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Soccer Championship Original Terror Plot, Not Belgium; RNC Responds to Trump Allegation on Delegate Process Corruption; Navy Officer Charged with Espionage Identified; U.S.-Trained Afghan Soldiers Defect to Join Taliban. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired April 11, 2016 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: The French president was there at the match when it was attacked November 13th. Behave talked about it a lot. The Belgians have gotten a lot of criticism for being overwhelmed with the number of suspects there. But two not communicating well among themselves, with other European powers. With these arrests and picking up the laptop in the last few days, is it your sense they are getting a better handle on the threat there?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: I think they are slowly getting a better handle on this cell. It is a huge challenge they are facing. They are bearing the brunt of is attack planning against the West right now. Belgium is a very small country. It doesn't anywhere near the resources of the U.K. or France, let alone the United States. Very difficult for them. There are a lot of very dedicated people in their police and intelligence services working around the clock, frustrated about the negative press. They simply do not have the capability that other bigger countries have. The discovery of this laptop has ban big breakthrough. The FBI has been involved and it is extracting information from this computer. One of the extraordinary things they were able to extract is an audio recording of one of the brothers who carried out the attacks in Brussels or an ISIS operative in Syria, discussing what targets they were going to attack, how and when they were going to launch these attacks, how many they were going to use in the first wave, second wave or third wave. How many they were going to hold back for future operations. This is terrorism by remote control. A large degree of real-time coordination from Syria. I think we have to assume that even with the Paris and Brussels attacks this was also going on at that point. Of course, questions now, why didn't Western intelligence manage to intercept these communications. It appears the NSA missed it, as well. Otherwise, they would have gone in and raided the safe house where they were using this computer in the lead up to the Brussels' attacks.

SCIUTTO: As you said, direct link, direction from ISIS on the ground in Syria to these attackers in Europe.

Paul Cruickshank, thank you very much.


SCIUTTO: Still ahead today, Donald Trump says dirty tricks are costing him delegates. And he seems to be placing some of the blame on the Republican National Committee. We will hear reaction from the RNC after this break.


[13:36:44] SCIUTTO: Donald Trump has a warning for the Republican National Committee. He says, watch out, the system is crooked. He says his supporters aren't happy.

Joining us, Sean Spicer, the chief strategist and communications director if the Republican National Committee.

Thank you for coming in today.


SCIUTTO: I don't mean to catch you here, but I will play a clip of what you said to me on the same show last February. Have a listen.


SCIUTTO: Do you believe you will have an uncontested candidate for the Republican nomination by the time you get around to the convention?

SPICER: I do. I do. Yes, I do believe that. I think we will have a much better-- like I said we have 60 percent of the delegates. With we need 1237 to take our nomination. More voters will have an opportunity to be involved in this process than ever before. And come the end of March, you will hopefully see the emergence of a presumptive nominee. I think we are confident by mid April you will have an idea who our nominee will be.


SCIUTTO: We're two months to the day. Are you confident you will have a nominee uncontested in time for the convention in July?

SPICER: Clearly, it is still possible. I think one part I was right about is more voters did participate in the process than ever before. The turnout has been spectacular. We have had record numbers of participation in almost every state. As we get more contests under our belt, we have a big surprise in New York coming up with 95 delegates it's becoming apparent there is a greater possible of an open convention. On the last day of voting, June 7th, you have 172 in California alone. That means it will be June 7th before we have an answer to the question you are asking. But I think as each contest goes by the likelihood it is an open convention and no one has the bound 1237 delegates to take the nomination gets greater.

SCIUTTO: You heard, I'm sure, criticism from the Trump campaign after Colorado, calling it a rigged vote. You had the Trump strategist Paul Manafort calling them Cruz's tactics. We had Steven Miller of the Trump campaign on a few minutes ago saying the process was undemocratic. What's your response?

SPICER: Well, you pointed it out. All of these states and territories submitted plans last year as to how they would allocate their delegates. That process was made to every campaign starting last year. Candidates and campaigns shouldn't be surprised as to how the allocation or the selection of those allocated delegates works. It is up to them to win a state and go in and fight to have their slate or delegates get elected. But there's two differences. Number one, in states where a candidate has won the delegates, it comes down to a person that gets selected. That person that is selected is bound by whatever the state rules are. So Trump wins a delegate in a state and then someone else, someone runs for that slot, the selection of that, regardless of who that person, they are bound to vote for the candidate that was allocated. In Colorado, they talk about having a convention since last year. Everyone has known that. That's how they chose to do it. Again, the process by which our parties engaging in right now is something we have been engaging in over a century in terms of each state deciding how they will select their delegates.

