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U.S. Intel Suggests An ISIS Bomb Took Down Metrojet 9268. Aired 7-8:00p ET

Aired November 4, 2015 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:07] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, we're following the major breaking news tonight. U.S. Intelligence suggesting a bomb planted by ISIS blew up Metrojet Flight 9268 mid-air killing all 224 people on board. If true, it's the most significant terror attack in the sky since 9/11. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, ISIS bomb. In a shocking assessment, U.S. officials tells CNN that intelligence suggests it was a bomb planted by ISIS or an ISIS affiliate that brought down Metrojet Flight9268 killing all 224 people on board. If true, the take down of the jumbo jet would be the most significant terror attack since 9/11. The first time after several failed attempt the Islamic were able to blow up a passenger jet in flight. Two additional government sources say that terrorist chatter which could be online or cellphone discussions indicates that a bomb took down the plane. U.S. officials also say they suspect the bomb was planted in luggage by someone at the airport. So what set the bomb off? One possibility intelligence agents are looking at is that it was triggered by a barometric pressure switch, which would be set to go off at a certain altitude. We are covering the story from every angle around the world tonight.

Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon. Erin McLaughlin is in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. Jim Acosta is at the White House. Miguel Marquez is here in New York. We begin with Barbara Starr who broke the story. And Barbara, what are you learning tonight?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Erin. Well, U.S. officials caution it is not absolutely for certain that it was a bomb but they very strongly believe there is a very likely possibility that someone in the Sharm El-Sheikh airport smuggled a bomb onto this plane.


STARR (voice-over): The U.S. Intelligence committee now scrutinizing airport security at Sharm El-Sheikh Airport. The latest U.S. Intelligence suggests that the crash of the Russian passenger jet was most likely caused by an explosive device on the plane, planted by ISIS or an ISIS affiliate, according to a U.S. official. The official who is familiar with the latest information regarding the U.S. intelligence analysis of the crash tells CNN there is a definite feeling it was an explosive device planted in the luggage or somewhere on the plane. A British aviation team is traveling to the airport to look at the security there.

PATRICK MCLOUGHLIN, UK TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: We cannot categorically say why the Russian jets crashed. But we have become concerned that the plane may well have been brought down as a result of an explosive device.

STARR: British Prime Minister David Cameron telephoned Egyptian President Al Sisi and then announced that all flights between the UK and Sharm El-Sheikh are suspended until security measures can be assured. Ireland, doing the same. The U.S. Embassy in Cairo has told U.S. employees not to travel to the Sinai Peninsula.

LES ABEND, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: This could be an inside operation. Somebody that is or some people that are familiar with how the baggage process works. And let's not just limit it to the cargo hold. Catering could be involved with this, too.

STARR: ISIS has put out two statements claiming responsibility for bringing down the plane but they have not given any details. The U.S. official says the administration has not come to a firm conclusion but the belief it's a bomb is based in part on monitoring of internal ISIS messages separate from the group's public claims of responsibility. The U.S. did not know if the bomb plot in advance but had seen militant activity in Sinai in recent weeks that had caused concern. The Egyptian government says the airport is safe.

NASSER KAMEL, EGYPTIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED KINGDOM: Egypt is a destination as safe as ever. And all statistics are pointing to the fact that Sharm El-Sheikh is one of the safest destination in the world.


STARR: And if it's ISIS or an ISIS affiliate, it changes the entire intelligence calculation about the capabilities of that group -- Erin.

BURNETT: It certainly would. Barbara Starr, thank you very much. And tonight, U.S. investigators intercepting chatter that is leading them to believe that ISIS is behind the attack.

Pamela Brown is OUTFRONT. And Pamela, what are you learning about this chatter tonight?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, there is concern among the intelligence community that a bomb did bring down this plane and even though no conclusions had been reached, part of the reason that continues to be a prevailing theory is that there was an increase in chatter by ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula picked up by the U.S. intelligence community after that plane went down. And that suggested the group could have been responsible for planting a bomb on board. Officials I've been speaking with say that they didn't pick up anything before the plane went down to suggest that this was going to happen.

