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STATE OF THE UNION
Secretary Kerry Broke His Femur; Vice President Joe Biden's Son Dies At Age 46; Gen. Stanley McChrystal on Fighting ISIS. Aired 12-1p ET
Aired May 31, 2015 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning from Washington. I'm Jim Sciutto.
And breaking news we're following today, Secretary of State John Kerry cutting short a crucial diplomatic trip in Europe after breaking his right femur in a bicycle accident. This just 24 hours after cancer claimed the life of Vice President Biden's eldest son, Beau Biden.
Let's start with Secretary Kerry who remains in a Swiss hospital for treatment. Special precautions being taken because Kerry previously had hip surgery on his injured leg. The state department issued a statement just moments ago that says "Secretary Kerry is resting comfortably at the hospital in Geneva and remains in good spirits. He will continue to rest throughout the afternoon. The Secretary will depart Geneva later this evening en route to Boston for further treatment. Though not medically required to do so, the Secretary will avail himself of an aircraft outfitted to ensure he remains comfortable and stable throughout the flight. Its use is nothing more than a prudent medical step on the advice of his physicians."
CNN's senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is live with us in Geneva. Nic, what more do we know about the accident and the latest on his condition?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we understand that the accident happened when he was negotiating a curve. That's what caused him to come down, fall heavily on his right side, injuring his right femur. The break, as we understand it, is around the area where he's had hip replacement surgery in the past. That would normally be expected to be potentially a weak point.
He's being kept in the hospital here all afternoon today so far. What we've been able to see here, a number of his staffs have just left here literally in the last few minutes. Perhaps they're going to take his plane back and he'll be waiting here in the hospital until that other medically equipped aircraft is ready to take him. It does indicate that if he needs that aircraft he's going to avail himself of it. But there will be clearly medical reasons. Perhaps the professional advice of doctors here that it would be better for him to take a plane better equipped to deal with his needs mid-flight. Jim? SCIUTTO: That's right, I am told by his staff that they're taking his
plane home and that he'll stay for a later flight on a different plane.
I wonder what effect this is expected to have on those Iranian nuclear talks. We're less than a month to go before the deadline for a final agreement and relationship is very important here.
ROBERTSON: Jim, I'm not a medical expert. I do a lot of cycling. I know plenty of people that have had injuries on their femur from coming off of bikes. And recovery can be quite slow. And generally the older you are the slower that recovery will be.
It's a month now for the deadline in those very important negotiation talks with the Iranians. There are a number of key issues that are yet to be resolved. Secretary Kerry has a lot of experts working with him on the details of that. But it's his personal relationship with the Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif that as we have seen all along is key to moving the process along. When they bet to sticking points, reading Foreign Minister Zarif's face, listening to his words, knowing how far that he can be pushed on certain issues, how far he's been pushed before, that personal relationship, that history is going to be very, very important when these talks, as they will, come down to the wire for the 30th of June deadline, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Nic Robertson, thanks very much for joining us from Geneva.
I want to go now to our senior medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Dr. Gupta, thanks very much for joining us today.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Secretary Kerry is 71 years old. The femur is a severe leg injury. The same side where he had hip surgery, the secretary. How serious is an injury like this for a man his age and how long is the recovery?
GUPTA: I mean, this injury is a serious injury for any age person. You know, the femur, the thigh bone, is the longest and strongest bone in the body. So to break it you need a lot of force. So you know, in someone who is older the bones can be weaker.
As you mentioned, Jim, he had previous hip replacement surgery. And from what I'm hearing, Jim, I think you're hearing the same thing, is that the fracture was near the top of the thigh bone, so closer to the site of that hip replacement surgery. And you know, it doesn't -- still a significant amount of force necessary to cause that fracture.
So we understand he was conscious the entire time, but it can be very, very painful. You can have a significant amount of bleeding as well. But given the fact that they are planning to transport him to the United States I guess that is an indication, you can infer that he's stable enough obviously for that transfer to occur.
Now, in terms of recovery, it's a little bit tough to say. Again, complicated by the fact that, you know, we don't know exactly what type of fracture this was and what the relationship is to his previous hip replacement. But I can tell you that, you know, on average you're talking about half a year typically, you know, four to six months. And it's not that someone may not be able to start walking on it, weight bearing as we call it, but just recovery is a long process and people may not recover to 100 percent.
He's an active guy. How active will he be a year from now? It's a little tough to say.
[12:05:42] SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. The state department says it was not life-threatening, he was conscious all the time, but he is breaking short his trip. He's returning immediately to the states for treatment.
This as you say the longest bone in the body. How much danger -- and again, I don't want to treat you like the attending doctor since you weren't present there. But how much danger does this put him in at the point of impact, at the point of injury?
