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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Officials Fear Missing Teens On Way To Join ISIS; Officials Confirm Jihadi John's Real Identity; Alleged Terror Ringleader Ran Mall Kiosks

Aired February 26, 2015 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, breaking news. At least four teens have gone missing in Quebec. Investigators fear they are on their way so Syria to join ISIS.

Plus, Jihadi John's identity revealed. Who is the English speaking terrorists seen in ISIS horrific beheading videos. A man who knows him well, our guest OUTFRONT tonight.

And a leaked United Airlines memo to all pilots revealing disturbing pilot errors. A series of near misses. An avoidance maneuver to not hit the grounds. Just how serious is the problem? Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight. We begin with the breaking news. At least four teens are missing. Investigators fear they're on their way to join ISIS. The teens were from Quebec and Canadian officials are now searching desperately for them. They believe the teens arrived in Turkey. Of course a crucial gateway to the Syrian war. This comes as authorities have identified one of the most wanted western ISIS fighters in the world, Jihadi John. U.S. officials tells CNN that the English speaking, black clad figure who appear on so many of those gruesome beheading videos, the one who speaks and does those beheadings is a 26-year-old Londoner named Mohammed Emwazi. We'll have much more on Mohammed Emwazi in just a moment including a man who knows him who will be our guest.

But first, I want to go to Paula Newton, she is in Ottawa tonight. And Paul, what more have you learned about this hunt for the missing teens that they believe have gone to join ISIS?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly the RCNP has opened their investigation. At least two women and two men but possibly more cases right now, Erin, being investigated. The problem is that the trail has gone cold now in Turkey. They believe that they had left perhaps to go join ISIS but they have no idea where they've ended up. Now, what's interesting here Erin is that they were alerted to all of this from families, the families becoming increasingly desperate seeing that their children were being radicalized. Some of them knowing that they might leave the country, others having absolutely no clue. What's interesting here Erin is in the last few months, Canada has started trying to revoke the passports of people like this if they suspect that they're going overseas to try and join a terror group like ISIS. In this case certainly that wasn't done. And now families are desperate to know more about what's happened to their children -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Paula, thank you very much. And also tonight, we are learning more about the man believed to be Jihadi John. We now know his name. Mohammed Emwazi. And we know how he went from the streets of London to the battlefields of Syria.

Alexandra Field is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MOHAMMED EMWAZI, ISIS MILITANT: Our knife will continue to stab the necks of your people.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The chief ISIS killer known as Jihadi John now revealed to the public as Mohammed Emwazi identified partly by his distinctive British accent.

EMWAZI: This night will become your nightmare.

FIELD: Seen in sickening videos claiming to murder a group of Syrian pilots. Americans James Foley, Steven Sotloff and Abdul-Rahman Kassig. Britain's Alan Henning and David Haines. Japanese captive Kenji Goto. His viral videos, the vile propaganda of a terrorist group. But also key clues for international investigators. Linguistic experts classified the British accent as that of the well- educated man from a professional class family. Emwazi now 26 once lived in this London neighborhood.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This is a nice area.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Responsible, polite, quiet, he was everything that you would want a student to be.

FIELD: He graduated from the University of Westminster with a degree in computer programming. For years, he claimed British intelligence officers harassed them. He turned to a group called CAGE which helps people who say they're being investigated. CAGE says it started in 2009, Emwazi traveled to Tanzania for a safari. He said, when he was stopped at the airport, blocked from entering the country, and sent back to the UK. Emwazi reportedly claimed intelligence officers accused him of trying to go to Somalis to join the terror group al-Shabaab. But Emwazi said he planned to join his fiance in Kuwait where he had lived until he was 6-years-old. It's thought he later goes on to spend eight months there before returning to the UK where he's detained again in 2010. In 2012, authorities say he went to Syria according to CAGE.

ASIM QURESHI, RESEARCH DIRECTOR, CAGE: In terms of him feeling that he doesn't belong as part of the UK society, I think that security agencies played the most crucial rule.

FIELD: Months ago both U.S. and British intelligence officers claimed to know the identity of Jihadi John but refused to release it for operational reasons.

KAREN GREENBERG, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY CENTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: It's possible that Jihadi John will still be a face of ISIS rather than a person in total hiding and darkness. But my guess is he's going go underground.

FIELD: Jihadi John was last publicly seen in a video with Kenji Goto and another Japanese hostage Haruna Yukawa.

EMWAZI: You now have 72 hours to pressure your government.

FIELD: He demands $200 million from the Japanese government. ISIS later claims to have killed both men.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FIELD: Jihadi John's identity has been considered something of an open secret in the law enforcement community. It's out there now, of course. So, what does this mean? UK officials and officials here in the U.S. aren't filling in any of the details about Emwazi's background and they also Erin have not responded to this narrative of purported harassment that has been put forward by members of CAGE who were friends of Emwazi at the time when he was in London -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Alex.

