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Official: ISIS Role "More Than Just Inspiration"; Interview with Angus King; ISIS Warns of More Attacks to Come in U.S.; ISIS Warns of More Attacks to Come in U.S.; Baltimore Police: 'We Are Part of the Problem'; U.S. Student Held in North Korea Speaks Out; Jong-un Appears Amid Reports of Crackdown. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 5, 2015 - 17:00   ET


[17:00:10] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, ISIS attack claim -- the terror group says it carried out the assault on a event in Texas and warns of worse to come.

As the U.S. investigates connections between the gunman and terrorists abroad, one U.S. official says the ISIS role was, quote, "More than just inspiration."

Drone over the war zone -- extraordinary new images of a devastating city freed from the grip of ISIS. Residents paid a terrible price for their freedom, but they're vowing to rebuild.

Caught my surprise -- Baltimore's police commissioner says there was no warning that six of his police officers would be charged and admits his department has been part of the problem in the city.

And held in North Korea -- a U.S. student detained in the North is speaking out for the first time about his capture and his treatment. We'll have an exclusive report live from the communist capital of Pyongyang.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: ISIS is claiming its first attack inside the United States. The terror group now says the gunman who attacked a Prophet Muhammad event in Texas were its soldiers and brothers -- their words -- and warns that future attacks will be worse.

Both of the American gunmen were shot dead at the scene. One of them did have social media ties to ISIS. And right now, the United States is investigating how much of a role ISIS may have played in the attack.

That comes as the U.S. offers huge new rewards for information on four key leaders of ISIS. The bounties run from $3 million to $7 million for the men. Each has been labeled "especially designated global terrorist." I'll talk about all of that and more with Senator Angus King of the Intelligence Committee and our correspondents, analysts and guests. They're all standing by with full coverage.

But let's get the very latest now from our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto -- Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight a U.S. official tells CNN that the Garland, Texas shooting was quote, "Certainly more than just inspiration by the terror group ISIS."

While that does not mean that the terror group gave these gunmen specific intersections, communication via social media between Simpson and the terror group demonstrate its ability open reach to recruit all the way inside the US.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): Today ISIS took responsibility for the Garland, Texas shooting, the first attack it has claimed on U.S. soil. U.S. officials are now probing connections between one of the Texas gunmen, Elton Simpson, and ISIS to determine to what degree the attack was directed from abroad.

Though there is no evidence the terror group gave the gunmen specific instructions, one U.S. official tells CNN that the shooting was, quote, "Certainly more than just inspiration by ISIS."

JOSH EARNEST, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Because of the quick and professional and brave work of local law enforcement officers, an attempted terrorist attack was foiled.

SCIUTTO: The attack fits a well-known pattern of ISIS recruitment and incitement, encouraging sympathizers via a sophisticated social media campaign to join the fight in Syria or, if they cannot, carry out terror attacks closer to home.

Simpson apparently had public exchanges on Twitter with this prominent British-born ISIS fighter about the Muhammad cartoon event in Garland. And another person tied to the Somali-based terror group, Al-Shabab.

REP. STEVE KING (R-IA), JUDICIARY AND HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: I don't know that you can say that ISIS said go to Garland, Texas and attack that -- that location and that activity. But they're certainly part of the psychological approach of this that causes people to be radicalized.

SCIUTTO: Those who knew Simpson and his fellow gunman, Nadir Soofi, tell CNN they never suspected they were terrorists.

USAMA SHARI, PRESIDENT, ISLAMIC COMMUNITY CENTER OF PHOENIX: They didn't show any signs of radicalization or any signs of even thinking about those things in that manner. So when that happens, it just shocks you.

(END VIDEO TAPE) SCIUTTO: Today, the head of counterterror at the FBI confirmed that the FBI opened a new investigation into Simpson just in recent months, adding that social media postings, usually a part of any terror investigation. And, Wolf, what's clear here is there were connections, there was communication between the gunmen and ISIS overseas. That doesn't mean that ISIS was telling them exactly what to do or when, but that communication is something they're looking at more closely here. And it looks like that was more, therefore, than him just getting the idea online that he at least had some direction from abroad.

