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ISIS Lures Women Recruits; The Aaron Hernandez Trial; Mike Huckabee Looks Into 2016 Race; Joe Biden Makes Headlines; Ukrainian Cease-fire Elusive on the Ground

Aired February 18, 2015 - 09:30   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me.

As ISIS continues to gain territory across the Middle East, the recruitment of young women to its ranks has become increasingly important to the group. And among the most highly sought after targets, western women. But how do you relay your message of jihad in a way westerners understand? How can westerners understand? Well, you turn to the language of social media, and that seems to be working just fine for ISIS. ISIS is talking online about jars of Nutella, pictures of kittens and emojis. These three images are in part helping ISIS recruiters lure westerners into their fight because they want people to believe their life on the battlefield isn't so different than yours. They actually eat Nutella and I guess they have pet kittens.

Let's talk about all of this. I'm joined by Nimmi Gowrinathan. I didn't want to butcher your last name and I hope I didn't. She's a visiting professor at City College New York and an expert on women and sexual violence.

Thank you so much for being here.


COSTELLO: There's actually an all-female ISIS brigade. Can you tell us about that?

GOWRINATHAN: There is. Initially, ISIS didn't have women joining their ranks. And as with a lot of other movements, they realize the value of including women in the movement later on and did form an all-female brigade. And, again, as with other movements, initially they played multiple roles and eventually some of them make it to the front lines.

COSTELLO: So there are ISIS female fighters actually, I guess, in combat?

GOWRINATHAN: There are. There are female fighters on both sides of the line. There are Kurdish women fighting ISIS and there are also female fighters as a part of ISIS. COSTELLO: And that's actually appealing to recruits, right?

GOWRINATHAN: Joining the fight is appealing to some recruits. In France they actually found that 45 percent of the people calling the hotline to join ISIS were young women.

COSTELLO: Actually, the woman who's in charge of the all-female brigade publishes a sort of online magazine, right?

GOWRINATHAN: Yes, she speaks a lot about what life is like as a woman in ISIS, as a fighter on the ground. There's a number of blogs that discuss the position of women there.

COSTELLO: And I'm just going to read a bit about what she said in one of her magazine posts.


COSTELLO: She says, "a woman's one true purpose is to serve a man, which is true even in liberal states and for today's free societies." According to the woman who wrote this article, "a girl may be married between the ages of nine and 17. Once she is a wife, she must remain at home, her face and body nearly always covered."

So, it's very difficult for westerners to understand. So you go and you fight what you consider the good fight, right? And then you're relegated to a life like that. Why would that appeal to young women anywhere?

GOWRINATHAN: I think the thing to recognize is that women are not fighting for women's rights. The fight for ISIS is a fight for something else. It is the idea of a caliphate. It is a political fight that I think goes a bit deeper than social media, and that is what women are attracted to for a number of reasons, because they feel safer, because they feel their identity as Sunnis is threatened, because they feel that if they're trapped between Assad and ISIS, they would rather be in ISIS, even if they do have to wear a double veil. But it's important to remember, they are not fighting for women's rights, they are fighting to be a part of a particular community that they feel safe in.

COSTELLO: So, the United States government is trying to figure out how to use social media to prevent women and others from joining ISIS. What could be effective?

GOWRINATHAN: Well, I think oftentimes we put on social media things that are actually much broader social movements and political movements and they express themselves in social media. But if you look at something like ISIS, there's been a conversation now that it is this group that has this seventh century ideology that is using 21st century technology. And particularly if you look at women, they have actually been used in multiple ways in between those two centuries and ISIS is drawing on a long history of female fighters being engaged in a political movement. And that's what we have to recognize.

COSTELLO: So what would be effective? GOWRINATHAN: I think recognizing when you have cases like Sajida al-

Rishawi in Jordan, the failed suicide bomber, other female fighters, you know, who we look at just at the moment of extremism. You know, we look at that moment and then we look backwards at their life histories to find meaning as why they did that, why they would do that, as opposed to looking at all the young women out there now, the women who are disenfranchised, the women who are being raped, the women who are under repressive states, who are under militarization and looking at them and saying, what are their lives like? What is making them need to join a movement like this?

