tv The Situation Room CNN August 2, 2013 2:00pm-4:01pm PDT
you can find videos, blogs, extras. that's it for the lead today. i'm jake tapper. have a wonderful weekend. i turn you over to mr. wolf blitzer. take it away. thanks very much. happening now, we're following breaking news. a new terror threated linked to al qaeda and the obama administration is taking this very seriously. that's coming up. peter king is calling this the most significant threat we have had in many years. plus, an ominous change in russia. it may affect gay athletes heading there for next year's olympics. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in the situation room. we begin with the breaking news. a new terror threat linked to al qaeda. it's being called credible and serious. so serious the state department
issued a worldwide travel alert for all u.s. citizens. it is taking the extraordinary precaution of closing 21 embassies and consulates across the middle east and africa. what are you finding out? >> credible and serious, it goes beyond that. u.s. officials telling us this is more, more than the normal stream of chatter they get about potential attacks. they have been following a stream for months now in yemen. in the last few days it grew. it became more mature, in their words. more specificity. that has led to the state department taking the action of shutting down the embassies across the region. there is particular concern about the u.s. embassy in yemen through about next tuesday.
concerns about all u.s. embassies across the region. we are coming to a series of holy day as the islamic month of ramadan ends. they believe tensions will be rising. there is some difference of opinion within the u.s. intelligence community how much of this is just about yemen and how much is about the region as a whole, but no difference that it is very serious. >> the 3rd and 6th of august. those are critical important days. that's what the focus is. is that what you're hearing? >> sorry about that. they are really concerned about the next few days. this sunday night is called the night of power in the islamic faith. this is a particular night in the islamic calendar, a very holy day for those who follow
the faith of islam. there is concern that militants and jihadists could take unfair advantage of this and try and stir up trouble, concern that that is what this unusual chatter is all about. all eyed or peeled on sunday. it is other countries as well. security services in yemen already, they are on alert. they are watching very carefully an increasing security in their country with their installations and trying to beef up security at foreign compounds and foreign embassies. other countries are doing the same. >> thanks very much. we're joined on the phone now by congressman peter king. he is a member of the select committee on intelligence, the homeland security committee, the chairman of the counterterrorism
committee. the most significant threat we have had in many years. why are you saying that? >> based on the sources, the credibility, and the extent of the damage that it appears they want -- the carnage they want to cause with the attack, it is as far as i can go. the fact you see unprecedented actions, 21 embassies being closed, this is being taken very seriously. it is not just trying to connect the dots. very specific information about the fact that there is a plot, attacked are plans. again, it is not certain as to where. >> this is more specific, the information you've been getting. much more specific than any
threat i have seen in the past ten years. are you suggesting this is the most specific threat since 9/11? >> i've been getting briefed regularly over the last seven or eight years at least. and pretty heavily before then, and this is the most specific that i've seen. i don't think i'm giving anything away when you look at the reaction to have 21 embassies being closed shows how seriously our government is taking it. i think our government is doing exactly the right thing. >> can you give us a little detail without compromising sources, methods and classified information about what makes this threat so specific? >> i can't. i just can't do it other than to tell you that there's very little doubt, if any, that something serious is being
planned. we are focused on the middle east. it is a potential series of attacks that could be any place. >> are we talking about attacks overseas or around the world, or are we talking about an attack right here in the united states? >> we can't rule anything out. it's being taken very seriously. nothing can be ruled out. i'm not saying that to panic anyone. because of the dimension of this, we have to say that, you know, nothing can be excluded. >> is it coincidental that only yesterday that the president of the united states received the new leader of yemen in the oval office? is that where the information came from? >> all i can say is no. there may have been additional information they got then, but
no. this has been developing for a while. >> developing -- correct me if i'm wrong, al qaeda in the arabian peninsula near the capitol of yemen? >> they would be the main driving force here. that's pretty much what's been confirmed by the government. that it is coming out of yemen and it is al qaeda in the arabian peninsula. you have the 2010 cartridge explosive attempt. that's whe coming from the arabian peninsula is where most of these threats come from. >> this is what i was told by a
source today. something big is being planned. we have credible information, very credible information. we know the proximate days, meaning the next few days. we don't know the location. is that the same kind of information that you're getting congressman? >> that's basically on target. that's basically the story. >> when barbara star reported it could happen anywhere between now -- >> the embassies are being told to close on sunday. i'll just leave it at that. the fact that 21 embassies are closing on sunday. the global travel advisory is in effect for the end of august. >> any connection to wednesday's 15th anniversary of the bombings
of the u.s. em babassies in ken and tanzania? >> no. >> what else can you tell us before i let you go? >> this is serious. there is no need for anyone to panic. everyone in the intelligence community and the diplomatic community is doing what they have to do. this is a combined effort. we should all stand together on this. >> peter king is the chairman of the counterterrorism committee. u.s. diplomatic facilities in egypt are among those being closed. sunday being the start of the workweek in the muslim world.
when i was in cairo in january, i walked around the u.s. embassy. the security there was really intense. i assume it is more intense now. >> yes, security is tight around the u.s. embassy, of course. we are a few blocks away from the u.s. embassy. of those security measures, the embassy will be closed. >> i see there's another huge crowd that's developed on this friday in cairo. is it peaceful, at least? >> yeah, anyone who has followed the news here in egypt knows when friday comes, so do mass
demonstrations. [ inaudible ] thousands of people are here. it is a small town. over the past month, hundreds of tents have been pitched here. there are entire families here. there is a barbershop here. security forces are going to launch an operation. they will to clear out what's become a small town. it's going to be a difficult task. >> thanks. here in the situation room, we're devoting the world wide resources of cnn to this global terror threat as announced earlier in the day by the u.s. state department.
we're going to have a one hour long special edition of the situation room, worldwide alert. we're getting reaction from several experts on terrorism. how serious is this threat? and how yemen's capital city may figure into the plot? why you may need to worry about the high unemployment rate even if you have a job. (man) yeah. (man) let me help you out with the.. (woman)...oh no, i got it. (man) you sure? (woman) just pop the trunk. (man vo) i may not know where the road will lead, but... i'm sure my subaru will get me there. (announcer) love. it's what makes a subaru, a subaru.