BLITZER: Yes, it certainly looks like the first direct ISIS attack here in the United States. And I know officials are bracing for more.

Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.


We're also learning more about the attack and the two men who carried it out.

Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, is joining us live from Phoenix, where the gunmen actually shared an apartment -- Pamela, what have investigators learned from searching their home?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what they've learned, Wolf, is that social media is a key part of this whole story as far as inspiring the gunmen to go to Garland, Texas from their home here in Phoenix, Arizona and attempt to launch a terrorist attack that we know was ultimately foiled.

And we're learning more from officials who are on the front lines of this, who have been analyzing the social media interactions between the gunmen, particularly Elton Simpson and two known terrorists overseas, that there was talk about the cartoon event weeks leading up to -- to the actual event on Sunday.

As Jim pointed out, there were interactions between Simpson and at least two known terrorists, one of them being a terrorist in Somalia tied to al Qaeda and another a British ISIS fighter by the name of Junaid Hussain, who we're learning more about. Officials believed he played a key role with inspiring Simpson. He is known to be a significant figure in ISIS. He is considered a double threat. He is tech savvy. He's also known to be a leader within ISIS. And he has a lot of recruitment power, according to sources we've been speaking with.

So we know that Simpson was in touch with him and that a week before the cartoon event in Texas, Simpson was interacting with the terrorists in Somalia.

And this is what he said over Twitter. He said, "When will they ever learn? They are planning on selecting the best picture drown of Saws (ph) in Texas," indicating there that he was angry about the event.

And then in response, the terrorists in Somalia said the brothers from the "Charlie Hebdo" did their part. It's time for the brothers in the U.S. to do theirs.

Now, Wolf, we have learned, as Jim pointed out, that the FBI reopened an investigation into Simpson, in part at least because of his interactions online with these known terrorists. So, of course, that raises questions as far as how they were able to get from their home here in Phoenix to Garland, Texas.

I can tell you, from speaking to officials, Wolf, they've been talking about this concern of ISIS reaching into the U.S. through social media, identifying targets and recruiting. As one official said today, we are seeing that play out, that concern play out. This has certainly been a wakeup call -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And they not only got them from Phoenix to Texas, they got there with body armor, with vests, bullet-proof vests, and with assault rifles at the same time. And they could have -- could have obviously been a whole lot worse.

Pamela, thanks very much.

Joining us now is a key voice on national security, Senator Angus King. He's the independent senator from Maine. He serves on both the Intelligence and Armed Services Committees.

Would you agree this was the first, I guess it's successful, they actually managed to start firing their assault rifles -- the first successful ISIS attack on U.S. soil, Senator?

SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: Well, I think that may be a slight overstatement because we don't have yet any data that connects them to this attack. But it's pretty darned close. I mean we know that ISIS and there are other supporters, Al-Shabab and others, were Tweeting about this conference in Texas and were urging people to take up arms. I don't know if they contacted this guy in Phoenix directly and said you should go.

But, you know, we're splitting hairs here. I think the reality is, this is what happened. ISIS was urging an attack. These guys responded. And this is a real danger.

Now there is a bit of success here, Wolf, and I -- I haven't heard this reported. The FBI and the Homeland Security Department contacted local law enforcement people in Texas in the area of this conference last Thursday and said that -- and told them that they thought there was a significant risk of some kind of attack.

So -- and then, of course, the local people bravely and ably took these guys out.

So, you know there is -- there is a success here in terms of counterterrorism. But the problem is, how much more of this are we going to face?

And this was an easy target to identify by our FBI and homeland security.

What about a random attack somewhere else in the country?

That's going to be much more difficult.

BLITZER: It certainly will be. Senator, we -- we know that ISIS is claiming responsibility. They're claiming credit, from their perspective, as far as this attack in Texas is concerned.

