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THE SITUATION ROOM

FBI Mistake Allowed Sale of Church Massacre Gun; Report: One Pilot Posted Pro-ISIS Messages Online; Iran Nuclear Talks Extended to Monday; Growing Alliance Between Russia, Iran; Interview with Gov. Nikki Haley. Aired 5-6:00p ET

Aired July 10, 2015 - 17:00   ET

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


KEILAR: Happening now, gun check failure. On the day the Confederate flag comes down, the FBI admits making a mistake that allowed the Charleston church gunman to purchase his weapon. Could the slaughter have been prevented? We'll be speaking with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.

Terror pilots? A chilling new report suggests two commercial pilots may have become radicalized, with one said to have interacted with ISIS affiliates. The terror group has captured planes. Is it now looking for trained pilots to fly them?

And dangerous alliance. A top U.S. general calls Russia the greatest threat to America, but as Vladimir Putin grows closer to Iran, is that threat growing even larger? I'll ask House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce.

And plane dangerous. Why would an airline pilot flush live ammunition down the toilet during an international flight?

Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with today's shocking admission from the FBI. The bureau made a mistake, a big one that allowed Dylann Roof to buy the gun that he used in the massacre that killed nine people in a Charleston church. The news broke on the same day that South Carolina took down the Confederate flag and removed its flagpole on the statehouse grounds, a direct result of those shootings.

Our correspondents, experts and guests are standing by to bring you the latest on all of this news that's developing now.

I want to bring in now CNN justice reporter, Pamela Brown; and our justice reporter, Evan Perez.

Pamela, what happened here?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, let me tell you that the man who confessed to gunning down nine people inside a South Carolina church should never have been able to buy that .45- caliber gun he used to kill them.

That bombshell coming from FBI Director James Comey, that his bureau made a mistake during Dylann Roof's background check, a mistake he calls of heartbreaking importance that, quote, "rips all of our hearts out." Director Comey says the FBI examiner doing Roof's background check didn't discover that had previously admitted to illegally possessing drugs when he was arrested in late March. That discovery would have prevented Roof from passing the background check in buying that gun.

Director Comey says the FBI examiner failed for make contact with the Columbia Police Department, which arrested Roof on that felony drug charge, so essentially the examiner contacted the wrong department, in part because the clerical error in the system listing the wrong law enforcement agency.

So after the three-day waiting period, the South Carolina gunshot legally used its discretion to sell Roof that gun, even though his status was still pending. FBI officials met with victims' families today to explain this terrible mistake and promised to work on fixing the system.

Important to note here that the FBI's revelation today contradicts earlier assertions that the background check was done properly, Brianna. I was there in the room when director Comey made this shocking admission, and you can tell that he was incredibly disappointed. And of course, it's embarrassing for the agency.

KEILAR: It's embarrassing, and it must just be -- the examiner who didn't make this additional step or didn't realize...

BROWN: The due diligence.

KEILAR: The due diligence. You can only imagine. Why did it take so long, Evan, for the -- for the FBI to realize it made this mistake?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's going to be a very big question. I think Director Comey is going to face pressure on Capitol Hill to answer in the next few weeks, Brianna. I'm told that agents on the ground knew within days that there was something amiss here, and I'm told that a week after -- about a week after the shooting, the FBI examiners issued a denial of the background check request.

KEILAR: A week after the gun had been purchased?

PEREZ: Within a week. No, the gun was purchased much earlier, and then the shooting happens weeks later. So this is after, about a week after shooting, and they realized that there's something that they needed to check out.

And so the question is, you know, why did it take only until today...

KEILAR: Right.

PEREZ: ... to be able to make this public? BROWN: And we asked Director Comey that question. He said that

he came to this conclusion last night, after reviewing the facts. But it certainly makes you wonder why it wasn't sooner.

KEILAR: This is a huge mistake. But it seems to be a very simple one. The examiner called the West Columbia Police Department. It goes -- I mean, it just is sort of obvious that there's a Columbia Police Department. This is a state capital. You would assume that, if they're told in this Lexington County form, hey, this is the Columbia Police Department, but it's not in the phone list...