GUPTA: Yes, you know, at the point of impact it can be very dangerous. And one of the biggest problems, and people don't realize sometimes with a femur fracture is just the significant amount of bleeding that can occur. And the bleeding occurs into the upper leg. So it can -- you know, the leg may start to get increasingly swollen but it may not be recognized right away that you're having massive amounts of bleeding actually occurring into the upper leg. Someone's got to be very, you know, vigilant about this.
Now, he was surrounded by a team, and my understanding a physician was able to examine him quickly. So that was probably -- you know, they could reduce the risk of having an unrecognized bleeding problem. And also the fact that he stayed conscious, again, very important. That speaks to the fact that the bleeding probably wasn't as significant into the upper leg and that while he may have been in a lot of pain and he probably was in a lot of pain, these hurt a lot, but it wasn't enough to obviously render him unconscious.
And I was just inferring the fact that they've decided to fly him back to Boston, that's where he had his previous hip surgery, it's a long plane trip, and you'd want to certainly make sure that someone was stable enough for that flight ahead of time. So you can just sort of presume that if it was something much more urgent or emergent they probably would have just done the operation right there where he was because it's a commonly done operation. It's a big operation. But they would have just done it there if it was necessary, they felt they could at least wait until he got back home.
SCIUTTO: Dr. Gupta, it's great to have your expert analysis on this. Thanks for joining us. Of course we wish Secretary Kerry a swift recovery.
Now to our other breaking news story and that is sadly the death of vice president Joe Biden's eldest son. Beau Biden passed away Saturday evening after a long battle with brain cancer. He was just 46 years old. We want to go now to CNN's Sunlen Miller (ph). Sunlen, a difficult time for the Biden family. This has been a long battle for him. What's been the reaction in Washington from the president, from the Hill and from the family as well?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, it has been an extremely difficult time for the family. The vice president we know was at his son Beau Biden's bedside last night when he died as well as the rest of his extended family. And over the last few years the vice president's office they really kept the details of his sickness very close to the chest. Only after his death last night did they reveal he had brain cancer. But he had been battling this for many years.
He first became sick in 2010 when he had a stroke. In 2013 he became disoriented on vacation and later had to have surgery to remove a brain lesion. Two weeks ago the vice president's office did announce that he was admitted to Walter Reed Medical Hospital. That's just outside of D.C. Now, President Obama he said he is grieving of course along with the Biden family, noting of the vice president, "Joe is one of the strongest men we have ever known. He's as strong as they come and nothing matters more to him more than his family. It's one of those things we love about him and it is a testament to Joe and Jill to who they are that Beau lived a life that was full, a life that mattered, a life that reflected their reverence for family."
And Beau Biden is the first child to pass away of a sitting president or vice president since President Kennedy lost his two-day-old son in 1963. The White House, Jim, has not said how much time Biden will take to mourn his loss. I should say this is obviously not the first tragedy to strike the vice president. He lost his wife and his daughter in a car accident many years ago when Beau Biden was only four.
SCIUTTO: And Beau Biden was in that accident I believe, injured as a 3-year-old. So sad. Our thoughts and prayers at CNN certainly go out. As a parent myself I can't imagine losing a child. Thanks very much, Sunlen, for joining us.
Joining us now as well on the phone is Governor Jack Markell of Delaware. He worked with Beau Biden when he took office in 2009. Biden of course was attorney general.
Governor Markell, thank you for joining us. We know you're close to the Biden family. Have you been in touch with them? How are they doing?
GOV. JOHN MARKELL (D), DELAWARE: Well, I've not spoken to them. I'll say everyone in Delaware is close to the Biden family. Their impact here has just been tremendous. And Beau was an extraordinary human being. I mean, he was a -- he was a great attorney general. He took his job very seriously. But just an incredibly good real genuine guy. And he was the most popular politician in the state and he earned, and he worked for it. And it's just an unbelievable loss. SCIUTTO: He was a veteran himself as well of Iraq. This is a loss clearly primarily for the Biden family. It's also a loss for the Democratic Party, is it not, in the state of Delaware?
MARKELL: Well, it is. And this goes totally beyond politics. I mean, I've heard from plenty of Republicans in the last, you know, 12 hours, who were feeling the loss deeply. You know, it's just -- this is deeper than any partisanship. He was just -- he was well respected in every part of the state. And you know, I spent a lot of time with him on some of the campaigns and working with him. And this is a guy who was just really well respected.
He was a kind person. He was good-hearted. He was hard-working. He was the whole package.