But do you have any more specific information on the ISIS involvement?

Because other U.S. officials are telling CNN the attack, in their words, was quote, "Certainly more than just inspiration."

KING: Yes, I think that's true. Inspiration would be a kind of a generalized term.


But clearly, they were sending out a kind of APB of here's this event taking place. The brothers in the U.S. should take care of it, like the brothers did in France. So that was the language they were using.

Again, we're sort of splitting hairs.

Does that mean they ordered the guy in Phoenix to go and do this or did he pick up on the social media and say I'm one of the brothers, I'm going to go and do it?

But the point is, they are definitely, definitely into the business of trying to inspire these kind of attacks and direct them. And it's just something that we're going to have to continue to deal with given the state of the world that we live in.

BLITZER: And they're now warning, also, of bigger attacks down the road.

Senator, stand by.

We have more to discuss.

We'll take a quick break.

Much more with Senator Angus King when we come back.


BLITZER: We're back with Senator Angus King. He's the Maine independent who serves on both the Intelligence and Armed Services Committees.

[17:00:39] Senator, in taking responsibility, ISIS warned, in their words, of "bigger and more bitter" terror attacks. Do you have any information on active plots that may be in the works right now?

KING: No information on active plots. But I don't think there's any doubt that they would very much like to have those kind of effects here in the country. And they're -- you know, the distinction we were talking about before, did they order this attack? And I think they did in a general kind of way but not in a specific way of contacting this fellow in Phoenix.

But they're going to continue to try to do this, and we've got to try to keep one step ahead of them with our -- with our intelligence assets, with our law enforcement assets.

But you know, we can't have a circle of police around every public space in America. There are not that many police, and that's not the country we want to live in.

So we've got to try to counteract this in all -- moving on all fronts. But a key -- a key element is intelligence. And interestingly, a key element is successful, careful monitoring of social media. These guys advertise what they're going to do on Twitter. So that's something -- this is a whole new world where we've got to have the FBI and our intelligence agencies monitoring social media.

BLITZER: We've got to do a lot. That's a tough job, though, because there's a lot of stuff going out there on social media. You don't know what's real, what's fake or what's serious, and what's a real -- real threat.

Some people are suggesting these two guys, they were pretty inept. They showed up with assault rifles, but one off-duty traffic cop with a handgun killed both of them before they could really do any damage. What does that say?

KING: Well, I think what it says is that we were lucky. We had -- we had some good -- we had good warning from the intelligence from the FBI, but we also had good policing on the local level. But what if they had been more competent; what if they'd been better armed; what if they'd been better prepared? This could have been a real tragedy, Wolf.

And I think this time we were fortunate in the way it turned out. But, you know, we're just going to have to do -- continue to do everything we can to deal with and prevent these kinds of things. But understand that living in a free country, there are going to be risks.

BLITZER: I know you believe in free speech, the First Amendment like all of us, but here's the question. Should this event depicting the Prophet Mohammed in cartoons, which is offensive to a lot of Muslims, should it have taken place in the first place?

KING: Look, if -- if you can't tolerate offensive speech, then the First Amendment doesn't mean anything. And, you know, there is never a justification for violence against somebody in this country who's expressing their opinion, no matter how obnoxious it is to me or to someone else.

Now what the problem is, though, we have to understand that our reference for the First Amendment doesn't extend across the globe and that there are people who -- there are laws against blasphemy and all these other things in other countries. So, you know, that's where it gets complicated. But absolutely, we have the right of free speech in this country, and

that goes for words that we don't like. So no justification for this, no matter how provocative this event was.

But I do think it's important, Wolf, that these were two, you know -- I don't know what their mental state was, but clearly, they weren't very well-balanced. But not to say OK, well all Muslims in America, we've got to watch and surreal and everything else.

To attribute their -- these actions to millions of law-abiding patriotic Americans, I think would be a tragic outcome from this event. We've really got to be careful about that.

BLITZER: That's absolutely true. Senator King, thanks very much for joining us.