BROWN: Right.

KEILAR: ... that the FBI has with all the contacts, I mean, I could Google that and find it out, right?

PEREZ: And what -- I think what this -- I think what this points to is really a patchwork of gun background check systems around the country. You have -- I think we have a map around the country where we have 36 states that rely entirely on the FBI to do background checks for them. Some states have handled this stuff themselves.

[17:05:19] And what the FBI has to deal with, Brianna, is simply the fact that, you know, you have some court systems that are really antiquated, and their data does not get updated very quickly.

BROWN: And adding to that, Inspector Comey said that they fax the requests in. The FBI faxes the requests in to these departments to get these...

PEREZ: That's stuck in the '80s.

BROWN: Exactly. It's antiquated, and then to put -- give you the big picture, they get about 30,000 transaction requests a day. So it also raises a question: are there enough resources, enough people to be able to do the due diligence?

KEILAR: And it seems like there's an issue with some of the disqualifying getting to the FBI in such a way that it forces the FBI examiners to be the only backstop on making these calls when someone tries to purchase a firearm.

PEREZ: And they have 72 hours. Seventy-two hours is what they have. And by the way, it happens a lot more often than -- what happened here happens a lot more often...

KEILAR: This reveals something that's happening. That's key.

PEREZ: It's an incredible thing that happens all the time. And then what happens when the FBI, like in this case, reveals that there's -- this person should not have had a gun, then they have to rely on the ATF to go retrieve the gun.

KEILAR: All right. Evan, Pam, thank you so much. Really appreciate it. A chilling new report suggesting that two commercial pilots may

have become radicalized, with one said to have posted pro-ISIS messages online. The terror group has already captured some aircraft. Is it looking perhaps for people to fly them?

CNN's Brian Todd has been digging into this -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, tonight Australian authorities have genuine concerns about the potential radicalization of two Indonesian commercial pilots. That is according to an intelligence report purportedly by the Australian federal police.

The report says, of these pilots, both appear to be influenced by pro-I.S. elements, I.S. for "Islamic State."

Now, the document was obtained by the news website The Intercept, and it says one of the pilots last September began to post pro-ISIS messages on social media, starting interacting with people affiliated with ISIS and later listed his current city as Raqqah, Syria. That's ISIS's stronghold.

Now, it's not clear if that pilot ever actually traveled to Syria, and CNN has not been able to independently verify the contents of the Australian police document. A U.S. counter-terrorism official tells CNN ISIS has specifically called for skilled professionals to join their self-declared caliphate.

Analysts say they're looking for pilots, but there's no evidence so far that ISIS actually recruited either of these two particular pilots. One of the pilots sent messages to local Indonesian media denying that he has any ties to ISIS. Both of them also reportedly no longer work for commercial airlines.

Indonesia's national police chief told CNN their investigation shows the two pilots are not directly involved with ISIS, but he also says they do often post about ISIS on Facebook, and they are sympathizers. Indonesia's foreign affairs ministry says it's at the country's security agencies for more information about the pilots. The Australian federal police tells CNN they don't comment on intelligence matters, Brianna.

KEILAR: I think the issue here, Brian, really is the vulnerability that is raised here, right? The fear about what a trained commercial pilot who has terrorist leanings can do.

TODD: That's absolutely right. Les Abend, who's a commercial pilot and a CNN analyst, told us today, he says commercial pilots, they have intimate knowledge of the aircraft, of course, but they also know about security procedures.

They've been trained on the verbal codes to use with air traffic controllers and others. They know what to say to controllers if something nefarious is happening on board the aircraft. They know all about evading radar detection.

Now, take all that and you can imagine a full-fledged ISIS member or follower with those skills piloting a commercial plane with hundreds of people on board if it ever came to that. Again, we have no evidence that these two are at that level. They are simply sympathizers, according to the Indonesian police chief, but again, it's the potential for what could happen here and the skills that one could bring that really is chilling.

