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Mississippi Police Officers Killed; ISIS Leader Injured?; George Zimmerman Shot; Four Suspects Make First Court Appearance; New Report Questions Detail of 2011 Raid. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired May 11, 2015 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The Pentagon saying, do not believe the rumors; the head of ISIS is still very much alive and very much in control.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The world lead. There will not be any warning next time. The top man at the Department of Homeland Security says lone wolves inspired by ISIS could strike at any moment here at home, this as U.S. intelligence insists rumors that the leader of ISIS was wounded in a coalition airstrike are just that, rumors.

The national lead, a rookie police officer living out his dream and veteran of the force, both of them sprayed with bullets, as a traffic stop goes the worst way imaginable -- this hour, four accused cop killers and accessories face a judge.

George Zimmerman, remember him, the man acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin? He is making news amid gunfire yet again. What happened this time?

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Some breaking news in our world lead. The Pentagon and U.S. intelligence sources are telling CNN the reports that head of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was severely injured and is no longer running the nuts-and-bolts operations for his terrorist group, well, those rumors are flat-out wrong.

The Daily Beast and "The Guardian" newspaper, citing unnamed diplomatic sources, reported that the man atop the ISIS terror pyramid got clipped in one of the U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, strikes similar to one of the 18 bombing raids launched overnight in Syria and Iraq.

But now U.S. officials are asserting there is no evidence to back up these claims and ISIS is as dangerous as ever, even on United States soil.

Let's right to CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

Barbara, pentagon officials and sources in the intelligence community outright dismissing these reports that Baghdadi was injured in a coalition strike. What makes them so confident that he's fine?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it can always change, but right now it is based on the intelligence that they do have, and it is what they believe is happening right now on the ground.


STARR (voice-over): U.S. intelligence believes ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi for now remains firmly in charge. There's no intelligence indicating he's been injured in a recent coalition airstrike, despite press reports.

The U.S. has already identified these men as potential successors to the ISIS leadership, putting millions of dollars of reward on each of their heads. There's no shortage of supporters on the ground or online.

JEH JOHNSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: We're very definitely in a new phase in the global terrorist threat, where the so-called lone wolf could strike at any moment.

STARR: Those attacks are toughest to detect, especially when the Internet can so easily recruit ISIS sympathizers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have a lot of people springing up in various areas around the world that are all interested in joining this organization.

STARR: The move to ISIS going viral online, even inspiring the attack in Texas, is as worrisome for the U.S. as what is happening in Syria and Iraq.

ADM. MICHAEL ROGERS, NSA DIRECTOR/COMMANDER OF U.S. CYBER COMMAND: The thing I always look for is, at what points do groups decide that they need to move from viewing the Internet as a source of recruitment, as a way to spread ideology, do we see it more from that into something of greater concern, as viewing it as a potential weapons system?

STARR: That threat from the Internet giving authorities less time to catch terrorists.

JOHNSON: Because of the use of the Internet, we could have little or no notice in advance of an independent actor attempting to strike.


STARR: U.S. officials clearly believing increasingly day by day that it is cyberspace where they will be facing ISIS -- Jake.

TAPPER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you.

Let's bring in CNN's Fareed Zakaria, host of "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS," to talk about this.

Thanks for joining us, Fareed.

The former number two at the CIA Mike Morell says, if we don't rein in ISIS, if the U.S. and the Western powers don't rein in ISIS, soon we're going to see an attack like 9/11. Is ISIS capable of pulling something off like that?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: So far, certainly, that hasn't been true. And it isn't true for a reason, which is, in order to pull off something like 9/11, you need to be able to move large quantities of money around without anybody noticing.

You have got to be able to move people around without anybody noticing. You have got to be able to plan without their being any communication that can be picked up on. So far, it's not an accident that there hasn't been any such event.

Many have been tried. So, the question, is ISIS doing something so new and innovative, that you could imagine that? Well, it is innovating, as we point out in the special tonight. It is innovating in social media and it is innovating in recruiting, and it has this ability to get lone wolves activated.


But that doesn't add up to a 9/11-style attack. That adds up to a lot of individual lone wolf attacks. So, so far, I would need elaboration to understand how they could pull off something quite as spectacular as 9/11.

TAPPER: I want to get to the recruiting question in a second. But, before I do, you heard Barbara Starr's report just now. How important is this one man, Baghdadi, to ISIS?

ZAKARIA: Jake, it's a really interesting question.

And not a lot of people ask it. There are two schools of thought. There are people who believe that Baghdadi is the charismatic founder, leader, in a sense, of modern-day ISIS. But there are a lot of people who believe he's a figurehead.

And the argument goes, and there is some evidence for this, that the backbone of ISIS is actually Saddam Hussein's former officer corps, that if you look at the people who are actually running operations on the ground, it's a lot of former Baathist officers, generals and colonels from Saddam Hussein's army, who, by the way, are not particularly religious, religiously oriented, but that the ideology that they use is this Islamic fundamentalism, and Baghdadi is crucial to that.