[19:05:12] And I want to make it clear, this chatter alone, be it online, through phone conversations, that alone does not carry a lot of wait without corroboration and officials are still waiting for more concrete evidence such as forensics from the scene to determine whether a bomb did bring down that plane. Now a review of the passenger manifest did not raise red flags so one theory investigators are considering is whether a bomb could have been planted on that plane and then set to go off at a certain altitude. That would take a certain level of bomb-making sophistication that we have not seen by ISIS. Particularly ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula. Very active arm devices. And if it turns up that this group pulled that off, that would be a significant development for the U.S. intelligence community. But again, no conclusions have been reached. We hope to learn more in the coming days -- Erin.

BURNETT: Pamela, thank you very much. We're going to talk a lot more about a potential bomb, about this pressure driven timer. Whether that is possible, what that means for ISIS' capabilities. But at this hour, many airlines around the world are suspending all flights to and from the airport where this plane took off.

Erin McLaughlin is OUTFRONT there at the Sharm El-Sheikh Airport. And Erin, we understand British investigators just moments ago arriving there. These are major airlines serving major cities like London.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erin. We understand the British authority have already conducted a security assessment of the Sharm El-Sheikh Airport. And it clearly has founded lacking out of the assessment, they decided to change the travel advice. UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond saying that they are also on the ground advising Egyptian officials as well as airlines at Sharm El-Sheikh on additional emergency security procedures such as additional screening. He also added that Egyptian officials do not have all of the information that British authorities have managed to obtain.

Now, Egyptian Foreign Minister speaking to CNN saying that the decision to change travel advice to Sharm El-Sheikh is premature. And he pointed to as ongoing investigation. The focus of that investigation very much on is so-called black boxes. Egypt civil aviation authority saying that they've managed to successfully download the data from the flight's data recorder. They're analyzing that. They say they are also looking at the cockpit voice recorder though, they say that that was damaged and that could take more time. Now, that portion of the investigation is very much an international effort Egypt is leading but Russians, Germans and the French as well as the Irish taking parts in analyzing those black boxes seen as really critical to providing concrete evidence to what happened to the plane -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Erin, thank you very much.

And we're going to have an in-depth report on those black boxes cockpit voice recorder later on this hour. OUTFRONT now, our terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank. And Paul, you heard Barbara talking about what a significant development this would be, how this could change the assessment? ISIS being able to bring down a passenger jet, something that al-Qaeda has tried to do and failed to do. That this would be in many ways a game changer, what are you learning?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, it would be a game changer. But what seems to be potentially the case, is that they managed to recruit an insider at Sharm El-Sheikh Airport. It wasn't like they built a sophisticated nonmetallic device like al Qaeda and Yemen have been trying to do. Remember that underwear bomb flew over the sky of Detroit. This was an old-school bomb, a conventional explosive and it would appear potentially an insider got onto the plane.

BURNETT: And so, in terms of what you're learning, I mean, if this is a bomb, who put it on there, it sounds like you're saying, leading in the direction of somebody placing it but not necessarily getting on board as well so the person who did this did not get on that plane.

CRUICKSHANK: Right. And they may still be at large. And one of the reasons why ISIS in Sinai may have been so coy in that statements, we're not going to reveal exactly how we did this they said today, is to potentially protect this insider, this mole who has potentially been working at the airport.

BURNETT: And in terms of the capability, your understanding of what sort of a bomb it is, I mean, I know there's a lot of questions but you heard Barbara and Pamela reporting there, if this were driven by a pressure timer of sorts, that would be relatively sophisticated, more than they thought ISIS could do?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, we don't know exactly what will mechanism was yet and it could just be an old-fashion timer. You know, time to go off at a certain point during a flight. That would be the easiest way. That's pretty rudimentary for these terrorists groups to go, including ISIS in the Sinai, well within their capability to put a timer on an explosive device.

BURNETT: All right. Paul, thank you very much.

And next, a bomb onboard Metrojet 9268, if true, how did it get past airport security?

[19:10:05] Plus, the final terrifying moments on the plane before it crashed. As revealed by the plane's own data. And OUTFRONT special report, we have combed through it.

And the game-changer. If ISIS brought down this plane, what is next for the American war against the terror group?