KEILAR: Sure is. Brian Todd, thank you.

And while hardline protesters back home in Tehran chant "death to America," Iran's negotiators are still trying to work out a nuclear deal with the U.S. and other world powers. They're making progress, but it's not enough. There's some serious sticking points here, and the talks have been extended yet again.

CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott joining us on this.

Elise, when have these talks been extended 'til?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, going to work through the weekend to see where they are. I mean, there have been intense last few days. You've heard about screaming matches between Secretary Kerry and the Iranian foreign minister yesterday. Secretary Kerry came out with a very tough message for the Iranians. In effect, take this deal or leave it. The Iranians were playing blame games.

[17:10:12] But today the storm seems to have passed. Secretary Kerry talked about some progress in the talks. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: We still have a couple of very difficult issues, and we'll be sitting down to discuss those in the very near term this evening and into tomorrow. But I -- I think we have resolved some of the things that were outstanding, and we've made some progress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LABOTT: Well, they're going to work through the weekend, as he said, but they have still very key sticking points, and it's very tedious work, Brianna. I think 100-page documents, they have access -- they're pouring over every word. And so I think they have a very few intense days of negotiating ahead of them, Brianna.

KEILAR: And I ask you this, and I know a lot lately, as we sort of go into extra innings here, as we've heard from one State Department advisor. What is the prognosis here on there being a deal?

LABOTT: Well, I think that they're more optimistic, maybe more realistic chances that there could be a deal than there were in the last few days. They do have a couple of key sticking points. We're not just talking about numbers here. We're talking about fundamental political decisions that maybe the supreme leader has to make, and so they're narrowing the gaps. But the question is, can the Iranians get to yes on some of these issues? U.S. officials and diplomats say if the Iranians said yes, we could get to a deal today, but if they can't, there's going to be another couple of difficult days ahead of them, Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes. A big couple days here. Elise Labott, thanks so much.

And joining me now, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Congressman Ed Royce of California.

Congressman, thanks so much for being with me.

And I do want to talk to you about Iran. But first I want to talk to you about this breaking news that we're getting from the FBI about Dylann Roof, the shooter at Mother Emanuel Church, who is charged with killing nine people. We've learned from the FBI, they're saying they made a mistake. He should not have been able to get this weapon.

He had admitted that he had possession of drugs, and that would have been a disqualifying factor for him in purchasing a gun -- a gun. That specific info didn't get to the FBI. The FBI had 72 hours. They knew something was up, they should have closed the loop on it. They didn't.

So that's the specifics of what happened. But generally speaking, how -- how did this happen?

REP. ED ROYCE (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, the way in which it happened, and I support criminal background checks. The way in which this happened was one city was in two counties, and so you had a situation when the FBI accessed the data. It was a mistake. But clearly, what we need to do is put more resources into the FBI, and I've supported doing this, as well, so that they can update this system and make certain that glitches like this in the future do not create this kind of heartbreaking result.

KEILAR: But an examiner looking at information coming in from a county, should expect that there's more than one city in the county, or not necessarily?

ROYCE: Well...

KEILAR: Should there have been -- I mean, there was West Columbia...

ROYCE: Right.

KEILAR: ... but the actual information said it's Columbia -- or Columbia Police Department has the information on this guy. There was only a number for West Columbia. The examiner called West Columbia.

This is a state capital. This isn't some obscure little city in South Carolina. Is it a matter of that examiner being overwhelmed? They're getting a lot of requests? What do you think?

ROYCE: I think she worked on about 14 cases that day. KEILAR: Really? Wow.

ROYCE: So she did have quite a few requests to deal with. It is the unusual situation, in which you have one city and two counts. So part of this is going back through the database, making certain we have an easier, you know, field for those who want to access and need to access this information on a daily basis, to make certain that mistakes like this are not made in the future. And part of it's fixing that glitch. And the other part is training. And more resources, frankly, for the system.