KING: Thank you, Wolf. Good to be with you.

BLITZER: Angus King of Maine.

Coming up, stunning scenes of devastation captured by a drone flying over the city of Kobani which endured an ISIS assault and coalition airstrikes.

And inside North Korea, a CNN exclusive as a U.S. student detained in the communist capital talks for the first time about his capture and his treatment.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


[17:24:18] BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story. ISIS now says it was behind the attack on a controversial Prophet Mohammed event in Texas, as U.S. investigators work to determine just how big of a role the terror group actually played.

Joining us now, our CNN security analyst, Peter Bergen; our counterterrorism analyst, Philip Mudd, a former CIA official; and our military analyst, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. Was this the first successful is attack in the U.S.?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I'm a skeptic on this. When we faced 9/11, we had 19 guys that not only were inspired by al Qaeda, but they were trained, paid for, communicated with, traveled to.

When we had the Detroit -- attempted bombing over Detroit, the underwear bomber, he was involved with the al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen. These guys may have had some communication. We're not sure yet. They're inspired, certainly, by ISIS; but this does not look to be like an ISIS attack.

[17:25:06] ISIS steps back and says, "Hey, these guys almost succeeded. We want to claim." It's like giving me a baseball bat and saying I'm a member of the New York Yankees. I'd like to be, but that didn't happen. I'm a skeptic here.

BLITZER: General, what do you think?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I agree completely. We're talking about a force that's communicating and is inspired by the ideology but has not been trained; they're not part of a formation. This is very different, Wolf, and it's going to continue.

BLITZER: You wrote a major piece on, Peter, in which you say the shooting incident in Texas was inevitable. What did you mean?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: If you look at the record of Americans who have been convicted of trying to kill cartoonists, who have been drawing portraits of the Prophet Mohammed, we've got three of those. And we've got other Americans, two or three, who have been indicted for inciting violence against people who have drawn cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

So this was sort of an accident waiting to happen. And we have a cartoonist, Molly Norris (ph), who's been in hiding for four years now at the advice of the FBI, because of -- she was doing some of these drawings herself.

So I think most Americans would be kind of surprised this would happen here in this country. But the fact is, is that clearly, this was less of a surprise than it should have been.

BLITZER: Was it a propaganda win, though, for ISIS? Because now they can boast they even hit Texas in the United States.

MUDD: I think that's true. We look at this as Americans as a blunder, because they never made it anywhere. Two guys dead before they ever got through the perimeter. I think if you're an ISIS individual in Syria, Iraq, you step back and say, "We're trying to lead people to believe that, if they don't act, they're cowards."

People around -- who are affiliated with ISIS in America might look at that and say these guys might not have succeeded. But they've given me a message that I've got to go out and do the same thing. Otherwise, I've got to step back and say, "I don't have the courage in any convictions."

So I think in that sense, it's an ISIS victory, because people might say, "Shoot, I'd better go out and do the same thing. Otherwise, I'm not acting on my beliefs."

BLITZER: Because they're going to -- all over social media, they're going to be claiming credit for this.

HERTLING: Exactly. And that's what I was going to say. It could be a recruiting win. We always have to watch that. But there are no front lines to this battlefield. There are individuals acting like this. They want to recruit more and more. They will take advantage of every potential success that they can get, and this is just one of them. BLITZER: If there were videos released by ISIS on social media in the

coming days showing those two guys saying, "This is what we're doing. We're going to defend the Prophet Mohammed. We're going to Texas. We're ready to die for Allah and be so-called martyred video." So far they haven't released it, but if they were able to release videos like that, that would be a significant move, a significant development, right?

BERGEN: We've seen this before with Coulibaly who was one of the Paris attackers. He never went to Syria. He was inspired by ISIS. He had a video that he made before he died, and he gave it to a friend, and that was released. And yes, I mean, that would be another sort of propaganda victory for ISIS.

