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"Taliban 5" Travel Ban Could End Today; FBI: Surge in U.S. Based ISIS Sympathizers. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired May 31, 2015 - 07:30   ET



[07:34:07] VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: The travel ban on Taliban detainees swapped for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl last May could expire today. I mean, in other words, five former high ranking Taliban members could be free to leave Qatar and rejoin the violent group.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: U.S. officials have been working to extend that travel ban and CNN's Elise Labott joins us live on the phone right now.

Elise, what do you know about where these talks stand this hour?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, Christi, the United States is holding talks with both the governments of Qatar and also Afghanistan. Let's not forget, these five Taliban detainees were from Afghanistan. They were arrested on the battlefield.

And so, the question is whether they would extend the ban and keep them in Qatar, or whether they would travel back to Afghanistan either to be let free or to be monitored by the Afghan government, or even picked up and charged with their Taliban activities.

[07:35:02] So, I think the U.S. preference certainly would be that they were kept in Qatar, the monitoring and restrictions would remain the same. The Qatari government's point of view, they say -- officials tell me, diplomat sources, that they would extend the agreement as is but they don't want to put any new monitoring restrictions as some officials in Congress have suggested.

PAUL: So, do we know if conversations are still ongoing?

LABOTT: They have the meeting for several weeks, obviously. Yesterday was supposed to be a more decisive meeting but those talks have not finish. The U.S. says it's still negotiating the deal.

It's unclear whether -- I said who the deal is going to end up with. Would they be going back to Qatar or would they be going back to Afghanistan? I would think by the end of the day, we will hear something about the five remaining in Qatar under the same restrictions.

PAUL: All righty. Elise Labott, thank you so much for the update.

BLACKWELL: Let's bring back Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, retired, joins us now, CNN military analyst.

Lt. General, there's a reporting that we're hearing from that the Qataris will extend the deal as is, no additional surveillance, no additional restrictions, that the U.S. wants indeed those additional measures. Are the hands of the U.S. officials tied? What are the option here?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Victor, I think it's interesting to note there are two key suspensions in discussion today on the war on terror. And that's the first one, the metadata versus the civil liberties piece. And then, certainly, this expiration of the confinement and control of the Taliban five.

Both of these things are tough choices. And the United States wants things to happen but it's sometimes hard to make the tough call and reduce liberties to make them happen. In the case with the Taliban five, you know, we didn't want these individuals in Guantanamo but, at the same time, we don't want them released.

So, you're really caught in a conundrum there. We want other governments now to weigh in when, in fact, it was difficult for us to do the same thing.

BLACKWELL: I know you don't want to look back when it relates to the decision to trade these five for Bowe Bergdahl, but let's talk about the decision to release them into the Qatari control. And was there ever a reasonable expectation that after a year, these five men would renounce their loyalties to the Taliban and that these restrictions and the surveillance could expire? Is there a reasonable expectation that will ever be possible?

HERTLING: Well, I think that was the hope, Victor. But hope is not a method when you're dealing with these kind of individuals. With these five, you know, they've been away from the Taliban for quite a long time. And you say, well, what could they possibly do going back into the organization?

Well, they are going to be a strategic messaging for success against the United States as soon as they return, or if they are allowed more freedom of activity and freedom of conversation with their former compadres. This is going to be very difficult, because, truthfully, this is seen in that part of the world as a win against the United States.

Now, all kind of stories will evolve from this. I'm sure that they will tell how harshly they were treated, even though that is not the case within Guantanamo bay. It will cause more of a dislike and a hatred for Americans in the Middle East. So, all of these things will affect it.

Now, whether or not they contribute to future operations, that remains to be seen and whether or not the Afghan government, as well as the Qataris can pull together and say we have to control these individuals a lot more and watch them very closely or arrest them as has been a part of the deal potential in Afghanistan.

BLACKWELL: All right. We'll learn if there is a deal in just a few hours. Retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, thank you so much.

HERTLING: Thank you, Victor.

PAUL: Well, come Monday morning, the U.S. government may find itself with fewer tools to investigate terrorism. The clock is ticking as General Hertling referred to this as well. As the FBI reports, there's a surge of Westerners being recruited online by ISIS. We will be back in a moment with more on that.