SCIUTTO: This was a long battle, first dealing with it in 2013, then he had a recovery and then a recurrence this year. Did you have any sense of just how grave the situation was in recent days and weeks before his loss last night?
MARKELL: Not really. You know, I spoke to Beau the last time in February and had invited him down to Washington to meet some of the other governors because we all expected that Beau was going to run for governor next year. And had he wanted to run he would have won and he would have served very capably.
And so we spoke back in February. It did not work on his schedule. So I just frankly had no idea that he -- you know, that this would happen.
SCIUTTO: Well, Governor Markell, we appreciate you joining us today. Our thoughts certainly with the family, with the Biden family but also with the people of Delaware and all the people who knew him. So thank you for taking the time.
MARKELL: Thank you very much. Bye-bye.
SCIUTTO: Coming up next, a Senate showdown that could mean the end of the Patriot Act. The vote just hours away.
[12:14:37] SCIUTTO: And welcome back.
Just hours from now the Senate will hold a rare Sunday session to vote on extending the patriot act as well as a new domestic surveillance reform bill. At midnight tonight three key provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire, section 215 which allows the NSA to collect and store telephone metadata on millions of Americans; the use of roving wiretaps to track terror suspects who frequently change communication devices, their cellphones; and the so called Lone Wolf provision which allows the surveillance of someone who is not connected to a known terror group. But senator and Republican presidential candidate, Rand Paul, is vowing to block extension of the Patriot Act and any other legislation that fails to end the government's domestic data collection program. Joining me now, Republican Senator Mike Lee. He is sponsoring the new surveillance reform bill that the Senate will take up later today, and, as well, as Senator Angus King, who has some concerns, serious concerns, with the proposed legislation.
I want to begin, if I can, with Senator Lee.
Senator Lee, as we look at this legislation, we're coming down to the wire here, do you believe you have the votes to get this passed tonight so that the powers that we just described aren't suspended?
SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: I do believe we have the votes. And so at this point I think the question is not really about whether we will get it passed, but when. It will happen either tonight or it will happen on Wednesday or sometime in between then.
But really within that 72-hour window we are going to pass the House- passed USA Freedom Act, which passed the House with a bipartisan supermajority of 338 votes. This is a good day for the American people whose rights will be protected, whose fourth amendment and privacy interests will be defended at the same time their national security interests will also be protected and preserved.
SCIUTTO: But 72 hours, that would still provide a window where these powers are suspended. And as the president described when he was making the case on Friday, even a short window, considering the level of the threat from groups such as ISIS, et cetera, would provide an opportunity, a danger. Are you saying that even if you have the votes that there will be a period where these powers are suspended?
LEE: I hope not. I think that will be unfortunate and I think it would be unnecessary, that's why I would like to get it passed today. I will point out I tried to bring this up early last week because I recognized that this cliff was coming.
We've known for four years that this deadline was approaching. And I think the American people are starting to demand more. They're starting to expect that Congress actually moves ahead of the game and stops governing by cliff. The American people deserve better than this, especially when it comes to a program that is an integral part of protecting our national security.
SCIUTTO: So how did we get to this cliff? You know, it's not a budget showdown. It's a national security showdown. How did we get here?
LEE: Well, we've known it was coming for the last four years. Several of us had concerns starting the last time this program was reauthorized four years ago. We voted against it. And we began working on a process to reform Section 215 of the Patriot Act.
You know, I felt strongly about this for a long time, so much so that I devoted an entire chapter of my new book, "Our Lost Constitution," to this program and to its ramifications for the Fourth Amendment and for the privacy interests of the American people. But that's why we came up with this bill. And we proposed this bill last year so that it could be introduced and passed well in advance of this deadline.
Unfortunately, this sort of thing has become all too common it has been a trend and a bad habit adopted by both parties. Bad habits, old habits sometimes die hard. But this is an idea and a habit whose idea has -- whose time has finally come. I think it's time for us to move forward and to stop governing by cliff.
SCIUTTO: Well, yes, it's a habit now that has the country's ability to counter terrorism in its sights. Rand Paul as you know is preparing for a fight. He is saying he will block this legislation. You backed him when he held the floor for 10 hours. You even stepped in for him when he was on the floor. Are you prepared to do the same tonight in light of the concerns he still holds?
LEE: Senator Paul and I share similar concerns about the collection of bulk metadata. We think it's wrong for the government to be collecting phone records on every single American's phone calls. We do differ as to the strategy of how to deal with it, and although he and I share a similar concern, I don't agree with his approach and I have taken a different approach here. I think the USA Freedom Act solves the underlying problem.
SCIUTTO: But let me ask you this finally before I let you go.