[19:13:37] BURNETT: Breaking news. U.S. intelligence officials telling CNN tonight a bomb planted by ISIS likely brought down Metrojet Flight 9268. Jim Acosta is OUTFRONT at the White House. And Jim, what is the White House saying tonight? JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, we're not getting any push

back on these reports. The White House is keeping a very close eye on this stage of the investigation. But at this point, officials here don't even want to say whether the President has been briefed on these reports that U.S. officials are saying a bomb may have brought down that Russian airliner. The reason officials here worry talk like that could have an impact on the investigation, they obviously don't want that to happen. It is important to note that just before the White House press secretary came into the daily briefing today with reporters. Josh Earnest was getting an update on the British government suspicions about that bomb or the possibility of a bomb but all Earnest would say is that the U.S. has been taking precautions for months to warn U.S. civilian aircraft about flying over the Sinai Peninsula. That they would be at risk.

And, you know, he was asked why the Obama administration has being more cautious than the British government in these assessments of what has happened to this Russian plane and the White House is just noting -- Josh Earnest was just noting that there are direct flights from Sharm El-Sheikh to the UK but not to the U.S. And so, that was the explanation of the White House today as to why the UK was being a bit more forward-leaning with this investigation. But at this point, Erin, normally in situations like this, yes, we are able to say the President was briefed about this or briefed about that. The White House not just going that far tonight and they are being very cautious about this stage of the investigation.

BURNETT: All right. Jim, thank you very much. And very interesting. They are trying to say, well, we tell planes not to fly over Sinai. Of course, this wouldn't have had anything to do with flying over. If true, a bomb actually planted on board a plane on the ground, as Barbara said, completely would change the calculus of ISIS capabilities. Sources telling CNN it appears someone at the airport actually put a bomb on the plane.

Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT. And Tom, how could someone have gotten a bomb into this airport in the first place? This is the crucial question.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you have shaky, general security at the airport, not only can somebody get something into the airplane but think about the access to a plane like this before it takes off. You're going to have luggage being loaded here and here at probably two points, also up here. You're going to have service to the galley, food service set up here, food service happening back here as well. You may have water service to the plane here, you may have lavatory service going back here. All of that beyond the jet we're attaching up here.

With all of these access points, bear in mind, that before you get there, for example, the food service, there are even more people who have access to the origin of that food service. You just keep multiplying that out and you start getting dozens if not hundreds of people who had some kind of access before the plane took off, Erin. And if you have shaky security anywhere along that chain, somebody might have been able to put in or switch out something that put this plane in jeopardy.

BURNETT: Which, of course, opens up so many possibilities. I know that at this point they don't seem to think that it would have been a suicide mission, that it would have been someone, to your point, catering or loading or any of these options. Where, Tom, would the bomb have been placed on board the jet in terms of the intelligence that we have right now?

FOREMAN: Well, we don't know. If it's in the cargo hold, there are three different cargo holds. This one up front here is the one that if they are carrying any kind of hazardous cargo, they might burn or something with typically be placed. There are two back here and one here, one smaller one. But again, you have the galley back in this area, you have the lavatory back in this area. If you had an explosion in this area that in some way compromised the tail here -- and bear in mind, we've seen parts of the tail some distance away from the rest of the wreckage here, then this would be a very vulnerable points.

But the truth is, once you have this pressurized, if you have a big enough explosion and you blow it apart, what happens, then, is the pressure starts causing the structure to collapse on top of which, bear in mind, Erin, you're going 500, 600 miles an hour. If you get a big hole blown in here, even if the plane doesn't instantly tear apart, these are, you know, multiple hurricane-force winds now ripping away at that hole and that's why you could have a tremendous problem. So, they are going to look very hard at all of these wreckage videos out there and say, what do we see? What is intact and what is not? Where did things tear-off? Where do we see burning if there's any kind of burning and does that tell us where this was if, in fact, it was a bomb.

[19:18:02] BURNETT: All right. Tom Foreman, thank you very much.

I want to go deeper on this now. OUTFRONT now, former FAA Safety Inspector David Soucie along with the former CIA Operative Bob Baer. Bob, let me start with you. You've been saying since the very beginning that you thought this was most likely a bomb. If so, what kind of bomb do you think it was?

BOB BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: I think it was probably a professional job, it was plastique. You can take down an airplane with all sorts of fuel explosives which is probably plastique, it's the most -- once you get this on the airplane --

BURNETT: What is plastique?