But I go back to -- I agree completely with Phil and General Hertling. You know, the fact that people are in contact on Twitter, does that really mean that they're being directed by ISIS? No. In fact ISIS is putting out a lot of publications in English with Twitter handles of people to reach out to. So in fact it would be surprising if they weren't in contact over Twitter, in a direct message kind of sense.

BLITZER: I want to show our viewers some video. This is drone video, General, over Kobani, a city in Syria that ISIS had controlled. The U.S. and coalition partners, they launched airstrikes.

Just look at this video. This is the destruction. This whole city, about 70 percent of it, we're told, has been completely destroyed. They obviously don't have enough money. Syrian Kurds are now in control. But ISIS forces, they're only 20 miles, 25 miles outside of what used to be a city.

But look at this drone video, General. And this is the result largely, we're told, of these airstrikes that went in there to punish and destroy ISIS in Kobani, a significant Syrian city.

HERTLING: A combination of airstrikes and counter-artillery fire between both forces and mortars. But Wolf, this is the kind of thing. This kind of picture does not surprise me. I've seen it before.

We've not only seen it recently, especially in certain areas of the Middle East where the construction, truthfully, is not that good; it's not well supported.

But I mean, you could go back historically and see pictures of World War II. You could see pictures in England, in Germany, in France and see these same kind of pictures after major battles. This is battlefield detritus. It's unfortunate, but the good news, when you hear the citizens of the town saying, "We will rebuild, and this is better than living under ISIS," that's the important thing. It's a conflict of will.

BLITZER: Some people have said they look at these pictures, and they say, yes, ISIS is out; but they're 25 miles or so from the city. People can't go back. There are no houses left over there. So I guess a lot of people are asking was it worth it to basically destroy Kobani in order to get ISIS out of there? MUDD: Look when we were talking last summer going into the fall, we were talking about the surprisingly effective ISIS offensive. Now we're sitting here, looking at Kobani, saying not only has ISIS not been able to succeed in that offensive; they've been pushed back. We're seeing some of the cost of war.

General Hertling said you're going to see this in any war, but I think if we had said last fall we'll be talking in May of 2015 about an ISIS pushback, and there's going to be a big cost, most people including a lot of Kurds, for example, would say that's the cost of war. I'll buy it.

BLITZER: You can only imagine either how many civilian casualties there were as a result of this aerial campaign and ground shelling, the war that went on in Kobani.

BERGEN: It reminds me of that great line about Vietnam: "We destroyed the village in order to save it."

I mean, this is a pretty heavy cost. As General Hertling says, this is often the cost of war. But this seems, particularly in an age when we have more discriminating fire power than we did in World War Ii, this is incredible.

BLITZER: It really is -- it's really heartbreaking to see it.

MUDD: This is stunning. I mean, I think this is the 21st century war when you have drones getting into American living rooms and Iraqi living rooms to make sure people understand war is not a video game. But if you want to go to war, this is what you get.

HERTLING: But the difference, Wolf, I think, too, less than 1 percent of the American people serve in uniform. So many have not seen this. The people who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan have seen this before. You go back to World War II veterans, Korean War veterans, they're going to say, "Yes, that's Nuremberg in 1945," or "that's -- that's, in some cases London in 1945 after the B-bomb attack." So it is part of conflict, and it's unfortunate. And people have to go back to this and rebuild.

BLITZER: Yes. Now with the drones flying over we're going to see it. The American public is going to see it. It's going to have an impact.

General, thanks very much. Phil, Peter Bergen, thank you.

Coming up, a CNN exclusive, a Baltimore Police commissioner admits -- and I'm quoting him now -- "we are part of the problem."

We also have an exclusive report from North Korea's capital city of Pyongyang where a captured U.S. student, a student from NYU, is now speaking out.


[17:36:35] BLITZER: Breaking now, the new U.S. attorney general, Loretta Lynch, visiting Baltimore's police. She praised them as the hardest working police officers in America now and said they've chosen a noble profession that let them go out every day and help someone.

