Return to Transcripts main page


Sobering New Warning from Top U.S. General in Europe on Growing Russia Military Threat; NSA Ending Bulk Surveillance Program on U.S. Domestic Phone Records; 23 Killed after Tornadoes Hit Alabama; 2nd Person Cured of HIV and AIDS in London. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired March 5, 2019 - 11:30   ET



[11:30:07] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, a sobering new warning from a top U.S. general in Europe about the growing military threat coming from Russia. And the general says the U.S. isn't ready.

CNN's Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon with more on this.

Barbara, what are you learning this morning?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Kate. General Curtis Scaparrotti is the head of the U.S. European Command. He was testifying on Capitol Hill about the status of U.S. troops in Europe and what they are ready and not ready to do. Very cool, very calm, very collected. But when you listen to his words, it is a very sobering message he had to deliver.


GEN. CURTIS SCAPARROTTI, COMMANDER, U.S. ARMY EUROPEAN COMMAND: I'm not comfortable yet with the deterrent posture that we have in Europe, in support of the national defense strategy, in particular, when you look at both the building capability and the modernization of the Russian forces that we face there. And then finally, of concern is my intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capacity. Given that increasing and growing threat of Russia, I need more ISR.


STARR: I need more ISR, more intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, not enough on land, not enough in the air, not enough on the seas. General Scaparrotti being very clear that while, you know, big picture, U.S. military strategy is to counter Russia, where the rubber meets the road, four U.S. troops in Europe right now, they do not have what they need to counter Russian aggression in Europe. Very sobering words from the top commander -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: And there's also news this morning about the NSA, Barbara. The agency ending its bulk surveillance program on U.S. domestic phone records. What does that mean?

STARR: Well, this is a program that's been controversial since it was revealed by Edward Snowden several years ago, as he revealed classified information about U.S. surveillance. It was begun in an effort after 9/11 to try and monitor metadata, essentially, phone calls, where they were being made, the duration, the time of the calls. Not the content of them. But it was controversial the entire time because so many Americans felt that the government was eavesdropping on them. It was meant, according to the government, to have a window into telecommunications, if there were terrorists trying to call into the United States and plot and plan. But it appears now, after all of this time, the program is up for reauthorization and Republican congressional staffers say they believe the administration has made the decision not to reauthorize it, to let this 9/11-era program simply expire. No official word, however, from the Trump administration, no official word from the U.S. Intelligence Community yet, that that is absolutely what they're going to do. Bit does appear it's headed in that direction -- Kate?


Good to see you, Barbara. Thank you.

STARR: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, devastation and heartbreak in Alabama today. Survivors there -- just look at the pictures, still -- they are just now going to start with the horrible task of trying to pick up the pieces after a string of deadly tornadoes hit there this weekend. Coming up next, the very latest on the victims and those that are still missing.

We'll be right back.


[11:37:58] BOLDUAN: Right now, rescue teams are still searching for more survivors after the deadly tornadoes that ripped through Alabama this weekend. And just moments ago, officials released the identities of all 23 people who were killed.

Let's get the very latest from the ground, the search, the rescue, and the names of the victims. CNN's Victor Blackwell, he is there in Salem, up with of the hardest hit places.

Victor, what's the very latest you're learning?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, the very latest is we've gotten now the list of names of those 23 people who were killed, when the tornadoes came through Lee County, including four children. I'm going to read you the children's names now. Armando Hernandez, age 6, 8-year-old McKala Walden (ph), 9-year-old Jonathan Marquez Bowen, and 10-year-old Taylor Thornton. There's also one family by marriage, according to officials here, that lost seven members. There are several names here with repeated last names, and they now have to plan seven funerals between that connected family.

We're told that there are still people unaccounted for. And as you know, Kate, and everyone has learned after these natural disasters, that these numbers fluctuate. Soon after the storm, there were more than two dozen people missing. The number we got this morning from emergency management, there was two to three, but we just learned in a news conference, that could be seven or eight people still missing, unaccounted for. They're now bringing in heavy equipment to continue to search. And they're really narrowing in on specific areas that were hard hit and that are connected to addresses that have been given to them by family members who are still waiting for those unaccounted for.

