10] It's what happened afterwards that there was a period of time where -- these are moderate people. They wanted the kind of democracy we have. We just walked away. It's called leading from behind.

BLITZER: Senator, we're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about, including what's going on in Iraq right now and this dispute. I know you're very disappointed in the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Dempsey. We're going to talk about what he said last week, your response. Much more when we come back.

MCCAIN: Thank you.


[17:20:11] BLITZER: Our top story, six Americans have now been charged with trying to reach Syria to join ISIS. That comes as the terror group is on the move once again, gaining ground in various parts of Iraq.

We're back with the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona.

The Pentagon just released a statement, the combined joint task force issued a statement saying Iraqi security forces, Senator, have regained what they call full control of the Baiji oil refinery. That ISIS militants have been disbursed from that area. That's certainly not the case in Ramadi, the largest city in the Anbar province, about 70 miles from Baghdad.

I want you to listen, and I know you've heard this before, I want a reminder of yours -- what the chairman of the joint chiefs, General Martin Dempsey said the other day about the fight for Ramadi.


GENERAL MARTIN DEMPSEY, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS: The issue is not -- it's not brick and mortar; it's about defeating ISIL. So as I said, you know, I would much rather that Ramadi not fall, but it won't be the end of a campaign, should it fall. We've got to get it back.


BLITZER: All right. I know you're angry and upset with his comments. Give us your reaction. Do you have confidence in General Dempsey? Should he stay on as chairman of the joint chiefs?

MCCAIN: He's got several more months. But Wolf, I wish you had played the part -- maybe even post can key it up -- where he said it's not symbolically important and not part of the caliphate. That's where I -- I take strong exception to what he had to say. He said it's not symbolic, and it's not part of the caliphate.

Well, Wolf, between May of 2006 and March 2007, we lost 186 service members killed, 1,150 wounded one of them being Michael Monsoor, who is a Medal of Honor winner, and the -- and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff is saying it's not symbolically important?

What do you tell the families of those people who were killed and wounded? That it's OK? Basically, it's not important that -- that the capital of the Sunni Anbar province has been taken over by ISIS?

And by the way it is the Sunni that have to be part of this fight against ISIS if we ever expect to defeat them.

BLITZER: He was saying that the Baiji oil refinery, basically one of the largest, if not the largest, is more important strategically than Ramadi. That was the point I think he was trying to make. When I heard that my ears perked up, as well.

MCCAIN: Does it mean that we have to spend all our -- we have only the assets to defend the oil refinery, and not worry about the capital of Anbar province, if it falls to ISIS? What effect do you think that has on the Sunni population that we allow their capital to fall, and that a refinery is more important?

In some ways you might make that argument, but what do you think it does to the desire of the Sunni, who we have to have to fight against ISIS, when they are portrayed by the top military leader in the United States as of secondary importance? And what does this mean when the chairman says, "Not part of the caliphate?" Does that mean he recognizes a caliphate? I certainly don't.

BLITZER: Let me move to an issue closer at home right now, Senator. While I have the confirmation of President Obama's nominee to become the next attorney general to replace Eric Holder, Loretta Lynch. Senator Corker of Tennessee told CNN yesterday the Senate will vote soon, maybe in the next few days, on Loretta Lynch's confirmation. He expected it to take place in the next few days. Do you have any idea when you guys will finally have a vote on her nomination?

BLITZER: I think it's going to be fairly soon, because the holdup was this human-trafficking bill, which the Democrats were not allowing us to have a final vote on. So I think it's going to probably be soon, and I will oppose it. And I will oppose it, because she supports the unconstitutional executive orders that the president of the United States has issued on immigration.

And the president of the United States himself, 22 times, said those executive orders would be unconstitutional. I can't support someone who is -- who is supporting an unconstitutional act on the part of the United States president.

BLITZER: But you have to admit, though, you wouldn't expect the president to nominate someone as his chief law enforcement officer, the attorney general of the United States, who disagrees with him on a sensitive legal issue like that?

MCCAIN: Well, I would also expect someone who comes in confirmation before the United States Senate to give their actual views on issues, not what their boss's views are and not the person they're going to work for but their own views. I demand that in the Senate Armed Services Committee, and the committee in the Senate demands it; and the American people demand it.

And unfortunately, this nominee has decided to say that she will enforce constitutional executive orders. I can't vote for someone like that.

[17:25:11] BLITZER: Which is -- which is fair enough, because you have a right to either confirm or not confirm. But the fact that it's almost six months that you guys have not been able to vote on the Senate floor, is this some form of payback by Republicans, because Democrats pushed through a whole bunch of nominees for judicial cabinet appointments when they were in power?

MCCAIN: I think in this particular case, no. Just as in my view the secretary of defense, Ash Carter, I expedited as quickly as possible.