And Asim Qureshi has known Mohammed Emwazi since the summer of 2009. Asim is the research director of CAGE. The London based advocacy group that Alex was just referring to. Asim, thanks so much for being with us tonight. So, I want to get straight to this. You said you've spent a great deal of time with Emwazi over the years. You knew him. So the question is, did you have any idea of his radical views, of the fact that he wanted to go to Syria and fight for ISIS?

QURESHI: No. I mean, I didn't have any idea that, you know, he would ever want to join up with ISIS. What I did know was that he was having a very, very difficult time in the UK. He was client like we have many clients who are being harassed by the security agencies. And he was somebody that we were trying to assist.

BURNETT: You have seen the horrific videos. You have seen the still images of these horrible beheadings that we now know Emwazi is the man standing there, the man talking. When you saw them, did you recognize him? Did you think it might be him?

QURESHI: Well, I think it's important to say that it was the journalist from "The Washington Post" who came to me and said that she had confirmation that it was Emwazi that is Jihadi John. I said that there was some striking similarity he is but that I couldn't be 100 percent certain that the two men were the same. And even now I maintain that, and I still hope that it's not the same man because the person that I knew is vastly different than the Jihadi John that appears in these videos.

BURNETT: And vastly different in what way?

QURESHI: Well, the person that I knew was extremely kind, he was very gentle, humble individual, you know, who didn't give any sense of self-importance about himself. You know, so the person that I'm seeing on the television, you know, that gentleness obviously, quite evidently is just doesn't seem to be there.

BURNETT: I mean, of course, you're talking about someone, you described him here to me, kind, gentle, humble. Jihadi John is obviously a brutal, vicious killer, possibly a psychopath. I know you said you aren't 100 percent sure it's him in the videos but you see striking similarities. I guess that crucial question to you is, when you saw that in these videos over the past since last August or earlier, did you ever come forward to authorities and tell them this looks a lot like someone I know?

QURESHI: Well, I didn't have to because I didn't know until last Sunday. It's just been a few days that I knew. And once again, it was the Washington Post that put that information towards me.

BURNETT: So, you didn't know because I'm just trying to understand. You didn't look closely enough that it wasn't until you looked at him really closely, is what you're saying?

QURESHI: I haven't actually watched any of the videos. I mean, it's not the kind of thing that I like looking at. And, you know, even when this whole thing started, you know, I've read about all the videos, of course. I've seen it reported in the print media but I've never actively gone out looking to watch these videos. I mean, for me, of course, they are extremely disturbing and it's not the kind of thing that I enjoy watching or looking at or even have an interest of looking at. So, it's only when the journalist opened her laptop and said, would you please mind looking at this video and, you know, confirm for me whether or not you think it is. I watched them and I said, you know, well, there's a similarity there. I have to admit. But I can't give you a guarantee because he's wearing a hood at the end of the day.

BURNETT: So, let me just ask you the difficult question here. Because I know you're saying you haven't watched the videos and didn't want to watch videos, and I'm sure most people listening to you would agree with that sentiment. Yet some media outlet, including Newsweek and the Daily Mail claim you're in a video from August 19th, 2006 calling for Jihad against the west outside the American Embassy in London. Let me just play this so that you can see it and of course our viewers can see it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QURESHI: We know that it's incumbent upon all of us to support the Jihad of our brothers and sisters in these countries when they are facing the oppression of the west.

Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Asim, there's a link to this video on YouTube posted on August 19th, 2006. The caption says that it's you. It has your name. Is that you? QURESHI: That is me, indeed.

BURNETT: So, you're calling for Jihad against the west?

QURESHI: Yes. I mean, in terms of I'm calling on Muslims to defend themselves when they are being attacked, when they're being oppressed. And that's the keyword here, oppression. Because when Muslim countries are unlawfully attacked, when they're invaded, when those invasions take place and forced premises, then of course it's the right of any nation to defend itself. You know, I've read a lot of accounts that happened on September 11th, and you know, I can tell, I've read, you know, the horror of what took place on that day. I can very much understand why the American people felt the need to want to defend themselves because it's a human emotion.

So, when a people feel that they're under attack, when they feel that they are being oppressed like the Palestinians, like the Peshmurians, like the Chechens, then of course they have the right and inherit right to self-defense. That is what the most modern conception of Jihad is. It's not talking about overtaking anybody's land. It's not talking about, you know, maiming people and destroying them without any reason whatsoever. The vast majority of Muslims around the world feel is that they have every right to defend themselves when an unlawful invasion, colonial occupation or racism is the way in which they are being treated by an external force.