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he has seen in ten years. are you hearing the same thing? >> there's something about this, which means it is more serious than recent years. >> he's been briefed by u.s. counterterrorism and intelligence officials and he's also saying he can't rule anything out. they have some vague ideas. they don't know for sure the where the attack will take place. that's why they have asked 21 u.s. embassies to shut down sunday. >> that means al qaeda and its affiliates are active in the 21 countries around the world. al qaeda is not dead. al qaeda is not back. it has never gone away. it has morphed and evolved. it is very active and dangerous. >> a lot of the information seems to be focused in on yemen. al qaeda in the arabian peninsula and yemen. what are you hearing about that
connection? >> that's right. there was an attack against the u.s. embassy in 2008 in yemen. there have been three plots from the group against aviation coming into the united states. this is going to be taken seriously. this group in yemen in 2011 were casing buildings. >> what does that mean casing buildings? >> they were taking video images of it in preparation for a plot down the line. >> that was in 2011. this is now 2013. >> right. it's not clear whether the casing the buildings in 2011 is related. >> what do you see as far as the timing if someone is plotting
some sort of attack when the next few days? we're still a month away from the anniversary of 9/11. we are only a few days away from the 15th anniversary from the u.s. embassy bombings in kenya and tanzania. >> it is also ramadan. these islamic holidays have meaning we have to understand. the end of ramadan is a time when attacks can be more likely. >> sunday is the end of ramadan. >> for these people, it is a holy war. they see themselves as more of a reason to launch these kinds of attacks. >> do you remember a time when the u.s. has shut down 21 embassies and consulates even if it is one day? >> i do not remember this. this is proper because of what happened on the anniversary of
9/11 last year where we lost an ambassador and other americans in benghazi. we had the embassy in yemen attacked. that may be a technique they think they can carry out successf successfully. >> in may of this year, there was a plot against the u.s. embassy in cairo. there is a track record from al qaeda to attack u.s. embassies in the middle east. bin laden was obsessed with attacking the united states. >> let's not forget we're approaching also the first anniversary of the killing of four americans, including the
u.s. ambassador in benghazi. i don't know if there is any connection to that, but something we should consider. thanks very much for coming in. coming up, we're going to have much more on this terror threat. we're also going to abu dhabi. the highly anticipated unemployment report. what is it revealing about the u.s. economy? [ male announcer ] it's a golden opportunity to see how lexus effortlessly connects you to where you're going. ♪ come to the golden opportunity sales event and experience the connectivity of lexus enform, available on all lexus models, including the es and rx. ♪ this is the pursuit of perfection. ♪ and didn't know where to start. a contractor before at angie's list, you'll find reviews on everything from home repair to healthcare
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no change in the unemployment rate since july. it ticked down a bit to 7.4%. as usually, the administration welcomed the improvement, but much more work still needs to be done. republicans blamed the president. what are you picking up? >> each party blames the other. forget the politics. just look at this chart and you can see the practical problem. for nearly after that time, it's been 7% or higher. we have grown accustomed to these numbers. every month they persist the damage deepens. >> reporter: fewer people were hired in july than expected more at low wage positions and the unemployment rate showed no
indication of moving out of the 7% range. >> i think it is a disaster for the economy and for country more generally. >> reporter: john sh mitt is an senienior economist. >> if you have a job right now, you don't complain. >> reporter: the longer it lasts the longer it may last. those hit hardest by the rate are young workers. entering a troubled labor market has a permanent scarring effect. they're going to see lower wages throughout their career. beyond that the 7% rate, means people are spending less and paying less taxes undercutting governments that are struggling with their budgets and demanding
services. >> for people who accept that as the norm, would be very dangerous. >> it is not the american way of life. we can do better than that. >> reporter: how? especially when month after month this number just keeps grinding down on the economy. look for 7 and my name on cnn.com. >> good point. up next,we'll have more on the breaking news we're following. a global travel alert issued by the u.s. government. we're learning new details right now. calls to boycott russia's olympics over the anti-gay laws.
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all that coming up. we're just getting in some new information on the tainted salad mix that made a lot of people sick in recent weeks across several states. sanjay gupta is joining us now. what are we learning? >> the fda has been conducted an investigation for several days now. they are now telling us a trace back investigation -- they've been able to taylor farms of mexico is the place that supplied these restaurants with tainted salad. these particular products coming from taylor farms in mexico going to restaurants in four separate clusters making people sick. the two states we're talking
about are iowa and nebraska. these are the two states who have been the most effected. taylor farms was the same farm that was imp kated earlier this year with a nationwide recall on baby spanish. they're not talking about the consumer packages in grocery stores. that came from the state department in iowa. this is coming from the fda talking about taylor farms. >> should people be worried about eating lettuce or other products in restaurants right now? >> right now there's an inspection going on at taylor farms specifically. what we've been told is this particular contaminated product is probably out of the food chain. it is a very perishable product.
