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ISIS Strategy?; Bin Laden's Dying Wish; Interview With Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton. Aired 18-19:00p ET

Aired May 20, 2015 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:20]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: collapsing strategy. As ISIS fights its way into another city after take takeover of Ramadi, U.S. war planners are scrambling to try to figure out their next move. Are they ready to admit the situation is now dire?

Standoff in the skies. U.S. spy planes are confronted by China during a mission to figure out what's happening on those mysterious manmade islands. CNN has exclusive access to the secret flights.

Bin Laden's dying wish. Newly released documents reveal the al Qaeda leader was plotting spectacular attacks against America until the end. Did he get any tips from a book about President Obama's wars?

And deadly stop. We're getting the most detailed account yet of a critical moment in the arrest of Freddie Gray. Could this video be key in the criminal case against Baltimore police officers?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: As ISIS fighters seize control of yet another city, an insider with the terror group may be spilling secrets to the United States. We have new information about the widow of an ISIS commander who was killed in a daring U.S. raid.

Also breaking, the secret military operation that China doesn't want the United States to see. CNN got exclusive access to classified U.S. surveillance flights off the Chinese coast to investigate new manmade islands. We're told they appear to be future military installations. The Chinese may be confronting the U.S. spy plane with this warning.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Foreign military aircraft, this is Chinese navy. You are approaching our military alert zone. Leave immediately.

(END AUDIO CLIP) BLITZER: I will ask Senator Tom Cotton about those stories, much

more. He's an Iraq War veteran. He's a member of the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence Committees. He's standing by live. Our correspondents and analysts, they are also standing by with all the news that's breaking right now.

First, let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr for the very latest -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a short time ago, a U.S. official told me the widow of that ISIS commander killed in the Delta Force raid over the weekend deep inside Syria, she's now talking, being interrogated in Iraq, and she is talking and cooperating with U.S. interrogators.

She is offering information. Of course, what remains to be seen is, can it be vetted? Can it be -- is it valid and accurate information that she is offering? They are talking to her about everything from ISIS operations and finances to the very sensitive issue of American hostages.

Does she know anything because of her husband's involvement in finances about hostage ransoms, about hostage operations, where maybe and how maybe some of those Americans who were killed by ISIS might have been held by ISIS inside Syria? All of this in the plus column for U.S. strategy against ISIS, but it comes as ISIS is clearly on the offensive in other areas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): Ramadi residents continue fleeing the city as ISIS consolidates its position. Across the border in Syria, the ancient city of Palmyra, with artifacts dating back thousands of years, now largely in the hands of ISIS. Experts fear a repeat of scenes like this in Iraq, when ISIS destroyed museum antiquities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're concerned about this. Obviously, it has been caught in the crossfire for some time.

STARR: The Pentagon insists its anti-ISIS strategy is not changing. It will train Iraqi troops. There will be no U.S. forces in combat on the ground.

JAMES JEFFREY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: What this looks like, in fact, on the ground, is containment. But that's not what President Obama says his policy is. That's not what he's selling to the American people.

STARR: After several days of saying the loss of Ramadi was just a setback, U.S. officials increasingly are acknowledging behind the scenes how serious the situation is and are watching for signs of what may happen next.

If Iranian-backed Shia militias move in, could there be a new sectarian bloodbath? Will ISIS expand into Shia areas beyond its traditional power base in Sunni-dominated regions? A U.S. intelligence official tells CNN, if ISIS were to expand beyond Sunni areas in Iraq, it would signal a more serious threat to Baghdad.

[18:05:08]

JEFFREY: We need to take these people down and take these people down quickly. They will dig in, and we're never going to get them out.

STARR: With airstrikes continuing, Iraqi forces are regrouping for a counterattack to try to take back Ramadi. But is the defeat of ISIS really any closer?

COL. PETER MANSOOR (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: You have ISIS on the defensive in Tikrit in Northern Iraq. But, on the other hand, they're on the offensive in Al Anbar province and in Palmyra and Syria. So, the campaign is now in the balance.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: You will remember a couple of days ago, Secretary of State John Kerry said Ramadi would be back in Iraqi hands perhaps in a few days. Well, maybe not so fast. Today, a senior State Department official called the situation a serious setback. That official said nobody is kidding themselves about it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thanks very much.

As ISIS scores one victory after another, President Obama's strategy for fighting the terrorists is under attack by Republicans and others here in the United States.

Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is joining us. He's got more on what's going on.

What's going on there, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the White House is signaling it's now open to making some minor changes to its strategy for defeating ISIS, but that's not enough for the president's critics, who insist he's losing the battle against the terror group.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: God bless all our Coast Guardsmen. God bless.

