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U.S. Intel Officials Defend Terror Investigations; Did FBI Miss Red Flags In Previous Terror Investigations? Aired 4:45-5p ET

Aired June 15, 2016 - 16:30   ET



JERRY DEMINGS, ORANGE COUNTY, FLORIDA SHERIFF: All of the prayers that have gone forward to allow those of us who are working on the professional side to do our jobs to recover their son, so that they can move forward at this time with a proper burial.

And so, on behalf of that family, I deliver that message to you.

I will tell you that it was a tough message to deliver to them, to let them know that, at this point, their child is dead.

So, at this time, we will entertain a few questions.


QUESTION: How important is it to find the alligator? (OFF-MIKE)

DEMINGS: Again, there were several alligators located. And I'm going to let the FWC director kind of speak to you about the process that they used to try to confirm whether or not one of the alligators that have been located is the right one or not.


NICK WILEY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FLORIDA FISH AND WILDLIFE: Just really quickly, we're going to look at the five alligators we have already taken. And we're going to compare things like bite marks and such as that. We don't know really what we have yet. It's still early in that part of the investigation.

There's a good chance we already have the alligator, because we focused our efforts in that proximity, in that area of where this incident occurred. And so there's a good chance that -- but we are going to go through the process and forensics and make certain.

And if we can't get a certain match, we're going to go out and look for alligators and make sure we have done everything we can, all the due diligence to make sure we have taken that alligator out. And it is important to do that.


DEMINGS: I believe the question is, where did we find the child? He was within the immediate area where he was last seen.

It took some time to go through and make certain the waters -- it's kind of murky, but our divers were able to locate the body. We used sonar equipment and other means to go in and recover the remains.

QUESTION: You said the body was found intact. Is it your belief that the child drowned, that the child was dragged in the water and drowned?

DEMINGS: There's -- I believe, of course, the autopsy has to confirm that, but there's likely no question in my mind that the child was drowned by the alligator.


DEMINGS: There's signage in the area that says no swimming. Disney will look at all of their protocols and their signage, I'm sure, going forward.


DEMINGS: This is a partnership, I will tell you, and our ultimate concern is about the safety of the guests here at Disney, as well as the public.

And as the investigation continues, we will continue our death investigation with the Orange County Sheriff's Office. And I'm certain there will be opportunities in the future to look at what has occurred here and see if it can be prevented in the future.


DEMINGS: We will get to the Spanish media in just a moment.


DEMINGS: I think the director just kind of explained that process to you about what they will do to ensure that they have the right gator.

QUESTION: Can you give us more detail about what the family was doing along the shore? Were they in the water? There was a playpen near the water? What exactly were they doing?

DEMINGS: The family, they were vacationing. There was a playpen -- there's a regular that is pool nearby.

And they were sitting outside that area. It's a beach-like area. And they were sitting there enjoying the evening. And they have a 4-year- old child. There was a playpen nearby. But this 2-year-old was just along the edge of the bank playing in the water when this occurred.

QUESTION: Do you believe that the signage is inefficient, Sheriff?


DEMINGS: I delivered the message along with a priest, a Catholic priest.

And, of course, the family was distraught, but also I believe somewhat relieved that we were able to find their son with his body intact, one, and, two, that -- and he was located, so that they can come to grips with what has happened in this situation.

QUESTION: How far out and how deep the water?

QUESTION: You have seen the sign. It says no swimming. The child wasn't swimming. It was just wading, and yet there's nothing to suggest there was a danger in that. And there is a beach area. Do you think that the way the beach and the signage is there is wrong?


DEMINGS: I'm not going to comment on that at this time. Again, Disney will look at all of those particular issues. That's within Disney's purview at this.

QUESTION: Can you talk about anything that you all will be doing on the state level, FWC, to maybe review some of the policies or regulations surrounding gators being this close to area where children are? (OFF-MIKE) don't know that our waters carry alligators like this. Did you guys talk about that?

WILEY: Well, any time there's a tragedy like this, we definitely will work with everyone involved to try to determine if there's something we can learn, if we can do something better to make sure this never happens again. And we will certainly be doing that, but that's an ongoing process that it will to -- we will have to take some time to work through.

QUESTION: Does that include changing regulations?