On the storms themselves, there were four tornados that came through Alabama. We know that the storm that caused the damage around me is an EF-4, with winds at 170 miles per hour. But the National Weather Service representative said that they're now extending that track from initially what was said to be 24 miles up to potentially 70 miles, that storm was on and off the ground, even into Georgia. The three other storms, all upgraded to EF-2, which means their winds were 111 miles or more.

[11:40:13] But of course, the center of this story, the people and the continued search. Officials say that right now, this is still a targeted search and rescue, but they hope to transition this into a recovery, even later today -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: It is still so hard to wrap your mind around, the force of what that storm must have brought, to bring about the devastation that is around you and in this video that we're seeing. But an important update, such a sad update, 23 people killed. Their identities now released. Four children included in that and seven members of one family, as you're telling us, Victor. Our prayers with all of them.

Thank you so much, Victor. Really appreciate it.

Still to come for us, the family of a Harvard-educated doctor and U.S. citizen says he is being jailed and tortured by the Saudi government. He's been held there for over a year. Why is President Trump staying silent on this one?

Be right back.


[11:45:31] BOLDUAN: He's a dual citizen of the United States and Saudi Arabia. He's a Harvard-educated doctor. He's been held in prison for more than a year without any public charges or trial. And his family says that he's been beaten and tortured. His name is Dr. Walid Fitaihi. And if this is the first time you are hearing his name, you likely aren't alone. The president hasn't said a word about him. The White House is not demanding his release.

And here's what the president's national security adviser, John Bolton said when asked by CNN on Sunday.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: What is the U.S. trying to do to secure his release? JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Well, as of this moment, my

understanding is that we have had what's called consular access, meaning American diplomats in Saudi Arabia have visited with him. Beyond that, we don't really have any additional information at this point.


BOLDUAN: Why the silence here when you've seen the president doesn't shy away from calling out friend or foe, if he wants to?

Let me bring in Fareed Zakaria, the host of "Fareed Zakaria GPS," for more on this.

Fareed, we -- everyone knows that the president doesn't hold back when he chooses. And he advocates for the release of other Americans who have been detained in other countries. Andrew Brunson in Turkey is one example and there are other examples. Why do you think there has been such silence when it comes to this?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA, GPS": Well, it is astonishing, you're absolutely right to point out that this is an American citizen. He may have another passport, but many Americans have that. And he has -- he was arrested a year ago. He was one of those people put in the Ritz Carlton. The reports are that he was tortured right at the time he was arrested, so a year ago. He has not been charged with anything formally. We have no knowledge of evidence against him about anything. And you heard John Bolton, the president's national security adviser, expressing no outrage, no opposition, no protest, simply matter of fact, you know, stating in a matter of fact way that an American citizen has been seized by a government that is a close ally of the United States, tortured and held in prison, and he seemed to talk about it as if it was just a normal procedure, just standard practice. One wonders whether this is part of the president's unusual relationship with Saudi Arabia. Where he really has subcontracted American foreign policy to Riyadh, the Saudi capital, and this may be part of it. He's willing to yell and scream and demand the release of American prisoner, Americans held almost everywhere, except Saudi Arabia.

BOLDUAN: Yes, and it's is not just -- it's not just one time. It's not just one instance that makes you wonder. Add that to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, someone that you consider a friend, and when you look at, he's killed by Saudi Arabia, the official word from the president, in some way, shape, or form is that the king and the crowned prince, they say they had nothing to do with it and there's nothing more he can do about it. I mean, do you -- I don't -- do you -- I wonder in another administration, what would be -- what would be happening right now that would be different?

ZAKARIA: At the very least, I think will would be an official acknowledgement that this was wrong, that there would be a protest lodged. If you notice, John Bolton did not even say, we have lodged a protest with the Saudi government. We have asked for an explanation. He just seemed to say, well, we have consular access, that's about all I can tell you. BOLDUAN: It literally sounded like he was reading a statement from

the State Department.

ZAKARIA: And what's extraordinary about this, firstly, it has not been a historically repressive police state. It's been a passive state. They don't really jail them and torture them, although there was some of that. The paradox of this crown prince is he has done important reforms in Saudi Arabia, like letting women drive, letting entertainment into the country. But he has also been very authoritarian. So there has been a kind of additional repression, but repression against American citizens. I may be wrong about this, but it strikes me as very unusual if not unique. The Saudis are very careful about how they handle Americans because they know their security depends on their American allies. The fact they would do something like this tells you they really feel like that he have a carte blanche from Donald Trump. Trump has said, I like you guys, and that gives them the feeling they can do anything they want without bothering to explain why.