COSTELLO: So, I mean, I know when I think of it like that, if you don't have much of a life and you have no power and you want to gain some sense of power and meaning in your life, then perhaps it's understandable that you might want to join a political fight.

GOWRINATHAN: Yes, because it is something that makes you have a sense of belonging, right, and when your political rights are being taken away. You know, a lot of women will have to make the choice. You won't die from being a woman in some of these areas. You will have to wear a double veil, but you won't die. You can die from being a Sunni or other marginalized communities, let's say the (INAUDIBLE) in Sri Lanka. So they make that choice. When you fight for your life, you choose which fight to fight.

COSTELLO: Thank you so much for joining us.

GOWRINATHAN: Sure. Thank you for having me.

COSTELLO: That's great. I really appreciate it and helping us understand.

In other news this morning, the Aaron Hernandez murder trial enters its tenth day. The focus now on cell phones and what the former NFL star did just hours after the victim's body was found. Jurors finally seeing this police surveillance video in court. In it, Hernandez is seen making a call and then swapping the battery out of his cell. More cops are expected to take the stand today. Here's more now from Susan Candiotti.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's 2:00 a.m. and New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez is in a police station parking lot after voluntarily meeting with detectives. He gets into his lawyer's car. Several hours after Odin Lloyd's body is found, shot dead in an industrial park, keys to a car rented by Hernandez, found on Lloyd's body, lead police to question him. An outdoor police department security camera shows Hernandez and his lawyer who walks away. With the car's interior light on, Hernandez dismantles his Blackberry, removing battery and cover.

MICHAEL ELLIOTT, DETECTIVE, NORTH ATTLEBORO POLICE: Inside the vehicle, it appeared that he took his phone and took it apart.

CANDIOTTI: Jurors watch him pick up another phone, but first he quickly puts his own phone back together and makes a call on the borrowed phone.

ELLIOTT: So he's using one phone, either texting or calling, and the other one is on his lap apart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. And how long did you watch him on the camera?

ELLIOTT: Around 20 minutes.

CANDIOTTI: Without the jury present, the judge says Hernandez calls Ernest Wallace (ph), later also charged with murdering Lloyd. Wallace, seen on video, coming home with Hernandez minutes after Lloyd is shot. Jurors are not told that second phone belongs to his lawyer, nor that Hernandez was calling Wallace. The defense plays down the phone swap.

JAMIE SULTAN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You saw him slide off the back cover and pop out the battery.


SULTAN: I'm -- I don't -- is that what you saw?


SULTAN: All right. You didn't see him smashing his phone, did you?


SULTAN: You didn't see him destroying his phone, did you?


SULTAN: And you're aware, are you not, that that phone was later turned over to the state police, right?

ELLIOTT: I believe so, yes.

CANDIOTTI: Jurors also learned about another surveillance camera in Hernandez's basement, his man cave, equipped with bar, big screen TV and pool table. When the camera's put in, he asks the installer how to disable it.

MARK ARCHAMBAULT, HOME ELECTRONICS TECHNICIAN: He asked if it was possible to shut off the camera in the basement because he didn't want his fiance to see him hanging out with his friends. I said, well, we could label the cameras and you could just unplug them. And he said, well, that sounds like a good idea, why don't we do that.

CANDIOTTI: That camera cable is labeled "man cave," significant because that's the only camera in the house prosecutors say is turned off when Hernandez comes home and goes to his basement minutes after Lloyd is shot. A gun allegedly in his hand.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, Fall River, Massachusetts.



COSTELLO: Mike Huckabee has not officially said if he's running for president in 2016, but a new CNN poll suggests the former Arkansas governor will have a lot of support if he does decide to run. Huckabee's surging ten points from December to lead the Republican field. Jeb Bush coming in second, but that's after falling nine points in the eyes of potential voters. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Senator Rand Paul and neurosurgeon Ben Carson rounding out the top five.

So, could this news push Huckabee closer to making a hard core decision? Joining me now to talk about that is Alice Stewart, Republican strategist and communications director for Mike Huckabee.



COSTELLO: So you must be quite happy this morning.

STEWART: Well, certainly if you're going to surge in a poll, this is a direction that you want to be going in. And as you had mentioned, Governor Huckabee has not made a decision whether or not he's going to run for president in 2016, but he's doing all the necessary legwork and laying the groundwork for him to be in a good spot to make that decision.