[13:40:13] SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. You have heard the criticism. Here you have, after losing Colorado from Donald Trump, making threats in effect about how his supporters will react. You have just said there's a greater possibility of having a contested convention. There are scenarios where delegates on the second ballot, they change candidates. You know just how fervent many of Donald Trump's supporters and Ted Cruz and others, how they are if there was something that was viewed as machinations from the outside, that the Republican Party is trying to push a mainstream candidate. Is the RNC prepared for that kind of controversy at the election? How do you handle what could be some angry voters?

SPICER: Well, there's two things to point out. Number one, I think it is highly unlikely that anyone other than the three individuals that go to Cleveland will be nominated. Number two, this is a nuance in language but it is important. It's up to the delegates. The Republican Party doesn't have a position. Our position is to run the most open transparent convention process that is fair to everyone who attends it. It is left to the delegates who will decide how this convention operates, what the platform look s like and who our nominee will be.

SCIUTTO: Up to the delegates.

Thank you very much, Sean Spicer, with the RNC. Good to have you on today.

SPICER: Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Charges of espionage, attempted espionage, and prostitution. It is part of a highly secret investigation that is now rocking the U.S. Navy. CNN has new details on the case. We will bring you up to date on them after this break.


[13:45:44] SCIUTTO: There are new developments in an espionage case now rocking the U.S. Navy. CNN has learned the Navy officer charged has been identified as Lieutenant Commander Edward Lin. He's been accused of passing state secrets possibly to China or Taiwan. CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is following this story.

Barbara, what do we know about this officer and what kind of secrets he's alleged to have passed on?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, he was assigned to a reconnaissance and control squadron. He may have had information on where Navy aircraft were flying. He was arrested several months ago at an airport in Hawaii, U.S. officials say. That's an indication they had an eye on him and were watching him. Not clear if he was about to board a plane at the airport. Now he is in a Navy brig in the U.S. awaiting trial.

None of this had come to light since the arrest until last week when the charges on him were released because there was a preliminary hearing by the U.S. military. Eventually, a decision whether this will go all the way to a trial or court-martial proceeding.

The allegations include espionage, illegally sharing secret information, falsifying records, prostitution, adultery, and additional charges.

He is someone that obviously might have had access to this type of information. Not clear if he was passing it to China, Taiwan, or both -- Jim?

SCIUTTO: These spy planes in that unit flying close to China's air space.

Barbara Starr, at the Pentagon.

Still ahead today, the U.S. spent billions training them. Why are Afghan soldiers defecting to join the Taliban? We will look in an exclusive CNN report.


[13:51:42] SCIUTTO: The Taliban claimed responsibility today for a suicide attack on a bus carrying new Afghan army recruits. At least 12 people were killed.

Also today, the U.S. embassy issued a warning to Americans in Afghanistan, avoid the Star Hotel in Kabul because of reports that insurgents planned to attack it. The warning comes as control of a key Afghan province is in the balance. Helmand Province is closer than ever to falling under Taliban control.

CNN's senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, talked to two men who were part of the reason the Afghan army is losing the fight there. They are deserters from the Afghan army who have joined the Taliban.

Here's Nick's exclusive report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You know a war's going badly when an enemy's right in front of you. This white flag is the Taliban's. They really are that close to these Afghans, defending one of the last government holdouts in Heldman Province. It used to be NATO that shot from these positions near the vulnerable city.


PATON WALSH: Hundreds of Americans and British died, many in the town where these pictures show the Afghan army recently in heavy clashes.



PATON WALSH: But now Afghanistan is quite quickly watching Helmand fall.


PATON WALSH: The Taliban are winning partly because of men like these. This is a rare window into the Afghan government's worst nightmare. Soldiers from the Afghan army, who America spent billions training, who say they've defected and joined the Taliban. They never dreamed they'd change sides.

[01:35:08] UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER (through translation): I did 18 months of army training and took an oath to serve this country, but the situation changed. The army let us down, so we had to come to the Taliban. They treat us like guests.

PATON WALSH: They carry their old uniforms, I.D.s, and bank cards used to get their old army wages.

They fought where these pictures were more recently filmed. But now they use their training and experience to train the Taliban.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER (through translation): I decided to leave the army when my dad and injured comrades lay in our base, but nobody took them to hospital. My army training is very useful now, as I am now training Taliban fighters with the same knowledge.