The attorney general also met with Freddie Gray's family, calling it a privilege, her word.

We're also learning new details about how Baltimore Police learned that six of their own would be facing criminal charges because of Freddie Gray's death.

Let's go to our justice reporter, Evan Perez. He has some exclusive information based on an exclusive interview you had with the Baltimore Police commissioner. Evan, tell our viewers what you learned.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. We were all shocked on Friday when the state attorney announced charges against these six officers. Commissioner Anthony Batts of the Baltimore Police learned about it just minutes before we did. Here's how he describes the phone call he got from Marilyn -- from Marilyn, the state attorney in Baltimore City.


COMMISSIONER ANTHONY BATTS, BALTIMORE POLICE DEPARTMENT: I found out that the state attorney was going on and what she was going to present probably about ten minutes before she went on. She gave me a phone call and told me what she was about to do and that she was going on live. She told me what the charges were.

PEREZ: What were the first words out of your mouth when you heard that?

BATTS: I don't want to get into that so much. I can say that I was probably surprised, you know, by the information that I heard. I think that the state's attorney was very focused on being independent in this particular investigation. She didn't want to be seen connected to the police organization. So the communication was limited as compared to what I'm used to.


BLITZER: Evan, this incident revealed, apparently, just how much distrust there is, at least between the police department and so many of the citizens of Baltimore. Does the commissioner, the police commissioner think broader changes need to be made?

PEREZ: Yes, he does, Wolf. He says that he knows he has a lot of work to do. He's been here about three years, almost three years now. And he clearly thinks that there's a long way to go. Here's how we describes what he has to do.


BATTS: There's a lack of trust within this community period, bottom line. And that's going to take healing. That's going to take us acknowledging as a police department, not just here in Baltimore but law enforcement as a whole, that we've been part of the problem. Out of trying to be part of the solution, we have become part of the problem. And when we acknowledge that and understand, we can start to heal.

The community needs to hear that. The community needs to hear from us that we see that we haven't been part of the solution and that we have to now evolve.


PEREZ: And Wolf, you know, he's going to start announcing some changes that he's going to make in the department, including improved training for his officers and better equipment so they can deal with whatever comes next in reaction to the Freddie Gray case -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Evan, good work. Thank you.

Let's dig deeper on the problems in Baltimore right now. Joining us criminal defense attorney, the HLN legal analyst Joey Jackson, along with the former assistant director of the FBI, CNN law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes.

Joey, what's your reaction to what the Baltimore police commissioner, Anthony Batts, just told our own Evan Perez?

JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I'm not surprised at all, Wolf, for the following reasons: that he wouldn't be given a bigger heads up in terms of being notified about the charges.

You know, it's very important that the state's attorney be viewed as independent. And it's important that she allows the community to know that she works for them. She works for the state. She does not work for the commissioner.

No. 2, it's important that she not be seen as in cahoots in any way, as having consulted him in any way.

And No. 3, in order to maintain the public trust and the integrity of her office, she needed to move forward, and she needed to really pursue this investigation in a way that didn't entangle the police department in it.

In terms of the commissioner being surprised by the charges, that's a little surprising to me in that clearly, you know, I believe he would have known something was forthcoming with regard to the events that occurred, the actions of the officers and the death of Freddie Gray. Someone needs to be held accountable.

I'm not suggesting at this point that they're guilty. There needs to be a trial for that. But certainly, in accountability, there's due process: notice of charges and their opportunity to be heard, which will come later at a trial, provided they're indicted.

BLITZER: Tom Fuentes, what's your reaction to what the police commissioner just said?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I think that I agree with Joey to an extent. But on the other hand, I'm used to seeing these announcement of charges press conferences be a joint effort. You had close to 50 detectives from the police department work on it. They gathered much of the investigation later used in those charging documents. So I question how independent, just based on resources, the prosecutor really was in working on this investigation.