BAER: Plastique explosives like Semtex, TNT, anything like that to bring it down. C-4, of course. Semtex brought down PAN AM 103. You don't need a whole lot of explosives. It doesn't have to be against the skin of the airplane. If you have enough explosives, it will take it down. And if you had full access to the airplane and you knew what you were doing -- and I expect these people did -- you would know exactly where to put it to have 100 percent chance of bringing it down. BURNETT: And you were saying that they would have known what

they were doing, which in and of itself is a significant statement given that Al Qaeda and other groups have tried to do this, they have failed since 9/11 to get a jet down. This is obviously immensely significant. When you look at a barometric pressure sensor, which is something that would be set right for a certain pressure it would trigger. Right? At a certain level it's going to go off. You've talked about this in the past couple of days, Bob. It's very small, it's very simple. If it went through a metal detector David, and you're familiar with this airport as well as the security procedures, would it have raised a red flag? Would anyone have even seen it?

DAVID SOUCIE, FORMER FAA ACCIDENT INVESTIGATOR: Not that type. And this is one type that you're showing here now --


SOUCIE: But there are other types and Bob has mentioned this before too, that it can be as simple as a balloon or any kind of air container with something on the outside of it to make contact. So, barometric pressure devices are something that are really difficult to detect unless you have a barometric tester going in, which this airport actually does for any kind of cargo that's loaded in and baggage. Each piece of baggage that goes in is pressure tested for barometric device. That does not and would not prevent anything on a timer or some other kind of approach as well, though.

BURNETT: And Bob, to this point, you heard Pamela saying that if it was a device like that that had a pressure trigger, that intelligence officials -- U.S. intelligence officials believe that is very significant, that they did not believe that ISIS would have had that kind of sophistication. You're saying you think they did and very easily.

BAER: Well, Erin, they are wrong. In 2003, the CIA raided a safe house in Baghdad that was owned by a man who made these devices. His name is Aber Ibrahim (ph). A lot of those devices disappeared. A lot of the devices were at the Iraqi intelligence. Some of those same intelligence people have defected to the Islamic State over the last couple of years and it would be very easy to take this technology, get it into the hands of the Islamic State, get technicians who know how to work this stuff and get it to a place like Sinai where you can get an airport that is not as well secure as most and you're striking both Russia and Egypt. It's all very doable.

They could have simply had a timer. It doesn't matter. These people would make these bombs and they are very, very good. I mean, I asked them, I said, could they defeat these technicians? I said, could it defeat American security? And they said, "Yes, you could, about 65 percent." You could get one of these bombs through. And I have worked on these in the past. I mean, we've collected material. We've watched how they are made. And we've tested them on U.S. airports and they are very, very scary. And the technology is old but if you know what you are doing, you can get one of these devices through. BURNETT: Which is an incredible statement you're talking about.

We're not just talking to a place like Sharm El-Sheikh, as you say, you're talking about whether this can happen and you say, yes, 65 percent chance it could happen if you were trying at a U.S. domestic airport. I mean, when you just saw Tom showing the cargo hold of this jet, David, U.S. intelligence officials again saying the working theory was the bomb was smuggled on board via luggage and not from someone who was on board the plane, put on luggage with someone else. How do you think that happened? Was it just checked on but not linked to a person on the plane with a ticket? Was it a suicide bomber? Did someone who loaded the bags do it? What's your thinking of what is most likely?

SOUCIE: Well, Tom did -- thank you. Tom did a very good job of illustrating just how far the tentacles go. You talked about just being able to put, you take a case of water for example and each of those bottles that's in that water. What is in that water? Where did it come from? There's that vulnerability. There's other things like the cargo. There's approved shippers. And so, with approved shippers, these baggages that are shipped, are not screened, there's not even secondarily screen because the shipper takes full responsibility for those packages. So they screen them on their side which is not really within the safety umbrella of this security system itself. So, there are plenty of vulnerabilities. But I do want to point out one quick thing too. And that's that you notice that Tom is talking a lot about that tail area, that tail section in the back where the cargo hold is.


SOUCIE: That is exactly the place where the repair was done after the tail strike as well. So, I'm still not over the fence as far as bomb versus bad repair on this tail section.