PATON WALSH: Men who've seen the tide turn and voted with their feet.

(on camera): Helmand's the indisputable heartland of the south. And they've worked so hard to push the Taliban back. And here in Kabul, you can speak to many who say it could fall at any day. That gives you a sense of how much on the offensive the Taliban are and what could happen in the summer fighting season ahead.

(voice-over): This is the center of the key town in the Taliban's sights. Tense, yet teeming. Some visit briefly from areas the Taliban now control.

"It's a bit too soon to say whether people are happy with the Taliban. The bazaar is now full of people. That was because the security was bad. And some people avoided the government's forces."

Others fled to its outskirts from the fighting and flash points.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): My worst memory is how a wedding party was hit by mortar, killing a large number of people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): The bullets and rocket the followed, so I fled here.

PATON WALSH: Just over a year since NATO stopped fighting, and here, the Taliban's white flags are closer than ever.


[13:55:39] SCIUTTO: Nick Paton Walsh joins us live from Kabul.

Nick, you note in your report a lot of British soldiers, died in Helmand Province. I was embedded with U.S. troops, Marines, down there a few years ago. Operations in the area in the last few months. Is this a priority at all for Western forces still in Afghanistan to fight back, this Taliban advance?

PATON WALSH: It seems to be certain because as you know it's the largest province and potentially a huge source of cash for the insurgency. That's where the opium trade has its roots in the poppy growth there which is currently being harvested. Many Afghan and U.S. officials are expressing optimism for the months ahead. The defense minister told me he would resign if that main city you saw there actually fell to the Taliban but I have to say that optimism does at times feel misplaced. One official we spoke to on Sunday said the city itself is pressed by the Taliban from two separate directions and five districts of Helmand is under the Taliban control. It's a very deep road for the Afghan Army to climb. They face personnel losses that are about two-thirds down to desertion. People simply not turning up to work. Never mind defecting to the Taliban. It's a huge struggle. Last year -- get this, Jim -- last year, they lost 5,500 soldiers of policemen and security forces fighting the Taliban. That's more than NATO lost in the decade long campaign. Those kinds of losses really impacting the force and undermining those suggestions we got from NATO officials that the ANSF, as they're called, will be able to hold territory from the Taliban. It's simply not happening.

SCIUTTO: Any sense that the war there is over is something people have to know is certainly not the case.

We're coming out of the winter months in that part of the country, getting into the warmer fighting season. Is it expected that there will be a showdown? I mean, you're going to have a significant investment of Afghan forces backed by NATO forces to contest the Taliban?

PATON WALSH: Well, there are two huge problems here. One is politically. The national unity government is struggling. It has a crisis of political confidence amongst its critics here and opponents who say it's not doing its job. There are many Afghans who are angry at how daily life is deteriorating here. The U.N. says if that government survives this year that will be a success. That's how low the bar of expectation is. And then there's a security challenge. That's really I think influenced by the new leader of the Taliban. He wants to prove himself on the battlefield here. He's getting closer and closer to al Qaeda, even, one of his key deputies, a leading al Qaeda director here. There's a lot of momentum on the Taliban side here, a lot, sadly, against Afghan security forces. I think more broadly, as some officials admitted to me, there is a perception the government is not winning. They think they can turn that around but the clock is ticking and the weather is warming up. That means violence increases.

SCIUTTO: Nick, you're coming to us from the capitol. Before we let you go, a warning today about a particular hotel in Kabul, about what I presume to be a Taliban attack. What are the fears there in the capitol about the violence from far south, in Helmand and elsewhere, leaking in to the capitol?

PATON WALSH: Well, Kabul's security bubble's always been penetrable but it feels less safe, frankly, than any time I've been here in the last ten years or so. We had the secretary of state John Kerry, his visit on Saturday, punctuated by four explosions that hit near the U.S. embassy. This morning, two ministry of education employees killed in a bus. And 12 Afghan security forces coming in to the capitol from the east, recruits, also killed by a suicide bomb. It's very perilous for ordinary Afghans, let alone Americans, in this city now -- Jim?

SCIUTTO: Nick Paton Walsh, in the middle of it in Kabul, thank you.

That is it for us today.

For international viewers, "Amanpour" is next.

For viewers in North America, NEWSROOM with Pamela Brown. She's in for Brooke Baldwin. That starts right now. Thanks for joining us.

[14:00:10] PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Pamela Brown, in New York. Brooke Baldwin is out today.

We begin --