So I'm used to seeing the prosecutor, the head of the investigative agencies, whether it's FBI, ATF, DEA, the local police, police commissioners. We're just used to a large group of these announcements of "We all work together to come up with these charges and get this far in the investigation." So I was a little bit surprised for them to be excluded.

JACKSON: Wolf, briefly, I would agree with that absolutely. But remember these charges involve charging the police. And so generally, when law enforcement convenes with the prosecutor regarding an investigation dealing with civilians or some civilian entity, it's a joint show of cooperation, collaboration.

But when they're dealing with their own, I think it was very important to set up these walls and to show that she meant business and she was going to do things on her terms and in her own way.

BLITZER: By all accounts, Tom, the commissioner has got a morale problem now on his police force. A lot of the police officers seem to be identifying, at least on social media, with those six police officers who have been charged.

FUENTES: That's true. The commissioner is in a difficult spot. He has to back up his officers and show that he's supporting the police but not when police are being charged. I agree with Joey to that extent.

But on the other hand, you know, the police commissioner, everybody in Baltimore is unified in wanting to make things better with the police. So at least by showing up at a charging press conference like this, you would indicate that, yes, we want to clean up. We want to make changes, too.

I think in this case, at the end of the day, the commissioner was probably happy he wasn't at the podium for this type of charges in this particular case.

BLITZER: All right. Tom Fuentes, Joey Jackson, guys, we'll have you back.

Coming up, a U.S. student being held in North Korea talks exclusively to CNN about his capture and his treatment.

Also the North Korean leader Kim Jon-un back in the pilot seat. But is he really in control?


[17:46:51] BLITZER: For the first time a U.S. student held by North Korea is speaking out about his capture and his treatment. CNN's Will Ripley is joining us live from the North Korean capital of Pyongyang right now for this exclusive report. Will, tell us what you've learned and what you've seen.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we first learned about this young man's detainment, Wolf, shortly after we got on the ground here in Pyongyang. That was over the weekend and that's when we put in our official request to speak with him.

That request was granted yesterday. We had just a few minutes to chat with him as he walked into the room. But when I started asking him questions, I realized, Wolf, this story was quite bizarre. His account of taking a semester off from school and deciding to enter North Korea without permission, thinking something good would happen.


RIPLEY: Hey, I'm Will. I'm with CNN. Nice to meet you.

(voice-over): This is Won-Moon Joo's first contact with the outside world since his arrest last month in North Korea.

WON-MOON JOO, HELD BY NORTH KOREA: I understand my friends and my loved ones are worrying a lot about me. But I would like to say that I'm well, and there's no need to worry.

RIPLEY: CNN given exclusive access to the 21-year-old NYU student. Joo says he took a semester off, traveling from New Jersey to California; then Guangdong, China, crossing a river on the North Korean border. Joo says he made it past two barbed-wire fences following a large river until North Korean soldiers detained him.

JOO: I thought that by my entrance -- illegally, I acknowledge, but I thought that some great event could happen, and hopefully that event could have a good effect in the relations between the north and south.

RIPLEY: So what kind of great event did you think would happen?

JOO: Of course, I am not completely sure yet.

Reporter: Joo moved to the United States from south Korea with his family in 2001. He's a permanent U.S. Resident but a Korean citizen.

North Korea doesn't take kindly to outsiders crossing their border without permission. South Korea's government is demanding Joo's immediate release and that of two other detained South Koreans who gave exclusive interviews to CNN. They're being held by the South Koreans on espionage charges South Kore calls baseless.

Joo's fate remains unclear. North and South Korea are still technically at war. Their border heavily armed, a potential flash point for violence. Now the two enemies share a new serious problem. This college student from the U.S. hoping his bizarre journey won't end in a North Korean prison.

JOO: I hope, you know, that I will be able to tell the world how an ordinary college student entered the DPRK illegally, but however with the generous treatment of the DPRK, that I will be able to return home safely.


JOO: There were no preconditions set for this interview. We didn't have a limit on the questions we could ask. We don't know if that was the case with this young man. Didn't get any indication that he was coached ahead of time. You simply don't know.

