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Biden, Sanders, Warren Faceoff Tonight for 1st Time; Israel Accused of Planting Spy Devices Near White House; Forgotten Camp in Syria a "Ticking Time Bomb" for ISIS Resurgence. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired September 12, 2019 - 14:30   ET



MARK ALEXANDER, HELPED PREPARE OBAMA FOR 2008 DEBATES: As you mentioned, you've got Sanders, Warren, Biden, all on the same stage, plus Klobuchar, Booker, Buttigieg, all of those folks. So you've got top-tier candidates all on the same stage together so it'll be much more intense. I think the focus on the top candidates will make if a more intense event.


ALEXANDER: I think also you have to see, what is their appeal. I think there's a lot to see about trust and fear as I look. Who are they trusting? The question, what's the appeal? Trust to all voters?

I think the candidates have to say, I'm the candidate for everybody, and I trust they'll vote for me. And i worry that some of the candidates are misguiding themselves in saying, i fear something here and there.

You know, Donald Trump, he trusts his voters. They follow him at a very high rate. The question is whether Democrats will find somebody who trusts their voters. I think that will be an interesting appeal in the debates tonight and going forward in the primaries and in the general election.

BALDWIN: How about the fact ABC has issued a warning that there's no delay. So memo to the candidates, no cursing onstage. And why are we even bringing this up? Here's a refresher.


UNIDENTIFIED DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Republicans need to, quite frankly get their (EXPLETIVE DELETED) together.

ANDREW YANG, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They've been laughing their (EXPLETIVE DELETED) off about it the last couple of years.




SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): We are not going to give thoughts and prayers, which to me is just (EXPLETIVE DELETED). And I'm sorry to say that as a man of faith.

BETO O'ROURKE, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER CONGRESSMAN: It is not yet known the firearms used or how they acquired them, but we know this is (EXPLETIVE DELETED) up.


O'ROURKE: We do know --


O'ROURKE: We're averaging about 300 mass shootings a year. No other country comes close. So, yes, this is (EXPLETIVE DELETED) up.


BALDWIN: That's a lot of -- a lot of bleeping.


BALDWIN: What do you make of a broadcast network telling the candidates not to curse?

ALEXANDER: Quite something. I wonder if we're on tape delay yourself.


BALDWIN: Don't do it, Mark.

ALEXANDER: I mean, I'm not going to use the words. I will not do that.

But I think the thing is, what these candidates are doing is they're trying to connect with voters. The reality is that the electorate for the Democratic primaries are people who feel things are really messed up, shall we say.

The question is, how does a candidate genuinely connect with that voter. I think to the extent there's a lot of significant passion among the electorate, I think that's what the candidates are doing. That's why they've been put on notice tonight.

But to the networks I say good luck.

BALDWIN: We'll be watching.

Mark Alexander, thank you very much.


Thank you. ALEXANDER: Thanks.

BALDWIN: Ahead here, two CNN exclusives. Why Chief Justice John Roberts changed his mind and voted against the president's census question.

And inside a Syrian camp for women and children. Why this is being called the birthplace of an ISIS revenge generation. You will not want to miss this.



BALDWIN: Israel is disputing reporting by "Politico" that its government was most likely responsible for several cell phone surveillance devices found around the White House. "Politico" is reporting these interception tools, known as Stingrays, were discovered as part of a Homeland Security review.

Today, CNN asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu whether Israeli had a plot to spy on the United States.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Absolutely not. We have a directive. I have a directive. No intelligence collection in the United States. No spying. And it's rigorously enforced without any exceptions.


NETANYAHU: It's a complete fabrication.


BALDWIN: CNN's senior national correspondent, Alex Marquardt, is with me.

And so, Alex, talk to me about these devices. What were they?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, the existence of these devices and their collection methods was not new. This was reported last year. What is new, according to "Politico," is that most likely, in their phrasing, Israel was behind the use of these devices near the White House and around Washington, D.C.

In addition to that strong pushback you just played from the prime minister, I reached out to the Israeli embassy here in Washington and they told me, quote, "These allegations are absolute nonsense. Israel doesn't conduct espionage operations in the United States, period."