BURNETT: So, all right, when you say that you support the Jihad of our brothers and sisters in this country is facing the oppression of the west though. Are you saying that you support a group like ISIS?

QURESHI: No, I'm not. But, you know, it's the western media and western pseudo academics that constantly perpetuate these narratives that all forms of violence are exactly the same. Just because somebody commits an act of violence in Iraq, they somehow equate it with what's going on in Palestine or what's going on elsewhere in the world. That is simply not true.

BURNETT: So Asim, is it possible though that words like that you say in that video, when you say Jihad, are part of the reason that Emwazi become Jihadi John. That's part of the reason he became radicalize. That he heard someone like you that he looked up to at a non-profit he was seeking assistance from and that was part of the reason he became what he became?

QURESHI: Absolutely not. Because anybody who knows me and, you know, I have a fairly well known reputation in the UK knows exactly what I mean when I talked about Jihad. They know that I'm not talking about executing people without due process, without trial, without charges. Because that's something I'm against in my every day work. When I talk about Guantanamo nearly on a daily basis because that's where I start my work from, it's due process rights or extremely potent. Regardless of, you know, which seconds stands we're talking about, I recommend to any Muslim group or organization or body or even fighting outfit that they respect those norms of humanity that we expect when there's conflicts taking place. So, this idea that all forms of violence are the same as absolute nonsense, Jihad and Islam is a concept which is about defending ourselves when we are being attacked. And that is exactly what I mean when I say it.

BURNETT: Okay.

QURESHI: That is, you know, as far as they can see, a very noble principle.

BURNETT: All right. Asim, thank you very much for your time tonight.

And next, new details about the three Brooklyn men suspected of trying to join ISIS. My guess, the man who knows the alleged ring leader of that group.

Plus, the number of Christians abducted by ISIS is going up higher and higher by the day. Where are they and what could be happening to them?

And on a much lighter note today, the video of the day is llamas on the loose and some rather lame attempts to catch them.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: New information about the three Brooklyn man arrested for threatening to assassinate the President and hijack a plane. U.S. officials say they were about to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS. Tonight we're learning about the alleged ring leader of that group. And you're looking at a picture of Abror Habibov, he's a 30-year-old Uzbekistani citizen who police say organized and financed the operation.

Deborah Feyerick is OUTFRONT from Brooklyn where the suspects live. And Deb, you have been talking to your sources all day. What are you learning about Abror Habibov?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're learning a little bit more about this 30-year-old alleged money man. He had multiple conversations with the 19-year-old suspect in fact promising that he would pay for his trip. He gave him about $1300 according to the FBI documents. And he took him to the travel agency here on Coney Island Avenue in order to help them buy that ticket. He made promises that he would pay for his expenses. Enough certainly to buy a weapon. And if he needed money in Syria then he would send cash. This according to the documents. We do know that he did speak to multiple individuals asking them to help to fray the cost to support the brothers. That's the code name for the Jihadist. These two men wanting to go to fight with ISIS. We're also learning a little bit more about him personally. While we don't know when he arrived here in the United States.

We do know that he overstayed his visa. He was here long enough to open a string of kiosks at malls up and down the east coast. The eastern places like Philadelphia, Virginia Beach as long as Savannah, Georgia. We assumed that he was using money from those kiosks to help fund some of these activities. Now, he did overstay his visa. He then last year enrolled at a technical college, Erin, it's not clear whether that was an attempt to possibly fix his visa issues, he was a part-time students, the college says he's no longer enrolled there. Again, his efforts it appears were helping these two young men who lived in the building behind me to travel to Syria so that they can join ISIS -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Deborah Feyerick, thank you very much.

And OUTFRONT tonight Farhod Sulton, he knows Abror Habibov and the former CIA counterterrorism official Phil Mudd, he's also our counterterrorism analyst. Good to have both of you with us. And Farhod, let me start with you. You talked to Abror Habibov about Islam. What did you talk about?

FARHOD SULTON, KNOWS TERROR SUSPECT ABROR HABIBOV: He didn't know much about Islam. And since my background is Islamic law and I graduate from Islamic university, he thought I would be the right person to ask the number of questions he had.

BURNETT: And did you feel at that time that he was going down the wrong path?

SULTON: Well, there was tense conversation between him and I regarding some touchy subjects about Islam. And one of the things I advised him to do to learn Islam from scholars, from reliable sources, not from internet. And I had a sense that he was going towards that path, learning, getting his information from internet.

BURNETT: And Phil, does this surprise you?

PHIL MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: There's a couple of things you'll have to note. One, you'll note from the case in the last few days, if this individual who was seeking guidance about whether martyrdom in the United States would be appropriate. What I've seen in other cases is if you don't get the right answer from one avenue, from an avenue that maybe tells you, that path you're going down isn't appropriate, you shop around. So, this is looking for the person who will tell you that committing an act of violence is appropriate.