[19:23:30] BURNETT: Yes. And David, before we go, would anyone on board, you know, if this were a bomb, wherever it may have been planted, would they have known that something happened, would they have died instantaneously? What would have happened on board?

SOUCIE: You know, it's difficult to say. Of course, the size of the bomb is going to impact that. The people within close proximity to it, I'm sure would be, would not survive, it would be an instantaneous thing. But unfortunately, the people remaining ahead of the wing, that just looked like that stayed intact most of the way down, it would have taken some time.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much. Bob, you'll going to be back with me in just a moment because we have analyzed the mountain of data from Flight 9268 to piece together a millisecond by millisecond account of the airbus jumbo jet's final moments. We have a special report on that, next.

And this is the first time al Qaeda or ISIS have downed a passenger plane since 9/11 but it's not the first time they have tried.


[19:28:23] BURNETT: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world. We continue to follow the breaking news on the Russian plane that crashed in Egypt. All 224 on board killed. A U.S. official telling CNN intelligence suggests ISIS or an ISIS affiliate planted a bomb on that plane.

OUTFRONT now, Nic Robertson, he is live in St. Petersburg, Russia tonight. And Nic,

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DEMOCRATIC EDITOR: Yes. The Middle East source I spoke to with knowledge of intelligence matters in the region told me that it appears that it's a bomb that's been put on board this aircraft and part of that has to do with intercepts from phones that have gone on in the region after the bomb went off. There have also been obviously in recent days claims by ISIS to have been behind this and there have also been threats against Russia made by ISIS in the preceding weeks as well. A lot of this is coming together and it's not looking pretty at the moment.

BURNETT: And so let me ask you, Nic, I mean, in terms of obviously the evidence is coming in and coming in. When you talk about the chatter, you're saying that was cell phone conversations or text messages or do you have any sense of what that might be?

ROBERTSON: No, not at the moment. Not in detail. And what we're hearing and one of the things that I'm hearing from the region is that there is a real sense that the Egyptians really need to get out ahead of this and for whatever reason, they are reluctant and we get that impression from Russian officials here as well that say they can't comment on the investigation and what might have happened because it's up to the Egyptians. So, I think there's a lot more information that we can learn but I think there's an effort here and we certainly saw what the British prime minister did, is he's got the president of Egypt in London. He's going to meet him on Thursday and he was -- the British prime minister's office was the one that came out first and said this is leading to looking like it could possibly be an explosive, you know, an explosive device placed on the aircraft. It does seem that there are real efforts here to get the Egyptians to get out ahead of this and I think we may get more information and more details.

BURNETT: All right. Nic Robinson, thank you very much.

Of course, we should point out, tourism, one of the top two or three sources of revenue for the Egyptian economy. This is their top luxury resort. They have every reason to not want this to move forward as a bomb, as so many intelligent agencies are saying that they believe it was.

Investigators are uncovering new clues about the final seconds now of Flight 9268. It's going to be crucial in piecing together what did happen.

CNN has gone through a mountain of data to learn what happened just before that plane fell from the sky. Miguel Marquez is OUTFRONT.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The final seconds of MetroJet Flight 9268 captured in data from the plane itself shows a sudden and disastrous event or events putting the Airbus 321 in a steep and unrecoverable descent. From the time it took, the plane appeared to be operating normally, climbing towards its cruising altitude of 32,000 feet. As the jet ascended to 31,000 feet, something catastrophic happened.

LES ABEND, COMMERCIAL PILOT: This airplane looked like it broke up for whatever reason and came to a complete stop and became a brick.

MARQUEZ: Twenty-three minutes into flight, the plane is climbing at a seemingly normal rate, according to FlightRadar24 information -- 576 feet per minute nearing 31,000 feet.

Then, the vertical speed, the speed at which the plane is ascending changes dramatically. Within a second, the rate the plane is falling jumps tenfold. Twenty-three seconds later, the plane appears out of control, plummeting 26,000 feet per minute. That is 300 miles an hour toward the earth.

(on camera): But as a pilot, this must look like a nightmare to you? This is a plane that's completely out of control.

