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CNN Tonight

U.S. Military Intel Report Documents Chinese Spy Balloon Seen In Hawaii, Florida During Trump Presidency; Antisemitic Flyers Found In Driveways Across Atlanta Suburbs; Neo-Nazi Leader And Maryland Woman Allegedly Plotted To Completely Destroy Baltimore With Plan To Attack Power Grid; Tampering Incidents In Dallas Zoo Have Keepers On Edge; AMC To Price Movie Theater Tickets Based On Seat Location. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired February 06, 2023 - 23:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: It found that in 2019, one balloon circumnavigated the globe, drifting past Hawaii and across Florida at an altitude of roughly 65,000 feet.

Here is what National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told CNN's Kasie Hunt about that discovery.


JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Because the Intelligence Community made this a priority at the direction of President Biden, we enhanced our surveillance of our territory and aerospace, we enhanced our capacity to be able to detect things that the Trump administration was unable to detect.

And we are also able to go back and look at the historical patterns. And that led us to come to understand that during the Trump administration, as you said, there were multiple instances where the surveillance balloons traversed American airspace and American territory.


CAMEROTA: Okay. Let me bring in our guest now. We have CNN chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst John Miller, political commentators Errol Louis and Scott Jennings, and national security analyst Shawn Turner.

Sean, I want to start with you. I don't understand. Help us -- help us understand how the Intel Community can enhance their detection process and look into the past to see how many balloons floated over years ago.

SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yeah, Alisyn, it is clear to understand why it might be confusing. A lot of people are asking this question and wondering, if we have the information, how is it that the Intelligence Community was only able to produce a report last year that revealed that these balloons flew over the United States?

I actually think there's a pretty good answer to that question. You know, look, when a new administration comes in, it is really -- it is not unusual for them to sit down and to take a hard look at our adversaries and to look at intelligence so that we can better understand their tactics, understand what we don't know about the time when they were -- when that administration was out of office.

You look at two things that are really important, Alisyn. They look at finished intelligence reports. That is the intelligence that has already been analyzed and summarized for the president. But they also go back and they look at raw intelligence. And Alisyn, I will tell you that every time we look at raw intelligence, we learn something that we didn't know before.

What we may be talking about here is the situation in which we simply had not analyzed the intelligence that would have revealed that these spy balloons flew over the United States. During my time in the Intelligence Community, we always had more intelligence than we had analysts to look at the stuff. So, it's very possible that we just didn't see it.

CAMEROTA: That's really interesting, Shawn. So, in other words, John, there was just too much intelligence and maybe it was oversight and we didn't know this was happening. So, it is not -- I mean, is it necessarily something that the Intelligence Community did wrong during the Trump administration or something just have to fall through the cracks?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: I think Shawn is on target. We served together at the same time in the Director of National Intelligence Office. And, you know, sometimes, these are iterative processes where you will see these balloons or signature on radar, and then you'll find what the signature is and it's a balloon.

But where is it crossing? It's crossing over Florida. It's crossing over Texas. Our own north calm, northern command, uses the same model, same balloon, same surveillance gear to do stationary and loitering counter narcotics and human smuggling collection of intelligence on the border.

So, first, we have to figure out, okay, do we know what this is? B, are we sure that's not us? C, what can we learn about it? And overtime, we figured out that these are Chinese products floating on big balloons that are gathering and sending information in real time, and then you get the analysts and the NGO and the NRO and everybody and they put together a report.

CAMEROTA: Errol, what's amusing, if there is anything, is that, you know, we talk a lot about all the high-tech ways that China could be in infiltrating in terms of cyberattacks, in terms of even TikTok. This is as old school, low tech as it gets.

MILLER: Since 1783 in the French revolution. The revolutionary war, they've been using balloons for intel. CAMEROTA: I mean, is that -- I don't even know how to make of that.

Is that comforting?


CAMEROTA: Is it -- is it comforting that we still miss it sometimes?

LOUIS: Well, look, it's comforting that we have an open enough system that people can acknowledge when there is a problem, that the Intelligence Community can tell the military folks, here is something you missed, we've got a real problem here. And for them to acknowledge on national television, hey, we didn't know this was happening.

