Return to Transcripts main page
FBI Foils Smugglers' Efforts To Sell Nuclear Material; Investigators Update Shooting Investigation; Shooter Shot Several Rounds At Officers; Shooter Shot And Killed Himself; U.S. Aircraft Close Encounter With Russian Fighter; Russia Builds Up Ground Forces In Syria; Russia Fires Missiles into Syria; Doctors Without Borders Asks for Investigation. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired October 7, 2015 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 P.M. here in Washington, its 8:00 P.M. in Jerusalem and 9:30 in Kabul, and wherever you are watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.
We begin with ISIS, it's taking the term of terrorist group to a new level. But what if ISIS were to get its hands on a nuclear piece of material?
That is exactly the fear facing the FBI right now as the U.S. government admits it has thwarted smugglers from Moldova several times as they attempted to sell radioactive and nuclear materials to Middle Eastern extremist groups.
Our Justice Reporter Evan Perez is joining us now.
Evan tell us what we have learned about this?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, this was a Moldovan Police operation the FBI was assisting in the last couple of years. They've arrested a number of suspected smugglers who were basically just trying to make money.
[13:00:09] They -- as you know, in this -- in this region, Moldova has a big problem with smuggling, the transnistria region, which is in -- controlled by Russia.
There's a lot of smugglers who basically are -- they can -- they can -- they'll sell pretty much anything and they don't really care to whom they sell it to. And that includes the extremist groups, perhaps even ISIS. That's been the concern of the FBI which is why they've been working with the Moldovan law enforcement over the last couple of years to do these sting operations to try to see if they could get some of these smugglers out of the marketplace.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: If Moldova, Evan, is cooperating and catching these smugglers, why don't they face tougher penalty? Because there's a lot of concern that many of them just right -- end up back in the smuggling business within a short period of time.
PEREZ: That's right. This is a big, persistent problem in Moldova, Wolf. And it goes beyond just the people who -- that they have been able to target in these sting operations. There are other smugglers there who they don't necessarily have a good handle on.
But you're right, some of these people have not gotten very much time, partly because these are sting operations and the materials that we're talking about are not a huge amount. Again, this is a situation where it's not believed that these people necessarily are working with terrorists. They just simply don't care to whom they sell their materials to.
BLITZER: All right, Evan, thanks very much.
Joining us now to talk about this disturbing development, joining us from Irvine, California is our CNN Intelligence and Security Analyst Bob Baer. We also have joining us our Global Affairs Analyst, Bobby Ghosh.
Bob, let's talk with you first. How dangerous would it be if ISIS were to get its hand on some sort of dirty nuclear material?
ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it would be extremely dangerous, Wolf. You could -- you could empty a city. Let's say New York City. You take a car bomb. You put very radioactive cesium around it, blow this up and you could close down New York for months. I mean, it's untold damage. This has always been an affair in American intelligence. But I think it's Moldovan -- you know, there's a lot of tapes in this. There's pictures. There's good evidence this is a really ongoing market, and we've been lucky that a bomb has never gotten through.
BLITZER: All right, hold your thoughts, guys, for a moment. I want to quickly go out to Oregon. There's a news conference, local law enforcement, providing new details on that awful shooting incident at the community college last week. Let's listen in.
RICK EISENBERG, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, ROSEBURG COUNTY: Two troopers from the Oregon State Police office Roseburg also responded. And all four officers arrived on the campus at approximately 10:44 a.m. Upon arrival, the police officers heard a volley of shots. The police officers witnessed the shooter in the doorway of Snyder Hall.
Sergeant Kaney and Detective Spingath were in plain clothes, they were not wearing bulletproof vests, as they got out of their vehicle. The police officers ran towards the sound of gunfire and attempted to gain a better vantage point on the shooter. Sergeant Kaney and Detective Spingath knew that there were at least 35 students in one of the classrooms, and they knew that if they shot, they risk the chance of shooting innocent people.
Sergeant Kaney and Detective Spingath saw the shooter in the doorway of Snyder Hall. They saw him in the entrance of Snyder Hall. And they witnessed muzzle flash. The shooter shot several rounds at Detective Kaney and Detective Spingath.
Seconds later, both Sergeant Kaney and Detective Spingath felt they had a good target. They fired a total of three rounds at the shooter. Two rounds went into the entrance hall -- at the entrance wall of Snyder Hall near where the shooter was standing. And one round struck the shooter in the right side. Once the shooter was wounded, he enter entered the classroom again. He went to the front of the classroom, and he shot and killed himself.