KEILAR: Fourteen cases that day. There's a 72-hour window for the FBI once a gun application goes through for them to respond. Do you know what point in the 72 hours this examiner was calling?

ROYCE: I do not know. I do not know, but you and I now know the totality of this, and that had everything gone right, there is no question but that he could not have gotten the ability to buy that .45-caliber. And that's what -- that's what is so terrible about this. And that's why I think there are going to be a lot of changes, looking at how we can make certain in the future something like this doesn't happen again.

KEILAR: All right. Stay with me. We have much more to talk about. Iran, the Chinese hack on more than 20 million Americans' personal information.

We'll be right back with Chairman Ed Royce after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:19:32] KEILAR: House Foreign Affairs Chairman Congressman Ed Royce of California with me right now, but first even as top U.S. general -- as a top U.S. general calls Russia the greatest threat to U.S. national security. There are new signs of a growing alliance between Russia and Iran.

I want to bring in CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. Barbara, what's the latest here?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good evening, Brianna. Because that general made those comments, the State Department moving today to try to make sure Russia doesn't get too irritated at the Pentagon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): The U.S. watching carefully, a very friendly handshake between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, just one symbol of what the U.S. increasingly sees as a dangerous alliance.

GEN. JOSEPH DUNFORD, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN NOMINEE: So you want to talk about a nation that could pose an existential threat to the United States, I'd have to point to Russia. And if you look at the behavior, it's nothing short of alarming. STARR: The dramatic and significant split on the Russian threat

between the general who would become President Obama's top military adviser in a few weeks, and the secretary of state.

MARK TONER, STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESMAN: The secretary doesn't agree with the assessment that Russia is an existential threat to the United States.

STARR: But listen to Vladimir Putin press for Iran's desire to have an arms embargo lifted.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): We think Iran should have sanctions removed. The question being in what period of time and how quickly.

STARR: Russia has already lifted a ban on the sale of a sophisticated air defense system to Iran, a Russian weapon that could shield Iran's nuclear facilities from future airstrikes.

JOE CIRINCIONE, PLOUGHSHARES FUND: There's also jet aircraft, armored tanks, armored personnel carriers, artilleries, trucks. These are the kind of conventional weapons that could fuel a Middle East arms race.

STARR: And Tehran may soon have a lot more money in its pockets.

CIRINCIONE: There's no question that if you lift these embargoes now and at the same time are giving Iran access to some of the its frozen billions of dollars, Iran will be able to accelerate its missile program to threaten Israel and the rest of the Middle East.

STARR: The current joint chiefs chairman leaving no question where he stands.

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Under no circumstances should we relieve pressure on Iran, relative to ballistic missile capabilities and arms strategy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: The Pentagon sticking to its guns. The top admiral in charge of defending the U.S. airspace says Russia is also developing new conventional cruise missiles. And if they deploy those, it will be much harder for him to defend the United States -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thanks so much.

We're back now with the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Congressman Ed Royce of California.

Congressman, we heard General Joe Dunford, the nominee to be the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, say this week in a congressional hearing that, quote, "Russia presents the greatest threat to our national security."

Do you agree with that assessment? ROYCE: Well, if you look at what he's saying, the reason Russia

presents a threat is because of Russia's cooperation with Iran.

I would take that one step further. I would say it's Iran right now that presents, long term, the greatest threat. Now Russia is insisting Iran, but if you listen to the ayatollah, he says several things. Every military man in Iran should figure out how to help mass produce ICBMs. In other words, long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles that can reach the United States. He speaks to that issue, and then he leads people in a chant of "death to America" and "death to Israel."

This assistance that so far we've seen Russia give to Iran has helped Iran in its offensive capabilities, and this is our concern in terms of our national security interests.

KEILAR: What should the U.S. do?

ROYCE: Well, for one thing, I think that, in these negotiations, we have to make absolutely certain that inspectors have the right to go anywhere any time in Iran to look at the nuclear program, including on military bases. Because that's where we've found them testing their bomb work before. Russia has not been all that supportive in that, but we need to insist upon this.