When this program, the bulk metadata program was revealed through Edward Snowden, the administration first claimed that there were some 50 terror plots that had been blocked due to that metadata collection. That number was watered down. That talking point disappeared.
Senator Pat Leahy and others established that, well, in fact it was just one plot, $8,500 going from an American to al Shab, that was directly connected to information collected in the phone -- collected in the phone metadata program. The fact is the government under this proposal won't hold the data anymore but the phone companies will. I mean, the data's still getting collected. Why is it necessary?
[12:20:00] LEE: Well, the phone companies will hold the records because they're the phone companies, they have a record of who calls whom. And so the NSA will be able to query and reach out to the phone companies to get that calling data that's relevant to a national security investigation.
But we don't think it's a good idea for the government to just be collecting all this data in bulk just because it's there. This data, when aggregated and when put into a database that covers a five-year period of time, potentially 300 million Americans, it reveals a lot about a person, about how they spend their time. And we don't think it's appropriate for the government to just collect this information simply because it exists.
SCIUTTO: Senator Lee, I want you to stand by because I want to go to Senator King now.
Senator King, you are a member of the Intelligence Committee. You have expressed serious concerns, lingering concerns even with the proposal that's going to be voted on today. Have your concerns been addressed? And for instance, I'll ask you specifically, is moving the metadata out of the government's hands to the phone companies where the government would then have to request access to it, is that enough of a reform to address the concerns that and you many other privacy advocates have had in the U.S.?
SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: Well, the answer is yes and no. I think moving the data out of the government is an important step. I've been lobbying in the Intelligence Community for two years for just that step. The problem I have is that the bill as currently drafted has no requirement whatsoever that the phone companies hold the data for any particular period of time.
Let's back up, though, Jim. I think it's really important for people to understand, we are not talking about the content of phone conversations here. Nine out of 10 people I talk to on the street say I don't want the NSA listening to my phone calls. That's not what we're talking about.
What we're talking about is the telephone numbers and who those numbers called, not any content. For example, the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston right after the marathon, to be able to check their phone number and see who they had called around the country to determine whether this was a couple of guys in Boston or a national plot. So I think it's important that people understand we're not talking about the content of phone calls.
My concern, and I support the concept of moving the data out of the government. I think that's a good idea from a privacy point of view. My concern is that if you move it out of the government, leave it with the phone companies and the phone companies say well, we're deciding we're only going to will hold that data for a week or month or six months, then the program loses its functionality altogether, and you in effect repealed it without really saying so. And that's been the issue that I've been trying to raise throughout this process, is there should be some reasonable requirement for holding the data if indeed you think the program has some value, and I do.
SCIUTTO But I hear you on the point that it's not the content of phone conversations. I'm aware of that. I think many of our viewers are aware of that. But at the end of the day it's still about who Americans are in touch with, which many would consider private information, even if you're not listening to calls. It's who those people called. And you mentioned the Tsarnaev brothers.
But can't law enforcement if they have a suspect in mind then track those phone conversations as opposed to collect everybody's, mine and yours included, just in case they might have to do so? That was the key privacy issue there.
KING: And you're right. And that's exactly why I and Mike Lee and many others have supported getting this data out of the hands of the government. Even though there was no evidence of it being abused and there were protections built in, I think all of us felt -- or many of us felt that we ought to get it out of the hands of the government. But there is a step here that the government has to go through the court, the FISA court, in order to get what amounts to a warrant to have a reasonable articulable suspicion of a terrorist connection, and then they can go and search the data. So they can't just go in and check your records to see, you know, who you're calling in California.
So, there are protections. And what we're doing here, Jim, is trying to balance the fundamental responsibility the constitution assigns to us of national security, to provide for the common defense and ensure domestic tranquility. Those are the exact words of the preamble of the constitution with the Fourth Amendment and privacy rights. But the Fourth Amendment is not absolute, it said people shall be free of unreasonable searches and procedures (ph).
We are always trying to strike the balance between those two principles in light of risks and in light of technology. And I'm strongly in favor of protecting privacy rights. But we also have to be aware that we're under threat. And it strikes me as an unusual position for Senator Paul, for example, to be talking about essentially unilaterally disarming an important national security tool at a time when I've never seen the threat level higher.
[12:24:46] SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this because Senator Lee mentioned the possibility that even though he believes and you believe you have the votes to pass this reform bill, there might be a 72-hour window before it is passed, it might be until Wednesday, which means that those essential powers, the unilateral disarming as you've described it would disappear for a span of two, three days. I know that's not a long period of time but it doesn't take long to carry out a terror plot. Does that concern you? Would that 72-hour window or longer be a threat to U.S. national security?
KING: It does concern me.