Brooke, last year, the Department of Homeland Security did acknowledge the existence of these devices and their ability to collect sensitive information. In essence, how they work is they re-create cell phone towers. So a

cell phone will latch on to it and whoever's using the device will then be able to track that cell phone, listen in on calls, read text messages and surveil other data streams.

Now, in reaching out to former officials about the possibility that Israel did carry this out, they say absolutely.

Despite the fact that the U.S. has a lengthy and productive intelligence sharing relationship with Israel, it is highly possible that Israel not only uses these Stingray devices here in the United States but does continue to carry out espionage here in the United States.

We at CNN have not confirmed they were using these devices. We did reach out to the CIA, the FBI and the National Security Council, none of them offered us any sort of comment -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: All right. Alex, thank you.


Coming up, a CNN exclusive. We will take you inside a camp in Syria filled with ISIS widows and their children. Why this place is being called a ticking time bomb.



BALDWIN: Now to just extraordinary CNN exclusive. Our cameras and correspondent go inside a refugee camp in Syria to meet the wives and children of ISIS members. This camp may become a terror incubator as radicalized women pass on ISIS's ideology to the next generation.

Arwa Damon, CNN's senior international correspondent, brings us this incredibly rare look inside ISIS's resurgence camp.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's called al-Hol, a camp that sprung from nowhere, now the size of a small town. The wind and sand mercilessly blow through the tents in the baking heat of the Syrian summer.


DAMON: But it's the anger, the seething hostility that strikes you. To step into this camp is to witness a strange mutation of the caliphate, kept alive by the widows and wives of ISIS.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): There are cells here, they are organized.

DAMON: A spirit of vengeance seeps into the next generation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): I tell them your father was killed by the infidels.

DAMON: Hatred and enmity is magnified by the wretched conditions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You think it's a camp --

DAMON (on camera): Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- but it's a prison.

DAMON (voice-over): It's a place in limbo, like no other refugee camp on earth, shunned by the international community.

Kurdish forces say this place is a ticking time bomb, an ISIS academy where its brutal ideology is incubated. They don't have the resources to keep control.

Many of the women here don't know where their husbands and teenage sons are. They tell us quite openly they're teaching their children to hate the infidels, who imprisoned and killed their fathers and brothers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): If the prisoners aren't released, the hatred will go. The biggest ISIS cell will be the women. If the men aren't released, I will go crazy.

DAMON: The camp's population swelled while ISIS was making its last stand not far from al-Hol. Many of the new arrivals have direct ties to ISIS. They were organized and quickly established their version of the moral police, terrorizing those who refused to wear the full veil.

Beneath the black uniformity, some women want nothing more than to leave.

"I don't care if the Kurds or even the Americans who control my town," this woman pleads.

But there is no reintegration program. This is an open-air prison.

DAMON (on camera): What do you want?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to go home. Are you scared of -- from us?

DAMON: Should I be?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I I'm just asking. A lot of people, that's why they're talking in our countries because they're scared to take us back.

DAMON: If they gave you an option, let's say, of creating another caliphate for you --


DAMON: No, you're done?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of women, they think the same. DAMON (voice-over): But few countries are repatriating their nationals.

The living conditions are horrendous. It's filthy. There's little access to medical care. Clean water is scarce, food is rationed.

A Telegram chat group has turned this place into a cause for ISIS, referring to it as the al-Hol death camp, alleging atrocities by the pig enemies of Islam.

DAMON (on camera): There is a lot of propaganda here, a lot of promoting of the ISIS ideology. But then, they're also using this platform to send messages.

DAMON (voice-over): It's where they posted this video, the ISIS flag being raised inside the camp. That happened here in a part of the camp for Syrians.

"It's the reaction to the psychological pressure on us," one woman says. "They should know that more can be done than the raising of a flag."

And more has been done. Foreign women here are no longer allowed to leave their annex and go to the market after two incidents when Kurdish guards were stabbed.

The more radicalized women threaten and terrorize those less devoted to ISIS.

One woman says her tent was burnt down; another, that she's so afraid of being stabbed she barely sleeps at night.

Outside the camp, we get access to a prison, a surreal scene. Former ISIS fighters painting and crafting papier-mache models.

This man says ISIS held his family hostage to coerce him to join. "ISIS gave me the bombs," he tells us, "and then showed me on WhatsApp how to plant them." He's serving 20 years, the maximum sentence.