ACOSTA (voice-over): As President Obama sounded the alarm on climate change in a speech to Coast Guard graduates, the environment was heating up back in Washington over the White House plan for beating ISIS.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Where is our morality? Where is our decency? Where is our concern about these thousands of people that are being slaughtered?

ACOSTA: Republican Senator John McCain slammed the president for allowing ISIS to seize the key Iraqi city of Ramadi and laid into White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest for snapping back at critics this way.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Are we going to light our hair on fire every time that there is a setback?

MCCAIN: We are seeing a dark chapter in American history. And it's getting darker, because, in response to a slaughter in Ramadi, the answer seems to be -- quote -- "Let's not set our hair on fire."

ACOSTA: Frustration with the battle against ISIS has some GOP presidential candidates floating the idea of sending U.S. troops into combat in Iraq, something the White House has ruled out.

GEORGE PATAKI (R), FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR: I don't want to see us put in a million soldiers, spend 10 years, $1 trillion trying to create a democracy where one hasn't existed. But send in troops, destroy their training centers, destroy their recruitment centers, destroy the area where they are looking to plan to attack us here, and then get out.

ACOSTA: Jeb Bush, who admittedly mishandled questions about his brother's record Iraq, is making the case the country was better off under President George W. Bush.

JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: ISIS didn't exist my brother was president. Al Qaeda in Iraq was wiped out when my brother was president. There were mistakes made in Iraq, for sure. But the surge created a fragile, but stable Iraq that the president could have built on.

ACOSTA: In a speech on climate change, the president steered clear of the debate over his strategy, instead arguing that global warming is a national security threat contributing to the crisis in Syria, where ISIS took root.

OBAMA: It's now believed that drought and crop failures and high fuel prices helped fuel early unrest in Syria, which descended into civil war in the heart of the Middle East.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Tonight, the White House is backing an Iraqi plan to send Shia militia forces into the Sunni-dominated Anbar province to help retake Ramadi. It's a risky move for that country's prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, but one the White House says it supports, so long as those Shia forces are under the control of the Iraqi military -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim Acosta reporting for us, thanks very much.

Let's bring in Republican Senator Tom Cotton. He's an Iraq War veteran. He's member of the Armed Services and Intelligence Committees in the U.S. Senate.

Senator Cotton, thanks very much for coming in.

Several of the Republican presidential candidates are now openly saying, send in more U.S. troops, boots on the ground, if you will. You heard former New York Governor George Pataki. He's not formally a candidate, but he's expected to announce soon. Lindsey Graham was here in THE SITUATION ROOM the other day. He said 10,000. There are about 3,000 U.S. troops in Iraq right now. Bring that number up to 10,000, maybe that could help get the job done.

Are you with them on this?

SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: I am, Wolf.

And I'm glad that you recognize that we do have boots on the ground already in Iraq. The president's put a cap at 3,000. That's an arbitrary cap. There's no military reason for it. But when some folks say that we shouldn't put boots on the ground right now, I think it demeans the service of those who are in Iraq.

But I wish the president would lift the cap and listen to the best judgment of his military commanders. We could use things like more special operations forces, forward air controllers, intelligence, and logistics experts to help fill some of the gaps in Iraqi capabilities and try to stop this war between Islamic State and the Iraqi population and the government of Iraq from descending into outright sectarian war of the kind of I saw in Iraq in 2006.

[18:10:15]

BLITZER: Because the U.S. when you were there, what, 100,000, 150,000 U.S. troops. How many troops do you think the U.S. needs now?

COTTON: Well, we wouldn't be looking at something like that. The president, I would say, poses a false choice with Iraq, just like he does with Iran, as we have discussed.

The choice is not between nothing and 150,000 heavy mechanized troops. I think on the order of a few thousand more. That's really a question though for our commanders to provide their best military judgment to the president to make a decision about the number and the types of troops we need. But there's no doubt that we need some of those specialized assets, whether they're special operations forces or intelligence experts, to help defeat the Islamic State.

That's the president's stated goal. He's not providing the resources to achieve it.

BLITZER: Because I'm sure you will agree the Iraqi military, military, whether Mosul or Ramadi, has been so disappointing. The fact that they now want to get these Iranian-backed Shiite militias to come in and help and try to recapture or at least contain ISIS in Ramadi, what does that say to you?

COTTON: Well, there's been a lot of disappointments with the Iraqi army, no doubt about that. Some units have performed well, especially their special operations units. But a lot of their units have not. I think it's a very bad idea

what the president and his administration is saying they support now, bringing in Iranian-back Shiite militias into the Sunni-dominated Anbar province, for two reasons.

