tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN March 31, 2017 3:00pm-4:01pm PDT
happening now. breaking news. new terror threat. laptop bombs being developed to get through airport security without detection to terrorists. finding new ways it make these explosives seem like everyday electronic devices. explosive testing, terrorists could be testing their new bombs on screening devices that may have stolen from airports. how should the u.s. and its allies now respond? a story to tell. when michael flynn implicate the president if he testifies about the trump camp's russia's ties
with immunity? new reaction to the fired national securitity adviser offer to exchange information for protection. >> and white house visit. top democrat of the house intelligence committee accepts the administration's offer to review classified documents. what did adam schiff see? and what will it mean for the controversy surrounding the russia investigation? we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer, you're in "the situation room." this is cnn breaking news. >> breaking news tonight, cnn has new information about how isis and other terror groups have developed bombs small enough to be hidden in electronics and other devices. fbi shows those bombs can evade commonly used airport screening. we're told u.s. intelligence suggests the terrorists have gotten hold of sophisticated airport security equipment to
test how well the new bombs can avoid detection. stand by for our exclusive reporting on this threat and how it figures into the new electronics ban on some u.s. bomb flights. also breaking, sources tell cnn there's no indication the fbi wants to reinterview michael flynn or give the national security adviser immunity. flynn is seeking immunity exchange for information about rush why's context with the trump camp. sources tell cnn the house and senate intelligence committees also are not likely to agree to an immunity deal. the white house says president trump wants flynn to testify with immunity and isn't worried that his former aid might reveal damaging information about the president. this hour, i'll talk with congressman adam kenzinger, military veteran. and our correspondents and expert analyst, also standing
by. first, let's go to cnn's evan perez and barbara starr with cnn's exclusive reporting on new terrorist bombs hidden in lap tops. evan, let me start with you. what are you learning? >> u.s. intelligence of law enforcement agencies believe that isis and other terrorist organizations have developed innovative ways to plant explosives in electronic devices that fbi testing shows can evade commonly used airport screening equipment. the concern is heightened because u.s. intelligence is suggesting that terrorist obtain sophisticated airport security equipment to test how to effectively conceal explosives in laptops and other electronic devices. a terror bomb makers have come up with a way to hide explosives in battery compartment but still have the laptop turn on long enough to get past screeners. in december, fbi experts tested variants using different battery and explosive configurations to
assess how difficult it would be for the airport screeners to detect them. now using tsa-rated machines, the testers found that machines have a far more difficult time detecting the new types of bombs. wolf? >> evan, stand by. i want to bring in pentagon correspondent barbara starr who is working the story. united states and britain recently banned ek electronics from some flights from middle eastern and african nations. is this why? >> wolf, good evening. this is a very significant part of why those access were taken. but we have been talking to a number of government officials and there is more to it. they are growing increasingly concerned about airlines and have been tracking specific information from a pilot in yemen and syria and isis and the concern is growing, wolf. >> the intelligence comes amid heightened concerns that ices and al qaeda asillated terror
groups perfected their ability it hide bombs in electronic devices. >> cnn has learned this new intelligence was a significant part of the decision earlier this month to ban laptops, tablets and other electronic devices from the passenger cabin of planes flying directly to the united states from ten middle eastern and north african airports. demanding instead they are stored in checked luggage. >> elevated intelligence we are are aware of that they are are targeting information and are aggressive in pursuing meth today's undertake their attacks to not smuggle devices in consumer objects. >> officials told cnn there was credible and specific intelligence that isis would try to attack aviation assets and a hint from a top u.s. commander about why the accelerated effort on the ground in syria against
the group. >> there's an imperative to get isolation in place around raqqah. because intelligence feeds tell us that there is a significant external operations attacks planning. >> al qaeda's affiliate in yemen has for years been actively trying to target commercial airliners destined for the u.s. looking for ways to create bombs that contain little or no metal content to evade airport security measures. including hiding explosives in the batteries of electronic devices like laptops. and in february 2016, wake-up call when a laptop bomb according to is a kblal authority was used to blow a hole in the is a mally pass engr jet. it landed safely, according to alshe bob. explosives were in space by