it doesn't last more than 14 days. the concern is a lot lower. this has been going on since mid june. taylor farms is going to be inspected. they're going to try to find out how this happened specifically and how extensive is this. did they also supply grocery stores? the important thing about naming taylor farms is you're hearing a lot of people saying i don't want to buy salads at all. now that they have named this i think it is going to alleviate some of those concerns. >> good reporting. thanks very much. let's get back to the other breaking news we're following. new developments in today's ver worrisome top story. al qaeda is now in the final planning stages of what is being described as an unspecified
plot. the state department issued a travel alert for all americans worldwide. >> reporter: the embassies website here is listing for you the following. it says that we will be closed sunday out of an abundance of caution and care for our employees and others who may be visiting our installations. do remember that sundays are the beginning of the workweek in these regions. it is possible, wolf, that we may have additional days of closings as well depending on our analysis. do remember this gulf region is a huge hub for international travelers. i know you have traveled this area extensively. many of our viewers have traveled through her on their way to other places. security is absolutely paramount here. it has to be said. it is very rare you would have
any sort of terrorist incident in the gcc, the gulf state. i impress upon you the u.s. embassies say they will be closed on sunday. there could be further days of closure. >> as they should right now given the potential threat out there. the white house members of congress are working together because of this terror threat. i know you've been doing some reporting. what are you hearing from congress, from the white house, from administration officials? >> i think they're taking this very seriously. there's been a group effort to cull together all of the information. what i'm hearing from my sources is that there has been this
concern about increased chatter. it came up with the vice president went to the hill earlier this week. he went to the hill in a prescheduled meeting to talk about benghazi and to talk about embassy security. this matter came up. it is not being treated as a threat at the margins. this is being treated as something very real and something very credible. don't forget, there were some warnings before benghazi. these are being taken very, very seriously. >> you've been doing some reporting on the selection of these 21 u.s. embassies and consulates that will be closed. >> it was clear to intelligence folks that the middle east and northern africa were the regions in most danger according to this chatter. they also point out this is a balance here. out of an abundance of caution we're going to be closing the
embassy. you hear from washington this is serious and credible. they're trying to walk that line. they're noting the threat is not considered specific as to this embassy or this consulate, but it was specific enough to make them believe the embassy and consulates are the targets. it was all pointed out to me that remember too we have closed a lot of these places. the consulates they are most worried about because they are the least fortified. jordan and saudi arabia, they are troops on the ground. there are others that they are more worried about. >> what i keep hearing from folks on the hill is that the administration is doing exactly what it should be doing. there is no double standard
about whether the public should be informed about what is credible and real. that is what they are doing this time. people on the hill say it is better that we know about this and tell the public about this. >> they don't want lines outside embassies for passports of visas. >> you tip whoever it is off that you're on to them. >> by tipping them off, you might tip them off on how the u.s. collecting this information. it must be really serious if they decided to take these extraordinary measures. thanks to you. just ahead, i'll talk to the olympic diving champion on the new law that could lead to
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laws will not apply to other countries gay athletes taking place in the games. >> reporter: the 2014 winter olympics in the black sea resort are vladimir putin's biggest project yet. more than $50 billion for this olympics. a new so-called anti-gay propaganda law has some worried that gay american athletes or fans could be arrested, fined, or deported. the new law makes it required that you publicly announce you're gay.
openly gay u.s. figure skater is against the new law, but hopes to compete. >> i think and believe really that our presence in russia will do nothing but help fight this law and help the lgbt community. >> reporter: the gay rights group all out has launched a global campaign urging pressure on the russian government to repeal the new law ahead of the olympics. >> we're going to take the message directly to the putin regime. >> reporter: some gay rights groups are boycotting russian vodka and they're calling for the boycotting of the olympics. two gay men were savagely murdered in less than a month. >> if you happen to be gay or you're with your child who happens to be gay and you pick up some information or you have a book with you, you can be
deported. >> reporter: the international olympic committee says it remains to be seen how the anti-gay law will be implemented. the ioc has received assure ranss that the legislation will not effect those taking part in the games. >> if you're an athlete and you are going to compete at the olympic games in a space where there is widespread persecution going on, you have a responsibility to say something. if you say nothing, you have supported the status quo. >> reporter: russian officials
are making contradictory statements about this as to whether it would be enforced. one member of parliament says it won't be enforced. another official from saint pete petersburg says this is a law period. it must be enforced. thanks very much for coming in. i was anxious to get your thoughts on what's going on. you are an openly gay athlete. you had to miss the olympics in moscow because of another boycott at that time. do you think a boycott right now is the right course? >> i don't believe in a boycott of the olympic games. certain boycotts do work if it be business or commerce. for the olympic games, it's not the right thing to do. you're hurting the wrong people.
i'm in support of not boycotting, but having a presence there. i know athlete allys and all out sports is working on a petition. we need hundreds of thousands of signatures on this petition to try to get the legislation changed before we even arrive there at the olympics. >> the olympic games are not that far off. you want them to go forward, but you want them to make a statement there assuming these laws have not been removed from the books. what about boycotting russian products such as vodka? is that something appropriate? >> i have to support that type of strike, you know, because it
does hurt them where they live, the money. there's certain things that work, but i lived on both sides of boycotts. i was in the 76 olympic games with the silver medallists there and went through the 1980 boycott. we were protesting the soviet union's invasion of afghanistan. the eastern blocked countries weren't there. i was able to continue to 88. 88 was my last olympic games. >> if you were eligible in some category to compete in the winter olympic games -- i don't know you're not, but let's say you were. what would you do during the two or four weeks you were in russia? >> i would be who i am, be open
about who i am -- at this moment in time, that's what i would do. everybody points to me as being an activist and all. i don't view myself as an activist. i am who i am. i am a gay man living with hiv. i'm still out there and persevering and offering support wherever i can lend it. >> do you want to say something directly to the russian politicians who may be watching on cnn international? >> the thing i would say is i'm a human being, i'm a child of god. god made me this way. it's not a choice. i was born this way. is he going -- i would ask him
if he would incarcerate, imprison a family member because they were gay because we're brothers. we're sisters. we're aunts and uncles. we're just regular folks. >> well said. thanks very much for joining us. >> my pleasure. coming up, we'll get back to the breaking news we're following. the serious incredible new terror threat and the government demands an apology after jesse jackson called and see for yourself. ♪ [ female announcer ] when your swapportunity comes, take it. ♪ what? what? what? [ female announcer ] yoplait. it is so good.