ABEND: Well, this is a pilot that is trying to get ahold of its aircraft. This is pilot trying to recover the airplane. If this airplane had broke apart at this point, these pilots were not conscious.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): With U.S. officials suggesting a bomb may have been placed on the doomed Airbus, investigators are searching for definitive physical evidence of an explosive device.

There are clues some bodies of passengers near the rear of the plane have metal pieces in them, possibly consistent with an explosion.

We also know the plane broke apart. The tail section found a long way, three miles from the rest of the wreckage.

More pressure than ever on investigators finding out how a bomb could have gotten on the plane -- a critical question in the midst of a horrible disaster.


BURNETT: Miguel, it's incredible when you look at that FlightRadar24 data and you're able to see that descent. How definitive is the data that you've been combing through?

MARQUEZ: Well, it's not definitive and certainly the black boxes will provide more, but it is consistent with a bomb or some sort of force sheering off the tail and the rest of the plane continuing on for another few miles.

The question now is, they have to prove it, to figure out physically if they have evidence of a bomb on board, what sort of bomb it was, how sophisticated it was, how they got it on board and the answer to those questions could change security at airports for all of us everywhere -- Erin.

BURNETT: It certainly could. Of course, raising the question of whoever did this is, you know, there and in Sharm el-Sheikh now as they try to find that person.

Thank you very much, Miguel.

I want to bring in the retired Navy Commander David Sears. He's a retired Navy SEAL, former member of SEAL Team Six -- along with former CIA operative Bob Baer, also back with me.

Bob, for everyone watching, the first question on their mind probably is, could this happen in Europe? Could this happen in the United States? I know you believe the answer is yes. Why?

ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Well, the ability to actually hide the explosive, it's not out in the open. At one point these groups, the very good people were taking what's called rolled PETN. It's explosives. It's very malleable. They can put it in a Samsonite suitcase, put the detonator against it, at that time, it was a walkman, you can do it on iPhone now, it's not detectable, unless they're testing for nitrate.

So, everybody who gets on an airplane, the chances of one of these things getting through, as I mentioned the figure, 65 percent. I just threw that out there but it was a figure that also was confirmed by people in the government as well as experts. They said they've gotten this thing through over and over again and TSA and security services in Europe, airplane security services just cannot detect these with 100 percent. And that's, in fact, why you have these nitrate swabs, where they swab your luggage and your fingers.

BURNETT: That's what they are swabbing for but they only pick one person out of "x" number, right?

BAER: Exactly, exactly.

BURNETT: So, David, this is something people are afraid of. No one knew that ISIS could actually do it. Our Evan Perez is reporting tonight that sources are telling him this is a major upgrade for ISIS. Do you agree?

DAVE SEARS, FORMER SEAL TEAM SIX COMMANDER: I don't think it's a major upgrade for ISIS. They tried to do this. They want to do this. They advertised that they would like to cause harm, do these types of terrorist attacks.

It's almost equivalent to ISIS doing another beheading and us being surprised by it. It should not be a giant surprise that they've been able to do this, and I think we have mechanisms in place that are trying to address it.

BURNETT: So, Bob, we still don't know who specifically planted this likely bomb on the plane. Obviously, the working theory from our intelligence, they say that the intelligence suggests that it's someone on the ground, not a suicide bomber. Is it possible, Bob, that ISIS has multiple bombs like this ready to go? I mean, it sounds like from what both of you are saying, and what you're talking about with the bomb, that the answer to that would be "yes"?

BAER: Exactly as David said. It's no surprise at all. These people have been working on it and the same technology is available in Syria. It's been disseminated around Syria. Various groups have it. We know, Asiri -- Ibrahim Asiri has it in Yemen. A lot of Palestinians have joined the Islamic State. Same technology. It should come as no surprise.

And I don't think it should come as a surprise if at some point the Islamic State could bring this technology to Europe and bring down an airplane there. And I know this sounds terribly alarmists, but having been around these explosives for a long time, as David would tell you, they are treacherous and they are easy to slip by security.

BURNETT: Which is a terrifying thing.

I mean, David, the thing is, the White House is saying, well, look, we told planes not to fly over Sinai. The truth is, this had nothing to do with flying over Sinai. This was something that happened on the ground, a bomb put on this plane, if that's what happened.