One, I think there's no doubt that it will stoke more sectarian conflict, and, two, these militias are paper tigers. They have proven themselves incapable, for instance, of taking Tikrit. I don't think they're going to succeed. And they're going to stoke sectarian violence.

So, I think it's a bad idea. We need to be relying on more American advisers, more trainers, people who are assisting. We need to be working with the Sunni tribal leaders and tribes. Remember, these are the exact same people who turned in our direction in 2006, '07, and '08. We know who they are. We know who these tribes are.

A lot of the Army officers and Marine officers who were there on the ground with them are still on active duty today.

BLITZER: They don't trust the Iraqi military, which is largely Shia, right?

COTTON: Regrettably at this point, yes. There's been a lot of talk over the last two weeks about what we would have done in 2003 knowing what we know now.

I think what's even more tragic is Barack Obama, knowing what he knew then in 2011, made the decision to withdraw all of our troops. Those troops were a critical component to training the Iraqi army, to maintaining its pluralistic nature and preventing sectarian warfare from breaking out.

BLITZER: But you remember when President George W. Bush was president, he was the one who announced the deadline for getting all U.S. troops out of Iraq. And President Obama implemented what President Bush had originally put forward.

COTTON: Well, but there was an effort to pursue a new status of forces agreement that would give American troops immunity under President Obama.

The difference is, when that same dispute came up under George Bush's administration, the Bush administration was committed to making an agreement. Under the Obama administration, they were just committed to getting out of Iraq. And we see the wages of that now throughout Iraq and Syria.

BLITZER: You know White House officials say they tried with Nouri al-Maliki. He adamantly refused. He wouldn't give that status of forces agreement. He wouldn't give immunity to U.S. troops. As a result, all U.S. troops got out of there.

COTTON: I know they say that, but they said that throughout the Bush administration as well, and somehow the Bush administration always was able to achieve an agreement that gave our troops immunity and helped prevent exactly the kind of...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But as I'm sure you will agree, what is so frustrating, after all the blood and treasure, trillion dollars, whatever the U.S. spent, the training over a decade to get an Iraqi military capable, they're obviously not very capable right now.

COTTON: It absolutely is. And if we'd had troops there in 2011, we actually might have fewer troops there today than what the president has already put into Iraq or what we need to put into Iraq.

BLITZER: All right, stand by. We have much more to talk about, including what is going on, a little tension between the United States and China, what's going on in North Korea.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Much more with Senator Cotton right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:18:17]

BLITZER: We're back with senator, Iraq War veteran Tom Cotton.

We're following the breaking news on ISIS.

Senator, we just heard from Barbara Starr that the U.S. is now interrogating the woman -- the widow, I should say, of that slain ISIS commander. She's talking to U.S. interrogators. What can you tell us about this, if anything?

COTTON: Well, first off, JSOC is awesome. The raid they conducted into Syria over the weekend that killed Abu Sayyaf, who is a key leader of...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: These are the Delta Force commanders, the ops -- special ops.

COTTON: Yes, killed Abu Sayyaf, who is a key leader of the Islamic State, and captured his wife, was an amazing operation.

It's a tactical success, but I would say it's in the middle of a strategic failure to stop the Islamic State. I don't want to comment anymore about his wife and the information we may or may not be getting from her, but JSOC is awesome.

BLITZER: Let's go through some other issues right now.

COTTON: Sure.

BLITZER: Your colleague Senator Rand Paul, who's a Republican presidential candidate, he's out there on the Senate floor. He really hates any extension of the so-called -- what's called the Patriot Act, which he says unconstitutionally eavesdrops on Americans' private conversations.

Where do you stand on this?

COTTON: Well, I respect and I like Rand and work well with him.

But I simply disagree with him here. What I believe is that a lot of the NSA's telephone metadata program is the result of misinformation spread by a traitor, Edward Snowden. The NSA is not listening to anyone's phone calls. They're not reading any Americans' e-mails. They're collecting simply the data that your phone company already has, and which you don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy, so they can search that data quickly in the event of a terrorist plot.

And there is no doubt that this program has stopped terrorist plots or helped investigate them. Furthermore, I don't think it poses any kind of legitimate risk to Americans' privacy. What you did do with your grocery card, discount card is much more invasive to your privacy than what the NSA does.

BLITZER: So, basically, you totally disagree with Senator Rand Paul on this?

[18:20:03]

COTTON: I firmly disagree.