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this is cnn breaking news. >> let me go back to our chief medical correspondent dr. sanjay gupta getting more information that ca on the illness that came from the tainted lettuce. >> the fda spokesperson is telling us the name of two restaurants, they're olive garden and red lobster. both are part of the darden restaurant group. it's an ongoing investigation. fda also saying they're monitoring leafy green produce coming in from mexico to the united states. wolf, this is part of a trace back investigation. they've spent some time now trying to figure out how these people were getting sick, figuring out the produce that came from taylor forms of mexico came specifically and was distributed at these restaurants, olive garden and red lobster. there were four separate groups of people who became ill, and, again, this just coming to us,
wolf, that these restaurants, so people actually eating these produce products inside the restaurant. in iowa, as you may remember, wolf, there was a concern about prewashed, bagged lettuce and carrots and cabbage all put together. that's a separate thing from this. this is in the restaurants, people getting sick there. >> and they have confirmed that the people who actually got sick, about 400 or so, that at least some of them ate lettuce at either an olive garden or red lobster restaurant? >> that's right. we just got that confirmation from the fda. a spokesperson confirming that. up until now they were specifically just talking about this mixed salad going to these several states ju. just over the last hour we've learned where that produce came from, taylor farms of mexico, and where it went, specifically in this case the restaurants, olive garden and red lobster. it's likely gone other places as well, but we know this now for sure, wolf. >> thanks very much, sanjay
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very public war of words has erupted when jesse jackson and florida governor rick scott. brian todd reports. >> reporter: jesse jackson's in a new civil rights battle, and this time he's taking on an entire state. >> florida is today a very toxic place. >> reporter: in the wake of the george zimmerman verdict, jackson has joined protesters in florida's capital calling for the stand your ground law to be wiped out, but if that was all jackson was doing, he might not have angered governor rick scott so much. speaking to me on the phone from overseas, jackson addressed a provocative remark he made which got the governor's blood boiling. >> do you believe it's an apartheid state and if so why? >> you look when you use the word apartheid, segregation or disparity, look at the health care disparity. for the blacks in that state there are two sets of rules. >> reporter: the governor called
on jackson to apologize. he refused and told me florida's leaders should apologize for disenfranchising minority voters. jackson is calling on travelers and investors to boycott florida. in an e-mail to cnn, scott's office called jackson's remarks divisive and reckless, but jackson is also getting a bit personal comparing scott unfavorably to george wallace, the once segregationist alabama governor who later changed his mind on that idea. >> they say governor scott is determined not to change. i said, well, george wallace changed. the same george wallace that once blocked school doors, the same george wallace ended up having the most blacks in his cabinet. if the south can change, why can't governor scott change? >> reporter: more broadly, jackson called the atmosphere in florida after the trayvon martin case the selma of our time referring to the ground-breaking civil rights marches in alabama in the early '60s. claiborne carson, historian of the civil rights movement says this.
>> that was the climactic battle to overcome the jim crow system. i don't think that there's a direct comparison with what's going on now. today's battle is more of a defensive battle to try to protect the gains that we thought had been won. >> carson says because this is the 50th anniversary of martin luther king's march on washington and it coincides with some of the fallout over the zimmerman case, there's a greater sensitivity to all this. jesse jackson said he'd love to meet with governor scott to discuss this. scott says without an apology a meeting would only reward him for his, quote, irresponsible insults. >> thank you for that report. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer in washington, and this is a cnn situation room special report, worldwide alert. the breaking news this hour. we have new information about why the united states is closing embassies and consulates and warning all american travelers around the world to beware of a
possible terror attack, an al qaeda plot may be in the final stages. our insiders will assess the obama team's response and put this potential threat in per sec tiff. we're taking a closer look at al qaeda's strength right now and why terrorists may believe the timing is right to strike. the breaking news right now, u.s. citizens worldwide, they are under a travel alert for potential terror attacks. the state department here in washington is warning that al qaeda and its affiliates may be plotting to strike between now and the end of the month. this comes after an extraordinary move, 21 u.s. embassies and consulates have been ordered to close on sunday as a precaution. most of them are in the middle east and north africa. regions specially mentioned in this new travel alert as potential al qaeda targets.
let's begin our special coverage with our pentagon correspondent barbara starr. barbara, what are you learning about the seriousness of this threat? >> well, wolf, a number of u.s. officials are telling cnn this is more, much more, than the usual terrorist chatter. >> reporter: fresh intelligence on al qaeda here in yemen led the u.s. to conclude operatives were in the final stages of planning an attack against u.s. and western targets according to several u.s. officials. one official telling cnn, quote, it all leads us to believe something could happen in the near future. the chatter among operatives belonging to al qaeda in the arabian peninsula, aqap, had gone on for weeks, but increased in the last few days. after that and being alerted also by yemeni officials, the u.s. took the extraordinary step of shutting down embassies across the region and issuing a traveler's warning. although a specific target is
uncertain, u.s. officials are deeply worried about an attack against the u.s. embassy in yemen through next tuesday. one reason? the holy days ending ramadan are approaching, a time of potential tension. president obama thursday praised the president of yemen at the white house for cracking down on al qaeda, but experts say aqap is actually gaining strength and power across the region. >> there are indications from the last week or two that ayman al zawahiri, the head of al qaeda core in pakistan, has appointed the head of al qaeda in the arabian peninsula as his overall general manager, which is unprecedented because he is living in yemen. he is not living in pakistan. >> reporter: now, facing the link between al zawahiri, the
successor to bin laden, and the yemenis, the u.s. may be taken a cautious approach. >> there was a plot broken up in cairo. in november there was a plot against the u.s. embassy in jordan. there's been an increased threat against u.s. interests in the middle east. this is very much al zawahiri's strategy. >> now, look, wolf, as you would expect with the intelligence services, there are some internal disagreements over things like the credibility, the timing, the specificity of the threats, and certainly there are also questions already being raised around washington, is some of this because of what happened in benghazi when the u.s. didn't see the threat coming? wolf? >> lots of questions. let's see if we can get some answers. barbara, thanks very much. the more evidence coming in of terror fears in yemen is emerging. britain, for example, now warning its citizens to leave
that country, and it's closing its embassy in yemen on sunday and monday. cnn has also learned that security has been greatly tightened in yemen's major cities outside of the capital. let's bring in our national security analyst, fran townsend. she's a member of the cia's external advisory committee, also joining us our law enforcement analyst tom, a former assistant director of the fbi. peter king, fran, told me in the last hour, he's the chairman of the subcommittee on counterterrorism and intelligence of the house homeland security committee, that this was the worst kind of chatter or so, worst kind of information he's seen in some ten years leading up to a potential plot. what do you make of this? >> wolf, typically, you know, you don't see this sort of reaction if it's just an increase in the volume of chatter. what we're hearing again and again and congressman king's remarks to you suggest is that they hear information, they hear talk that relates to a plot.