In terms of this poll, this is positive. This is good to be in the lead and to have gained ten points in the past month. That's a great sign. He's been out working hard, talking with people around the country as he has been promoting his new book, but also connecting with the people. And while this is good news, it's a national poll, we like seeing the numbers this direction, breaking down the cross tabs in this, seeing that economy is a number one issue for the voters in this poll. Clearly the governor's message is resonating with his views on the economy and how it's important to rein in the size of government, have fiscal responsibility, looking at balancing the budget. So his issues are resonating and people understand he connects with them.

COSTELLO: Well -- well, let me ask you this. Yes, let me ask you this, too, because I know you're being cautious when you say Mike Huckabee has not decided whether to run for president, even though this poll is great. And I know why you're doing that because a few years ago the leader in the Republican field changed almost weekly, right, from Michele Bachmann, to Herman Cain, to Rick Santorum, before finally settling on Mitt Romney. Do you think that 2016 will be different or will we see the changing poll numbers almost daily?

STEWART: Well, whenever you have this large of a field of any size, you're going to have the whack-a-mole game. Whenever they're in the lead, they're going to get pounded by the media and critics. And that's just the way this works. But the key is not only just to be ahead at this stage of the game, but certainly a year from now when we're going into the South Carolina, the primaries and the caucuses in Iowa. And that's important.

And these key -- key also are these polls done in the individual states. You had a poll out last week in Iowa. Governor Huckabee leading in that poll. Also in South Carolina and New Hampshire, he's among the top in the field there. So as the governor has always said back in 2008, this is the marathon, not a sprint. So this is a great place to start off. The key is to keep the momentum going this time next year.

COSTELLO: So is it safe to assume that he's going to participate in the Iowa straw poll? Because some Republicans were thinking not because they don't think it shows much and why waste your resources there?

STEWART: Well, as we said, he hasn't made a decision what he's going to do in terms of running for president ,and the strategy moving forward once that decision is made will be revealed at that point. But he can certainly safely say he will be spending a lot of time in Iowa. He connects with them. They appreciate his views and values and know that he understands what it takes to put food on the table and gas in the tank. And so he will be spending a lot of time in Iowa and all the early states.

COSTELLO: Let's talk a little bit more about Iowa and the straw poll. Because this is from "The Des Moines Register". "In 2007, Governor Mitt Romney handily won the 2007 straw poll behind a large and expensive organization effort, only to find his victory overshadowed by Mike Huckabee. He unexpectedly surged to second place. Huckabee went on to win the 2008 caucuses, while the nomination was clinched by U.S. Senator John McCain, who didn't even compete in the straw poll."

So, again, I'll ask you, why participate in the straw poll? Does it really matter?

STEWART: It does. For us back in '08, it was a big help for us in terms of we didn't have the name I.D. and the money that some of the other candidates had, and it helped to increase the name I.D. and really send us off into great trajectory into New Hampshire and South Carolina.

So for some candidates, it's a big help, but it's all part of the process. And in terms of how this election cycle will be played out compared to years past, we'll see. Time will tell. But each state, all of these early states, are critical. And each campaign will look at what's best for them in terms of the strategy moving forward. And no campaign at this point is going to be revealing the strategy once a campaign is officially formed.

COSTELLO: I understand. So someone else out there who's talking a lot about running for president is Jeb Bush, and he's set to speak today on foreign policy. And in released excerpts he says, quote, "I love my father and my brother. I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions they have to make, but I am my own man and my views are shaped by my own thinking and my own experiences."

And I'm thinking he's talking about the Iraq war, right? So does Jeb Bush face an uphill battle with voters on that issue?

STEWART: Well, time will tell. Look, Governor Huckabee has a great relationship with Jeb Bush. Our team has a great deal of respect for he and his brother and his father, but in terms of foreign policy, which will be a key issue during this election cycle, I can tell you that Governor Huckabee right now is in Israel as we speak. He's meeting with leaders there about important issues, about foreign policy and building relationships that he has had for dozens and dozens of years, because he understands that foreign policy is something that everyone is in the same boat in terms of how important it is.