The NSA's telephone metadata program is a critical tool that our national security professionals need to keep us safe, especially in the threat environment that we face today.

BLITZER: Republicans are the majority in the Senate. How do you think this is going to play out?

COTTON: We will see. We're in the middle of this debate,.

BLITZER: But there's a debate among Republicans too, and obviously with Democrats.

(CROSSTALK)

COTTON: The program expires along with a couple other important provisions that our national security professionals need to track terrorists and stop plots at the end of this month.

And that's why this debate is coming up now. And I'm firmly committed to trying to make sure that they have the tools they need to keep us safe.

BLITZER: North Korea, they claim Kim Jong-un's regime, that they can miniaturize these nuclear warheads now, potentially endangering the U.S. homeland. Is that true?

COTTON: Well, there's no doubt that they're working to miniaturize their warheads.

There's published reporting in the last couple of months saying that they have over 20 warheads. They're on the path to maybe 100. They have intercontinental missiles already. Those are going to be designed to strike U.S. territory and U.S. citizens. It just goes to show you what a dangerous path the president's going down in Iran, because what happened in North Korea, I believe, is foreshadowing what will happen in Iran.

BLITZER: Why do you say that? Because the president and the secretary of state, who negotiated this deal, it's not even a final deal yet. They have until the end of June to finalize it. They say this will stop Iran from building a nuclear bomb.

COTTON: Well, regrettably, that is what President Clinton said about his negotiated deal with North Korea in 1994. And it only took them 12 years to get nuclear weapons, which makes it much harder to confront the challenges of North Korea.

Iran is even more dangerous, though, because in addition to their nuclear programs, they're the world's leading sponsor of terrorism and they are spreading unrest throughout the Middle East, attacking our allies, and trying to topple governments.

BLITZER: Let's talk about Jim Sciutto, our chief national security correspondent's exclusive report. We had it here in THE SITUATION ROOM in the last hour. He's flying in one of these surveillance planes, a Poseidon, over these manmade islands that the Chinese are building, huge islands hundreds of miles off the Chinese coast, that you can see them.

We're showing our viewers some pictures. There are bases there, airstrips, control towers. The U.S. is very much opposed to this. What's your take on what's going on?

COTTON: Well, great reporting by CNN. And I support what President Obama and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter have done here.

China's claims have no legal basis at all. These manmade islands are hundreds of miles away from their coasts. These are international waters. And they're building these islands not only to develop helipads or even aircraft landing zones, so they can project power against our allies like the Philippines or Taiwan throughout the region. They're also building them to establish a claim to the territorial waters around it, many of which are rich in mineral rights.

So, just like China two years ago tried to establish an exclusive air zone in the East China Sea over some Japanese territory, and the United States military stood up to them then, the United States military needs to stand up to these claims now.

BLITZER: We heard the secretary of state, John Kerry, in every meeting he had in recent days with Chinese officials, from the president on down, he raised this issue. It is of such concern to the United States. You think he's right on this? COTTON: Yes, Secretary Kerry, Secretary Carter have been raising

these concerns. The U.S. military is trying to assert the primacy of free commerce over the open seas. We need to make sure that we stand with our allies in the region who have claims to these waters and these reefs as well. We can't let China bully them.

BLITZER: Senator Cotton, thanks very much for coming in.

COTTON: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, new revelations about Osama bin Laden's final days, the surprising books he was reading, the love letters he wrote, and the attack he was plotting against the United States.

And we're also learning about a new witness who's opening up about the arrest of Freddie Gray in Baltimore and the van ride that allegedly killed him.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:27:58]

BLITZER: Breaking now, inside the mind and the murderous plots of the man who brought terrorism to America's doorsteps.

Four years after Osama bin Laden's death, we're now getting revealing new information about the al Qaeda leader, his life in hiding, and his fixation on attacking the United States and killing Americans.

Documents seized during the Navy SEAL raid on bin Laden's compound were just released today by the U.S. intelligence community.

CNN's Tom Foreman is joining us. He's got new information.

Tom, what have you learned?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These newly declassified papers, Wolf, reveal the frightening depth of Osama bin Laden's hatred of the United States, his desire to strike another major blow against America, and the real steps he took to make it happen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (voice-over): Newly revealed in the now declassified bin Laden papers, al Qaeda sent agents to attack targets in the United Kingdom, Europe and even Russia, with an emphasis on hitting Americans whenever possible.