they just don't know where it is, right? so you may hear about an explosive or an attack getting ready to be launched and not understand where it is. and i suspect that's why you're seeing the broad reaction of the closure of embassies. they have real credibility in the course they've gotten this information from, we don't know what that is, but they believe it is credible, and it is specific that something is going to happen and they don't know where. >> the location, that's a big issue. they do think something potentially could happen in the next few days, tom, but they don't know where. when was the last time in your experience, and you have been in law enforcement for a long time, that the u.s. shuts down 21 embassies and consulates and issues this month-long worldwide terror alert? >> i think, wolf, this is the first time this many facilities have been closed down, but we have had some of these type of threats based on chatter before where americans were warned if they're traveling around the world to be cautious. i think that shall and i hate to
be asayer when everybody is hyperventilating over the imminent threat, but what do you do? they put this out to americans traveling around the world, we shut 21 embassies down, what about all the americans in hotels around the world? what about the americans attending universities? what about the tourists still on summer vacation traveling around? what do they do? we close an embassy and it's only for one day, how do they know it only needs to be for one day? there's just so many aspects of this that i wonder about and wonder about whether the threat warnings really there's anything you can really do with it that makes sense. >> because i read, and i'm sure you have as well, the united states department of state travel alert worldwide. that shows it right here, worldwide, and it says that terrorists may elect to use a variety of means and weapons and target both official and private interests. if there's concern though, tom, that american citizens traveling around the world potentially could be in danger, isn't it the responsibility of the u.s.
government to let them know? >> you're right, it is, and i'm in that database system so i get those e-mails all the time traveling around the world saying beware, beware, beware. what i'm saying is they come out so frequently and so broadly it really makes it hard for to do anything specifically. do you not stay in the hotel you were going to stay in? not take the flight you were going to stay? >> let's ask, fran. people are watching us here in the united states and around the world. a lot of tourists wondering what should they do? >> absolutely, wolf. i myself just returned to the united states from africa yesterday. so what all americans traveling abroad should do is take the opportunity, get access to a computer, and register for the smart traveler enrollment program, s.t.e.p. you want to let the american embassy know that you're in the country, what your contact information is, and how long you plan to stay there. so in the event that there's an incident and the united states government is working to
evacuate americans, they know where to find you, they can get you, and they can give you assistance. and other than that, wolf, you really have to be alert, have a communications plan among your traveling party so you can contact each other. i mean, sort of the smart things you would ordinarily do, enroll in the smart traveler program and be alert to your surroundings. >> we have to wrap this part of the conversation up. i have spoken to republicans and democrats, supporters of the obama administration, critics of the obama administration, but in the last few hours as i have been trying to get a sense is this overblown, are we overhyping this threat, is it real, is it not real, there seems to be a consensus this is pretty specific and pretty credible. >> i have heard that. i have heard the members of congress and the officials from the white house putting out that warning, the state department obviously. so i know they're putting it out. my personal question really, this is my personal opinion only, is that when you put a threat out so broadly worldwide or you shut 21 embassies down,
why didn't you shut 22? when you're worried about embassies in north africa and the middle east al qaeda sympathizers are all over the world, all over europe, in the united states as evidenced by our boston bombing on april 15th, so how do you single out that if you have an exact date and somebody is going to do something big on the sunday or shortly after the sunday, how do you determine then how to narrow where it's going to occur so that it becomes useful information? and how long will these embassies be closed and why were they picked? >> we don't know what the actual chatter, what information the u.s. picked up in some sort of way, but i assume the information they picked up would result in these 21 diplomatic outposts being shut down. >> normally there's chatter every day and a lot of chatter. then when it's relative to an anniversary of some kind or another, it takes on greater significance. we see whether it was the anniversary of 9/11 on its tenth anniversary or other major events, then the normal chatter
becomes increased or appears to be increased because of a heightened concern. my concern is if the chatter is so specific and if the chatter is so strong, we should be able to go eliminate the source of that chatter and eliminate the attack plan. >> and i think it's also probably related to the end of the muslim holy month of ramadan which is sunday as well. we'll continue to cover this. tom, don't go too far away, fran don't go too far away. up next, we'll take you to one of the u.s. embassies now shutting down. it's walls have been vulnerable to security breaches before. sfx: birds chirping
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plus, you could save hundreds when you switch, up to $423. call... today. liberty mutual insurance -- responsibility. what's your policy? sfx: oil gushing out of pipe. sfx: birds chirping. the new worldwide travel alert from the state department here in washington warning that al qaeda may be focusing its effort to launch terror attacks between now and the end of august. we're entering u.s. officials say a potentially dangerous window of time as the holy month of ramadan nears an end. wednesday marks the 15th anniversary also of the attacks
on the u.s. embassies in tanzania and kenya. hundreds of people were killed in the simultaneous truck bombings. it also marked the first time many americans ever heard the name osama bin laden. of course, september 11th is a critical date not only for the 2001 attacks on america but also the deadly attack on the u.s. mission in benghazi, libya, one year ago. the state department says it's closing 21 u.s. embassies and consulates on sunday out of an abundance of caution. one official telling us the shutdown could be extended beyond sunday. here is our senior international correspondent arwa damon. she's outside the american embassy in cairo. >> reporter: behind this wall is one of the roads that leads to the u.s. embassy in cairo. normally the embassy would have been open on a sunday. it is a working day here. it will, however, be closed because of those security concerns. in the past there have been demonstrations here. there have been mobs, angry
mobs, who have gathered trying to attack the embassy. september 11th of last year, for example, an incensed crowd, angered over the film that insulted prophet mohammed, tried to attack the embassy and it was the same day we saw that coordinated attack in benghazi against the u.s. consulate that left the ambassador and three other americans dead. the united states most certainly taking extra precautions to make sure something like that does not happen again. intentions in cairo have been especially high with both those who support the military backed interim government and those who support deposed mohamed morsi angry at the united states. arwa damon, cnn, cairo. >> security around that u.s. embassy in cairo intense. it's much more intense now. when i was there in january, you could just walk around the entire complex. you can see the huge, huge concrete walls in effect, those bunkers, that have been established so that protesters
could not get over the walls. take a look at that. that's the american flag at the u.s. embassy in cairo, but it's surrounded by those boulders, block after block after block. let's take a closer look at some of the potential u.s. targets. tom foreman is over at the magic wall. >> i think you have been hitting the fundamental point here. the old adage if you guard everything, you guard nothing, because there is a lot to guard out here. these are the main countries we're talking about out here. this is a tremendous amount of space and a tremendous number of potential targets. here is one we're talking about so much, yemen, which has been a problem for many years here. why would that be a potential place where you might have trouble? we have chatter suggesting a potential attack could come there according to security analysts. we've had previous protests and attacks in that country many times, and there have been u.s. drone strikes there. so that's one reason that yemen might be a reasonable place to expect some trouble. but what about some other places like afghanistan over here?