[07:42:49] BLACKWELL: Eighteen minutes before the top of the hour now.

Congress has until midnight to decide whether or not to extend certain provisions of the Patriot Act used to investigate terrorists. We know that terror groups like ISIS are relying more and more on social media to recruit vulnerable Americans. Will American safety be compromised if those provisions expire?

CNN's Deborah Feyerick has more?


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The FBI made clear this week the ISIS threat in the United States is real and growing. And that it's going to take everyone in law enforcement doing their job to prevent a potential attack.

(voice-over): The failed attack by two home-grown extremists shot dead by police in Garland, Texas, earlier this month was, in many respects, only a matter of time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A police officer has been shot. Two suspects have been shot. Possibly have explosives on them.

FEYERICK: The FBI saying there has been a surge in U.S.-based ISIS sympathizers and that the threat is much larger now because of Twitter and other social media reaching people willing to act out.

JOHN CARLIN, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: There are thousands and thousands of messages being put out into the ether sphere and they are hoping they land on an individual who is susceptible to that type of terrorist propaganda.

FEYERICK: The director of national intelligence estimates 180 Americans have either joined or tried to join terror group overseas.

Now, ISIS strategy is evolving. Not only is the terror group using social media to recruit overseas and inspire locally, national security officials say they are also using social media to make direct contact as they allegedly did with Elton Simpson who plotted an attack on an anti-Muslim cartoon event in Texas.

CARLIN: Once they identify an individual, they will then try to directly communicate with that individual to give them coaching and guidance on how to do an attack inside the United States.

FEYERICK: The FBI is using more resources, tracking potential ISIS supporters. The problem, officials say, is that ISIS recruitment efforts are increasingly difficult to detect because they are essentially hiding behind encrypted communication.

[07:45:02] The FBI director has repeatedly warned police chiefs nationwide to be hyper-vigilant since police may get no warning prior to an attack.

JAMES B. COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: They are on encrypted platforms, so it is an incredibly difficult task that we are enlisting all of our state and local and federal partners in and we are working on it every single day, but I can't stand here with any high confidence when I confront a world that's increasingly dark to me and tell you that I've got it all covered.

FEYERICK (on camera): Just as official this week were trying to gain support for two surveillance tools that they say are critical to investigating potential terrorists. The first is the ability to monitor individuals with no ties to known terror groups. The second, roving wiretaps, tracking multiple phones tied to a single person and both are set to expire on June 1st and the Senate will be returning to debate legislation to decide whether to renew the two surveillance tools while at the same time ending the current NSA bulk phone data collection program as it exists.

Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.


PAUL: Well, police say they expected to arrest more people in that horrific quadruple homicide in Washington. Two weeks later now, only one person charged with the murders. We're going to go over some possible key evidence.

Stay close.


[07:50:00] PAUL: If you are anything like us, when we heard about the horrific quadruple murder at a D.C. mansion, it really shook a lot of people up, and police told us they did expect more people to be arrested.

But to this day, only Daron Wint is behind bars to the May 14 killing of wealthy CEO Savvas Savapoulos. His wife Amy, the 10-year-old son and their housekeeper. Now, if you remember, investigators were able to find Wint because they found his DNA on pizza crust left out side that torched mansion.

The police chief said it was impossible that Wint was the only person, though, to have committed such an elaborate crime. So, where are his accomplices?

Let's talk about this with CNN law enforcement analyst Harry Houck. Harry, thank you so much for being with us.


PAUL: You're a former NYPD detective, of course.

HOUCK: Right.

PAUL: Take us into your world. Why would they not be able to have found other suspects yet?

HOUCK: Well, I think they probably do have other suspects but they're still conducting an investigation.

I think Mr. Savapoulos' driver is key here. The fact that this man lied about the procedure on how he dropped off the money is significant in this case. There is no reason why he came up with this convoluted idea or this excuse on how he dropped the money off. That's why the police are probably taking a very, very close look at him, all right?

So, I think we're going to see something in the future regarding his driver.

Now, also, the fact is that we had five people that were arrested, you know, with Wint --

PAUL: Right.

HOUCK: -- when he was taken down, and they were released several hours later.