removing parts of the dvd drive. now over the last 24 hours, cnn has discussed this reporting with a number of government agencies including the fbi and cia. so far both those agencies declined to comment. wolf? >> al qaeda and yemen in particular, barbara. how serious a threat do they pose? >> what's so interesting here is you have so many different threats. we're talking about isis. al qaeda and yemen remained one of the top threats to u.s. aviation officials tell me. they believe that al qaeda and yemen continues to very actively plot to try to bring down a u.s. airliner with these general type of advanced explosives. and it's important to remember they actually came very close to doing it. christmas day 2009 he when an airliner was landing in detroit and that man had the so-called underwear bomb on him. they are the ones that have so
far been able to reach out and touch u.s. shores. they also, like isis, remained a top worry tonight, wolf. >> barbara starr, good reporting. thanks very much. a critical condition tonight. in light of our exclusive reporting, why hasn't the u.s. government issued a wider ban on laptops on board flights? let's go back to our justice correspondent, evan perez. are you getting any answers from the tsa? >> wolf, the explanation we got when the ban was first introduced a couple weeks ago is that u.s. and europeans layered security that greatly improved chances of detecting explosives beyond just screening equipment. now we reached out to the tsa to explain again why that is, knowing that these fbi tests showed security gaps. the homeland security department just commented to us saying in a statement that the u.s. government continually reassesses existing intelligence and collects new intelligence. this allows dhs and tsa to evaluate or processes and policies and make enhancement
when they are deemed necessary to keep passengers safe. all passengers have robust security system that requires both layers of security both seen and unseen, wolf. >> excellent reporting from you as well, evan. thanks very much. congressman adam kenzinger, a veteran of the wars in iraq and afghanistan served in the u.s. air force. congressman, what could it mean that isis and other terrorists organizations are thought now to have some sophisticated bomb-making capability that could evade airport security. >> it doesn't surprise me the least. isis's main focus is developing this calla they are losing the cal fate so now they have to get street cred credibility to recruit. aqap is basically the legacy al qaeda and these folks are largely focused on destroy be
western assets or the united states. they've been a real threat. to be honest with you, i'm surprised it has taken so long for them to come up with this technology. we have to continue to be on our game in terms of how we are screening. it may not be by looking at an object coming through a screen or maybe by sniffing for some kind of a bomb making material. anything like that. we have to continue to progress as terrorists continue to progress. i think the last important thing to remember is we have it stay on offense against them because as they are disorganized because at home they are being attacked. much less organized in order to reach out and strike. >> serving u.s. air force reserves, correct me if i'm wrong, but what kind of damage could this bomb hidden in laptop do to a big commercial plane? >> you hear about the somali airliner and it blew a hole in it. the movies make it look like
even if you shoot a bullet outside the airplane, everything is sucked out and gone. that not the case. what it does is depressurize the cabin unless you have a structural issue. if it is a small bomb, would have injury. you have the possibility of it being catastrophic bomb. but if it is just blowing a hole in the plane, the plane can land. where there is real concern is if there is a plane over the atlantic or pacific ocean, you may still have structural integrity but you're three hours from any landing spots. that maybe and i don't know this from any firsthand information but that may be the reason that this just extends to international flights right now. and not domestic flights. >> doesn't it make a big difference congressman if that hole in the plane, in the structure, occurs when you're flying say 8,000 or 10,000 feet as opposed to 30,000 or 35,000 feet? >> yeah, it does. it mainly has do with pressurization. so in terms of the actual air
flow oever the aircraft, there s no difference. but at 8,000 or 10,000 feet the plane can depressurize with nothing happening together passengers. your ears will pop. your time of useful consciousness is about 20,000 at 30,000 feet. you have to get on oxygen. pilots should be able to in time, so it is not overly catastrophic but it is much less time to depressurize and put on your oxygen mask. >> is the u.s. working with these countries in northern africa and middle east to make sure their security screening is improved strong enough to detect these kinds of bombs? >> yeah, we are. but there is only so much can you do with a different country if in fact they want to work with you. there are countries we're not friendly with that are much less interested in working with us on screenings. those flights are banned for instance. they can't come into the united states. but a lot of it for them is an