Now, to be clear, there are some people who believe that and others who believe, no, Baghdadi really is in charge. But I was struck by the degree to which there is really disagreement on this issue.

TAPPER: The debate over ISIS is a big part of the 2016 presidential election, which is just starting, of course. There was a South Carolina cattle call over the weekend, Republican hopefuls with some strong words about how they might do things differently than President Obama when it comes to this particular terrorist threat. Take a listen.


GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: I want a leader willing to take the fight to them before they take the fight to us.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We cannot win a war on radical Islamic terrorism with a president who is unwilling to utter the words radical Islamic terrorism.


TAPPER: Fareed, Republicans have been making this last point that Ted Cruz, Senator Cruz, was making in that clip for years. They don't understand why the president won't use the term radical Islamic terrorism, instead of just terrorism.

What is your take?

ZAKARIA: I think that it's a very effective political weapon, that Obama is vulnerable on it, but that Obama is doing it, frankly, paying the price politically, for a strategic reason.

If you go into the Arab world, if you go to the Middle East and you talk to the moderates, the king of Jordan, for example, who I interviewed, and say, do you think we should be calling this radical Islamic terrorism, they say, please don't. As a fact, of course they are radical Islamists. He is trying to be diplomatic here, and is paying a price.

TAPPER: Tonight, you have this one-hour special on ISIS. You spoke to a German journalist who ISIS allowed to report from Mosul. Let's listen to what he told you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In this recruitment center, we had every day more than 50 new fighters. They can lose fighters. They don't care.


TAPPER: So much of recruitment he talks about there, both of foreign fighters and radicalizing people like Elton Simpson here in the United States, it's done through social media.

Right now, it really doesn't seem like the U.S. has a solution for how to stop it.

ZAKARIA: I think that's right.

They have been very skilled at using social media, much more skilled than al Qaeda. I mean, they really are terrorism 2.0, maybe 3.0, to al Qaeda's 1.0. The United States government is trying, to give it credit. There is a whole outfit at the State Department that is trying to counterprogram, as it were.

I don't think anyone quite knows what you do. They're casting a very wide net. They're making these videos go viral, in the hope of catching those lone wolves, those few isolated, alienated young men who want to take part in something larger than themselves, shed blood. You know, they like the Gore.

How do you stop that, you know? I think that we're probably, if we -- if even if successful, we're going to get at this through trial and error.

TAPPER: All right. Fareed Zakaria, thank you so much.

Make sure to tune in tonight for Fareed's hour-long special, an in- depth look at the terrorist group, "Blindsided: How ISIS Shook the World." You don't want to miss this, tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

In national news, two police officers shot and killed -- four suspects in front of a judge this hour. Two of them face capital murder charges. Now the mother of one of the accused shooters is speaking out with her theory on why her son allegedly did this. That's next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD, some breaking news in our national lead.

Any moment now, we could learn more what exactly happened during that traffic stop in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, that led to the shocking murders of two young police officers. Four suspects have been charged in connection with that heinous crime. They're making their first court appearance right now. And once they're arraigned, investigators could release more details about the events leading up to the killings of 34-year-old Benjamin Deen and 24-year-old Liquori Tate.

Just hours ago, a huge crowd gathered in Hattiesburg, to pay their respects to these officers, many still struggling to understand how something like this could have happened.

CNN's Nick Valencia is live now outside the courthouse in Mississippi.

Nick, you just talked to investigators. What did they tell you? What did you learn?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Jake, I spoke one on one with a spokesman for the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, who says, according to a preliminary autopsy, one of the officers was shot in the face. The other shot was in the back.

They also tell me they believe that they know who the shooter was. They used that singular, saying there was only one shooter. You see behind me, flags here in Hattiesburg are at half-staff to honor those two fallen officers.


VALENCIA (voice-over): In front of cameras and police, Curtis Banks asserts his innocence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Curtis, did you do it?

CURTIS BANKS, SUSPECT: No, sir, I didn't do it.

VALENCIA: The 26-year-old now one of four suspects in custody after the shooting deaths of these Hattiesburg police officers. Two of the suspects face capital murder charges.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never want this to happen -- the men and women who go out every day, to protect us.

VALENCIA: Addressing the city after the shooting, the face of Hattiesburg mayor said it all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to tell you all that, this community is one that has not had this kind of incident to happen to us in 30 years. We're very good. The men and ladies behind me are very good of solving these kinds of crimes and very good about doing it, because our community works together. You can't solve these kinds of crimes without our community working together, and they do that.

VALENCIA: The motive to what happened around 8:00 p.m. Saturday night is still a mystery. During a traffic stop, veteran officer Benjamin Deen calls for backup, moments after rookie Officer Liquori Tate arrived to help, both officers are shot and killed.

Suspect Curtis Banks and his brother Marvin flee the scene. According to police, they steal a police cruiser for a getaway car.

On Monday, a memorial for the fallen officers. For the small town of Hattiesburg, not much about the incident makes sense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was overwhelming emotion --

VALENCIA: Filled with grief, Officer Tate's family says their son became a cop to make a difference in the world.