But I also told them, when they did the nuclear option and I didn't have my rights of advise and consent, that I wasn't going to be in any hurry to confirm nominees that are not very important through the Department of Defense.

And I'm not ashamed or embarrassed of saying that, because they jammed through people that I didn't have a chance to debate or even seriously mount any -- any obstacle to their confirmation. It was railroaded through, in violation of all previous custom of the Senate, which I had defended with Republicans in the majority a couple of times.

BLITZER: I know you're chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee. Right now you've got a lot of nominees before you, so are you suggesting you're deliberately holding up some of those confirmations?

MCCAIN: I am suggesting that I told them that, if they were going to jam these people through without my right of advise and consent, that it would be a while before they are going to be confirmed or move through the Senate Armed Services Committee. That's not a threat. That's not blackmail. That's just what I told them that I would do if they violated my rights and my obligations to represent the people of Arizona in the United States Senate, which they did.

BLITZER: That's clearly what you did. One final question, political question before I let you go. I know when she was a senator, Hillary Clinton, you often worked closely with her. Do you believe she's qualified to the president of the United States?

MCCAIN: Oh, I think she's certainly qualified, if you look at her background, but I strongly disagree with many of the positions that she has taken. With her view of America's role in the world. With her many failures as -- let me say this, I can't -- I can't think of one success that she achieved as four years as secretary of state.

So it's not a matter of, of -- you know, one of the things we've lost around here is, you can be friends with someone and still strongly disagree with them. I have found I can still do that in the Senate, and I will find that to be true with Secretary Clinton. I have a good relationship with her, but I strongly disagree with some of her actions, including this whole issue of the server.

BLITZER: Senator, thanks very much for joining us.

MCCAIN: Thank you, Wolf. BLITZER: Senator John McCain, chairman of the Armed Services


Coming up, as outrage grows over the death of a suspect after an arrest, Baltimore police release new video. Can they explain how the suspect's spinal cord was nearly severed?


BLITZER: Our top story, six U.S. citizens, all young men from Minnesota, they've been charged with plotting to travel to Syria to join ISIS. Federal officials say they were intent on using all possible means to reach their goal. Let's discuss.

[17:32:48] Joining us, our counterterrorism analyst, Philip Mudd. He's a former CIA official. Intelligence and security analyst Bob Baer. He's a former CIA operative. And "The Washington Post" columnist David Ignatius. He's covered the intelligence community in the Middle East for a long time.

Bob, The U.S. attorney from Minnesota says that they have a terror recruiting problem. His words. A terror recruiting problem in the state of Minnesota. What is it -- what's it about? What's it about Minnesota that causes this problem?

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Wolf, there's a large Somali community there. It's not very well assimilated at all. A lot of isolated kids, unemployed, small groups of them talking amongst each other.

One of them goes off to Somalia, fights jihad. They look heroic.

They've been unable to identify with the United States, with the American dream and the rest of it, but they identify with Islam. And they see all of these -- stuff on the Internet about these horrible wars in the Middle East. And they think that's the truest cause, and that's what gives them meaning. But it's really that small Somali community that isn't doing well up there.

BLITZER: And, you know, Phil, the U.S. attorney also said one of the problems was this peer-to-peer collaboration, if you will. And they have another friend that actually did manage to get to Syria to join ISIS who was sending back messages?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: That's right. We've seen peer-to-peer in Canada. We've seen it in U.K. We've seen it in U.S.

Just this week, we've seen peer-to-peer from an Australian recruiter and a lot of arrests in Australia. I think it raises a very tough question that people have not resolved in this country. And that is: You can't get access to this, this kind of recruiter in a place like Syria.

So do you authorize, for an American citizen who's trying to recruit kids either to kill themselves by suicide operations in Syria or to conduct operations here? Do you authorize drone strikes against an American citizen like to this recruiter in a place like Syria to prevent future recruitment?

My answer, to be blunt, would be yes. You cannot afford this to kind of recruitment happen. But I know a lot of people dispute that.

BLITZER: And, a lot of people, though, a lot of people in the community, intelligence community, law enforcement community, there will be a lot more of these arrests and eventually someone will slip through the cracks. You agree?

BAER: I totally agree, Wolf. What's going to happen is, these kids are going to fight jihad abroad. They're going to become radicalized more than they already are. They're going to learn skills to make bombs. And you do have to practice these things, and they're going to bring those skills back. And I -- I've said this over and over again, an attack in this country, by one of these people, is almost inevitable.

[17:35:16] BLITZER: David, let's talk about this new ISIS video that's been released showing another mass execution of Christians, this time Ethiopian Christians, some beheaded, some shot in the head. A few weeks ago, it was a bunch of Egyptian Christians who had been working inside Libya who were beheaded. Why is ISIS doing this now? Why do they think this is good propaganda for them?