issue of money. this screening technology cost a lot of money. tp is something to keep in mind when we talk about the idea of cutting the state department by 30% or 40%. this kind of stuff and working and homeland security reaches out to protect americans even. not just being nice across the world. it has to do with our safety here at heme. >> we are talking about ten airports in north africa and middle east. is the ban wide enough if it's so publicized, are you concerned that terrorists could evat the security screening at an airport in europe or asia heading to the united states? >> yeah. i mean, i think it's a natural concern. i wouldn't be surprised if now we start with this small ban if this spreads to all international flights or even domestic flights. what we need to be concerned with, obviously passenger safety should be the absolute first thing we're focused on. but secondly, look, if terrorists get us to basically
make air travel even more uncomfortable and people quit flying because of the concerns, that will be a victory in and of itself. i think when it comes to terrorists, we have to react wisely but also not overreact. i think the government will figure out where that proper balance is i hope. >> what else should be done to assure travellers this is all under control? >> so look, it's a number of things. again, saying look, the reality of actually being killed or injuried in a terrorist attack is extremely low. no matter whether you're in europe or the united states. it is understanding reality that it is really not common but a concern. i think the other thing as i mention is we have to stay on the offense again the war on terror today to keep these networks disturbed to keep them reactive instead of proactive and the other thing is we have to understand that we have it fight what i call the next generational war on terror. which is the 7 ooer 8-year-olds that lack opportunity. to giving them opportunities,
giving them hope, giving them a place to live, it is much less likely to recruit someone in terrorism when they are successful, have freedom and opportunity. so that next generational fight, which isn't a fight at all, giving opportunity to someone, is essentially winning the fight in the long run. >> congressman, thanks for joining us. >> you bet. any time, wolf. >> how did the terrorists develop this new bomb? what can be done to protect flyers? we are standing by. i was told that is was cancer, and i called cancer treatment centers of america. dr. nader explained that they can pinpoint the treatment. once we identified that there was this genetic abnormality in her tumor, we were able to place her on very specific therapy. our individualized care model gives each lung patient specific treatment options with innovative procedures that are changing the way we
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commonly used airport screening. let's bring on terrorism national security and aviation. you have done a lot of the reporting on this. how did the intelligence community keep track of these new capabilities? >> there is a lot of effort to try to use both the intelligence capabilities. and they try keep satellites and drones and keep an eye on these terrorist groups as well as informants and so there is all of that information that's being collected. both by the united states as well as the allies in the region to try to prevent some of these devices from getting on to airplanes. clearly beyond the testing that the fbi has done and beyond, some of the collection that the intelligence agent have been able to do, there is new information developed in the last few months that they believe indicated there was a greater threat to those airports that they introduced the band to in the last couple of weeks. so that what we're told is
behind the decision making that was made. >> miles, what kind of damage could a bomb like this, laptop or other electronic advice do some. >> if you think about a laptop, you are pretty limited in size. especially if you want to create laptop that can power up in order to evade security. imagine a relatively small device. but it is about location. if you're sitting in the right spot, perhaps over the wing. the wings are where the fuel tanks are. could you have a tremendous amount of trouble because of that. we have seen bombs bring planes down. pan am in 1988 and attempts where holes have been blown in aircraft and they are able to land safely. it is hard to say. >> we have seen clarissa with the terror guides, aqap, articles that they posted how to build a bomb in the kitchen of your mom. what sorts of ways are these terror groups spreading the word on these new devices and how to go ahead and sneak one on a