Now, why was that done? Especially when one of the females admitted that she went and made money orders out of the money recovered.

Now, there was about $20,000, as far as we know $20,000 recovered or a little bit more, how much more money was left, all right? Where is that money now? And I'm assuming it probably went to an accomplice. That's where we are at right now with this case.

We also have video of the man behind the building -- running behind the building, which is close by where the vehicle was recovered.

PAUL: Right.

HOUCK: And he does not fit the same description as Wint. So, is he really the man that dropped the car off and set the car on fire? We don't know. But probably the time analysis conducted by the police department from the time on that camera and the time that the fire department responded to the car are pretty close and consistent, so we can assume that man running behind the building is the suspect that was driving the Porsche.

PAUL: OK. I have to bring this in reporting that attorney Robin Ficker, who used to represent Wint in some other cases, he said Wint could not have committed the quadruple homicide because he hates pizza, but his DNA was on the pizza. Can you compromise DNA evidence?

HOUCK: No. I mean, it can be compromised in certain ways but not in this instant here. It came directly from him. I don't care if he likes pizza or not, I think his defense attorney is looking for any type of a defense to be able to help this man when he finally go to trial, but that's not going to be a defense. That's not going to hold up in court. You know --

PAUL: Well, let me ask you this real quickly, and we only have a second, but how long do you think before Wint might turn somebody in? I mean --


HOUCK: I don't think Wint's going to do that. They're not going to make a deal with Wint because we know he is the killer. You don't want to make a deal with a killer, all right? And he's already got an attorney, so he's not going to make any comments to the police at all.

PAUL: All right. Hey, Harry, thank you so much. We really appreciate your insight on this.

HOUCK: You're welcome.

PAUL: Sure.

BLACKWELL: All right. Just over 16 hours until key parts of the Patriot Act expire. In the next half hour on NEW DAY, we will talk to a congressman, Robert Goodlatte, of Virginia. He sponsored the House bill that would end and replace these controversial programs. Why he is pushing his Senate colleagues to pass this bill as well.


[07:58:00] PAUL: We told you last hour about a college baseball team making it to the World Series. Their pitcher is getting a lot of attention on the internet, specifically for his weight, not his pitching but his weight.

BLACKWELL: And there has been a pouring in of the comments from social media. You got Coy back here for more on this debate.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's been to fun to watch, the tweets. Some we can't show, we will not show, but the picture of this baseball pitcher has gone viral basically because he is a really big dude.

Let's take a look at the picture. This is Ben Ancheff, who plays for the St. Thomas Bobcats who were playing in the NAIA World Series. Ben is listed 6'2", 300 pounds, he was the starting pitcher in this game, and it raised an interesting question: why do some athletes get a pass and others don't?

Some people say his weight makes him awesome, that he is a hero to the average everyday Joe, while some say that Ben, making headlines because of his weight is fat-shaming. So, we wanted to hear from you guys.

And Delaina Toothman said on Facebook, "His weight is between him and his doctor. He may be very healthy at this weight, some people are. And if he can do the job, let him at it."

Jim Dudley, "Nobody had a problem with the Fridge on the Chicago Bears team. Be kind, people."

Now, these were actually kind post. People are really divided on this, we want to continue to hear from you, use #NewDayCNN. And we'll see what you have to say.

PAUL: All right. I just don't get it. He is doing a job, and you know what? Congratulations to him because he's obviously a good pitcher that they got to the NAIA World Series.

WIRE: That's right. I like it.

There's actually John Crook, a pitcher from the Phillies. Three time Oscar, he wrote a book that said, "I Ain't An Athlete, Lady." That was the name of his book, and it was about him. He was overweight but it was OK. He was still doing a good job.

And, you know, people are giving him a hard about it.

PAUL: Shouldn't hold you back.


WIRE: It shouldn't hold you back, that's right.

PAUL: People say anything online, though. We know that.

BLACKWELL: The Twitter thugs.

PAUL: Yes, we're very aware of that as well. We'll get it, too. Coy, thank you so much, we appreciate it.

WIRE: You're welcome.

BLACKWELL: Thank you.

PAUL: Hey, thank you so much for starting your morning with us.

BLACKWELL: Next hour of your NEW DAY starts right now.