I want everyone to know of the selfless acts of these officers that they made in responding to this scene. They had little regard for their own personal safety and they saved many, many lives that day with their heroic acts. Sergeant Kaney and Detective Spingath used their training and discipline to determine the best time to take a shot at the shooter. And once the subject -- and once the suspect engaged the police officers, he did not shoot another student. These men saved lives that day.
[13:05:06] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'd like to introduce Chief Burge with the Roseburg Police Department.
JIM BURGE, CHIEF OF POLICE, ROSEBURG POLICE DEPARTMENT: Good morning. Before I share profile information about Sergeant Kaney and Detective Spingath, I would like to express my gratitude to all the public safety personnel that responded to UCC. Without the response of the dedicated first responders, the magnitude of this event would have been multiplied.
As police officers, we know that we could be required to put our lives on the line at any time to help protect those in need. The shooting at UCC showed what amazing character your police officers have and how they are willing to risk their lives for their community.
Detective Sergeant Joe Kaney is a former U.S. Marine and has been employed with the Roseburg Police Department for 23 years. Sergeant Kaney received the Medal of Honor and Purple Heart in 2005 from the Oregon Peace Officers Association for a previous shooting incident in which he was shot and wounded in the ankle.
Detective Todd Spingath is a United States Air Force veteran and has been employed with the Roseburg Police Department for 16 years. Detective Spingath is a recipient of the Medal of Valor for his actions during the same 2005 shooting incident.
I am very proud of how Sergeant Kaney and Detective Todd Spingath as well as all the public service, public safety organizations responded and conducted themselves during this ordeal. I, like many other people in this community, consider them to be heroes. They knew that they could be injured or killed during this confrontation as they ran towards the sound of gunfire.
I have spoken with both officers, and I can tell you, they do not want to be heralded as heroes. They feel that they are only first responders who got there first and did a job they were trained and entrusted to do.
Finally, Sergeant Kaney and Detective Spingath ask that the focus of your attention be on the victims and families of this tragedy and not on them. They ask for privacy and the opportunity to settle back into their routine of providing public safety service to this community and its citizens. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Questions?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. So, how long was the exchange of gun fire between the gunman and the officers? What type of guns were involved both from the gunmen and the officers? And then, finally, if you could help us just king of understand where this is actually happening. So, did it include going inside a classroom and then did he emerge to confront the officers or just kind of more specifically within the hall where this happened?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jim, would you get that, why don't you go ahead.
BURGE: Sure. So, the officers were shooting 40 caliber handguns. I believe the suspect was shooting a 9 millimeter handgun. The shooter had emerged from Snyder Hall. So, he was actually outside of the classroom but somewhat in the doorway. The police officers were coming toward Snyder Hall from the parking lot.
So, they are running toward -- they are running toward Snyder Hall. The suspect is outside of Snyder Hall and that's where that -- as officers, as I said earlier, as they -- as they pull up, they're hearing the volley of shots. As they're getting out of the car, they're aware that they are -- the shots are actually -- are actually being shot toward them and that's when they exchanged fire with the suspect.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the wound disable him?
BLITZER: There you have it, dramatic information about the final moments before that horrible massacre in Oregon ended. Description of the two police officers, both heroes, as they confronted the killer in this particular case, who eventually was shot but he went into another room and then committed suicide, shot himself. A dramatic moment indeed. We'll stay on top of this story.
There's other breaking news we're following. We're just getting word into CNN of a very dangerous close encounter over Syria between U.S. and Russian fighter aircraft. We're going to share the details of what's going on. Much more right after this.
BLITZER: All right, let's get to some breaking news right now. A very serious incident in the skies over Syria. CNN's Barbara Starr has learned that a U.S. military aircraft recently had to divert to ensure a safe flying distance from a Russian fighter jet in the same area. The news comes as Russia ramps up its intense offensive in Syria.
Take a look at this. It's video reported to be from Russian airstrikes in Syria. CNN cannot verify the authenticity. You see bombs dropped from the air causing massive explosions on the ground. The Russian Defense Ministry says it has launched naval attacks as well from the Caspian Sea using precise long-range missiles. There words. This video from the Russian Defense Ministry shows how the missiles were launched and the distance they travelled to reach their target inside Syria.