plane. >> they have a whole plethora of ways that they're doing it from the isis manual known as inspire to -- sorry, al qaeda manual known as inspire to isis's magazine, dalbik. they are coming out with new and creative ways for people at home who may have never set foot in the middle east let alone spend time in theter tore rift groups to make their own explosives. often using kind of homemade bombs using things that you could buy at your local drugstore. for a long time, wolf, blowing up a commercial airliner has been the kind of holy grail for many of these groups. and we have seen the various incarnations of technology as they have tried using liquids, using an underwear bomb, using in the case of metro jet explosives smuggled on to the hold in a soda can. reportedly by a baggage handler
or someone working at the airport. so they are working every single angle that they can in order to try to get the technology to a place by whatever means necessary to actually blow up one of these planes successfully. they came very close to it with the al shabaab attempt to blow up the plane in somalia. in that case the plane was flowing low enough that the pilot could land the plane even though there was a huge hole in the wall of the fuselage. both from a point of casualties and erupting everyday life, this is a high priority for groups like isis. >> i'm looking at eight countries where nonstop flight to the united states electronic banned for the cabin. you take a look at ten air poorts in the uae and saudi arabia, two airports are on that list. why did they pick those eight countries? >> i think one of the concerns
is some of these airports in the middle east may not have the state of the art technology and by that i mean explosive trace detection technology where you take the swab at the airport and test is for very, very small amounts of explosives. those machines can detect a trillionth of a gram and they are very, very good indeed at attracting the explosives these airports a air terrorists are trying to put into devices. very, very good indeed, wolf, at detecting them. and they are in place at some airports in the middle east. notably dubai, notably abu dhabi. it is a bit after head scratcher why those have been targeted. they are good at detecting even when explosives are concealed in the electronics of a laptop. i think some word of reassurance for travellers in europe, in the united states, machines that are
currently available should beat this terrorist threat. the worry is that in some developing countries that they could get a bomb on to a plane, either because there is poor training or they just don't have the machines available. >> richard quest, what sorts of materials, methods would get through airport screening? i think you've been to every one of those airports in north africa and middle east. >> yes, most wolf. frankly, what is weird about how this whole thing is put together is the discrepancy, wolf, between the british list and the u.s. list. now there are some small differences in places like morocco between the two. but the three airport of doha, abu dhabi, and dubai that appear on the u.s. list but not on the british list. and the reason that is significant is it happens to be
the largest busiest international airport. so you've really got to ask yourself, now what is the -- we know this risk exists as a result of the reporting that we're bringing you tonight. what is the reality of this risk? have those machines been compromised by the fact that terror organizations now actually have a real machine with which they can test the efficacy of detection advices to avoid detection. and then you're left with well for good news sake, hang on a minute. if the u.s. and u has ban those airports but passengers can go through those airports and on to a frankfurt paris stockholm oslo or whatever and then on to the united states. we are now in the position of saying what can we believe when we actually get on a plane because clearly there is no uniformity and no conformity in
standard. >> i'll say beyond what richard is pointing at. i think some of the reporting that we have obtained in the last few days indicates the fbi needs to make a difference here. fbi testing some machines used around the world and they are alarmed to find in a lot of cases they were not detecting some of these newer types of bombs that were -- that terrorists have been able to build. that's the problem. it is beyond just these eight countries. these machines are used around the world including here in the united states. so it really points it a vulnerability that we have here in this country as well, wolf. so the question is, that is being raised here is whether the united states should also have some version of this ban, whether something done at least until the united states is able to fix some of the machines that are used -- >> should the u.s. expand the
ban? >> no. i think we have a pretty good security system here. swabbing devices is an important thing. putting devices in the hold raises all kind of other issues including putting batteries in the hole. >> in the baggage compartment. >> in the baggage compartment. experts tell you the bomb in the hole made it worse. it increased the explosive capability. so keeping it on the plane was a mistake. >> we will keep you on top of the cnn reporting. stand by. also, former national security adviser michael flynn is willing to testify if there is immunity for prosecution. so far congress and fbi are not interested. and the house intelligence committee's top democrat goes over to the white house to recrew classified material ten days after helping the republican chierman get him an advance look.