Think about what the comparable reaction is in Beijing, you know, where heads are surely rolling and that might be even be a literal kind of statement. You know, when we have this kind of a problem where 18th century technology apparently is evading all of our cyber defenses, clearly, it's a time for a reset and a chance to look at this all over again.


CAMEROTA: Scott, are you -- why are you giving me that?



CAMEROTA: No. I think you're skeptical.


CAMEROTA: Are you one of the people who thinks that the Biden administration should have taken steps to shoot it down sooner than it did?

JENNINGS: Well, that certainly the -- you know, whether we detect these things, I actually did think it was good that we acknowledged that we have missed them before and now we can see it. It's a good thing for people to know. I do think the Biden administration wasn't going to acknowledge it all until a newspaper in Montana, you know, figured it out.

CAMEROTA: Well, hold on. Let me just challenge you on that, because I think that they -- I think Biden was briefed on it on Tuesday. I think the timeline is that he was briefed on it on Tuesday. I think CNN broke it on Thursday. I'm not sure when the Montana station did. But we broke it on Thursday. That's like 48 hours.

You wanted him to tell the American people -- I mean, can't president think about anything for 48 hours about what they're going to disclose in terms of intel?

MILLER: By the way, I mean, what good to we do, you know, everything we learned, shouting it out to everybody in the world while we're trying to figure out what action to take or not take.

JENNINGS: Well, A, it was over American soil. B, people apparently can look up and see it. So -- I mean, everything is legitimate question about whether you should disclose.

The big debate here and the ongoing political debate will be about whether they should have shot it down earlier than they did. And I think that is really the ongoing political embarrassment for Biden, is that this thing sat over the United States for a few days and then they finally shot it down.

CAMEROTA: But their argument -- but, I mean, their argument is that they had to wait for it to be over water because the debris does scatter over something like six miles, you can tell me, John. But I mean, they -- would you rather it fell in someone's head?

JENNINGS: If we've picked it up over the Aleutian Island and Alaska, there is a lot of country out there. There aren't too many people and a lot of trees and maybe a few animals and birds, and that's it.

I'm just saying -- I don't know. I'm not here to second guess anybody. I'm just telling you the average person looks at this and says, we let this thing fly all the way over the United States before we took an action against? It does seem a little weird to the average person.

MILLER: I have to be the contrarian here because I've been listening to that since it crossed in from Canada. And you have to think of this like an intelligence officer, which is, what do we have here? Is it a threat? Has it got a missile on it? Is it spreading anything? No.

We have intelligence reporting. We've seen it before. We figured out what it is. We know what it is. Now, there are two things to do. One, it's a threat because it's gathering intelligence. But no one disagrees it can really see anything that they can see from a satellite. It can last longer and maybe look closer.

But the key is, what is the advantage of letting it go? And if you're thinking of it as an intelligence officer, you're saying, it's their collection platform. Let's make it our collection platform. Can we get a telemetry? Can we see what it's sending? Can we see what's it looking at?

CAMEROTA: And now that we've blown it up and it has scattered into a million pieces, can we still do that?

MILLER: So, we can pick up the pieces. It is going to OTD, at the FBI in Washington, operation technology division. They're going to put the pieces together and see what they recognize because this is the same type they built there with a lot of partners from other agencies.

But the key is, will they be able to find something that collected data that can be repaired or downloaded? And that is it's a bit of a collection platform. If it's here, let's take advantage of it.

CAMEROTA: Shawn, do you have any thoughts on that? Number one, if the Intel Community could have assessed what it was to shoot it down earlier, and if they will be able to glean actual valuable stuff now that it's in the middle of the ocean in a million pieces?

TURNER: Yeah, you know, on this -- on this question of shooting it down earlier, I mean -- I think, as John said here, look, we have to stop and think. Anyone who is saying, you know, shoot first and ask questions later, not only is it true that we would've been asking questions today about why we didn't consider the ramifications for people on the ground, but also when we think about shooting this down, we -- we -- we want to be able to collect as much information about it as possible. So, where we shoot it down matters.

So, I think that what people have to understand is that this balloon did not traverse across the United States without the U.S. government putting some measures in place to make sure that we were protecting sensitive information.