WILEY: It could include anything right now. I wouldn't discount any measures we might want to take or change. But I would say we will take a careful look and really, really try to learn from whatever happened here.


WILEY: We have not gotten any reports that I'm aware of feeding gators, no, sir.

QUESTION: When is the last time you received a complaint about (OFF- MIKE) gators here at Disney anywhere on the property?

WILEY: We have -- as we have already stated earlier, Disney has a very proactive program for identifying and removing alligators that are losing their fear of people or otherwise might be a risk. And they remove numbers of alligators routinely. And we have essentially an open partnership with them, where they can just call a trapper, and even some of their own staff are allowed to take out alligators when they see one that is a problem.


WILEY: I don't have the numbers for you right now. We don't get complaints because it's an open process. They take the action directly.

QUESTION: Sheriff (OFF-MIKE) how deep water (OFF-MIKE)

DEMINGS: I'm just going to estimate. It was, I don't know, 10 to 15 yards out, and not quite sure how deep.

Maybe -- what I was told was approximately six feet deep in the water. But we will take measurements and all of that. And so that will come out as part of the investigation.

QUESTION: Sheriff, were there other people in the water? Were there other people in the water in addition to this child? And was what this child was doing permissible, in your view? Was he doing anything that he shouldn't have been doing?

DEMINGS: There were no other people in the water at the time. And I believe what this 2-year-old was doing was what perhaps any 2-year-old might be doing as well.

And thank you all.

We have shared all the bit of information that we can share at this time.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: You have been listening to Orange County, Florida, Sheriff Jerry Demings giving the latest update on the tragedy at Disney's Grand Floridian resort.

He said his crews using sonar equipment in this manmade lake recovered the body of the 2-year-old boy. His name was Lane Graves. He was the son of Matt and Melissa Graves of Elkhorn, Nebraska. The body was apparently found -- quote -- "within the immediate area where the child, Lane Graves, was last seen."

He said that the body of the child was completely intact, and that was the update. He noted when asked about the signage at the manmade lake if there was enough signage, he wouldn't comment on that, as you might imagine he would not.

And when asked if there was anything unusual about the 2-year-old, he did note that the 2-year-old wading in the water was doing what any 2- year-old might be doing in a similar situation.

It is a horrific story. And I'm sure we can all identify with the parents. If one goes to a resort, one does not expect that a 2-year- old wading in a manmade lake, that anything like this might happen to him or her.

Let's bring in CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, obviously a difficult news story for all involved. The sheriff saying that boy's body, Lane Graves' body, was found intact. There will now be an autopsy. Does it say anything to you that the body was found intact?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, when you're trying to determine, as the autopsy will, cause and manner of death -- these are difficult things, as you mentioned, Jake, to talk about -- but that's what -- that's their goals, cause and manner of death.

And this is going to be one of the big ones. Obviously, the fact that body is intact is an important first clue. You heard the sheriff mention, Jake, as well that -- he supposes that the cause of death was drowning, which is I guess what you would expect. But they want to confirm that.


There are ways that they can do, to see if there's water actually within the lungs, things like that. So, that's going to be -- identification has already been made. That's typically the first the job of the medical examiner. But now the autopsy is going to answer some of those questions.

Also, any marks on the body from the alligator will help identify which particular alligator as well. So, that's information that the medical examiner can also help provide to the wildlife folks to try and identify the particular alligator. But, again, cause and manner of death is something that they are going to spend time on and should be able to have a conclusive answer about.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much.

Let's bring back Dino Ferri of the Central Florida Zoo, an expert on the behavior of reptiles.

Did you hear anything notable, anything that surprised you?

DINO FERRI, DIRECTOR, CENTRAL FLORIDA ZOO: No, not really, nothing, nothing out of the ordinary that you wouldn't expect, unfortunately.

It's good that, you know, the body was found intact. That could be a number of reasons. It's hard to say why. It could be because they were in the water and it just startled the animal off. The parents were looking for the child and startled the animal off. It's really hard to say, but tragic for sure.

TAPPER: Very, very tough and very, very difficult to talk about in a breaking news situation.

And I thank you so much.

Still ahead, we're going to bring you some other news about the other horrific tragedy out of Orlando. The wife of the terrorist who killed 49 people at that gay nightclub in Orlando, an official says that she knew of her husband's thirst to attack. Could that lead to charges?