So why did the attacks fail? According to the master terrorist, it was bad luck and "God wasn't on our side." The papers show that, in all the years since 9/11, bin Laden's desire to strike America again never let up. One says: "These pig-eating invaders and their loyal dogs are too scared of death to fight us face to face. The main reason they continue to kill us is because we do not have the knowledge and the resources to counter their technology." Bin Laden clearly feared the power of American drones, warning

his commanders to change locations only under cloudy skies to avoid detection. And he cautioned: "We should be careful not to send big secrets by e-mail because the enemy can easily monitor it. Computer science is not our science."

He distinctly saw any plan to establish an Islamic state as premature and risky, writing that his followers should be prepared for a long struggle for things like food and water shortages: "I am sure that you are aware that climate change is causing drought in some areas and floods in others."

[18:30:13] His online library, also revealed in the documents, contain nearly 40 books in English, including "Obama's Wars" by Bob Woodward, "Blood Lines of the Illuminati," and "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers."

And there is this. An application form for would-be jihadis, asking about their education, families, hobbies, and do any of your family or friends work with the government? Would they be willing to help us? Do you wish to execute a suicide operation? And who should we contact in case you become a martyr?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: It really is a remarkable collection of papers. Even wrote one message to American voters saying, the reason the value of the dollar was falling and the suicide rate among soldiers was rising was essentially because the United States was destined to lose the war on terror, and yet as we now know, he was ultimately killed by the very troops he said could not win -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Tom Foreman, thanks very much.

Let's bring in our CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen. He interviewed bin Laden, wrote a book on the search for him. Also with us, former Congresswoman Jane Harman. She's a leading expert on intelligence and heads the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Also joining us, retired Lieutenant Colonel James Reese. He's a CNN military analyst, a former Delta Force commander. And Bob Baer, CNN intelligence and security analyst, a former CIA operative. Good panel.

Peter, let me start with you. "The Washington Post" quoting from some of the documents released today, saying that he seems to have been exhausted when he spent six years in that Abbottabad compound. He wrote this: "I have been living for years in the company of some of the brothers from the area, and they are getting exhausted security- wise from me staying with them and what results from that. I think that I have to leave them."

So what, before he was killed, just before he was killed, he was thinking about leaving that compound?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, you know, that's very much new. He'd been there, as you said, for six years. There were two people with him who were from the area, people that were, you know, long-time members of al Qaeda. You know, this letter demonstrates that they were under considerable strain.

The context of this letter, by the way, is bringing his family from Iran into Pakistan. And he was sort of saying, "The people around me don't necessarily want to, like, do -- bring my family in, because that's a security risk for them to go outside and bring people from Iran into this area."

BLITZER: You believe, Jane Harman, that he spent six years in that compound in Abbottabad, about a mile or so from the Pakistani West Point, and nobody in the Pakistani intelligence or military knew that bin Laden was hiding out there?

JANE HARMAN, WOODROW WILSON INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR SCHOLARS: Not credible. I remember that Musharraf, after he left Pakistan, was at the Wilson Center. And I asked him, how is it possible that nobody knew? And he said, "Oh, they would have told me if they knew." No way possible.

BLITZER: What do you think, Peter?

HARMAN: The locals and plus the ISI had to know.

BERGEN: Bin Laden was hiding from people on the compound. One of the wives of the bodyguards didn't know that this was Osama bin Laden living there. She was specifically told to ignore any kind of strange presence, and she only saw him once. He never went out. So he was being very careful about his security.

HARMAN: But the compound was suspicious. These very high walls, different from anything else around it. Nobody coming in and out. Or not often. I can't imagine that somebody in local government and in the intelligence didn't know he was there.

BLITZER: Six years is a long time. Bob Baer, I don't know if you want to weigh in on that part. But what was also fascinating was bin Laden getting a hold of a lot of these American magazines, reading them, "Washingtonian" magazine for example. Did that surprise you?

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: No, Wolf. Because he was looking at the United States. He attacked on 9/11, counting on the United States changing its policy, pulling out of the Middle East, withdrawing support from Saudi Arabia, what have you. So he was desperate to understand this country, and clearly, he didn't.

I mean, he was reading these anti-Semitic works. He was reading conspiracy theorists. And he was very confused, I'm sure, through all of this, what we were going to do next. And at the end of the day, he ended up, you know, causing the death of more Muslims than anybody since the Mongols. And I think this probably all came as a surprise to him.

And I think, frankly, he was a defeated man. He couldn't -- he couldn't resurrect his networks. It would look like he tried. And he was fairly irrelevant by the time the SEALs got him. BLITZER: He was really interested in killing Americans. Colonel

Reese, if you read these documents, "Go after, attack America, attack their economic infrastructure. Don't worry so much about creating an Islamic state," which is very different than ISIS right now, right?