reading in part quote today my staff director and i reviewed materials that white house it was represented to me that these are precisely the same materials that were provided to the chairman over a week ago. i cannot discuss the contents of the documents, if the white house had any concern over these materials, they should have been shared with the full committee in the first place as part of our ordinary oversight responsibilities. it goes on to say that nothing he saw today warranted a departure from the normal review procedures and later went on to say that white house essentially has more explaining to do. he want to know why a senior staff member apparently shared the material with one member of that committee. of course chairman nunes and were not briefed for other members of the committee. >> house intelligence committee ranking member adam schiff at the white house today to review classified information offered up bit white house. an invitation extended in this
letter in the house intelligence committee thursday. but it's not clear if schiff will look at the same classified document shown to house intelligence chairman devin nunes. schiff sent a letter of his own to the white house expressing profound concern with the way the materials are made available to the committee. david nunez faces continued fall out with new revelations about what he knows and how exactly he learned the information. >> first reported in the new york times a u.s. official now confirms to cnn white house staffers as watnik and ellis are believed to be two of the individuals involved. but still enknown whether the two white house staffers were involved directly in showing nunes the documents when he was on white house grounds last week as he looked at intelligence materials that claims show trump campaign aides conversations were picked up in intelligence collection. nunes today remaining adamant a spokesperson saying chairman
nunes will not confirm nor deny speculation about his source's eye dwentty and won't speculate about anonymous sources. white house staff fuelling more questions with the independence of nunes's investigation from the white house. >> i'm firmly convinced that the president and his aides concocted this and drew devin nunes into it and he became an advocate and in a better to what i think is an absolute fabrication. even more credibility that his claim was brought to him by whistleblower. >> to me it looks nothing like a whistle blower case. again, i think the white house needs it answer, is this instead a case where they wish to effectively launder information through our committee to avoid the true source of the information. >> the white house today attempting to swat down the
criticism. >> what he does, what he saw and who he met with was 100% proper. we all found out, you, me, everyone else, after he held a press conference with your colleagues, to say he was coming down here, that didn't have do with russia, that a whistle wloeer source had given him. >> paul ryan is facing increases questions about whether he still stand by the chairman. a spokes woman saying he doesn't know the source, the source has the speak are's full confidence. >> nunes back home in california because the house is not in session he interviewed tonight is offering up criticism of all these report that white house fishes were involved in the intelligence disclosure in an interview tonight calling the report mostly wrong but notably what he did not offer any details or specifics as to why. wolf? >> all right, thank you.
also breaking tonight, sources tell cnn there is no indication that the fbi wants it give michael flynn immunity in exchange for testimony in the russia investigation. we're told the house and senate intelligence committees aren't likely to cut a deal with the national security adviser. tonight the white house says trump wants flynn to testify and isn't worried about what he might say or who he might implicate under hoej. ? a lot of questions about this at today's white house briefing. >> that's right. as you said, the white house wants michael flynn to go ahead and testify and the president is encouraging flynn to seek immunity from prosecution to tell what he knows. sean spicer said the president is not worried about what he has it say and the real story isn't the ongoing questions about trump ties to russia but instead the president's allegation that he and his team, unlawfully wiretapped by the obama
administration. one thing we heard is that the white house is no longer focused on proving the president was wiretapped before the election was he originally claimed in his now well known tweets. we've seen the tweets time and again where the president talk about being wiretapped before the election. now the white house says that surveillance could have happened at other times and still proved the president's claims. here is what spicer has to say. >> does the white house have any information -- is it providing any information to the intelligence commities that would draw these members to the conclusion there was some kind of surveillance going on before the election as president originally alleged? >> so again, i don't want to specifically get in but if we are splitting hairs about what day on the calendar it was, that's a pretty interesting development. i think we have come to place where -- [ inaudible ] >> i understand that. but if the al jags is, well actually on the 1st of december,
vers versus 31 sst of october, now w are splitting hair. now we are arguing over the date, not the substance. the substance is why were people using government resources, violating civil libber potentially, looking into people's backgrounds to surveil them and to unmask them, provide names into sources and spread classified information and make it available to other places they weren't supposed to. hold on. sorry. i think that it is interesting. i get your question but if what on monday or tuesday, or the en 30th or the 8th, i think we lost focus here. >> to review that, you have the president originally tweeting about wiretapping and the white house says you main survey lens.