In the crowded cell, some men say they never supported ISIS.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): My cousin turned us in. He said we were ISIS. But he is an ISIS spy.

DAMON: Others accept their fate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): I raised my hand. I said, "I am ISIS." I'm not scared. I'm here -- I will pay the price.

DAMON: The Kurds are doing their best to separate the true believers from the rest.

In this rehabilitation center, there are scores of teenage boys. This 15-year-old was an ISIS fighter. His first mission, to plant explosives at a U.S. base.

He describes how they were given the bombs, weapons and suicide vests. "We covered everything with the women's black niqab," he says, "so the jets in the sky would not target us."

The operation failed and he ended up in prison. "But even there, ISIS ruled," he says. "But at the rehab center, things are different."

"I've left ISIS behind," he tells us. "It was a mistake. I learned from it."

But the center barely reaches a fraction of the children indoctrinated. They're just aren't enough resources.

"If the situation stays like this and nations don't help, ISIS will come back," Musaab Khalaf, an administrator here, tells us. "We hear about it -- the sleeper cells. They take advantage of the children, trying to recruit them."

And the children are so vulnerable. They know nothing but conflict, destruction and grief. Some have no parents, like this little boy.

(on camera): He's just visiting his friends here. His tent is somewhere else. And he says that his mom was killed and his dad has been detained and it's just him and his siblings, the oldest of which is 16.

(voice-over): Children pay the price for the sins of their parents but in turn, are preyed upon.

There's only so much Kurdish officials can do to contain the situation. And there is shocking lack of international involvement here. The place is forgotten, the legacy of yesterday's war, and that makes it uniquely dangerous because, if allowed to fester, this sprawling camp contains the seeds of the next war and ISIS' revenge generation.


BALDWIN: Arwa Damon is with me now and from Istanbul.

And, wow. I wrote down your line, "The spirit of vengeance seeps into the next generation."

I mean, seeing that little boy with that toy gun, without parents. What are the solutions? What's being discussed?

DAMON: The problem, Brooke, is that if discussions are happening they're not translating into any sort of action, whether to better the humanitarian situation there, to give the children the option of an education, try to create some sort of program within the camp that can really begin to at the very least pull them away from the brutality that they have witnessed.

It's not just that little boy with the toy gun. As we were leaving, some of the kids were pelting the vehicle with rocks, others would say infidel, we're going to bury you -- (INAUDIBLE) -- finger across their neck. And you can't tell they're doing it just because they're children or because that's the only life they've actually been exposed to.

But these kids, they don't have to have that be their narrative. It doesn't have to be defined by evil or ISIS. But it's really why there has to be an international response to all of this and that has to happen now. Not tomorrow. Now.

BALDWIN: The need is now. What -- from just spending all this time, did you just as a woman walking around ever feel threatened? And what struck you the most?

DAMON: I didn't feel threatened. But keep in mind, too, that we had about four to six armed guards with us, depending on which part of the camp we were in.

You know, when we would approach the women, some of them would just run away, literally, from the camera. Others didn't want to talk. But after you spoke with them for a few minutes, everything would come pouring out.

And i think, by and large, the women we were talking to, they really just wanted to be heard, and their perspectives on what has happened to them and what they want their future to be is incredibly diverse.

We spoke to so many women who said they just want to get out, leave it all behind, and then other women openly saying, no, we would prefer to stay here because, at the very at least, we're still living by the rules of ISIS, by the rules of the caliphate.

And Kurdish officials are estimating that only about 30 percent of the population is really, as they call it, hard-core ISIS, and 70 percent of the population wants to get out and wants to move on.


I think one of the striking things was that you look at those visuals and you see that sea of black and you can perhaps be misled into thinking that the thoughts are all the same, the desires are all the same, the beliefs are all the same, but they're not. Every single person, every single woman in there is an individual with her own thoughts and her own hopes for her future.

But, again, those women that want to get out, those families that want to get out, that need that chance.

BALDWIN: Thank you and your crew for taking the risk and getting in and telling the stories of these women and these children.

Arwa Damon, you are phenomenal. Thank you.

Breaking news. The Trump administration rolling back yet another environmental regulation from the Obama era. This one involving clean water.

We'll be right back.