I think that's the first (INAUDIBLE). We just sort of let this thing float across the country and collect information. But now that we have it, I do think there's an opportunity for us to learn something about China's tradecraft.

One thing I think that we should note, too, is that, you know, one other thing that we do in the Intelligence Community is we prepare for the possibility that some of our sensitive technology might fall into the hands of others. And sometimes, what we do is we build ways to prevent them from learning from that.

So, it's going to be really interesting to see whether or not, once the Chinese realized that this balloon wasn't coming home, whether or not they took some measures to protect whatever information was being sent back or whatever technology is in that balloon.

CAMEROTA: Okay, gentlemen, thank you very much. Thanks for all those different perspectives. Okay, now, to this: People in one Atlanta neighborhood are waking up to their driveways being littered with antisemitic fliers. What is driving the rise in hate and what are they doing about it?



CAMEROTA: People in suburban Atlanta woke up on Sunday to find antisemitic messages and images on flyers waiting in their driveways. One of those people was Georgia State Representative Esther Panitch who tweeted images out of the flyers, and she joins us now. Representative, thank you so much for being here. Tell us what happened on Sunday when you went out to your driveway. What those looked like?

REP. ESTHER PANITCH, (D-GA): Well, my husband actually went out to get the newspaper. We were drinking our Sunday coffee. He came back in and told me that there were some antisemitic material at the bottom of our driveway. I put on my jacket, went to go look, and sure enough, there were three little packages, baggies with un-pop corn kernels, and these vile flyers that were inside each baggy.

CAMEROTA: Right. So, we see the vile messages. Why are there corn kernels in there?

PANITCH: I have no idea.



PANITCH: I don't ascribe logic to irrational behavior. So, I have no idea.

CAMEROTA: Yeah. And what were your thoughts when you discover those?

PANITCH: Essentially, I had heard that this had been happening in other neighborhoods over the last few months. So, really, it just -- it was my turn. It was my neighborhood. It was my turn. I called the police, made a report, and I text my neighbor to see if it happened to her home and found out she wasn't in town.

Then I started -- I put it out on social media. I started hearing that it was happening in other neighborhoods. Also, when I called the police, Sandy Springs, the dispatcher told me that they had been receiving reports.

So, I knew it had already been in Sandy Springs. I heard it was in our neighboring community. They had already heard that it had been in neighboring counties in the months before.

So, I wasn't surprised that -- because I'm already aware it was happening. I was just resigned at that point that it was happening in my neighborhood.

CAMEROTA: Do you know how many people -- yeah, of course. Of course, you were. Do you know how many people received things like this?

PANITCH: No. I mean, only anecdotally. I don't have the numbers from law enforcement. But my husband, then, went to take our dog for a walk later in the day and saw about 50. He says about 50 in neighborhoods. So, we didn't take a formal count, but it was a lot. I mean, I would say it's hundreds over the last few months.

CAMEROTA: After you discovered it, you tweeted out, welcome to being a Jew in Georgia - my driveway this morning. Sandy Springs Police Department came and took for testing. Govern yourselves accordingly, GDL, and anti-Semites who seek to harm and intimidate Jews in Georgia. I'm coming for you with the weight of the state behind me.

There's a lot there, representative. When you say welcome to being a Jew in Georgia, meaning this -- something like this has happened before?

PANITCH: Well, it had been happening before. It had been happening over a period of months. But antisemitism is rising in Georgia. That's one of the reasons I decided to run for office. There would be no Jewish representation in Georgia if I hadn't run. And incidents had been rising. Extremism have been rising. And so, if I wasn't going to do anything about it, someone had to. So, it was going to be me. And we have to put our foot down. We have to stop it. We know, as Jews, what happens when people don't stop it. So, it is not just up to us to stop it. We're not big enough to stop it, numerically. We need allies to help us to stop it.

CAMEROTA: When you say, govern yourselves accordingly, GDL, that is the Goyim Defense League. Who are they? Is that who you think is behind this?

PANITCH: That's who is written on the flyers. I really don't want to give them any variety (ph) because they thrive on it. But it's -- yeah, these are well -- these are organizations. These are not kids doing one off things. These are organizations that try to recruit members into their hate groups in order to terrorize and intimidate Jewish people.