[13:15:00] Officials say 26 missiles hit 11 targets. And Russia also building up its troops on the ground. The U.S. secretary of defense, Ash Carter, says the U.S. would not be cooperating with these tactics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASH CARTER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We are not prepared to cooperate in a strategy which is, we've explained, is flawed, tragically flawed on the Russians' part. And that is why I said the United States is not cooperating with Russia in that regard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's bring in our senior international correspondent Arwa Damon, she's on the scene for us in Istanbul, our military analyst, retired Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, and our global affairs analyst Bobby Ghosh.
Arwa, you're there, not too far away. What do we know about what's actually happening on the ground in Syria?
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A lot of fast moving developments, Wolf. Not only do you have those naval strikes (INAUDIBLE) by Russia from the Caspian Sea, launching, according to the Russian defense ministry, 26 long range missiles, hitting 11 target, this is on top of numerous air strikes and artillery strikes that took out through -- that took place throughout the day, mostly in the provinces of Idlib and in the Hama (ph) area, but also some strikes taking place in Aleppo. A lot of activists and rebel leaders saying that these areas that were being targeted, not necessarily ISIS strongholds but rather anti-Assad regime rebel fighting positions, vital areas that according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights led to some of the fiercest clashes that these areas had not seen in months. You also have one of the more moderate rebel groups that is, according to its leaders, supported by the CIA, saying that its weapons depot in Aleppo was also struck as well.
Meanwhile, the Turkish prime minister is saying that the vast majority of these strikes are not targeting ISIS. In fact, he said that only two of Russia's 57 air raids struck ISIS positions. All of this, Wolf, lending itself to a very messy situation on the ground and in the skies. One that is not going to potentially changing the dynamics of what's happening in Syria, swaying the balance in favor of the Assad regime, but one that is causing more deaths. And, of course, as a byproduct of that, more people fleeing for their lives, more refugees, Wolf.
BLITZER: A horrendous situation by all accounts.
All right, Colonel Francona, this incident involving U.S. and Russian warplanes getting relatively close over the skies of Syria, can't these two countries come to some sort of agreement, space rules, if you will, to make sure that there's no accident and that a U.S. plane or a Russian plane doesn't inadvertently go down?
LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Absolutely. This is what the secretary of defense was talking to his Russian counterpart about. They were supposed to have set up this de-confliction regime so that the two air forces don't get in each other's way. Obviously that hasn't taken effect yet. But any time you've got this number of aircraft operating in this small of an environment, this is bound to happen and we need to -- we need to get a handle on this. The Russians need to fly where they -- where they are supposed to be and we'll fly where we're supposed to be. But until we have that communication with each other, it's going to be dangerous up there. And it's not like the pilots can talk to each other. They've got language problems. They work on different frequencies, different command and control structures. So this has to be done at a -- a higher headquarters level.
BLITZER: You know, Bobby -- Bobby Ghosh, there are Russian critics who are already suggesting what they're doing in Syria right now is almost a repeat of what they did in Ukraine, in Crimea, slowly but surely taking over. Is that what we're seeing right now?
BOBBY GHOSH, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, the bit difference, and this is to Russia's advantage, is that in Syria they have an entire army and a regime of a government -- of a country that is on their side. So they've got Bashar al Assad's army -- let's remind ourself, it is the biggest army in the Arab world -- on their side. So they can -- they can send tanks in, Assad's tanks, while the Russians provide cover. The Russians are not really interested in territory in Syria as they were in Ukraine, but they're interested in protecting Assad and they've got forces that -- that the U.S. and its allies lack. We -- the complaint we've been hearing for years is, we don't have partners on the ground that we can rely on. We don't have heavy -- heavy weaponry on the ground. The Russians have all of those things, which gives them a huge advantage.
BLITZER: Bobby Ghosh, so as long as the Russian objective is to prop up the regime of Bashar al Assad, the U.S. objective is to see that regime go away. What's the prospect of U.S./Russian cooperation right now in Syria, let's say, against ISIS?
GHOSH: Well, it seems very clear, the language from both sides is very clear, there's not going to be direct cooperation over ISIS. The only thing that -- that any conversation has taken place is about, as Colonel Francona just said, is to make sure that the planes don't sort of interfere with each other. The air forces don't get in each other's way. And that's -- that's disappointing because if you have two of the largest military powers this the world, the United States and Russia, operating in the same sector, supposedly both of them to some degree or the other taking aim at ISIS, it seems a shame that they wouldn't cooperate on at least that piece. But the -- but the fact is unavoidable. Russia's larger ambitions are very, very different from that of the United States. They want Assad to stay at all costs, and the U.S. wants Assad to go, as well as ISIS. [13:20:45] BLITZER: Bashar al Assad not only has Russian support, he
has Iranian support. He's got Hezbollah support. He's got support right now. As you point out, he's got a huge military as well.