And I think as Senator Lee can confirm, this really is about timing. This will get done if the votes are there and it now does look like the votes are there so the only question is when, and I would hope that those who are making a big deal of standing in the way and objecting and blocking realize that all they are really doing is slowing something down for two or three days, that there is a risk created. You can argue whether it's large or small. But there is a risk created for those periods. So why not -- we could get it over with tonight if people will cede back time, if you will, pass the bill and it could be on the president's desk tomorrow morning with no lapse in the protections for the public.
So really, it's a question of whether people are going to make a big production of objecting and it ends up being passed on Tuesday or Wednesday, and we are in the same place we were, only we've lost two or three days. And I don't want to exaggerate the risk, but it created a risk that we won't have a tool in our national security tool kit.
SCIUTTO: And I've heard the same thing from many counterterrorism officials, that they have not seen the risk level at this state in some time. Senator Mike Lee and Angus King, thank you very much for joining us on this crucial issue.
LEE: Thank you. KING: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: So will the U.S. face blowback from the Taliban prisoners it swapped for army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's freedom? The American who commanded American forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, offers his take when we come back.
[12:30:47] SCIUTTO: Welcome back. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington.
General Stanley McChrystal is four star general and commander of American forces -- coalition forces in Afghanistan. He was. He's credited with transforming the U.S. forces into the elite fighting force they are today. He is author of a new book "Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World." And it is certainly a very complex world.
General McChrystal, thanks very much for joining us. Had the pleasure of seeing you when you were commander in Afghanistan. You've been travelling around the country a little bit so it's nice to see you out of the uniform.
GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, U.S. ARMY (RET.): It's great to be here. Thanks.
SCIUTTO: I want to begin with the case of Bowe Bergdahl, Taliban Five because today that deal is expiring and we are still waiting here what the next step will be. But first I want to ask you about Sergeant Bergdahl.
You were commander when he was taken. Were you a deserter (ph)?
MCCHRYSTAL: Well, I've been in command for about a month and when he left his base we didn't know. We had reason to believe he walked off his base but he could have been a confused young man, and that may still be the ruling, I am not sure. So, we made every effort we could like we would for your son or daughter to try to recover him as fast as we could.
SCIUTTO: Now, if it was discovered at the time, and I know that the questions -- the details were certainly murky then and to some degree there are still questions today, but if he was a deserter, would that change at all U.S. efforts to rescue him?
MCCHRYSTAL: It's hard to make that kind of judgment because it would have been impossible to know at the moment if he was a deserter. We were trying to prevent him from being taken into Pakistan where we thought he would fall into the hands of Haqqani (ph) for two reasons. One, because he's an American citizen and one of ours, a comrade. And second, because he would then become a chip in the power gain there, and we were concerned about both of those.
SCIUTTO: Do you have any concerns about the deal that was made a year ago to trade these five senior Taliban leaders for his freedom? MCCHRYSTAL: Well, I think if you look going forward getting back an American soldier was important particularly until he is adjudicated it impossible to say what was the cause (ph). So, it was important to get him back. I think now we've got to move forward. We got to decide what we deal with. The five that are back -- presumably, they will go back to the battlefield but they won't change the dynamics. It's not going to change the balance of effort there, five guys, but it's just something we are -- watch as we (ph) go (ph) forward (ph).
SCIUTTO: But that's an enormous concern. You say presumably they will go back to the fight, first of all that's an alarming assumption. And yes, there are a number of members of Taliban who won't change but they are quite senior in the organization. Would that not be a loss? Would that not put U.S. forces in danger there?
MCCHRYSTAL: I wouldn't make it too important. They were in captivity quite awhile. They're not going to go back, I think, to a key operational role. I say presume, because you have to assume to worst case in a case like this. We can't have assumed to have changed their thinking in a time they were in our captivity, I mean, anymore than we would want an American who had been held by the enemy to change his thinking. So, I think we have to presume that their bonds with their old organization are probably going to be pretty strong and just go from there.
SCIUTTO: And if they do go back, that deal you still think was a good deal to gain his freedom?
MCCHRYSTAL: It's hard to make a judgment on a deal like that. It's an American soldier and so getting him back to me is a pretty sacred responsibility.
SCIUTTO: I want to ask you about Iraq. The fight against ISIS is not going well. The map really immutable for the last several months despite a massive U.S.-led air campaign and a massive advantage among the Iraqi and Kurdish forces aligned against the forces of ISIS. You have been very public in saying you need U.S. forces -- boots on the ground to fight this fight and win. Is that what is necessary to turn this around?