The president famously called ISIS the jayvee squad. If they did this, they have pulled something off that al Qaeda failed to do, something transformational as a terror group -- certainly not a jayvee squad.

SEARS: Right. I think we're long past the jayvee squad piece. This doesn't to me become a game changer. It should be a catalyst to look at our strategy and say, what we are doing , how we are doing it. Right now, we have a lot of end states but not how to get there. The strategy is the how to get to those end states and they are very broad.

What we need to do is take a look -- a hard look at our allies, who are they, who are we working with, who are we not working with, and address that.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate both of you being with me tonight. Thank you.

And next, Islamic terror groups like al Qaeda, like ISIS, have been trying to take down a jumbo jet for many years. Next, a special report on the bomb makers.

And these are the black boxes recovered from the crashed airplane. These are the actual ones. Can they actually provide the final answer to the crash? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

Our breaking news tonight, U.S. intelligence suggesting, a bomb planted by ISIS brought down that passenger jet in Egypt. If true, it comes after a series of failed attempts by terror groups to bring down passenger jets after 9/11.

Deborah Feyerick is OUTFRONT.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If British and U.S. intelligence officials are correct, then is or an ISIS affiliate will have achieved what hated rival al Qaeda has been trying to do since 9/11 -- blow up a commercial passenger plane.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: This will be the most significant terrorist attack since 9/11.

FEYERICK: Intelligence officials tell CNN, an explosive device may have been hidden inside luggage and that someone working at the airport may have helped get it past security -- unlike the highly sophisticated explosives used by al Qaeda.

Authorities believe ISIS used a more conventional device. A source telling CNN it may have included a barometric pressure switch set to go off at a certain altitude. Al Qaeda has targeted U.S. passenger planes and cargo planes at least four times since 9/11.

The first was shoe bomber Richard Reid in 2001. His attempt foiled by passengers onboard.

A plot by British extremists in water bottles was disrupted in 2006.

On Christmas 2009, the underwear bomber failed to properly detonate plastic explosives or PETN, as this plane was landing in Detroit.

A year later, PETN explosives were discovered in two printer toner cartridges on UPS and FedEx plains.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula Ibrahim al Asiri claimed credit for both devices.

Sinai has increasingly become an ISIS battleground and haven from militants. ISIS claimed credit for the Russian plane saying only that they, quote, "brought it down".


FEYERICK: Now, the last attack on a passenger plane was in 2004. The target: two Russian planes brought down by two female Chechen extremists known as Black Widows. And the women each smuggled eight ounces of explosives onboard inside a body cavity. They detonated their devices midair from the back of the plane. And as in that attack and this attack, there were no survivors, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Deb, thank you very much.

CNN terrorism expert Paul Cruickshank is back with me now.

Paul, we know ISIS wants to attack the West. I mean, they have made this a core of what they want to do, and Europe as well, the U.S. and Europe. They went after a Russian jet, though, not a British plane. There were a lot of British planes at this airport.


CRUICKSHANK: You are absolutely right. A lot of British airplanes they could have targeted with an insider at the airport when they went off to the Russians. I think the reason for that is indeed the case, that they wanted to turbo charge their recruitment in the global jihadi movement.

There's a huge amount of anger right now in the Sunni Muslim world against Russia because of that bombing of the rebels taking on Assad. And so, they want to tap in to that anger and get more foreign fighters, and they want to win in that competition with al Qaeda worldwide.

BURNETT: And so that the targeting of a Russian plane would have enabled them to go ahead with recruiting and they didn't fear reprisal, the kind of reprisal they may get by attacking, say, a British passenger plane.

Look, as you point out, the belief right now is that if this was a bomb, it was an inside job. Mechanics, whatever it might have been, someone in cargo who loaded it onboard the plane.

Could something like that happen in the U.S. or airport, the inside operator?

CRUICKSHANK: The short answer is yes, but perhaps a little less likely but there was an American ISIS fighter killed in the summer of 2014 who had been working at Minneapolis-St. Paul airport as a cleaner and had access to very sensitive areas at the airport. So, there is going to be a lot of concern, extra concern now about all of those workers at the airport, how they do the vetting of these workers, which parts of the airport, which sensitive sites can different workers go to.