However, I will say this. He said he was being treated very humanely with his own private room, a private bathroom. But what he didn't have was access to a phone. This interview really was his first opportunity not only to send the message to his friends, but also perhaps more importantly, the South Korean government.

Even though he has lived in the U.S. since 2001, Wolf, is a permanent resident, but he remains a south Korean citizen. So now it's that country's issue to try to figure out how to get this young man home.

North and South Korea have technically been at war for decades. They don't have diplomatic relations. So while this young man thought he was accomplishing something great, potentially, he faces the very real danger of ending up in a North Korean prison if these two enemy governments can't sort this out.

BLITZER: I'm sure his family was happy to see him and hear him in your report. We'll check back with you tomorrow, will Ripley doing exclusive reporting from Pyongyang in North Korea. North Korea's Kim Jong-un appears in a video. Indications of a brutal new crackdown. Brian Todd is looking into this part of the story. What are you finding out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight new information that Kim Jong-un is once again reasserting his power inside North Korea. According to South Korean intelligence, he recently ordered the executions of several top officials.

And in a new propaganda video, there are clear signs that a close relative is gaining influence in Kim's inner circle.


TODD (voice-over): With breathless urgency, the North Korean broadcaster gushes over her leader as Kim Jong-un climbs into a small plane. As it takes off, it's not clear if he's piloting it.

The announcer can't contain herself as she narrates scenes of a bombing exercise. As military march music plays in the background, we see images of Kim commanding his troops. But this recent propaganda video might have been released because Kim feels threatened. He recently backed out of a planned trip to Moscow this weekend. It's not clear if Kim ever intended to go.

BARBARA HUANG, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: No doubt, if he leaves the country, the territory of North Korea, that is opening up the possibility of some kind of a power grab. TODD: There are new rumbles of a palace intrigue inside North Korea.

In recent days, South Korean intelligence agents told lawmakers that Kim is ruling with an iron first, ordering the executions of 15 senior officials so far this year. CNN cannot independently confirm the executions.

JONATHAN POLLACK, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: It suggests yet again somebody who is uneasy. He's questioning the loyalty of subordinates, even subordinates who would not be people who would ordinarily report to him.

TODD: Kim reportedly executed his vice minister of forestry over a policy dispute, members of an orchestra, and the vice-chairman of the state planning commission, because he objected to designing a science building in the shape of a flower, according to a South Korean lawmaker.

POLLACK: It does suggest at a minimum that he's trying to make examples of others just to, in effect, raise the cost to anyone to do or think anything that does not have Kim's direct approval.

TODD: One person who seems safe, Kim's younger sister, Kim Yo-jong. She appears in the new video a few times and is said to wield increasing power and influence.

HUANG: I think it's a signal that he is grooming her, bringing her into the inner sanctum and potentially setting up a line of succession. You remember, he's very vulnerable. Somebody could kill him at any moment. Or, if he truly has health problems, he could certainly just drop dead.


TODD: Now, in the meantime, observers are left wondering when Kim might finally meet with another world leader. Moscow was a key opportunity for that. So far the most prominent foreigner Kim has met with is Dennis Rodman -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We all remember that visit by the former NBA basketball player. Thank you so much, Brian Todd, for that.

Coming up, ISIS claims its first attack on American soil, and as the U.S. investigates links between the gunmen and terrorists abroad, a U.S. official now says the ISIS role was, quote, "more than just inspiration."

And secretary of state John Kerry makes a very surprising visit to a country in a desperate struggle with a brutal al Qaeda ally.


[17:59:39] BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. ISIS claim. The group now says it was behind the attack in Texas. And sources are revealing new details to CNN about the possible ISIS role.

Will a massive U.S. reward lead to the capture of key terror leaders? Caught by surprise. Baltimore's police commissioner talks exclusively

to CNN about his shock at the charges against six of his police officers in connection with the death of Freddie Gray. So what is next in the investigation?