A friend of mine tweeted -- texted me that her survive -- holocaust survivor father received this. I mean, can you imagine? Somebody who survived the Nazis had to deal with this, in your home? I mean, how awful is that?

So, we have to try to put a stop to it. Georgia is actually on the cusp of hopefully passing a bill to define antisemitism. Part of the problem is we have no definition for antisemitism in Georgia. Thirty other states in this country have defined antisemitism.

But in Georgia, if you commit a crime, not speech, but if you committ a crime and it happens to be against a Jewish person and you express intent to do it against a Jewish person, there is no way -- there is no set definition of antisemitism.

So, if you do something against a Jewish person and they say, oh, you did it because they're Jews, they could say no, it wasn't against their religion, it was against their ethnicity or it was against -- it's something that happened in Israel that this person had nothing to do with. So, that's a defense. So, until we can define what antisemitism is, we can't protect Jews as much as they -- as we deserve to be protected.

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, that's why I was going to ask you about, in your tweet, where you say, I am coming for you with the weight of the state behind me. Are you?


CAMEROTA: I mean, the fact that -- I mean, what does that mean and look like?

PANITCH: To me, that means if you commit a crime against Jews, motivated by hatred towards Jews, you are going to get prosecuted for crime, a hate crime.


Georgia passed a hate crime bill over the last couple of years because of what happened to Ahmaud Arbery. He was targeted because he was Black. If you are going to target Jews because they are Jews, you're going to get punished for it, too. There's going to be enhanced punishment. And if you're going to discriminate against Jews because they're Jews, you're going to be punished for it.

CAMEROTA: And so, representative, the fact that you are the only Jewish member of the state legislator, should we be surprised by that?

PANITCH: I'm underrepresented. Jewish people are underrepresented in government in Georgia. So, obviously, representation matters and we need more voices in government. So, every minority group deserves to have representation in government. And at the moment, we're just underrepresented.

So -- but while I'm alone and it's a little lonely, I'm not really alone. We have allies. We have a lot of allies. Today, I went and stood at the well (ph) and address the House of Representatives. Normally, a few people come up and stand with whoever is speaking in solidarity for any particular issue. Today, most of the House came up and stood with me. It was amazing.

And the speaker gave such a passionate speech at the beginning of the session to state that everybody stands with me. In fact, so many people started to come up but the speaker asked some people to kind of stay behind. So, I would have some of this, too, because otherwise, I have to turn around and speak to my colleagues who are standing behind me.

So, it's really overwhelming, the amount of support and love that I got from my colleagues who are all lawmakers. It was really something to say about how far Georgia has come in the last century because it wasn't always so friendly to Jewish people.

CAMEROTA: Well, I am comforted and heartened to hear about all of the support that you had in speaking today. So, thank you for the story. And obviously, we'll be watching closely what happens in Georgia.

PANITCH: Thank you so much.

CAMEROTA: Thank you so much, Esther Panitch. And John Miller and Scott Jennings are back now. Joining us also is "New York Times" business reporter Emma Goldberg. Great to have all of you.

So, it's not just Georgia, obviously. I'll just pull up a little graphic we have of some of the recent antisemitic incidents across the United States.

So, as you may remember, we just talked about the flyers in the Atlanta suburb. Then there were also these banners over the Los Angeles Freeway. That was in October 23rd. There was a projection in Jacksonville, Florida, I believe on the side of the building saying, Kanye was right, and then meaning about the Jews. And then there was a Molotov cocktail at a New Jersey synagogue on January 29th. I mean, those are just some fairly recent ones.

So, Emma, you see this as part of a larger piece with the resurgence of white nationalism.

EMMA GOLDBERG, BUSINESS REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: Absolutely. I mean, first of all, its alarming. As a Jewish person, you grow up in the United States thinking antisemitism sounds like something very foreign and faraway in time and place. And so, to hear those words, welcome to being a Jew in Georgia, is terrifying.

I do think that it's importing that we step back and understand the broader phenomenon that's contributing to this. Antisemitism is part and parcel of a broader white supremacist, white nationalist movement. I think that there has been extensive research that shows that antisemitism is animated by white nationalism. It contributes to it. It is fueled by the growth of this broader movement that has been emboldened in recent years.