STEWART: And we need a leader that leads from the front and understands that --


COSTELLO: See, I'm going to have to ask you about Jeb Bush's comments once again just to get, you know, your insight from that. Will it be difficult for Jeb Bush to separate himself from the policies of his brother?

STEWART: Well, as I said, that's going to be up to the voters to decide. They will be the ones that make that decision. As for our team and how we view the Bushes, we have nothing but the utmost respect for them and look forward to -- I know if they decide to get in --

COSTELLO: Alice, what do you think?

STEWART: -- and the governor gets in. It's not my call. It's up to the voters, for them to decide where they -- how they want to view the Bushes. But we, in our team, have tremendous respect for all the Bushes.

COSTELLO: All right. Alice Stewart, thanks so much for joining me. I appreciate it.

STEWART: Thanks, Carol.

COSTELLO: You're welcome.

No matter who wins the next battle for the White House, he or she will likely be working with Ashton Carter, the foreign policy and the best strategy for our nation's military. Carter was sworn in as the next Secretary of Defense yesterday, but the headline-making moment had nothing to do with the Pentagon's new chief and everything to do with this incident when the vice president, Joe Biden, squeezed the shoulders of Carter's wife, Stephanie, and later seemingly whispered into her ear.

The awkwardness stretching far beyond the White House to social media where the hashtag #bidenpickuplines soon made the rounds on Twitter. Sadly, most of those pickup lines we cannot say on the air, but we can give you a sampling of the reaction from other outlets. Buzzfeed saying, quote "Joe Biden got a little handsy with the new Defense Secretary's wife", noting Biden left his hands on Stephanie Carter's shoulders for an estimated 28 seconds. "The Daily Beast" being a little more blunt, declaring, quote, "Joe Biden needs a tranquilizer dart" and the U.S. needs, quote, "a new Veep hands off policy".

Finally, a "Washington Post" political reporter summed it up this way. Quote, "I hate to read too much into what Stephanie Carter might be thinking in this photo, but she certainly does not look happy. More like annoyed. Perhaps Biden should just go back to the usual grip and grin photo-op."

Talk amongst yourselves. I'll be right back.


COSTELLO: Ukrainian troops are pulling out of a key battleground in their fight with pro-Russia separatists. The Ukrainian president says 80 percent of armed forces have now left the town of Debaltseve, taking their tanks, artillery, and military trucks with them. He's demanding world leaders have a tough response to Russia. A fragile cease-fire took effect on Sunday but it's done little to stop the fighting in parts of Eastern Ukraine.

In a CNN exclusive, Frederik Pleitgen went to the frontlines of another town where a cease-fire may be effect on paper but certainly not on the ground.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The cease-fire remains elusive in this town. These fighters lead their weapons with great care, then head to the front line.

(on camera): We're on the road here with a Ukrainian battalion called the East Corpus Battalion and they say that they still get shelled all the time, that there's attacks from pro-Russian separatists, and that they're doing their best to try and hold this town, but they've already lost a considerable amount of it to the pro-Russian separatists in the past couple of days.

(voice-over): Right now only a third of the village is under our control, machine gunner Yury says. With pro-Russian separatists close by, we need to move carefully and frequently run for cover.

(on camera): So the men tell us we have to really watch out here because apparently there's a sniper, they believe, somewhere in the distance over there. They say they take fire here pretty much every day and several times a day so they really don't believe in cease-fire that's going on. They say it never really took hold here.

(voice-over): The cease-fire is a farce says Commander Olag Shiryayev. The fighting is continuing now the way it did before. They continue to attack us, shell us, they use artillery and mortars, and sometimes they launch raids. It's impossible to tell which side is responsible for breaking the

cease-fire here, but to the few civilians we saw, that didn't seem to matter. They were packing any belongings they could and leaving.

The fighting here is very heavy, this woman says. All of the windows of our house are broken. It's very terrifying. We saved all our lives to buy our house and now we have nothing.

To get back to safety, the fighters lob a smoke grenade to mask our retreat.

(on camera): At least in this village here in Eastern Ukraine, we can see that the cease-fire is not working. There appear to be many, many infringements and there certainly isn't any sort of faith that things will get better any time soon.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Shyrokyno Ukraine.


COSTELLO: The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM after a break.