[18:35:04] LT. COL. JAMES REESE (RET.), CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes, Wolf, it is. And what I think it really starts to show you is the egos of some of these leaders who are out there, that they have to deal with. A lot of bin Laden, like you said, stick to fighting the Americans. Now you've got Baghdadi. You had Zarqawi. Big egos, and those big egos sometimes get in the way. And I think that was the beauty of bin Laden. He had a focus, and he tried to keep that focus.

BLITZER: You think it's smart, Colonel Reese, for the U.S. intelligence community to release these documents?

REESE: I do, Wolf. One, I think it's very important for the American public to understand. The American public are smart people. And sometimes I think we discourse -- we discredit what they think. But I think it's good for them. They get to understand what else is out there in the world, especially when we sit back here. And they get to understand the threats that we have to deal with every day, especially the folks that are doing this 24/7 in the intelligence, law enforcement, and military community.

BLITZER: Peter, if you go through these documents as you have, there are a lot of documents released today, there's sort of two sides. The killer, the terrorist, bin Laden.

But also there's an emotional, personal side. He writes love letters to one of his five wives. Beautiful letters. He writes to his son, to his other children. He writes this to one of his wives: "Beloved wife, know that you do fill my heart with love. Beautiful memories every time. I thought of you, my eyes would tear for being away from you."

BERGEN: You know, Hitler loved his dog. You know. One of the concerns about releasing these letters that the U.S. intelligence community had was, are we going to humanize him? Well, of course, he was human. And this is a part of his personality. He was a loving father, a doting husband. And at the same time that he was a mass murderer.

BLITZER: What do you think?

HARMAN: Well, I have no sympathy for this guy. I would point out, though, we never would have had this if President Obama hadn't taken the career-risking move to send in folks on the ground to capture the -- try to capture him and capture these documents. And we've just done the same thing in Syria. And this is a much better way to go than just to use drones.

BLITZER: Bob Baer, one of the letters one person wrote to bin Laden, in those letters released today, about the financial problems that al Qaeda had, that they needed to get more money, if you will, and maybe have some offshoots like AQAP, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. What was your take on this part?

BAER: Well, it answered a question for me, Wolf, is whether he was getting secret financing, you know, a lot of money. The accusation is the Saudis continued to fund him or the Pakistanis or what have you, even private donors. So you know, I think it's important to understand he was running out of money.

The drone campaign was working. You know, drove him inland, isolated him. And, you know, Al Qaeda spread, but it wasn't directly under his control. AQAP is an independent organization that rose, sort of al Qaeda 2.0 if you like, out of his purview.

So by the way, I think it's great these things are being released, because the American people need to know who our enemy is and what we're facing over the next 50 years as we fight this war.

BLITZER: Colonel Reese, as you know, ISIS now not only still controls Mosul, they've taken over Ramadi, but in Syria they're moving in; in fact, they've taken over this ancient city of Palmyra. Not only did they slaughter a lot of people there, but presumably they're going to destroy all these archeological treasures, these antiquities, as they've done in other cities.

Here's the question. Does the U.S. have any responsibility to send in troops, not only to protect the people there, but also to protect these ancient -- these ancient archeological sites?

REESE: Wolf, what the U.S. has the responsibility to do, I believe, is get the United Nations, the Security Council, have an emergency meeting, and the nations need to look at this.

This to me is an atrocity that we need to do something about. Right now this -- this whack case, ISIS, are killing antiquities that is about mankind. It's the history of mankind. And we're going to sit around; we're going to write some papers; we're going to put some things out. And we turn around, they're all going to be gone and destroyed. And it's a real crime that we're not looking at this across all of humanity, mankind, and the nations.

BLITZER: Yes, but if you wait for the U.N. Security Council or the U.N. General Assembly, those artifacts, Jane Harman, they're going to be destroyed long before that. And thousands of people are going to be killed. Obviously, the people are a lot more important than those archeological treasures.

HARMAN: Right. I don't think that's a high population center, but it is destroying the history of Syria, and it's a total tragedy.

One thing I would add, Wolf, is you know, this administration needs to put a person in charge of this. John Allen is over there, retired General John Allen. But I don't think he has the authority to move and to cause changes in our strategy.

We're doing one thing in Iraq, which is maybe empowering Shia militia to go in to save this city. but then we're against Shia militia in Yemen. And what our overall strategy is, is confusing. And if we lose the moderate -- as everyone has been saying on this broadcast all day, the moderate Muslims in the area, which we are doing, who in the world is ever going to defend these cities?