I mean, you can look at the numbers. There is a hate crime that occurs every hour in the U.S. There has been 100% growth of hate groups in the last 20 years in the country.

So, I think when we see all these very visible manifestations of hatred towards Jews, it's important to also ask how do we think about countering white supremacy writ large because of this part of that ideology.

CAMEROTA: I mean, John, look, if you are so overwhelming, I mean, we'll get to the point that it's just not in the United States. But just in the United States, all of these different incidents, as a law enforcement guy, this must be really daunting.

MILLER: Well, I mean, we saw this creeping up a few years ago with Identity Evropa and groups like that that were doing stickering on lampposts and flyering in Jersey City and Staten Island with antisemitic messages. And we're thinking, you know, this is New York and, like, 2018, 2019, where is this coming from?

But then you see, you know, the QAnon movement, which is a live online with hundreds of thousands of followers, antisemitism and Jewish tropes flow through that as part of the theme there. You look at the fact that you have the "unite the right rally" in Charlotte where all of these groups came together out in the open, not hiding their faces, marching with torches. And you remember, we are still in the new millennium when this is happening.


And at the time, the president of the United States of America said, well, there were good people on both sides, after someone rammed their car into the anti-white supremacist protesters.

And now, you fast forward to the other day and you've got Nick Fuentes, a holocaust denier and anti-Semite, you know, at Mar-a-Lago breaking bread. It is not just a Trump thing, but it's a movement that is getting kind of a pass or tacit approval at levels of the government and society that really validates it in a scary way.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I don't know if that is what lit this dynamite, but it sure didn't help extinguish it. I mean, to your point, that that is not helpful. So, here is some of the numbers --

MILLER: And then (INAUDIBLE) on Kanye, which is a cultural crossover which just throws for a loop, but it's very powerful.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. He has millions of followers. So, the antisemitic incidents in the U.S. reached an all-time high in 2021. There were 2,717 incidents. That's 34% increase year over year.

And then in terms of the tropes that John was just talking about, in 2019, 61% of respondents believe one, at least one anti-Jewish trope. Now, it's up to 85% this year. And similarly, if you believe six or more, it was 11% in 2019. Now, it is 20%. So, what do you think is happening here and what is the answer?

JENNINGS: I don't know what the macro answer is. I know what the micro answer is. Every single one of us who has any kind of responsibility anywhere in our lives where we interact with people who need to hear the truth, have a responsibility to tell it. And also, political people, to your point, we have a responsibility not interact with the people and elevate the people who are spreading this.

And that's what Donald Trump did when he had that meal with the white nationalist and the person that you mentioned. And so, we all have that micro responsibility. I don't know if that will add up to the macro solution because it is global.

I was reading a report from the Jewish government from a couple years ago. They put up about the rising antisemitism in Europe, Germany, France. A lot of different countries are experiencing this. So, obviously, this is not isolated. It is not just the United States.

And it is not history. I think that what you said really was a powerful thing. This is real. It's happening right now. When you have groups of people who can communicate with each other all over the world, it can spread very rapidly. And it is extremely dangerous, as we have seen from these things in the United States.

So, it's extremely worrisome. Everybody in every part of our political spectrum has a responsibility here.

CAMEROTA: So, on that note, up next, we're going to tell you about how the Justice Department says that this neo-Nazi leader and a Maryland woman allegedly plotted to destroy Baltimore. We have new reporting on this.




CAMEROTA: A neo-Nazi and a Maryland woman charged tonight with what the DOJ is calling a racially-motivated plot to -- quote -- "completely destroy the city of Baltimore." Federal authorities allege the duo were planning to attack electrical substations. Experts warn that more extremist groups are targeting U.S. power facilities as possible targets.

We're back now with John Miller, Emma Goldberg, and Errol Louis. John, what new reporting do you have on what happened here?

MILLER: Well, as we reported last week on CNN, we have seen a big increase in 2022 on attacks on power stations, substations across the country.

CAMEROTA: Twenty-five confirmed attacks on power facilities in 2022?