That story is next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. He killed 49 people in a rampage at a gay nightclub and now today pressing questions on what exactly the Orlando terrorist' wife knew. We just got some breaking news on that subject.

CNN chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is outside Pulse Nightclub. Jim, CNN now learning that the U.S. attorney in the area wants to bring evidence against the wife before a grand jury. Would that indicate that they are hoping to charge her?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that they have evidence that they want to bring before this grand jury. To bring it before the grand jury is not a decision to charge. The grand jury has to consider the evidence and then you take the next step.

But let's consider the evidence that we're aware of so far. We know that the wife has said that the attacker, the shooter told her he was considering carrying out a jihadist attack. She says it wasn't specific but he was talking about that.

We know that she accompanied him to the nightclub prior to the attack as well as to other locations here in the Orlando area, including Disney properties, which investigators believe were casing missions.

In effect, evaluating those places as potential targets. So that's what we know in addition to whatever answers she's been giving investigators during those conversations. They are going to put that before a grand jury to decide if there is enough to charge her. It's a significant legal step.

TAPPER: Jim, we also learned today from sources that the terrorist in question made phone calls during the attack to a local television station. What can you tell us about that?

SCIUTTO: To a local television station as well as to a friend to say good-bye, in effect. But it's what he said during that call to the television station and CNN has spoken to the producer who picked up the line when the call happened.

He said, as he had said in the 911 calls the night of the attack, that he was doing this for ISIS, for the Islamic State. And he also asked the question of the station, do you know about the shooting? In effect, he wanted the shooting to be covered.

Finally, Jake, I'll just add this. We spoke to a witness inside that bathroom with the shooter as he was making these calls. He also said this in those conversations. He said that there were snipers outside.

He said there was a suicide bomber hidden inside that club so he was claiming that there were other accomplices. That's not believed to be, but he was trying to incite that fear -- Jake. TAPPER: Jim Sciutto, thanks. We're going to take a quick break. We'll come back with more about the Orlando terrorist attacks. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Obviously, law enforcement officials tasked with protecting this nation from terrorism have an extremely, impossibly difficult job and it only takes one slipping through the cracks to cost lives.

But that said, a review of the Orlando terrorist attack and several others in recent years raising some uncomfortable questions about whether current methods for screening are effective because numerous red flags have been missed.

Is this incompetence? Is it common human error or is it a reluctance to be seen as overly judgmental, as bigoted, as Islamophobic?

Omar Mateen who murdered 49 at Pulse Nightclub Sunday morning had been interviewed three times by the FBI between 2013 and 2014 over possible terrorist views and ties. He had been put on a watch list for ten months, but was removed due to lack of evidence.

In November of 2009, almost immediately after Army Major Nidal Hasan murdered 13 people and injured more than 30 in a shooting rampage in Fort Hood, an FBI agent said to a law enforcement colleague, "you know who that is? That's our boy."

That's because the FBI knew Hasan and knew he had been communicating with al Qaeda cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki (ph). Boston marathon bomber, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was also known to the intelligence officials.

In March 2011 two years before the attack, Russian security services told their American counterparts that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a follower of radical Islam and planning to travel to Russia to fight alongside Islamic extremists in Chechnya.

The FBI investigated Tsarnaev and his family and found no, quote, "link or nexus to terrorism." In 2014, Ali Muhammad (ph) Brown was charged with murdering four people in a nationwide killing spree including two men who were gay outside a gay nightclub in Seattle.

Brown said he did this to protest U.S. foreign policy. He wrote in his journal that he planned to, quote, "learn the way of Jihadis." According to federal prosecutors, he had been on a terrorist watch list.

In 2009, Abdul Hakim Muhammad (ph), a Muslim convert, killed a soldier and wounded another at an army recruiting station in Little Rock, Arkansas. He, too, was known to the FBI after being arrested in Yemen with a Somali passport and investigated for extremist leanings.

But upon his return to the U.S., Muhammad was not placed under surveillance. What's going on? [16:55:03]Joining me now is a man with plenty of experience trying to piece together intelligence information, former director of the CIA and National Security Agency retired four-star general, Michael Hayden.