we've been there for a number of years. there are 60,000 troops in the country. there are military bases all over the place, sometimes big, sometimes small, outposts, all potential targets, and they get about $4.6 billion in aid as they talk with the taliban there trying to strike some kind of deal, but at the same time there have been increased attacks already. so that's a reason that afghanistan might be the place to be worried about, and what about a wildcard like jordan up here by syria? here is a country where we have a smaller group, 900 u.s. troops since june. there's a squadron of f-16s here. there are patriot missiles there. all of these things make all of these places potential targets, and, wolf, when you talk about this broad language that we're hearing as you and tom fuentes were talking about, the broad language about a generalized attack somewhere, this is the fundamental problem. so much territory, so many people, so many potential targets it makes it hard for anyone to know exactly what to make of this, wolf, including many security analysts.
>> it certainly it. it's all very, very worrisome to put it mildly. tom, thank you. we're going to have much more on this worldwide terror threat. we're going live to beirut when we come back. company where over seventy-five percent of store management started as hourly associates. there's opportunity here. i can use walmart's education benefits to get a degree, maybe work in it, or be an engineer, helping walmart conserve energy. even today, when our store does well, i earn quarterly bonuses. when people look at me, i hope they see someone working their way up. vo: opportunity, that's the real walmart. thto fight chronic. osteoarthritis pain. to fight chronic low back pain. to take action. to take the next step. today, you will know you did something for your pain. cymbalta can help. cymbalta is a pain reliever fda-approved to manage chronic musculoskeletal pain. one non-narcotic pill a day, every day,
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most of the 21 u.s. embassies and consulates closing in sunday are in the arab world. our senior international correspondent nick paton walsh is joining us from beirut. what are you seeing there, nick? >> certainly interestingly the embassy in beirut would normally be closed on a sunday, and they tell me, in fact, they're not
taking any special measures and anticipate opening again on the monday, but that really just gives you an idea of how geographically nonspecific this threat is. the 21 posts range from west africa to bangladesh on the other side of india. mostly, as you say, in the arab world, but it's so key particularly about the time, sunday being, of course, the main focus. that's obviously a big day in the muslim holy month of ramadan known as the night of power falling in fact on sunday. that's when the islamic faith believed the prophet mohammed was given the text of the koran and there are some suggesting maybe there's a religious significance for some islamic extremists who may misinterpret that part of the callendcalenda. >> i know you're monitoring the situation throughout the middle east, throughout the arab world
in particular. even if they're saying that the u.s. embassy in beirut, they're going to be closed in any case on sunday, that's not necessarily the case in a lot of other arab countries. >> certainly. it's very hard for me to hear your question, wolf, but basically the concern i think certainly around the middle east is that we don't know precisely where this threat is focused, but it is more general. we haven't seen a travel warning of the scope which was issued today really since the death of osama bin laden in pakistan, a similar one issued around the tenth anniversary in 2011 of the september 11 attacks. a sense of broad concern. as you have been saying, so many officials say they haven't seen a warning as grave as this in a while. we're trying to work out quite where it would be focused. we've heard from cairo, other parts of the region, too. there's a real sense while al qaeda has been considered since the death of bin laden to be on its back feet certainly in terms
of a group that would be able to attack american interests, in other ways it's seen a resurgence in iraq, many of the sunni militants fighting the shia government there have al qaeda links and al qaeda members in their ranks and al qaeda having some sort of resurgence too in syria amongst rebel ranks where they're fighting against the syrian regime there. many islamist extremists being very scatter and divided but certainly at the forefront of the more radical elements in rebel ranks. so certainly a nuanced position in the days ahead, and we're looking to see more precisely out of yemen where much of this threat seems to be centered exactly how al qaeda in the arab peninsula are formulating themselves there and quite where this will be heading in the weeks ahead, wolf. >> nick, thank you. nick paton walsh in beirut for us. up next, the united states congressman who has been briefed on the u.s. intelligence warning of this threat joins -- he joined me, and he said nothing, nothing can be ruled out. you're doing to hear what
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this is cnn breaking news. >> we're following the breaking news, the worldwide terror alert issued by the united states government. we want to welcome back our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. this is a "situation room" special report. over the last several weeks the so-called chatter, the communications if you will about terror threats grew louder and louder. let's get some more from our foreign affairs correspondent jill dougherty. she's been looking into some of the evidence that u.s. officials are pointing to for issuing this worldwide alert. >> right, wolf. well, you know, state department officials tell us they can't remember when state shut down as many diplomatic posts as this in the face of a potential terror attack. >> reporter: faced with intelligence that al qaeda in yemen was in the final stages of planning attacks, the state
department took the unusual step of issuing a worldwide travel alert warning americans that al qaeda and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks. particularly in the middle east and north africa. in one of the most extensive announcements of its kind, it said it was temporarily closing this sunday 21 embassies and consulates in 17 countries. posts that normally are open sundays. they include yemen, libya, and saudi arabia. officials say they're taking the threat very seriously that the number of countries could increase, and the length of the closings could increase as well. officials say they took the measures out of an abundance of caution as the anniversary of the september 11th attack last year on the u.s. mission in benghazi, libya, that killed four americans, including the u.s. ambassador, approaches. could the state department be
overreacting? terror expert tom sanderson says no. >> there was an attack and they had not closed the embassy and u.s. personnel and local citizens had died, then people would have asked where there was no effort to shut down and safeguard the embassy and its employees. i think at this point with the little that we know, this appears to have been a good and cautious decision. >> reporter: as it often does, the state department is warning americans traveling in those regions that terrorists can strike public and private buildings. public transportation systems, hotels, and tourist sites. in an emergency, the department says americans can still contact embassies for help, and they urge americans to sign up for its smart traveler enrollment program that sends out realtime e-mails and texts warnings. state department officials are not disclosing whether they've set up a task force on the threat, but the department does have a 24/7 operations center that monitors threats around the world.