BLITZER: Well, do you agree with Lindsey Graham, the senator from South Carolina? He was here, sitting in that chair, this week, and he said the U.S. has to increase its troop presence in Iraq. Right now, there are about 3,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. It's got to go up to 10,000 as a start?

HARMAN: Well, I don't think we need another big land force. I don't think the American...

BLITZER; He doesn't say big, but he says 10,000.

HARMAN: I don't know what the right number is. We should have some more advisers on the ground, especially these white soft forces, to encourage the Iraqis to fight. But we should not be, I think, empowering Shia militias to engage in what could amount to ethnic cleansing in Sunni areas. I think that will set back our cause even -- it will be even worse than it was when Saddam was here.

BLITZER: Jane Harman, thanks very much.

Peter Bergen, Bob Baer, James Reese, guys, thank very much. We'll stay on top of the story for our viewers.

Just ahead, another story we're watching right now. There's a new interview with a witness to the arrest of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. Could her account and this new cell-phone video give prosecutors the key to the case against the police officers who have been charged in his death?

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[18:46:02] BLITZER: Demonstrators gather on the streets of Baltimore to demand justice for Freddie Gray -- the Baltimore man who sustained critical spinal injuries while in police custody, later died, leading to the arrest of six Baltimore police officers.

The march began at the site of gray's arrest, made its way to the headquarters of Baltimore's police union. Friends and family of Gray were among the marchers. It's been just over a month since Gray's death. And there are new questions being raised over the investigation.

Let's dig deeper with two CNN law enforcement analysts. Joining us, Tom Fuentes and Cedric Alexander.

Tom, you saw the story in "The Baltimore Sun" today that there's a new witness, a new witness who says she woke to Freddie Gray screaming as he was being dragged into a police van. We'll just show our viewers some of the video, video from her cell phone. The witness says police never reached out for her cell phone video. She's never spoken with the police.

Could her story, though, be part of the investigation right now even at this late moment?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it could, Wolf. My question would be, what's she been doing all this time? She knows these officers have been charged. It's a major point of contention between the community and the police. Why would she not come forward, supply that video, if it's evidence of what occurred at the time of the arrest?

BLITZER: You think it's problematic, Cedric, that either the police didn't contact her or she didn't contact the police and say, I have some additional video that may be of interest, I have some eyewitness testimony, what I heard and what I saw?

CEDRIC ALEXANDER, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it could be a variety of reasons, Wolf, as to why she is just now turning over this information. Sometimes it's out of fear, sometimes not certain what to do. It must have a lot to do frankly with that disconnect between police and community.

But don't be surprised if over time, you're going to see more evidence that may be introduced either through eyewitness account or through video account. So, I'm not surprised at this, at this stage of this investigation. We may see more of this going forward.

BLITZER: As you know, Cedric, the Baltimore police commissioner said today there's uncertainty among those in his police department following the death of Freddie Gray that everything that has followed has further exacerbated the uncertainty in the month since Gray's death. Baltimore has actually seen a spike in violence. Six people were shot just yesterday.

If you were the Baltimore police commissioner, you obviously have a lot of experience in this area, what steps would you be taking right now to try to fix what could be a morale problem?

ALEXANDER: Well, let me say this. Commissioner Batts has been around a long time. I consider him a friend. And he's a NOBLE member as well too. In addition to that, I think Commissioner Batts and his staff are more than capable of finding ways, and one of these ways I'm sure if you were to ask him in which to move forward, that is continuously continue to build those police and community relationships. That is the one thing that is the most important, even though they still have this sense of crisis that they're going through.

I think what's going to be really important for that commissioner and for that community is that we have to continue to engage in those relationship-buildings, because that is going to be the one piece that's going to help that community move forward, because you've got two things going over here. You have an active investigation in a community that's still upset. But you also must have a police department and community working together in order to resolve whatever issues may come up in the future.

BLITZER: Because it's been said, Tom, you know some of those police officers feel they've been thrown under the bus. FUENTES: Well, I think so. What do you tell them as far as

trying to reduce the number of murders occurring, the shootings on the streets, without aggressive police action to take guns off the hands of the people? You really have more than one community you're dealing with.

[18:50:01] You have the law-abiding community that wants good policing, and then you have these guys running around within guns, shooting each other. All the community policing in the world is not going to improve the relations between the police and the shooters who are running around killing their fellow citizens.

BLITZER: It's still a big problem over there in Baltimore.

All right. We'll watch it closely. Tom, thanks very much. Cedric, thank you as well.

Much more news coming up right after a quick break.