All right, guys, thanks very much.
Coming up, the deadly hospital bombing in Afghanistan. Doctors Without Borders demanding an independent, international war crimes investigation. What would that investigation involve? What might it mean for the U.S. military? We're going live to Kabul.
Also ahead, we have brand new poll numbers in three key battleground states. Good news for the frontrunners, bad news for some of those three states' native sons. And the polls also highlight challenges for Senator Bernie Sanders. One of Sanders' senior advisers, Tadd Devine, is standing by to join us.
[13:25:50] BLITZER: Video from October 7, 2001, that's the day the U.S. began its assault, the war in Afghanistan, against the Taliban and al Qaeda. Exactly 14 years later to the day, we all know now that tens of billions of U.S. dollars have been spent, thousands of lives lost, the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan still continues, the longest war in U.S. history. Case in point, the fight against the Taliban in Kunduz city in Afghanistan right now. As U.S. forces assisted the Afghanis in the battle last week, U.S. air strikes destroyed a hospital operated by Doctors Without Borders. Today, that medical aid agency asked President Obama to consent to an international investigation of the bombing. They're calling for the activation of the International Humanitarian Fact Finding Commission. It was created by the Geneva Convention back in 1991, but has never been used.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JASON CONE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS: Given the inconsistencies in the U.S. and Afghan accounts of what happened over recent days, we cannot rely only on internal military investigations by the U.S., NATO, and Afghan forces.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, let's discuss what's going on. Our international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is on the scene for us in Kabul, the Afghan capital.
Nic, explain why Doctors Without Borders wans this international commission to investigate, because we know the U.S. military has launched an investigation, the NATO allies, NATO has launched a separate investigation, and the Afghan government has launched a separate investigation. Why does Doctors Without Borders believe yet a fourth international investigation is necessary?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, they want it to be independent, Wolf. What they want to do, Doctors Without Borders say, look, you know, when they go into a conflict zone, which is what they do, they go in with their eyes open. They've talked to all the parties on the ground, whether it's the U.S., Afghans, the Taliban, to know what all their rules of engagement are. So when they go in, as doctors without weapons to help people who have been injured in conflict, they know they're going to be safe. They understand the rules of engagement. They abide by it. So what they want this independent investigation to do is to look at what happened. So they're saying, well, OK, has somebody changed their interpretation of the rules of engagement? Let's get all the facts, put them on the table, and if they have changed their -- the way they understand the rules of engagement, then we, Doctors Without Borders, need to look at this situation again and say, hey, well, maybe we can't do this because it's not going to be safe.
What the problem is that concerns the Doctors Without Borders is, they've got -- they've got hospitals in many different conflict zones in the world. Let's take -- let's take Syria right now. If tomorrow Russia was to hit a Doctors Without Borders hospital in an air strike in Syria, and Russia was to say, you know what, we'll investigate it ourselves, what concerns Doctors Without Borders is that in other conflicts, other bad actors can act with immunity, hit a hospital and say, you know, we'll look into it ourselves and leave it there. So this is a hugely important, symbolic and fundamentally thing that has to happen, they believe, to make sure that this cannot happen in the future, and that they can go willingly, as they do, experienced doctors can go willingly in harm's way to help innocent people in these conflict zones so that they can make these decision of the future. So it's really fundamental for them, Wolf.
BLITZER: You know, Nic, we're just getting word from the White House. The White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, announcing that President Obama personally has now called the president of Doctors Without Borders to express deepest condolences to Doctors Without Borders and to apologize to the staff and patients for the killing of those patients, the staff, during this bombing. A pretty extraordinary moment right now. The White House saying the president has personally called Doctors Without Borders to apologize and express condolences.
[13:29:52] And all this, Nic, taking place on exactly the 14th anniversary, today's the 14th year exactly to the day when the U.S. launched those air strikes from the USS Enterprise, as you and I well remember, that started this war. The war was actually started on 9/11, but started the U.S. war in Afghanistan against the Taliban and al Qaeda.