[09:34:40] MCCHRYSTAL: Well, what I have actually said is we first need a very clear strategy to deal with ISIS and to establish a framework for the region. Because if we don't have a direction of where we are going, where the instate will be, the just defeating ISIS will just be a sort of a meaningless act.
Second, we have got to recognize what ISIS is, and it's a phenomenon of the 21st century. It's based on some age-old ideas but as you and I both know is they are operating in a way that is disorienting (ph) to organizations of the region. They've got this incredible tactical ability to combine suicide bombers with pretty flexible tactics on the ground and this superb information warfare campaign. It's very decentralized. It makes us all worry about what they are doing.
[12:35:03] I think we are going to have to show leadership in the region. I think American presence and leadership is going to be critical to build a team of teams against ISIS.
SCIUTTO: To demonstrate leadership do you have to commit American forces on the ground?
MCCHRYSTAL: I think you have got to demonstrate American revolve and leadership. In some cases it could be Americans on the ground with Iraqi forces helping leverage as you know one (INAUDIBLE) army in a difficult time like the Iraqi army is needs that feel of the cloth of comrades. And I think Americans can be a big part of that, but I don't think thousands and thousands of American forces on the ground to be ground forces (INAUDIBLE) would do that is probably the right move right now.
SCIUTTO: So, you mean -- and this is something that General Dempsey and others have raised, the idea of forward deployed advisers. So, in other words military advisers instead of back in the base, they are on the forward lines or forward ground controllers. Is that what you're talking about?
MCCHRYSTAL: Yes, it is. Because war is about confidence.
If you know when the Iraqis pulled out of Ramadi, it was a military calculus, but in reality it was much more a loss of confidence. Sometimes just the presence of American advisers with their connection to air power and whatnot can bolster the confidence of leaders and provide additional advice as well.
SCIUTTO: And confidence seems to be key because you here this -- the words of Secretary Ash Carter saying, they didn't have the will to fight.
MCCHRYSTAL: Confidence is everything at every level. It starts having confidence in your leaders all the way up to your national leaders and then in yourselves. And I think that's something we could potentially help with.
SCIUTTO: I want to ask you about Afghanistan because this was meant to be the year of the end of the U.S. Military presence in Afghanistan.
The president has extended the smaller force that is there for a bit of a longer period of time. But the reporting on the ground is that those forces are doing more kinetic activity than the president had described. Initially he (ph) said, well, they will protect U.S. forces for its protection et cetera but there is evidence that they are doing offensive operations, going after Taliban leaders. Is this a stealth extension of the U.S. war in Afghanistan?
MCCHRYSTAL: I think it is just a recognition that we can get a balance.
Most of the fighting on the ground is being done by Afghan police and military and they are bearing most the casualties. I think America brings some very specific capabilities to do precision operations with Afghan partners in many cases. But I think it goes back to confidence as well. Afghans will do well if they believe they have got the kind of strategic partnership that President Obama offered them in 2009 when he explicitly said, we will be your strategic partner. You can't put a number on that. It's not a specific number of Americans planes or boots on the ground. It's the sense that we are an absolutely committed friend that will help them protect their sovereignty.
SCIUTTO: But that sounds like a long commitment. And I'm harkening (ph) back a number of years.
I remember you said to me when we were in Kabul, and this is a good five years ago, you made the comparison to U.S. troops in Germany and Korea, they of course been there for decades. That that kind of commitment is not unusual when you are facing an enemy, in this case like the Taliban. Are you saying that you need an American force presence in Afghanistan for years and years to come to give that confidence?
MCCHRYSTAL: Well, I think you make that calculus. I think both Japan and Germany turned out pretty well and they could have turned out very differently. And so, I think, that if you look in the long sweep, wars don't have a set beginning and set end. As you know, all the things you do that lead up to a war and of course more importantly after a war prevents the next one.
So I think, if we look at our policy as a long continuum, and not being in a hurry and say, we may have people there for a long time. But in reality it's cheaper than doing spasmodic moves of big forces into (ph) (INAUDIBLE).
SCIUTTO: Finally, as you write this book about leadership, you have got a very strong reputation, of course, from your commands in Afghanistan. There are some who talk about you as a future political candidate. Do you plan or have any ideas or thoughts or ambitions to run for office?
MCCHRYSTAL: No, Jim. I really want young people -- qualified young people. I'd like to see more young veterans going in but I have zero intent.
SCIUTTO: A lot of politicians who've said that and then changed their minds.
MCCHRYSTAL: No, let me be -- let me be. I am not going to run for any office, period.
SCIUTTO: OK. General McChrystal, thanks very much for joining us today.
MCCHRYSTAL: Jim, thanks so much.