[11:50:23] BOLDUAN: Especially when it comes to the case of Jamal Khashoggi, you have talked about how it is an opportunity, and in such a sad way, to force reforms, appropriate reforms by the crown prince, by the Saudi government. Do you see any indication that that is happening, there's any attempt on the part of the United States to do that?

ZAKARIA: So far we haven't seen anything, and that's been the tragedy. Because this is a missed opportunity. It's obviously a horrible, horrible situation. But if you view it and say to the Saudis, this is your wake-up call. You know, you really need to get serious about moving in a different direction. Cut out the crazy farm policy, the war in Yemen, the standoff in Qatar, cut out the kind of intense anti-sheer rhetoric, cut out the jailing businessmen without charges. Let's get rid of reform but not under the whim of one man. That's what Saudi Arabia seems to be doing, creating this society- based narcissistic process where if he wants to jail you, he jails you. The core of modern government is it's not about one man. It's about a system of rules. But the problem is the American president right now doesn't seem to believe that himself.

BOLDUAN: Also, it's not like we live in a world that the U.S. government and American presidents only deal with friends or good actors or everyone who has a good track record when it comes to human rights. Every president has dealt with, makes deals with, works with bad actors, if you will, especially on the human rights front. That is the harsh reality of today. But it does seem that this is different.

ZAKARIA: This is different because, as I say, it does seem -- there's a new authoritarianism in Saudi Arabia, a new centralization of power. But the biggest change from our point of view, frankly, is they don't do this to Americans. What's breathtaking here is that under -- in what is meant to be one of the closest alliances in the world, the Saudis have felt free to do this, and Donald Trump hasn't said anything.

BOLDUAN: The silence, as it often is, is deafening on this one.

Thanks, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thanks for coming in. I really appreciate it.

Coming for us, there's new hope for the fight against HIV and AIDS. For the second time, a patient may be cured of the virus. What does this mean for the almost 37 million people infected with HIV and AIDS worldwide?

We'll be right back.


[11:57:58] BOLDUAN: A medical breakthrough that could be a major step forward in fight against of HIV and AIDS. According to a new study published today, a London patient appears to be the effectively cured of the virus that causes AIDS. It's only the second time this has happened, the first more than a decade ago.

Joining me now, CNN senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen.

Elizabeth, how did this happen?

DR. ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, this is so interesting. These are HIV patients who had both HIV and cancer. They were going to get stem cell implants, anyway, for their cancer, so doctors selected a donor who have an unusual mutation that made them immune to HIV. When they got that treatment, it effectively cured them. And 12 years later for the first patient, the so-called berlin patient, he is not taking HIV meds and he does not have HIV. The second patient, 18 months without HIV meds, and he still no trace of HIV.

BOLDUAN: Even off anti-virals. It's amazing. Could this potentially work for all HIV patients?

COHEN: Here's the problem, Kate. Stem cell transplants are extremely dangerous. They're very risky. You only want to take them if you have advanced cancer and it's the only treatment available to you. If you don't have cancer and you do have HIV, you're much better off taking HIV meds, which are safer and very effective. It would be unethical to try it out. So they're trying to make this treatment safer so they can give it to more HIV patients, but that's way down the road.

BOLDUAN: Because they tried this before, right, Elizabeth?

COHEN: They did. They tried it in other patients besides these two and it did not work. So that's important to remember, it worked for these two but not another set of patients. So this is not a perfect approach by any means.

BOLDUAN: It's really remarkable stuff. What's next steps? COHEN: The next steps, Kate, is to figure out how do you take this

treatment that is so risky and try to make it safe. So that's the next step. Also trying to figure out why did it work for these two and it didn't work for others? That's why as a typical kind of standard medicine, this is years away and actually may never work. But if it does work, it's years away, but it's an exciting development.

BOLDUAN: Take a breakthrough when you can get it when it comes to this.

COHEN: Exactly.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you. Thank you, Elizabeth.

COHEN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: And thank you for joining me AT THIS HOUR.