We should point out we invited the FBI to come and answer these questions, they declined. What do you make of these instances where individuals were known to have terrorist views or ties or possible leanings and yet the FBI looked at them and concluded they were not threats and, you know, flash forward, fast forward, people are dead?

GENERAL MICHAEL HAYDEN (RETIRED), PRINCIPAL, THE CHERTOFF GROUP: The natural instinct, Jake, quite understandable is one of disappointment. Before people make a final judgment on that, let me as an intelligent professional offer a few other facts.

All right, number one, you mentioned half a dozen cases. All of them ended up very sadly. That's the numerator. What's the denominator? How many cases did the bureau have to investigate over that period of similar people?

TAPPER: Thousands, I would guess.

HAYDEN: Actually, tens of thousands. So that's one. Second, Jake, we have to understand the reality that when they investigated these people, these people may not have been in the place that they finally ended up in when they committed these acts.

And then, finally, and we knew this when I was in government as we turn to the bureau to be a domestic intelligent services, says it must be. That's a change in culture for the bureau.

You're taking what is largely a law enforcement agency, Jake. And now making it, the phrase we used, they needed to investigate the spaces between cases. They had to investigate and gather information without a criminal predicate.

Number one, that's a culture for a law enforcement agency and number two, out of the gate, it begins to bump up a whole lot of political cultural questions in the United States with regard to the authority of any police force.

TAPPER: And civil liberties.

HAYDEN: Absolutely.

TAPPER: Your second point was about interviewing people before they had maybe become radicalized. Take a listen to FBI Director James Comey earlier this week.


JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: Our work is very challenging. We're working for needles in a nationwide haystack, but we are also called upon to figure out which pieces of hay may become needles. That is hard work. If we can find a way to do that better, we will. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Look, I agree with everything you're saying. It's an impossible job. I wouldn't want to be given that task. Let me also ask, is it possible that people are being politically incorrect?

You look at the Fort Hood case, when the Army knew that Nidal Hassan had become extremist and whitewashed his reports to make is sound as though it's a good thing he had all this knowledge. The FBI knew he had been talking to and e-mailing with Anwar Al-Awlaki, is there a hesitance to be branded a bigot?

HAYDEN: Well, knowing what I know in the public record about the Major Hassan case, I tend you to agree with you. I think the Army backed away from this for want of a better term I'll use yours, political correctness. They didn't want to bite off the issue that they might have gotten into had they gone after Hassan given his religious leanings.

Look, we are all sensitive about religious liberty. In that case, Jake, I'm with you. I think we clearly did not do some things that we should have done.

TAPPER: Obviously, we don't want to paint with a broad brush, the millions of peaceful American-Muslims or the 1.5 billion throughout the world. Obviously if they are extremist leanings indicated, that's a whole different thing.

Here's another question. Does law enforcement have the tools it needs? Does the taxpayers give enough money? Are there enough men a women on the ground?

HAYDEN: So right now, the bureau is under resourced to handle that number of cases that you and I discussed, thousands to tens of thousands and then what do you do after you've let someone go, saying he's not a danger at this time.

If you had more resources, you might be able to check in every now and again. So number one, the bureau probably needs more resources if we want them to do this and that's a separate question.

Beyond that, the bureau probably needs more tools if we want them to do this. They made more authorities to use the whole rack of things that they are allowed to do in a criminal case, in a case that I described before to you, Jake, is not a criminal case. It's an American about whom they have suspicions.

So how far do you want the bureau to go in terms of invading that individual's privacy? Do you want them to go into the Facebook account and e-mails and so forth? I mean, these are very serious questions.

Let's me give a real world example, recall Christmas day 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (ph) --

TAPPER: Sure, the failed underwear bomber. HAYDEN: The plane went over Detroit. Jake, up to Christmas Eve, there was a national outcry that the National Counterterrorism Center had far too many people on the no fly list.

By Christmas night, the national complaint was there was not enough people on the no fly list. So when this dies down, you're going to have someone else in this chair complaining about what the Federal Bureau of Investigation is doing.

TAPPER: Fair point. Former NSA, CIA Director, General Michael Hayden, thank you so much for your analysis. I'm sure the FBI appreciates your standing up for what they tried to do and they work hard to do.

HAYDEN: They do.

TAPPER: That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Turning you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."