SCIUTTO: Ahead former governor of New York, George Pataki, the latest Republican to throw his hat in the presidential ring for 2016. So, how is he going to stand out from this already growing pack? I'm going to ask him right after this break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[12:42:41] GEORGE PATAKI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I announce I am a candidate for the Republican nomination for president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: This week George Pataki became the eighth official GOP contender for 2016. His announcement came in New Hampshire, a friendly state for moderate Republicans.
Governor Pataki joins me now from New York. Governor, thanks very much for joining us on Sunday.
PATAKI: Good being on with you, Jim.
SCIUTTO: I want to start if I can with the news of the day because key provisions of the Patriot Act are due to expire today. We just had Senators Mike Lee and Angus King on who said it's possible though they believe that they have the votes -- that these powers will be suspended perhaps for a period of days -- two or three days.
You were governor of New York during the 9/11 attacks.
SCIUTTO: Does that put the U.S. at risk of terror attacks?
PATAKI: It certainly does. And it's just to me totally wrong that a filibuster would be used to create this void in our security at a time when we are at risk. And I honestly think, Jim, we are at as great a risk today as we have been at any time since September 11th of another terrorist attack. So, I hope they can get it done today.
By the way, I think they should reauthorize the Patriot Act. I think Senator King's comments about how the alternative -- the House pass doesn't require the private sector to hold those phone records and without them we are at greater risk than we are today.
SCIUTTO: Senator Rand Paul one of your opponents, you mentioned a filibuster there, putting the country at risk, he's the man behind it -- leading the way on this. Do you believe that he is fit to be commander in chief in light of the position?
[09:44:49] PATAKI: Well, I think he is wrong on this position where he is going to buy himself block reauthorization of the creation of new authority to protect us and provide our intelligence we need to protect us in these dangerous times.
So, I think he is wrong. I don't understand why if it's going to happen on Wednesday or Thursday he doesn't allow it to happen today.
[09:45:04] It is simply putting Americans at risk for a political reason. I think it's wrong and I think it's unfortunate. SCIUTTO: I want to move to the fight against ISIS. The fight against
ISIS is not going well. The map virtually unchanged in a number of months. You've had the key loss of Ramadi -- other areas in just in the last couple of weeks.
You have said repeatedly that American forces need to be put on the ground there to fight there so that you don't have to fight a group like this at home.
[12:45:00] I wonder if you could describe to our viewers how far would you go. How many troops are you talking about? A large ground force? Are you talking about military advisers? What exactly do you think is necessary to turn the tide?
PATAKI: Jim, what I said is, if necessary. We should not rule out using American forces to take out the recruiting centers, their training centers, their planning hubs where they are actively working to attack us here.
I would do a number of things first. First, I would provide actual arms and assistance and training to groups like the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Sunni Anbar sheikhs who are on our side. Right now we don't do that. All of our aid goes through Baghdad and most of it doesn't get to those fighting ISIS on the ground.
I would also put American troops as advisers and as observers on the front line working with the Kurds, working with Baghdadis and with the Sunni to help them overcome ISIS' ability. I would greatly expand the air attacks on those save havens, on those centers using whatever intelligence we could get, which is obviously critical.
But if all else fails, then to prevent them from having these centers where they are organizing to attack us here in America I would use American forces. It wouldn't be a trillion dollars, hundreds of thousands of troops, a 10-year war to nation willed. It would be a quick strike, destroy their operations and then move out and continue to support those other forces, those local forces fighting ISIS on the ground.
SCIUTTO: But let me ask you this, the U.S. has been training, advising, assisting and arming the Iraqi army for more than 10 years, $25 billion. That army has dissolved in effect with ISIS' advance in Mosul and in Ramadi. What gives you confidence that if you do more of that it's going to turn the tide without a significant U.S. presence on the ground?
PATAKI: You know, I think what we have to do is not just to help the Iraqi army but as I was saying put advisers and greater troops and support with the Kurds. Put advisers and support and weaponry with the Sunni who are on our side. And yes, have advisers with the Iraqi army, the Baghdadi army with them so that instead of having Iranians guiding them they will have Americans guiding them. And they will have the confidence that we are at their side.
Jim, let me make one point. I have two sons. My older son after college was a marine lieutenant in Iraq for a year. My younger son after college became a lieutenant in the 10th Mountain Division and just got back from Afghanistan in September. I know what it's like to lie awake as a parent worrying about your child. I don't want us to put one young person in harm's way unless it's absolutely necessary, but I saw September 11th, I know ISIS wants to do it again anywhere here in America. We cannot let that happen.
SCIUTTO: I want to turn back to the political race here.