And second, we should not give a signing bonus to Iran of $150 billion until we're certain -- certain that they're not moving forward with a nuclear program. We need to phase that in.

If we give that money up front, they're going to buy more missile systems from Russia. And that's Russia's financial interest in this.

KEILAR: It seems like Iran has been trying to throw a wrench in the works here, saying, you know, this U.N. embargo on arms should be lifted. Basically, we should be able to buy weapons. That would be big money for Russia, of course, as you mentioned. Is there really any possibility that the U.S. would agree to that?

ROYCE: I don't know. It would be a mistake to do it, because a few weeks ago, it was announced that Iran was sending into Gaza new missiles to replace the ones that were already launched in the last Gaza war and rebuilding the tunnels. And in addition, there's 100,000 rockets in Hezbollah's possession under Iran's control.

And they now say they're going to send precision guidance systems, so that those missiles can be prepared to hit different targets within Israel. That will open up all of Israel to a potential attack.

[17:25:23] So this kind of aggressive behavior by Iran demands on our part that we hold the line, that we keep the sanctions in place, that have some impact on keeping the conduct in check, and that we not let up on an agreement that would allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons capability, like North Korea did, without the inspections, so this takes on new significance.

KEILAR: Congressman Royce, really appreciate the insight. Thanks so much.

Coming up, a new embarrassment involving planes and guns. Why did an airline pilot flush live ammunition down the plane's toilet?

Also, the governor who led the fight to take down the flag at South Carolina's statehouse reflects on a day that many thought would never come.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:30:27] KEILAR: We want to get back now to that report that two commercial pilots may have become radicalized, inspired by ISIS.

Joining me now, we have CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd. He's a former CIA official. We have CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, he's the former FBI assistant director, and CNN intelligence and security analyst Bob Baer, he's a former CIA operative.

So, Phil, I want to check in with you about this report that we heard from Brian Todd. Basically that these airline pilots were posting sympathetic communication -- not -- sympathetic messages online for some time, sympathetic to ISIS, and then it appears one popped up in Raqqa, in Syria, which of course is a hotbed for ISIS. Could ISIS be trying to recruit pilots?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Sure. There's a couple of ways I'd be thinking about this. First, you remember, we've seen a large geographic expansion of ISIS, and they've been capturing a lot of equipment. Forget about airplanes, what about tanks, armored personnel carriers. You've got to match it up with the fact that the Iraqi military fell apart years ago, so ISIS presumably has people in the ranks who can operate some equipment. I don't know if they people who can fly airplanes.

But I've also seen self-recruitment not by ISIS, but by al Qaeda. That is people mailing in, saying, I want to participate in jihad, will you allow me to join the fight? The most worrisome one I ever saw was a guy self-recruiting out an airport. That was years ago but it's the same situation here.

KEILAR: Someone who's through security, who's had a background check.

MUDD: That's right. That's right. Who's writing in. And I would say ISIS has more of an opportunity to do that because in contrast to al Qaeda, they are way out there in social media, trying to find people who can help the case. Might be a pilot, might be a medic.

KEILAR: We know this was a Facebook post that one of these pilots posted, saying that he was in Raqqa. We don't know if that is for sure. Certainly if it's confirmed, that's very alarming.

Bob, ISIS has this now rule after establishing this caliphate, they are supposed to be essentially nation building in a way. It makes sense that they might be looking for recruits with certain skill sets. What are they looking for?

ROBERT BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I mean, they do have a nation. They have a capital, they have a military force, which is taking ground. They are providing services and they are trying to establish themselves to remain in existence for a very long time. Right now what they're mainly looking for is money. They want to get to the Gulf, they've got emissaries out there, get as much money as they can. The bombing campaign is depriving them of oil revenues and other revenues. They also need logistics.

KEILAR: OK. They also need --

BAER: And --

KEILAR: Go on, sorry, Bob.