MILLER: Right. And some of these are gunfire, sniper, sabotage, vandalism. But at the same time, in those same neo-Nazi white nationalists challenge on the internet, they are literally putting out playbook saying that we've got to bring down the power grid because if we hit the right eight or nine places, we could have a cascading collapse which will punish the United States into a prolonged blackout, which they hope is the catalyst for the beginning of riots, looting and things the government can't fix, the race war, and then finally the fall of society and their rise to white power.

But the new development today, of course, is the arrest of Brandon Russell, the former head of the Atomwaffen Division, now running something call the New Socialist Order. He was out on supervised release from his conviction after pleading guilty for possession of explosives and planning to blow up the power grid in Florida.

Then he found Sarah Beth Clendaniel, who conspired with him, and a third individual, who was an FBI source online, to attack multiple power plants around Baltimore to punish the city into a prolonged blackout.

CAMEROTA: Maybe we should give these guys longer prison sentences so they're not out on supervised release to be able to do this. But, Errol, I mean, you know, this is -- this affects all of us. This is scary. It affects all of us. They are targeting these things. And they may not be the brightest people, but they are -- it's working. They are actually attacking these power grids.

LOUIS: They are. And they are trying to form a terrorism and mayhem and murder and so forth. And while we may think that it's remote because some of them have been to be idiots, the reality is a successful blackout can cause billions of dollars-worth of damage. And that can happen due to a lightning strike.

So, you know, clearly, it is time to talk to Florida Power & Light, PSEG, PG&E, Con Edison, all of the private power companied that provide 65% of the power in this country, and tell them, you've got a new expense.


You're going to have to go to the ratepayers. Maybe you go to the government, maybe you go to your hedge funds, your sovereign funds, the pension funds that invest in you. You've to harden this facility. You cannot just leave substations out there for these Nazis to take shots at. MILLER: And just (INAUDIBLE), I mean, there are 6,400 power stations

with 55,000 substations owned by 3,000 companies in 50 states in 3,030 counties. None of them are regulated by any single body that sets the standard on a national level. So, it is the weakest link in the chain that is going to be at risk.

CAMEROTA: Here again, we're talking about Nazis in 2023. I don't -- I mean, it's hard to know how -- we're the poison (ph). Were they get infected with the poison? Are they angry people who are just looking for someone to hate or what -- what it is? What that sickness is?

GOLDBERG: We have to look at the rise in hate crimes that has occurred in recent years, over the last 20 years, especially over the last five years in this country. Because in a lot of ways, white nationalists weren't just given a hall pass. In recent years, they were walking into the principal's office.

I mean, look what happened with the insurrectionist who stormed the Capitol on January 6? There has been a lot of permissiveness and looking away and actually emboldening of white nationalist groups. We are now seeing the effects as they develop savvier and savvier tactics.

Look at Baltimore. It is a predominantly Black city. So, we are seeing the humane effects of this hatred that has been empowered at the highest level of this country.

CAMEROTA: I mean, they are being brought to justice now, after January 6th. I take your point. Before that, they were given more than a hall pass and told that they were good people, even on January 6. But they are being brought to justice.

But that brings me to, what happened with these attacks on power grids? They haven't gotten to the bottom of this. This one, the neo- Nazis one that you're describing, they just figured out and arrested and charged. But others are something serious.

MILLER: I mean, Moore County (ph) attack from Christmas day, 44,000 people are without power for days. That remains unsolved. The thing that was the catalyst for this was Metcalf, California back in 2013 and that was highly sophisticated. It became kind of the model that spawned in the dark corners of the internet in the white nationalist world saying, you know, we really got to exploit this and bring it forward.

LOUIS: We are going into a new era. There was a time, not that long ago, when you can get on an airplane with a ticket that had somebody else's name on it. You know, we are well past that. We've got a situation where five or 10 years from now, it would be unthinkable that we would leave so much of our grid exposed in this way.

MILLER: By the way, I think we also have to mention, we just spent in the other bloc, you know, the rise of antisemitism as a key function of these groups. This whole power grid thing is predicated. Putting antisemitism to the side for second, the prolonged blackouts and the pressure on society would cause a race was. So, the thinking behind all this, we hate the Jews, we hate the Blacks, we want to cause mayhem on a national level.