DAVID IGNATIUS, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think in trying to reach out to Muslims to say that the caliphate, as they call it, is the place they should be. As an article in The New York Times" said, over the weekend, the pitch is, "Don't live next to the Christians. Come to the caliphate and live next to Muslims. Be among people who share your values and your beliefs."

So these horrific attacks on Christians, as much as they may alienate many Muslims to their target audience, presumably they're effective.

You know, I think to add one thing about this Somali case. One thing that came through in the way the FBI busted this was that one of the kids in this peer-to-peer network was so upset by what he was seeing among his peers that he became an informant. And that's been a real tool that the FBI has used in all kinds of law enforcement cases, but it is turning that tool to these terrorism cases. And they seem to have done it effectively.

And the level of paranoia this must generate among the jihadists, as they worry who has been turned, who is posing as a would-be jihadist? That's an interesting factor.

BLITZER: Phil, your thoughts on this latest ISIS video? Highly produced, slightly produced, what, about 30 minutes, or so, in which they go through, show the beheading and the killing of these Christians?

MUDD: The significance of this video is what it tells us about the evolution of ISIS. We thought we had an ISIS in Iraq and Syria and other groups in places like Libya or Nigeria, not affiliated with ISIS, saying we agree with their ideology. We want to be part of ISIS. The coordination on the production and release of this video shows us

that these are slightly coalescing and coordinating, That's a step ahead of what we saw even a few months ago.

BLITZER: Want to get your thoughts, David, because you've studied this for a long time. A question I asked John McCain: "What responsibility does the United States have because of the chaos that has developed in Libya, given the fact the U.S. launched cruise missiles, led the fight against Gadhafi, for all practical purposes." What responsibility does the United States have to deal with the humanitarian crisis, a failed state now? Hundreds if not thousands of people trying to get out of there?

IGNATIUS: Well, you know, I think we have to keep faith with people who trusted in our decision to overthrow Gadhafi, to topple the pillars of the state that was there. I mean, we didn't start this. The Libyan rebels did, just as in other countries.

But I think we do have to keep faith with people who look to American power and assume that we were making a commitment. How we exercise that commitment is complicated. You know, the regional partners are much better boots on the ground than Americans, as we certainly have learned that.

But I think trying to end the proxy war aspect of the fighting in Libya, Syria, other places, where outside the powers are pumping in money and weapons is one part of keeping faith, trying to reduce that way in in cheese little states are ripped apart by other powers fighting their war there.

BLITZER: More to discuss. All right, guys. I want all of you to stand by, because we have more to discuss..

Also coming up, police just released a new surveillance video after a suspect dies in their custody. What new clues may it hold into the mysterious death of this young man?

And weeks after this bloody assault, North Korea threatening an attack far worse for the United States ambassador to South Korea.


[17:44:04] BLITZER: Breaking news here in THE SITUATION ROOM, take a look at this. These are live pictures coming in from Miami-Dade County in Florida, where nearly 900 acres are burning from a massive wildfire. Officials say the blaze is 50 percent contained. We'll continue to watch this story for you. Awful pictures coming in right now.

But there's other breaking news we're following. In Baltimore, police there are speaking out on the death of a 25-year-old suspect in their custody that's sparked outrage and protests. They've just released surveillance video of the incident and announced an investigation into what happened, but they say there's still no evidence police used force. CNN's Miguel Marquez has been tracking the story for us. He's joining

us from Baltimore. There have been new developments. Miguel, update our viewers.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is -- it's a bit of a bizarre twist in both ways. Police releasing new video. There are many, many cameras in this very tough neighborhood, where Mr. Grey was arrested, and people who saw the arrest say that he was treated horribly.

[17:44:57] You're looking at the video there. You can see him being dragged into the van. Police say at a press conference today that he was not in bad shape. But many that we spoke to there on the ground said that he was asking for an inhaler, that he had asthma at the time, and that he was then loaded into a police van.

The police chief, police commissioner here in Baltimore and the mayor speaking out very forcefully that every bit of information they have at this point says that their police officers did no wrong.


JERRY RODRIGUEZ, DEPUTY COMMISSIONER, BALTIMORE POLICE: None of the officers described any use of force. None of the officers described using any force against Mr. Gray.

I'll tell you what I do know, and right now there's still a lot of questions I don't know. I know that when Mr. Gray was placed inside that van, he was able to talk. He was upset. And when Mr. Gray was taken out of that van, he could not talk, and he could not breathe.


MARQUEZ: Police saying that he eventually -- it was determined that he eventually had a spinal injury, a very bad spinal injury that eventually put him into a coma and he died seven days after being picked up by police.