BAER: Yes, they need logistics, they need all sorts of equipment, they need specialized and people with specialties. For instance, encrypting. Any number -- medical doctors, they've been recruiting a lot of doctors as well as airline pilots. Now whether they're going to turn these airline pilots --

KEILAR: You know for sure that they've been recruiting airline pilots or is this just appears to be something that could be happening?

BAER: It appears to be, but it fits within the pattern that they are finding -- people with technologically savvy.

KEILAR: OK. So it makes sense, Tom, but we don't know for sure if this is happening.

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: No.

KEILAR: Is what it sounds like. This is what I wonder about. We look at the timeline for when these guys start posting messages sympathetic to ISIS. A lot of time passes before one says essentially I'm in Raqqa. If this happened in the U.S., if you had pilots or even other people with skill sets that would be very valuable to ISIS, how much time would it take for U.S. intelligence and law enforcement authorities to track those guys down?

FUENTES: Well, it would take a very short period of time to start looking at them and start the investigation.

KEILAR: To monitor them.

FUENTES: To monitor them to see what they're up to, but you know, this shouldn't be any great surprise. We had Colonel Hasan, a high-ranking trusted officer of the U.S. Army be radicalized by Al Qaeda in Yemen at the time Anwar al-Awlaki, and kill more than a dozen soldiers at Ft. Hood. So --

KEILAR: He slipped through the crack.

FUENTES: Yes. And they're recruiting and Al Qaeda in Yemen is recruiting operation isn't as sophisticated, as extensive or successful as ISIS. So if that could happen from al Qaeda then ISIS -- and not only that, we're talking about who ISIS is trying to recruit. What about the pilot that tries to join ISIS? We have the other end of it. Not everybody that wants to join them is a loser is, you know, downtrodden. We have doctors, lawyers, senior officials, executives.

There are people in all walks of life who admire ISIS and may even go over the edge. So I think anything here is not surprising.

[17:35:08] KEILAR: Tom, Phil, Bob, thanks so much. Great conversation, guys. I really appreciate it.

And next, after watching the Confederate flag come down, South Carolina's governor shares her thoughts with CNN's Don Lemon.

Then later a bizarre airline incident frightens passengers and it may cost the pilot his job.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:40:06] KEILAR: Many South Carolinians thought this day would never come. But tonight both the Confederate flag and its flag pole had been removed from the statehouse grounds. It's just under three weeks now since Governor Nikki Haley called for this flag to come down.

CNN's Don Lemon is in Columbia.

You saw the flag come down, Don, and you were able to talk with Governor Haley right after.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I absolutely was able to talk to her right after. Our conversation, Brianna, was very interesting. You know, and I got to see both of them, both the flag come down, and I have to tell you, it was just as momentous an occasion I think to watch the pole come down as well because then you knew for sure nothing else is going back up there. But speaking to the governor, she was very personal about why she felt this flag should come down.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: So, Governor, you will remember where you were on July 10th, 2015, you presided over history. What does that mean to you?

GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You know, this is a surreal moment. Standing out there and watching that flag come down, it felt like the biggest weight was lifted off the state. It just felt so -- it's like the state -- it's a true new day in South Carolina. It feels like a new day in South Carolina.

LEMON: You have said this, and I don't know if it's in the exact words. But you have all done this because you weren't always on the side of taking this down, but you -- I think it takes a big person to change their mind. Why did you change your mind? HALEY: It wasn't that I wasn't for taking it down. First of all

South Carolina very much respects history, respects tradition, and so the flag has just always been up there. So when I came into office, you know, to have a two-thirds vote threshold was a huge one. And it's not a Republican-Democrat, white-black, there hadn't been a bill filed to bring that flag down since 2007. There was so much of a divide and so much hurt in the compromise of 2000, that no one wanted to talk about it. So it was almost like people just assumed it was going to be there.

LEMON: Yes. These -- you've used the words in the signing of this bill, you said tradition, you said history, you said respect, and love and forgiveness. It has to have been hard to strike a balance because not everyone was on the side that you were on.