CAMEROTA: Okay, thank you all very much. Just ahead, we're going to hear directly from officials at the Dallas Zoo who are worried that more of their animals will be in danger after series of tampering incidents. And some are gone missing. We will explain that.




CAMEROTA: There has been a rush of animal tempering incidents at the Dallas Zoo, including the temporary theft of two emperor tamarind monkeys. And it has staff members on edge. While police have arrested and charged one young man, zookeepers are worried that more animals could still be in danger.

CNN's Ed Lavandera explains.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The high- flying gibbon apes are oblivious to the fact that their little corner of the Dallas Zoo is a crime scene that has garnered worldwide attention. For the humans at the zoo, it has been a nearly month-long nightmare.

UNKNOWN: They broke into the building.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Harrison Edell is the Dallas Zoo executive vice president of animal care and welfare. He is showing us where the mysterious break-ins, escapes, possible murder, and animal abductions occurred. It started here in this enclosure which is home to four langur monkeys. Edell says they found a four-foot high cut in the wire mesh.

HARRISON EDELL, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF ANIMAL CARE AND WELFARE, DALLAS ZOO: We also noticed that some of the climbing structure inside the habitat was broken. It had literally collapsed, which made us think an animal larger than a langur had been in here.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): None of the monkeys escaped.

EDELL: A lot of us in animal care at the zoo have gone to some really dark places in our minds in the last month.

LAVANDERA (on camera): You can almost picture whomever was in there chasing these guys. It would be frantic for the animals.

EDELL: I can only imagine how scary that is for a langur to have a person in their space who is trying to aggressively grab them.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Around the same time and just two exhibits away, the clouded leopard habitat was cut open. A female leopard named Nova walked right out, setting off what the zoo calls a code blue. (On camera): The SWAT team rolled out here that morning. That's got to be terrifying.

EDELL: Yeah. I mean, SWAT team heard the word "leopard" and thought, leopard, leopard.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): High-tech drones were used to search for the 25-pound cat to no avail. That afternoon, two zoo employees standing about 30 yards away from Nova's habitat found her.

EDELL: One of them said to the other one, why is that squirrel so pissed off?


There's a squirrel in the tree barking. And down here in one of these cabinets, the leopard was caught up in the cabinet looking at them.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Down here?

EDELL: There is the curator who said, why is the squirrel so upset?


LAVANDERA (voice-over): Lisa Van Slett, the zoo's mammal curator, called for help.



LAVANDERA (on camera): Well, she is safe and sound now.

SLETT: She's safe and sound now. At first, we thought maybe isolated incident. Somebody tried something and failed.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): It was just the beginning. A lappet--faced vulture named Pin was found dead. Dallas police said the rare bird had been wounded. And then last week, two rare emperor tamarind monkeys were taken from the zoo.

EDELL: They made a huge cut in this wall of mesh right here in order to get into the habitat.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The one-pound monkeys were found the next day in this abandoned house about 15 miles away. Zoo officials say the monkeys were unharmed.

That last incident led police to arrest 24-year-old Davian Urban. He has been charged with six counts of animal cruelty and two counts of burglary to a building. But investigators say he is not currently charged in connection to the death of the vulture.

UNKNOWN: My name is Joey (INAUDIBLE). This is (INAUDIBLE). LAVANDERA (voice-over): Wildlife experts say the fascination with exotic animals is fueled by shows like "Tiger King" and social media influencers, creating an underground world of exotic animals as pets.

DAN ASHE, PRESIDENT AND CEO, ASSOCIATION OF ZOOS AND AQUARIUMS: It's a massive problem. And globally, the illegal pet trade is, again, driving many animals towards extinction. And we think of it oftentimes as kind of other world problems. This is an opportunity to let people know that animals need to be left alone in their homes.

EDELL: I don't sound so old when I say this, it doesn't help that social media influencers are showing kids that it is cool to have this thing in the house.

LAVANDERA (on camera): You think that that might be one of the motivations here, that kind of influence?

EDELL: I do. I do.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas.