now, the state department has shut down diplomatic posts around the world before, but this time the decision is being driven by two motivations. one is to warn american citizens, but the other after benghazi is to avoid being blamed for doing too little. wolf? >> jill dougherty with some good reporting. thank you. let's go to the white house right now. president obama's response to the new terror threats. our national political correspondent jim acosta is standing by on the north lawn of the white house. what are you learning, jim? >> reporter: what we can say is a u.s. official tells cnn president obama has been briefed on that matter, he's known about it for some time now, and knew in advance of the plan to carry out the embassy closings. earlier this week the administration was working to get members of congress up to speed on the security matters. on wednesday vice president joe biden held a briefing for a bipartisan group of lawmakers from the house and the senate. that briefing according to a separate u.s. official covered what that person called the full
range of embassy security issues, including long-term investments, and this is important here, wolf, immediate threats. now, it is worth noting here, as u.s. officials are concerned that this current threat could be coming out of the arabian peninsula and perhaps yemen, the president of yemen was just at the white house yesterday for a face-to-face meeting with president obama and, in fact, the president praised the yemeni leader for making progress, he said, against al qaeda. here is what the president had to say. >> because of some of the very effective military reforms that the president initiated when he came into this office, what we've seen is al qaeda in the arabian peninsula or aqap moved back out of territories it was controlling. >> reporter: now, add to that during his briefing with reporters, white house press secretary jay carney was asked about an uptick in drone strikes in yemen, and here is what he had to say about that. >> i can tell you that we do
cooperate with yemen in our counterterrorism efforts, and it's an important relationship, an important cooperation. given what we know about aqap and the danger it presents to the united states and our allies as well as to the yemeni people and people in the regions. >> reporter: now, this is the first big test for who is now the president's complete second term national security team. u.n. ambassador samantha power, the last piece of that puzzle, she was sworn in today by the vice president. and all of this comes as the nation is getting close to one year since the terrorist attack on the u.s. consulate in benghazi last september 11. all of that on the minds of national security officials. in the days after that attack, it is worth noting the president did beef up security at diplomatic posts across the world. these closures no doubt are taking the administration's precautions to a whole new level. wolf? >> jim, thank you. jim acosta over at the white house.
let's brang in our chief congressional correspondent dana bash. dana, you just heard jim talk about the vice president of the united states. he goes up to capitol hill and he briefs the leadership, the leadership of the house and i guess the senate, the top people there, including the key members of the intelligence committees. >> i talked to a source who said this is where they were first told by the vice president of the united states and some senior state department officials about this threat which the source who i talked to said was incredibly significant. it was clear from the get-go this was going to be something that caused a lot of concern. i talked to other congressional sources briefed through other avenues and venues who say that this is something that the administration clearly needed to do. you heard jill talk about the fact that this is so sweeping in part because they want to make sure they don't get caught flat-footed like they did in benghazi on 9/11 last year. even republican sources who i talked to say that this is absolutely the right thing to do, appropriate response because of the significant nature of this threat.
>> so even the chorus of usual critics of the president, they're saying he's doing the right thing? >> absolutely. it's a bipartisan nod, yes, this is right, and these are people who have been briefed who understand the intelligence on this. and what is interesting is that it's not clear what the targets are, who the targets are. i talked to one source who was in the vice presidential meeting who said that perhaps these are embassies or an embassy that's a target, but other sources say they're just not clear. they're unspecified targets in terms of where they are and also unspecified exactly the timing of this potential threat. one source said that it could be fairly soon, fairly in the near future, but they're absolutely not sure. the fact that they're broadcasting this, wolf, you know you covered the intelligence world for a long time, really tells you they're willing to risk the sources and the methods to give this information to them in order to make sure people are safe. >> yeah. because once you say that there is this threat, then those who might be organizing it say, i
wonder how they found out about it and they begin to change some things that the u.s. presumably wouldn't want them to change. so it's a delicate dance they've got to do. dana, thanks, very, very much. up next, the big picture on the new proper threat. i'll talk about it with james maddis in "the situation room." humans. even when we cross our "ts" and dot our "i's", we still run into problems. that's why liberty mutual insurance offers accident forgiveness with our auto policies. if you qualify, your rates won't go up due to your first accident. because making mistakes is only human, and so are we. we also offer new car replacement,
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we're continuing our special coverage. right now the worldwide u.s. terror alert that was imposed today. let's get a little bit of perspective on what's going on. retired u.s. marine corps general james mattis is joining us on the foam. he's the former head of central command in charge of the entire middle east and south asia. general mattis, what do you make of this worldwide terror alert, if you will, including the shutting down of 21 u.s. embassies and consulates in north africa, the middle east, and south asia? >> wolf, it's absolutely clear that the threats that were received that were assessed were taken very seriously. we have to remember we're up against an enemy who kills indiscriminately, whether it be women, children, diplomats, and our embassies that we all know have been one of the targets,
and i think what this enemy is up to is trying to achieve some sort of a propaganda success, and by taking these steps, the secretary of state is denying the enemy that opportunity. he's simply making it a very unenviable target to blow up an empty building. so the closure of our embassies, bloo bottom line, will throw the enmay off balance and deny them any kind of propaganda victory as we deal with this kind of threat. >> you retired on june 1st. you were the head of the central command. do you remember a time during your tenure or earlier tenures where they literally shut down 21 u.s. embassies and consula s consulates? >> i do not, wolf. there would be times when we would have to shut down an embassy because of a specific threat, and once in a while, you know, you get threats in and you're not able to localize exactly which embassy is under threat, but either foreign
secret services or our own intelligence community gets some intelligence, and obviously in this case they're doing some proactive discretion here, making certain we don't give the enemy an opportunity that we can deny them. >> well, it looks like a lot of the concern stems from al qaeda in the arabian peninsula, specifically in yemen. what kind of capability, general, do they have? >> well, al qaeda in yemen, al qaeda in the arabian peninsula as we characterize them, have conducted attacks. they've tried to get through, as you know, attacks on airliners going into detroit. they've attacked our embassy there before. there's a very active franchise of al qaeda operating there in yemen. it's one to be taken seriously. we've had successes against them. the yemenis have been wonderful partners in this fight, but at