HALEY: It's important for people to know what it's like to be in another person's shoes. And if you watch the legislative debate, that's what happened. People put themselves in each other's shoes, so they understood what the respect of tradition and heritage was, and that it wasn't about hate. But the other side also learned how painful that flag was and the pain that it was causing people. That's what brought South Carolina to this new day, was the ability to look at each and listen and say, it's time.

LEMON: You're an immigrant, your family -- you grew up here.

HALEY: Born and raised in South Carolina, but the daughter of Indians parents.

LEMON: Does that -- does it mean more to you? Does it make you more connect to do this issue? Do you have a special feeling about it?

HALEY: You know, we grew up, an Indian family, in a small town of South Carolina. My father wears a turban. My father at the time wore a sari. It was hard growing up in South Carolina, but what I've always been proud of and what I worked towards is to make sure that today is better than yesterday, and that my kids don't go through what we went through. And now I feel good because now I know my kids can look up and there won't be a flag. And it will be one less reason to divide, and there will be more reasons for us to come together.

LEMON: Now, as I understand, you went up and looked over the -- at the flag in the capitol this morning and it was important for you to do that. Why?

HALEY: I just needed to see it one last time. I needed -- I wanted to remember the moment. You know, so much of this has a whirlwind over the last several weeks, it's been extremely emotional, but I just needed to see what was about to happen.

LEMON: This flag went up in 1962, correct? Do you think it was sort of a poke in the eye to the civil rights movement?

HALEY: You know, I'm not going to try and figure out why people did what they did. I think the more important part, it just never should have been there. And I think that even when it was on the grounds of the statehouse, it was right in front. And these grounds are a place that everybody should feel a part of. And these grounds are a place that should be -- that belong to the people of South Carolina.

And what I realize now more than ever is people were driving by and they felt hurt and pain. No one should feel pain. You know, we can have our disagreements and we can have our policy back and forth, but no one should feel pain over something, not over a symbol.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: So there was a lot of pain from people, but also a lot of pride, Brianna, because, you know, some people see this as a symbol of pride for their ancestors. And she had to walk really a political tightrope to get this to come down.

KEILAR: Yes. You could tell that. She was sort of offering an olive branch to those people in her fascinating comments to you, Don, in this interview. Did she talk about the future about where she goes from here? So many people have said this is a significant step, but this is just one step in this journey.

[17:45:11] LEMON: She did. She talked about -- I think she said the way to honor the nine people who died was -- what she plans to do is to carry on some of the work of Clementa Pinkney, who was a state representative and also who died in that church. And so she believes the best way to do that is to talk -- to carry on his legacy of education, but also in the interview she talked about -- speaking about race now. That's going to be part of her platform. She said here in the state of South Carolina is to bring people together, at least when it comes to race relations in this state.

KEILAR: All right, Don, stay with us, because we're going to be talking with you more, coming up in just a moment.

Also coming up, though, this question of ISIS is trying to lure commercial pilots into its ranks. Stay with us for new details about two pilots who may have been influenced by the terror group.

But next, this is a bizarre incident on an international flight. Why did a pilot flush live ammunition down an airliner's toilet?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:50:36] KEILAR: Why would an airline pilot flush live ammunition down his plane's toilet? We are learning some new details about this frightening and bizarre incident.

CNN aviation correspondent Rene Marsh is with us in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Have we gotten to the bottom of this, Rene?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, I could tell you this. United Airlines captain flying an international flight is now under the microscope of federal investigators because of prohibited items he brought on board in his suitcase.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH (voice-over): A bizarre incident caused panic among some passengers on board a United flight from Houston to Munich. And tonight it could cost the pilot in civil penalties. Sources tell CNN it all began when the captain, who the airline is not naming, realized he was carrying live ammunition in his suitcase. Something not allowed on international flights?