CAMEROTA: Okay, now, here in New York City, zookeepers at the Central Park Zoo are desperate to recapture a Eurasian eagle owl named Flaco. Authorities say the bird escaped from its enclosure on Thursday after the exhibit was vandalized. The owl has been spotted around Central Park and out on nearby Fifth Avenue as well.

But I think I may have solved this mystery. Look what was sitting on my backyard fence when I got home Friday night. I'm not kidding, guys. That was on my fence, right there. I don't know if that is Flaco, but you can see it is giving me side eye right there as owls are known to do.


CAMEROTA: And what is that all doing there? It has never been sitting on my fence when I got home. So, there is an owl story going on. Stay tune for that.

All right, meanwhile, how much would you pay for a good seat at the movies? The nation's largest movie theater chain is now going to start pricing its tickets based on seat location. We're going to get reaction to all of this from our fans.




CAMEROTA: AMC theaters, America's largest movie chain, is changing the way it prices tickets. They will now be based on seat location. So, seats in the front will be cheaper and seats in the middle will cost more. We are back with Errol Louis, Emma Goldberg, and Scott Jennings. What's so funny about, Scott?

JENNINGS: And seats next to my children will cost the most.


JENNINGS: I'm afraid.


CAMEROTA: It will be free. Do you like this idea?

JENNINGS: I think it's -- I think if you show up at the movie theater like I do with five people in total and you end up sitting in the first row, it is pretty miserable. So, I would pay a little more to sit higher but also closer to an emergency exit because the number of times I take kids to the bathroom during the movie is a lot. And I don't want to -- I feel like I don't want to disturb everybody else. So --

CAMEROTA: Do you take your family to the movies?

JENNINGS: We go sometimes when there is a big -- one of these kids' big movies come out. Honestly, it's not as much as I'd like to. I love movie theaters. When I was a kid, going to the theater was like -- I mean, you talk about it for a long time.

CAMEROTA: It was an event, for sure. But I mean, I guess what I'm amused by is that our seats, is it so crowded that this is going to work? This payment? I mean, when was the last time you had to sit in the front row of a movie? People aren't going to the movie theaters right now.

LOUIS: Yes, that's the real point, it's that they have squandered a great opportunity. They have made us go and wait on two lines, a line to get into the theater, a line to wait for the food. You have to fight for the seat. It might be a crappy seat. And they charge us all the same thing.

It's a pretty miserable experience. And a number of theaters have figured out that if you let people pick their seat in advance, they will pay 40%, 50%, 100% more just to be able to come in and have a decent experience.

CAMEROTA: So, you like this idea. You know what else theaters have figured out? If you serve booze, you are really popular. So, a lot have done that. Do you go to the movies, Emma?

GOLDBERG: You know, it's hard. When you have basically any movie that you want to watch from your couch and you can make your own snacks instead of spending your life savings on popcorn, it is hard to leave home.

And I feel for movie theaters. I mean, they kind of have this triple punch of streaming, everyone having these massive screens in their homes, and then the pandemic. And I think during the pandemic, people had a kind of hierarchy of risk where it is, like, okay, I want to take a risk to see my friends and maybe go to work, but to see "Top Gun," I don't know.

LOUIS: I mean, think of the arrogance. You know, you pay less for the bleachers, you know, if you go to a sporting event. You can get standing room seats to stand in the back of a jazz club or a Broadway theater.


Somehow, they thought everyone was going to pay full price for like the worst seats.

CAMEROTA: It did work for decades. But here is what Elijah Wood, famous actor, has to say about this. The movie theater is and always has been a sacred democratic space for all and this new initiative by AMC Theaters would essentially penalize people for lower income and reward for higher income. Errol?

LOUIS: Take out the bad seats. They don't belong in the theater in the first place.

JENNINGS: I have to say, you go to one of these theaters with these super awesome reclining loungers and those lights go down.


JENNINGS: I would pay more to get a good nap. I'll be honest. I mean, I have fallen asleep in a theater. And I never really regretted it. I woke up refreshed.

CAMEROTA: I agree.

JENNINGS: Amazing.

CAMEROTA: $15 nap, fine with me. This is all good. Absolutely. Well, what we really need is a nap. Guys, thank you very much. Great to spend time with you. Thank you so much for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues now.