I want to play you something that a new Democratic presidential candidate, Martin O'Malley, said this week. Have a quick listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN O'MALLEY (D), FORMER BALTIMORE MAYOR: The presidency is not a crown to be passed back and forth by you, between two royal families.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: He's of course referring to the Bushes and the Clintons. I wonder if you agree with his assessment.
PATAKI: Well, sure. Obviously you don't pass it on to a family. You have to go earn it.
And I'm a fan of Jeb Bush. I know if he decides to run he's not going to run because it a legacy thing but because he has a record of his own and he's fighting to get there.
But I have to tell you my background is so different growing up on a small town in upstate New York. And my father couldn't speak English when I -- when he went to the first grade and I had to work in a factory over Christmas and summer vacations. And I think that's the American way where -- one of the things that excites me about this race is that pretty much everything I've done I've started at the bottom and been able to finish at the top.
I know I'm starting close if not at the bottom now but you fight the fight. You have a vision that Americans can believe in. You work harder than others. You talk about a record which I'm very proud of. And at the end that's what it matters where you are at the end.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you think because the first Republican debate is going to be in August 6th, and "Fox News" the debate sponsor had said, only the top 10 candidates based on opinion polls will be able to participate.
Do you think that's a fair rule?
PATAKI: Now Jim, the rules are what the rules are. Whether it's fair or not, you abide by the rules.
And I'm not going to let it bother me one way or the other. It's August of 2015, whether I'm in the debate, not in the debate, I'm going to continue to make the case to the American people that my whole life has prepared me for this moment. I know I can lead this country. I know I have the vision. I know I have the background and experience. And if I'm in the debate, great. If I'm not in the debate, great. It's not where you start. It's where you finish.
SCIUTTO: Well Governor Pataki, we wish you the best. Thanks very much for joining us on this Sunday.
PATAKI: Thank you, Jim. Good being on with you.
SCIUTTO: When we return, China's apparent land grab in international waters. And my exclusive flight aboard a U.S. spy plane in the South China Sea.
SCIUTTO: Tensions are rising between the U.S. and China over land grabs by the Chinese in the South China Sea. U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter travelling in Asia called on China to stop its expansion immediately. U.S. is also using surveillance planes to keep an eye on what the Chinese are doing.
I got rare access, the chance to ride on one on a recent trip to the region.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome aboard.
SCIUTTO: Thanks for having me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Glad to have you.
SCIUTTO: My CNN team and I are the first journalists to be allowed in the inside the P8 Poseidon aircraft during an operational mission. This is an enormously advance surveillance aircraft but it's also a weapon. It's a submarine killer.
These are sonar buoys dropped into the water to track submarines and the plane can be equipped with torpedoes to destroy those submarines. But principally today it's a surveillance aircraft. And up in this section are the plane's eyes and its ears.
It has video cameras, infrared cameras to watch as China makes this enormous land grab in the South China Sea creating, really manufacturing real estate on the high seas. Creating islands like this one with an airstrip and a harbor. The fear of the Pentagon is that China's militarizing these islands.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're out here patrolling just to monitor what's going on on these islands. So, mostly we come out here. We look for what kind of construction activity is going on.
SCIUTTO: So, the flight crew is just at its third radio contact with the Chinese military and it was very forceful. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Foreign military aircraft. This is Chinese Navy. You are approaching our military alert zone. Leave immediately in order to avoid misjudgment.
SCIUTTO: Very clear the Chinese military on these islands considers this their airspace and considers this U.S. aircraft (INAUDIBLE) international airspace right now as invading that airspace.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never get nervous up here. This is what I love to do.
[12:55:01] This is what we've trained to do. So, when you're fully (ph) prepared I think the nerves go away.
SCIUTTO: We're just coming up now on Mischief Reef, another island that the U.S. fears China is militarizing. The concern is that that is a potential threat not just to commercial shipping in the area but also U.S. naval operations. And these P8 flights are intended in part to send the message that those are things the U.S. will not tolerate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE; If China wants to intercept us in international airspace, they can do that, but they own the risk and the safety associated with that intercept.
SCIUTTO: Today it's a standoff at a distance from a few thousand feet from several miles, but the concern is over time those islands aren't going anywhere. How would this be resolved over time? Will it still be at a distance? That's a real question going forward, and neither side has figured out how to resolve that without a conflict.
SCIUTTO: On his trip to Asia, Defense Secretary Carter announced a new plan. Nearly half a billion dollars towards the building of partner military capacity among allies in the Pacific.
We'll be right back after this break.
[13:00:41] SCIUTTO: Thank you for watching STATE OF THE UNION.
We are keeping Vice President Biden in our thoughts today as he deals with the loss of his son. As a father, my heart goes out to him and his entire family.
I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington.
"FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" is next.