the same time we have to take these kind of steps to the ensure we keep the initiative and we're not reacting to the enemy after the fact. reacting ahead of time and setting the conditions can throw the enemy on their back foot. >> you know, i want to play a little bit of what representative peter king, he's the chairman of the house homeland security subcommittee on counterterrorism and intelligence. i interviewed him about an hour and a half or so ago, and listen to this little clip, general. then we'll discuss. >> i have been getting briefed fairly regularly over the last seven, eight years at least, and also pretty heavily before then, and this is the most specific i have seen. and, again, i don't think i'm giving anything away when you look at the reaction to have 21 embassies being closed shows how seriously our government is taking it, and i gave them credit. i think the government is doing exactly the right thing here, the administration. >> can you give us a little detail without compromising
sources and methods, classified information, what makes this so specific, this threat? >> wolf, i really can't. that would -- i just can't do it other than to tell you that there's really -- there's very little doubt, if any, that something serious is being planned, and i think that's a worldwide alert. obviously we're focused on the middle east. it's a potential series of attacks. could be almost anyplace. >> are we talking about attacks overseas in north africa, middle east, south asia or some place around the world, congressman? or are we talking potentially about an attack right here in the united states? >> i would say we can't rule anything out. it's been taken very seriously, and so nothing can be ruled out. i'm not saying that to panic anyone, but i think because of the dimension of this, we have to say that nothing can be
excluded. >> we're back with general mattis, the former commander of the u.s. military central command. he says, you heard him, he's pretty alarmed right now, general mattis. peter king saying he can't rule anything out, an attack overseas or an attack here at home. when you heard that, what went through your mind? >> well, i would just echo the comments, that we're taking exactly the right steps here. clearly we have a serious threat. we've taken the steps that are prudent. remember, we're up against two separate families of terrorists. one is al qaeda. that appears to be the one that they're referring to right now. and the other one, of course, is the lebanese hezbollah iranian brand, the folks who have tried to kill the saudi arabian ambassador two miles from the white house here a year and a half ago. so this is -- this threat to diplomats, it's not only against american diplomats, although this specific threat appears to
be targeted on our embassies, but it's against diplomats who are men and women of peace who are up against an enemy who apoapo apocalyptically opening up who they will attack. this is a give and take we need to be conducting in an agile way as threats surface to go after them, but certainly at the point that we identify a threat that's specific enough, we need to take action to protect our diplomats, and i think we're doing exactly the right thing here. >> one final question, general. i know when you were head of the military central command you tried to get ayman al zawahiri, the new leader now that bin laden is dead, of al qaeda. why is it so hard to find him? >> well, generally i would just tell you, wolf, that when the leadership is basically running a coward's operation where they hide themselves and they send
young men to go do the fighting, then you're in a situation where it's hard to find the needle in the haystack, but we're very patient people, and we will stay on the hunt. i have no doubt about that, and the lads are good hunters, and we'll just -- we'll make certain that he doesn't sleep well at night for his remaining days. >> general james mattis, united states marine corps retired. the former head of the central command, thanks very much for joining us. >> you're welcome, wolf. up next, dr. sanjay gupta with an update on the boston marathon terror bombings. a man who lost one leg now facing a wrenching decision about how his badly damaged remaining leg should be dealt with. >> if i could keep it, i want to keep it.
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. as we watch another potential terror threat emerge against the united states, the last of the boston terror victims has finally gone home from the hospital. but his battle to recover is by no means over. here's our chief medical correspondent dr. sanjay gupta. >> reporter: more than a hundred days after the boston marathon bombing, patients are still left with gut-wrenching decisions. in mark's case, it's whether or not to keep his leg. >> get it out of here all together. i'm not using it any more. >> reporter: when you're looking
at your leg right now, how are you feeling about it? >> not too well. not too good. >> reporter: it's not giving you function right now. >> i want to keep it, but if it's like this, i want nothing to do with it. >> reporter: he was near the finish line at the boston marathon on april 15, when those two bombs exploded. after the first blast, his right leg was sheared off, while parts of his left foot hung on by just a thread. >> all the tendons had broken from the explosion. >> reporter: since that day, he has been through a revolving door of surgeries, skin grafts, all sorts of procedures. >> mark's been to the operating
room 16 times since april 15. he's had 49 different procedures. >> reporter: his body is still riddled with bbs and shrapnel. >> the pain is absolutely unbearable. >> reporter: and while he has made considerable progress, there are still days when he seriously considers just giving up on his left leg. >> it sounds selfish to cut it off to go home. i would have been fitted with two pros these sises now, i know it's going to be hard forever with this leg. >> reporter: part of the frustration is the pain. part of it is that his left leg, like other parts of his body, is just healing so slowly. and while he waits and works on
it, there is no guarantee his remaining leg will be functional again, but more than anything, his left leg is what's kept him from his fiance jen and his five year old son gavin. >> i told them daddy's going to get better. >> reporter: you talk about your leg? how do you tell a five year old? >> tell him i'm going to get a metal leg. he thinks it's kind of cool. it's kind of unfortunate that this is what he's going to know from now on, you know. it's going to be his normal. >> reporter: there is one glimmer of hope. he was told that in a few weeks he will finally go home. >> to go home to jen and gavin is just going to be everything. i just can't wait.
guess who's coming home today? >> you. >> who? me? are you happy? >> to not have a family dinner for a hundred days is huge. i think those are the most important things to me, sitting down at the table and talking about your day. >> i've been doing it sitting in a hospital bed. >> we were lucky enough that he made it. so that's going to be the most important thing to me. >> all right. on my way. i can't believe it. >> reporter: it is a triumphant day for mark, for his family. and in a way, it's a triumph for his city. because mark is the last of the boston marathon bombing victims to leave the hospital.
>>. [ applause ] >> reporter: and now he is back to the place where he so desperately has wanted to be. as for his left leg. >> as of right now, i'm going to keep it, keep working on it, but there is a point where it could be better to actually have a prostheses. and i'm still waiting it out. >> reporter: dr. sanjay gupta, cnn reporting. what a story. we wish him only the best. you can always follow us what's going on on the situation room. you can tweet me, tweet the show. @cnnsitroom. erin burnett out front will begin in a moment.
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