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[18:55:19] BLITZER: The fight against ISIS is promising to become a flash point in the 2016 presidential elections. Some potential Republican contenders are expressing support for increased military action by the United States in Iraq.

Senator Lindsey Graham, for example, he told me here in THE SITUATION ROOM this week that he wants 10,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. There are about 3,000 there right now, even if that means American casualties. The former New York Governor George Pataki is calling for more troops to counter the ISIS threat.

Let's bring in our senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny and CNN political reporter Sarah Murray.

What do you make of this debate? Because presumably it's going to put pressure on some of the other Republican candidates to step and up say, yes, the U.S. has to have boots on the ground as they say.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It definitely is. Somewhat of a surprising debate. I mean, I think we thought beginning of this campaign the Iraq debate was behind us. But now we're going from what happened there was the policy right, to what should happen going forward. So, I think we are going to see the divides, we are seeing the divide in the Republican Party as we speak about this.

But the majority of Americans are still opposed to boots on the ground anywhere. So that would be a very, very, very hard argument I think to make. I'm not sure Governor Pataki is not just perhaps trying to outline his presidential ambitions a little bit more by making this statement. It's easy to say on the campaign trail, much harder to implement.

BLITZER: He was pretty firm on "NEW DAY" -- on CNN's "NEW DAY" this morning in making that case. SARAH MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. He was. I think the

reality is, if you were going out and campaigning right now, this is what voters are asking in town halls. They are asking you how you're going to deal with ISIS. I think a lot of that is because we saw Americans who were beheaded by this group.

This is something that I think hits close to home to Americans in a way they kind of understand. And they want to know how people are going to deal will it.

By the way, this should be a question you should have to answer if you are running for president. You are going to be the commander in chief. You should respond to how you're going to deal with is, what your line is to sending troops into the line of fire.

ZELENY: But there is a bipartisan war weariness. You talk to voters, I'm not sure that is the majority Republican argument.

BLITZER: If it does become is, Iraq, a focal point in this presidential campaign, Sarah, how does that play out for Hillary Clinton who's, obviously, the front runner for the Democratic nomination?

MURRAY: Well, look, I think she's going to have to answer more questions about her vote to authorize the war in Iraq. She touched on that a little bit when you guys were in Iowa. But I think that will continue to come up.

And I think she will have to decide how she's going to separate herself from the Republican field in terms of offering up a line of strength against is. So, like Jeff said, people are war weary, they don't necessarily want to send troops in. And that is particularly true of Democrats.

BLITZER: You were there yesterday in Cedar Falls when she had that five-minute exchange with reporters. You asked one of those questions. She was quick to say, I made a mistake.

ZELENY: She was quick to say that, but she didn't say what she would do going forward. It's easy to say I made a mistake. It's more difficult to say what policy will be.

So, her challenge will be is, if she separates herself from President Obama, President Obama's policy in Iraq right now, it's sure to be changing as the threats grow. She's going to have to decide if she will change any of her views, separate herself from him. I still don't think this is going to be the dominant issue of this campaign, I think the economy is still.

But, boy, it's hard to tell. We don't know what the campaign's going to be about at this early stage.

BLITZER: Let me show you what's happening on the Senate floor right now. Senator Rand Paul, who's a Republican presidential candidate, he's -- it's not a filibuster technically but he's speaking out against any extension of the Patriot Act. And he's been going on now for several hours, going to continue for more.

Is this a winning issue, you think, for him?

ZELENY: I think it's a winning issue for him no question. This is how he sort of came to prominence, doing this. But I talked to a Republican senator today who told me that this is why senators should not be allowed to run for president, this Republican senator was very concerned he was using the Senate floor for political gain here.

So, I think he can maybe do this for a day, not a long time.

MURRAY: And we were just talking about this. He is fund-raising for his campaign off of what he is doing on the Senate floor right now. So, obviously, they think this is a winning issue for his presidential campaign. If you should be allowed to do this, if this blurs the lines too much, that's a question.

BLITZER: But there's nothing illegal in doing that.

MURRAY: There's nothing illegal but how does that sit? How does that make you feel? Do you really want your sitting senator raising money for his presidential campaign off this sort of faux filibuster on the floor?

ZELENY: I'm not sure we've seen that before. I think this may be one of the many new things about money and politics on the Senate floor.

BLITZER: This is a huge issue for him. He's made no secret of that over these past several years.

All right, guys. Thanks very, very much.

Remember, you can follow us on Twitter. I'd love to hear from you. Tweet me @wolfblitzer. You can always tweet the show @CNNsitroom.

Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.