talking about wiretapping before the election and now they are talking about any time line with what the president was alleging. as as for michael flynn and senate intelligence committee rejecting the idea of granting immunity for flynn so after flynn floated this out there yesterday that perhaps his client would talk for immunity, now it is up to the lawyer for how they proceed at this point. >> just ahead, immunity and questions of hypocrisy. what president trump and michael flynn are saying now and what they said about hillary clinton during the campaign. >> next president of the united states right here --
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tonight the president is backing michael flynn's offer to testify in the russia investigation if he gets immunity from prosecution at the same time mr. trump is slamming the probe as quote a witch hunt. let let's bring in our team and listen to what president said as a candidate in september and what general flynn said at the same time they were talking about hillary clinton's campaign. >> if you're not guilty of a crime, why do you need immunity for, right? >> when you are given immunity, that means you probably committed a crime. >> how significant is it that general flynn through his attorney saying i'll be happy to speak to the congressional
committees, fbi, but only if granted immunity. >> life comes at you fast when you listen to those sound bites. but we just don't know yet. because this could be the -- he might think he is in some legal trouble. there has been some concern raised about money he made from russian entities. in addition to talking to the fbi in terms of what was picked up in correspondents or this could be some smart lawyering. it is not unusual for someone who will testify to ask for immunity so they don't incriminate themselves. we don't know yet but there is that cryptic comment that his lawyer made saying he wants to tell his story. >> yeah. and usually, if the fbi or congressional grants immunity it is because they think whoever is testifying can bring down a higher up. >> yeah. exactly. it does not imply you committed a crime if you are given immunity but fbi and prosecutors are in the business of getting to the bottom of people who
committed crimes. immunity deal means that they think that that will pursue, that will help in the pursuit of figuring out who committed a crime. so flynn is pretty high, was a pretty high white house official. there is nobody higher, right? if you were are a prosecutor looking for someone higher, it is hard to think of anyone beyond pence and trump, anyone higher than that. so if prosecutors at the justice department suddenly grant flynn immunity, watch out. that's explosive. that means there's something else they are going after. so if the committees give him immunity it might not be as meaningful. that may be more we want the full story. this is an important issue. >> beyond this issue, the presidentweeted and i read, quote, mike flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt except for excuse by big election lost by demes of
historic proportion. the white house believes flynn should testify. how unusual is all of this? >> meaning what? everything we're talking about the past three months is unusual. but given the specific topic there had been reports that story would come out that flynn would be asking for immunity for the past few days. look, i think you have an administration that doesn't want to completely alienate flynn because obviously they are very close. if there are any russian associations, flynn would know about them. michael flynn is somebody who feels disgruntled. this is the second administration in which he feels he's been burned by and which he has been fired for. the president on the one hand doesn't want to completely isola isolate him. on the other hand he has to distance himself as well. >> you're right, he was fired by the obama administration at that point. you wanted to say something? >> just one small thing on that. we are all trying to figure out, are flynn and trump on the same team here?
is flan good soldier for the white house? or is he no longer loyal to the white house? i know you shouldn't read too much into the personal views of one's lawyer, but it is notable, i think, that his lawyer is a so-called never trump republican who tweeted extensively during the campaign anti-trump tweets and that's the person he went to as a lawyer. >> and don't forget michael flynn was a democrat as well. so he is known to align himself with both parties. a very emotional man that people describe as a loose cannon. genius in any ways, but a loose cannon. >> we are getting some information from adam schiff's briefing and in that statement he put out, he basically said he was given access to the exact same information that the chairman of the committee, devin yunes i nun /* nunes received. the question remains, was devin nunes, the whole visit he had there, the information he received, orchestrated by the
white house? >> and you know, adam schiff did not speak to that. he said going in that his silence on what he saw and what he observed shouldn't be interpreted either way as he saw something that shocked him or that you know was nothing. but he also said this is information that has been released to the entire committee. so you will have to see what he says later this weekend. but at this point, he is making a lot of the same point that made going into the white house in the first place. >> i'm a little surprised that he maybe friday night and schiff is a pretty media savvy guy. so maybe he want to wait. i know he will be on jake tapper's show on sunday. i was e-mailing with his spokesperson before he came on. he said he wouldn't have a comment between now and then. it is unusual he would not characterize these
dumts documents. >> he had a cordial exchange with the president in this meeting. >> we're getting word that the president and adam schiff had about a 10-minute meeting in the oval office. it was described as cordial and plight. very nice kripgs. >> so it was cordial. >> everybody stand by for a moment. t we're going to continue right after this. ♪ a lot of people have vertical blinds. well, if a lot of people jumped off a bridge, would you? you hungry? i'm okay right -- i'm... i'm becoming my, uh, mother. it's been hard, but some of the stuff he says is actually pretty helpful. pumpkin, bundling our home and auto insurance is a good deal! like buying in bulk! that's fun, right? progressive can't protect you from becoming your parents, but we can protect your home and auto. progressive can't protect you from becoming your parents, you didn't know we had over 26,000 local activities listed on our app. or that you could book them right from your phone.