Having an insider at an airport is the Holy Grail for terrorist groups.

BURNETT: I mean, it's the Holy Grail but this also shows, whether this was a very sophisticated bomb, somewhat or not sophisticated. The point is, they were able to do it and they haven't been able to do it since 9/11, right? So, this is a momentous event, if only for that reason, right?

Everyone says maybe this is easy. It clearly wasn't that easy. But if they have other bombs, they have a lot of these ready to go, what can anyone do to try to stop it to figure out where they could have them and use them?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, the worrying thing is, could they have other insiders at other airports throughout the Middle East.


CRUICKSHANK: Who may have these very simple conventional bombs that they can get on board aircrafts. I think there's going to be a lot of soul searching not just in Egypt, not just in Sharm el-Sheikh, but right across the Middle East right now. Probably the easiest region for is to try to insinuate an explosive device on to an aircraft.

BURNETT: And airports, of course, most of which, London, New York, Washington, Houston, you name it, across Europe and the United States. Thank you so much, Paul.

And OUTFRONT next: with intelligence pointing to a possible bomb on board, does the cockpit voice recorder hold the final evidence? We have a special report on exactly what could be on this recorder that you see. That's next.


[19:51:50] BURNETT: Back with our breaking news tonight. U.S. intelligence suggesting a Russian passenger jet was brought down by a bomb planted by ISIS. A key piece of evidence in finding out what happened will be the black boxes. That's what they are still called. The cockpit voice recorder could be the crucial one.

Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's now about crash forensics backing U.S. intelligence. A U.S. official tells CNN chatter over heard after the crash suggests ISIS planted a bomb on the Russian plane. Investigators looking for proof, focusing their attention on this, the plane's black boxes. The flight's cockpit voice recorder says an unnamed source to Russia's Interfax news agency captured uncharacteristic, unexpected sounds before the flight disappeared, a significant clue.

PETER GOELZ, FORMER NTSB MANAGING DIRECTOR: The sound is going to be very critical to this investigation. A TWA 800, we picked up a nanosecond of sound that we analyzed very carefully.

As in any disaster.

LAH: In 1996, Peter Goelz was one of the key investigators in the TWA Flight 800 crash off Long Island. Questions swirled about whether a bomb brought down that plane.

Air traffic control audio recordings show the flight out of JFK began normally reaching just over 13,000 feet. Then, this last communication with the tower.

TWA 800 CREW: TWA'S eight hundred heavy OK stop climb at one three thousand.

LAH: Approximately one minute later, the cockpit voice recorder captured a brief unusual sound. The NTSB determined that sound was a low order explosion, the sound of the plane tearing apart after a fire in the fuel tank, not a bomb.

TWA 800 fell out of the sky as other pilots called into the tower.

PILOT: We just saw an explosion out here.

LAH: All conversation recorded between the crew and the cockpit is protected by federal privacy laws. The actual audio un-releasable because it's sensitive and personal to the victims' families.

Goelz says the audio proved critical in the TWA case and other air disasters.

In MH-17 the plane shot out of the sky over Ukraine, investigators triangulate a 2.3 millisecond sound peak captured on the voice recorder's multiple microphones in the cockpit and determined the noise came from outside of the plane to the left side of the cockpit. It was a missile launched from the ground.

GOELZ: You can sometimes tell the direction in which the sound is traveling by just the tiniest fraction of a second, and you can also sometimes compare this signature of the sound to previous events.


BURNETT: I mean, Kyung, you're talking there about a 2.3 millisecond sound. I mean, it is incredible to think about. Obviously, the black boxes have been recovered. Have they pulled any information from them yet, though?

LAH: Well, we're talking about two different black boxes. So, the flight data recorder, well, that information has been copied. They are still working on analyzing that data. This is according to Russian investigators.

But, as far as that sound and that cockpit voice recorder, Erin, we're being told that there has been some serious mechanical damage to the cockpit voice recorder.

[19:55:07] They are still working on trying to retrieve the specifics of the data.

BURNETT: All right. Kyung Lah, thank you very much.

And we'll be right back.


BURNETT: Thanks so much for joining us. Be sure to set your DVR to record OUTFRONT, so you can watch us anytime. Our breaking news coverage continues right now with "AC360".