MATTHEW HORACE, FORMER ATF SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Gun laws in Germany are very strict and very restrictive so I'm sure the pilot realized at some point that he would not be to clear customs in Germany with that ammunition in his carry-on.

MARSH: The captain threw the bullets in the trash can of the Boeing 767. But a passenger looking for a missing ring discovered them and alerted a flight attendant, who called the captain. Fearful he might get in trouble, sources say the pilot took the bullets and flushed them.

HORACE: It absolutely could have caused a panic in flight, at least amongst the crew in the cockpit. Fortunately the pilot stepped up to the plate and admitted that he had thrown the ammunition in the trash. Had he not done that, that would have caused all other kinds of bells and whistles to go into play.

MARSH: Tonight, United says it is reviewing the incident but that the pilot remains an employee. Meantime, the TSA says it's reviewing if the veteran captain should face self penalties.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH: The captain did not have a gun. Just the ammo. But there are instances when it's OK for a pilot to be armed. After September 11th an extra layer of security was added allowing pilots and flight crew who are trained by TSA to have guns on board U.S. flights only to defend against hijackers and terrorists. They're still not allowed, though, to take ammo and guns on board international flights -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Rene Marsh, thanks so much for that report. And I want to get some insight now with former FBI assistant director Tom Fuentes.

Flushing bullets down the toilet. Let's take this one step at a time because there's different parts of this that may or may not be dangerous. Is that dangerous?

FUENTES: I don't know. I don't think so. I think the bullets are -- you know, are waterproof and unless something strikes the primer to cause the bullet to go off, which I don't think necessarily would happen, you know, in the disposal system, so I don't think in and of itself it's dangerous, other than somewhat maybe being discovered later on and launching a terrorism investigation in Germany. KEILAR: Sure.

FUENTES: Because where did this come from? If there's bullets, where are the guns?

KEILAR: Throwing bullets away in the trash can of an airline bathroom? Is that dangerous?

FUENTES: Sounds bad judgment. Well, just somebody could get a hold of them and you know.

KEILAR: And someone found them.

FUENTES: And someone did find them. Yes. Find them and turned them in. So I think in and of itself from the standpoint of the bullets going off by themselves, no, not necessarily that dangerous. But what would happen when people find them and when the crew sees this and when the authorities in Germany, when the plane lands, sure, all the bells and whistles are going to go off in terms of the warnings and alerts and the investigations.

So the captain did the right thing, turning himself in. I don't think he did the right thing throwing them in the trash in the first place. He should have kept them in a container in the cockpit, immediately contacted security or have United, while he's in flight, say here's what I did, have security meet me at the cockpit, it's an accident, it was an oversight, I didn't mean it. Meet me at the --

KEILAR: The cover-up may be worse than the crime.

FUENTES: I think so.

KEILAR: If this was indeed him trying to make it so that his bullets are not discovered.

FUENTES: Right.

KEILAR: Tell us how often this happens? Just about domestic flights. This idea that you can have a pilot carrying a gun on a plane here in the U.S.?

FUENTES: Well, when I was in the FBI it was mandatory for us to be armed on all domestic flights. And, you know, the captain would let us know if he was armed. And they were occasionally armed and had the authorization to be armed in the cockpit so they're out there.

KEILAR: OK. They are out there. Thank you so much, Tom Fuentes. Really appreciate it.

And coming up, on the day that the Confederate flag comes down, the FBI admits making a mistake. A huge mistake that allowed the Charleston church shooter to purchase his gun when he should not have been able to. Could a better background check have prevented this massacre?

[17:55:13] And a chilling new report suggests two commercial pilots may have become radicalized, inspired by ISIS. The terror group has captured planes. Is it now looking for trained pilots to fly them?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: Happening now. Deadly mistake. The FBI admits the Charleston church shooter should not have been allowed to buy a gun. Tonight, details on how the feds bungled his background check. Does this happen a lot?

[18:00:05] ISIS recruits. Has the terror group lured commercial pilots into its ranks? We're learning about a terrifying scenario that may be unfolding right now.