A lot of questions that police are now trying to answer and in great reaction mode here, already, before their final investigation is done, already making changes to the way prisoners are transported in these vans and that when a prisoner asks for medical attention, that they get it immediately, and also saying that all police officers including those doing transport have to be completely up on training with regard to safety and CPR -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to have a lot more on this story coming up in our next hour, Miguel. Thank you very much.

Coming up, also a new threat to the United States ambassador just weeks after he was attacked. North Korea telling him to shut up or suffer a fate far worse.

And it could be the largest case yet of ISIS recruiting right here in the United States. We have stunning details on the arrest of six Americans. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:51:24] BLITZER: North Korea is threatening the United States ambassador to South Korea only weeks after this bloody knife attack, warning that the diplomat -- warning the diplomat to shut off or face a fate, quote, "far worse."

CNN's Brian Todd is tracking the story for us.

Ominous words, Brian. What's going on?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very ominous, Wolf. A very serious situation tonight regarding the ambassador. Kim Jong-Un ratcheting up tensions with the U.S. as one analyst says, acting like a mafia don. His regime is threatening U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert provoking new concerns about the security detail surrounding the ambassador.


MARK LIPPERT, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SOUTH KOREA: I'm bleeding here. I'm bleeding here. I'm bleeding here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Call a -- ambulance?

LIPPERT: I need an ambulance fast. Give me the hospital.

TODD: A horrific attack. U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert, slashed in the face and arm by a man with a history of erratic behavior. A month and a half later he wears a brace that looks like bionic arm.

Lippert's doctor said his injuries could have been life threatening. North Korea wasn't involved but praised the attack and now was willing to go one step further. A North Korean propaganda arm says of Ambassador Lippert, quote, "If he doesn't watch himself in the future he might have to deal with something far worse."

Lippert's offense to North Korea? Saying simply that if Kim Jong-Un's regime wants better ties with the West, he should take steps to end his nuclear program. One analyst says Kim needs to be held accountable for that threat.

PATRICK CRONIN, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY: When his press statements come out threatening the life of an American ambassador, he looks -- he looks like he's the head of the mafia.

TODD: From the State Department, a muted response. Officials saying it's the same old rhetoric from North Korea, that Ambassador Lipper's security won't change from its elevated posture following the knife attack. But a former ambassador to Seoul says even if North Korea doesn't carry out the threat itself --

CHRISTOPHER HILL, AUTHOR, "OUTPOST": The real danger would be some sort of lone wolf who feels he is acting on some kind of -- sort of overall instructions. So I think they -- that is the concern. TODD: This comes at a time when seemingly every utterance from Kim,

every move he makes, is calculated for public consumption. He was just photographed atop Mount Paekdu, the 9,000-foot peak where, according to North Korean lore, his father Kim Jong-Il was born. Many historians believe his father was actually born in Russia. One expert says this photo-op could be a sign of palace intrigue that Kim still needs to show he's in charge.

CRONIN: Contrary to the myth that Kim Jong-Un has now finally consolidated his power, even after killing his uncle, I think this man is more threatened by generals and some of the elite, he's afraid of a coup than ever.


TODD: And with this threat on the ambassador analysts say Kim is making a more dangerous move than he may realized. If anyone attacks the ambassador even if it's not a North Korean agent, the U.S. or South Korea may be forced to take some kind of military action against him. One analyst said restraint on the part of the U.S. would no longer be acceptable -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And some are actually calling for action against North Korea simply because of this threat.

TODD: That's right. Patrick Cronin, the gentleman we interviewed who was a State Department official under the Bush administration, dealt with North Korea, says North Korea needs to understand the consequences of this, that you can't just bandy about a threat to a U.S. ambassador. You can't get away with that.

He suggests some kind of information campaign, maybe some gesture of humanitarian assistance to North Korea's people, as some kind of retaliatory measure just for that threat. He says that's a very, very serious threat that they just made.

BLITZER: He's already gone through a lot of --

TODD: Absolutely.

BLITZER: To begin with.

All right. Thanks very much for that, Brian Todd, reporting.

Coming up, six Americans now charged with trying to help ISIS. Federal prosecutors say the suspects did everything they could to try to reach Syria and then join the terror group.

[17:55:08] With nearly 30 such arrests this year alone, how many more potential American recruits are out there?


BLITZER: Happening now, ISIS in the heartland. Six Americans charged with plotting to sneak overseas and join up with the terrorists. How far were they willing to go to wage holy war? Security crackdown. The TSA orders new measures to prevent terrorist

attacks or other criminal activity by airport insiders. Why now?

New police video. Does it explain why a Baltimore man fell into a coma soon after his arrest and later died? Stand by for the newest information in another fatal police case that's causing outrage across the nation.