YOULANDER ROSS, MOTHER OF FALLEN HATTIESBURG OFFICER LIQUORI TATE: He always wanted to be a police officer, since he was young, playing with police cars, and -- Xbox games and just having that protective spirit that a has always been one of his dreams.

VALENCIA: And while there may be no justification for what happened, the mother of one of the alleged shooters searched for an explanation.

MARY SMITH, MARVIN CURTIS' MOTHER: He was out of his mind. He wasn't the same Marvin.

REPORTER: Because he was on drugs?

SMITH: He was on them drugs, on the spice. He wasn't the same Marvin.


VALENCIA: I just left inside the courtroom where 26-year-old Curtis Banks is making his initial appearance in front of that judge. We expect bond to be set today as well as suspects told when the grand jury will meet next and when their next court appearance is. The three other suspects are expected to follow Curtis Banks in the courtroom shortly after -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Nick, just to clarify. Do they think that only one of the individuals in the car of the four individuals, only one of them pulled the trigger?

VALENCIA: That's right. Wouldn't tell me how many shots or guns used, Jake, but they said they believe they know who the shooter is. "We believe we know who she is." That was the direct quote from the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation.

They would not go as far to say that Joanie Calloway pulled the trigger, but they did tell me that one of those capital murder charges, again, two people were charged with capital murder. They said one of their charges will be lessened -- Jake.

TAPPER: Nick, so far it appears that it was just a random act of horrific violence aimed at the police, but not specifically because of any confrontation or anything like that?

VALENCIA: We asked the spokesperson about the details of the stop. He said the initial stop was because of speeding. Officer Deen made that initial stop saying he had reason to believe that that car needed to be searched further, and out of standard operating procedure, he called for backup. That's when Officer Tate arrived and moments later, that fatal shooting happened with one of them taking the police cruiser, using it as a getaway car.

Over the weekend, all four suspects taken into custody. Officials tell me they believe only one of those people was the shooter -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Nick Valencia, thank you so much.

Coming up, the White House firing back after a veteran journalist claims the real raid on Osama bin Laden is actually a cover-up.

And the last attempt to save his soul. Did the Boston bomber show any remorse for his actions? A nun, the one portrayed in the movie "Dead Man Walking" gave an emotional description today of her conversation with the convicted terrorist. That's ahead.


[16:23:00] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

A startling new report challenging the official White House account of the 2011 mission to kill or capture Osama bin Laden is making headlines at our world lead today. Among the claims made by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, is

that Pakistani intelligence officials collaborated with the U.S. in the operation, that the entire tale of a dramatic nighttime shoot-out raid was not true.

The Obama administration firing back today at the stories many, quote, "inaccuracies and baseless assertions", unquote, which directly contradict the gripping tale of how Navy SEALs risked their lives to take out the world's most wanted terrorist.


TAPPER (voice-over): For a top-secret military operation, it's one of the most widely reported in recent history, an astonishing mission that generated a Hollywood blockbuster film. But now, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh calling the details of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden a lie.

SEYMOUR HERSH, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: You know, I've been around a long time, long of tooth in this business, and I understand the consequences of saying what I'm saying.

TAPPER: At the center of Hersh claims that Pakistan's army and intelligence agency knew where bin Laden was hiding and helped the U.S. go after him. This contradicts the U.S. government's narrative that the United States acted on its own, sending in a team of Navy SEALs to kill or capture the al Qaeda leader.

HERSH: Of course they worked with us. The alternative is, you want to believe what I call a Lewis Carroll fairy tale, that bin Laden, who the most hunted man since 2002 in the world decided he's going to -- the one safe place to live is in a compound 40 miles from the main capital of Pakistan.

TAPPER: But a U.S. official with detailed knowledge of the outreach to the Pakistanis after the raid tell CNN that based on Pakistan's reaction, it was clear the Pakistanis did not know in advance. Former deputy director of the CIA, Michael Morrell, told CBS "This Morning" that Hersh's report is all wrong.

[16:25:00] MICHAEL MORRELL, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE CIA: The Pakistanis were furious with us. The president sent me to Pakistan after the raid to try to start smoothing things over. Pakistanis did not know.

TAPPER: And Hersh's account, which relies heavily on one former U.S. intelligence source, is being aggressively disputed by the Obama administration.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The story is riddled with accuracies and outright falsehoods.

TAPPER: Another Hersh claim, that there was no firefight other than shooting bin Laden.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We started going up the stairs from the first floor to the second floor.

TAPPER: This contradicts what the U.S. Navy SEAL credited with actually killing bin Laden that night told CNN.

CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen, who went to the compound after the raid, saw considerable evidence of exchanged bullets called Hersh's allegations nonsense.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: He's had a distinguished career. But this is based really on one source and, you know, literally hundreds of people in Pakistan and the U.S. government would have to be lying for years and years. You know, it fails a lot of common sense tests.


TAPPER: In other national news today, George Zimmerman involved in another shooting just hours ago. Witnesses say he was taken away from the scene in an ambulance after an apparent road rage incident. What those on the scene say they saw, coming up.