BURNETT: So, that's what it sounds like he was doing. But Farhod, you said in some senses he reminded you of a lost man.

SULTON: Because he didn't have a background in Islam and learning is from teachers at school. He was kind of lost off his arguments -- about his arguments. He make statements and he didn't have background information about the statements. That's why I said, in one word if you'll describe him, he was a lost man.

BURNETT: And Phil, when you hear about that and you put this together with the FBI warning which is that there are people in various stages of radicalization in all 50 states and not just one per state --

MUDD: That's right. BURNETT: How hard is it to find these people? Right? You have

this guy having a conversation with Farhod, Farhod said, he's looking in the wrong place. How many more people are out there doing that that they can't find?

MUDD: Erin, look, it's not hard. It's impossible. One of the faction of the story here that I think is most interesting is, the popular perception is the first front lines is family and friends. Well, I'm here to tell you that's nice in theory. Families and friends often don't know. Because as you saw in this case, an individual will go, they will get an answer they don't want, they'll going to find an avenue that's more radical and more secretive.

BURNETT: As you said, they'll shop around.

MUDD: That's right. The second is, you're talking about past radicalization. Radicalization is not illegal in America. We were built on radicals 250 years ago.

BURNETT: Right.

MUDD: So, the question is, how do you start looking across the internet after all the furor about the government and Edward Snowden? How do you look on the internet when you look at people who were practicing free speech to look at that one-tenth of one percent that's thinking about violence? That's the real problem.

BURNETT: So, in a sense it's impossible. I mean, Farhod, police are saying that Habibov actually helped in their words, organize and finance this plan to terror operation. From the man that you knew, does that surprise you that he could be in some ways the master mind of something like this?

SULTON: Of course. I was surprised seeing their names on the news. Abror, his personality, he's a calm guy, he's a nice person. You enjoy talking to him. He was eager to learn things.

BURNETT: Phil, when you hear Farhod talk about Habibov as a nice man, a gentleman, good to talk to. I mean, does that surprise you? Because some people seem to think, well, it would be obvious who these people are if you talked to them. But obviously it's not.

MUDD: There's a couple of classic characteristics. Look, we have 15 years of experience with this. Not every case is a one off. In this case, you see a couple of things. One is the segregation in the subject's mind of one piece of life versus the piece of life when they're participating in the community.

BURNETT: Yes.

MUDD: So, you go out the community and say, please identify the people who might be at risk. Even, I found parents sometimes didn't know.

BURNETT: They don't know. MUDD: Their kids talking to some -- which is really disturbing.

If I wanted to talk to one person in this case, it would be that 30- year-old. Because when we talk about internet radicalization, my experience is, there's a human being involved somewhere and it's usually the older guy who tells the 19-year-old, the path you're going down is okay. You need somebody who is that accelerant, a human being. That's I predict the 30-year-old in this case.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks so much to both of you.

SULTON: Sure.

MUDD: Thank you.

BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, ISIS abducts more Christians from their homes. The number doubling in just a couple of days. Is there a chance they can be saved when the numbers keep rising day by day?

And breaking news from Capitol Hill tonight, funding for the Department of Homeland Security running out. Will Congress be able to make a deal in the next few hours?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Breaking news, the fight to fund Homeland Security is getting down to the wire. Money runs out tomorrow night at midnight. Republicans just wrapping up a meeting but not able to come up with a plan to fund the agency. One of course, there are myriad threats to American national security including the recent arrests of three alleged ISIS recruits who wanted to carry out attacks in the United States. And more is at stake. Tens of thousands of workers could be furloughed and 200,000 essential employees could go without pay. The TSA, Coast Guard, Border Patrol, Secret Service would all be affected.

Dana Bash is OUTFRONT live on Capitol Hill. And Dana, we are hours away until DHS runs out of money. What's the hold up?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The hold-up is still republicans primarily now in the House demanding that any bill to fund the Homeland Security Department will also go along with a rider that blocks the President's executive action which allows millions of undocumented immigrants to stay in this country. That's still the fundamental difference. But what we understand this evening is that House republicans because they can't come up with the solution to fund the department through the end of the fiscal year, they're going to try to pass a three-week stopgap measures to make sure that it doesn't actually run out of money tomorrow night. It's certainly not ideal. It's not 100 percent they could even pass that, but they're going to try tomorrow, Erin.

BURNETT: And what do you think? Do you think they'll succeed?

BASH: Probably. But I can tell you that House Democratic leaders are telling their rank-and-file, don't vote for this. They think it's ridiculous that once again they're just continuing funding that's a couple years old at this point, and that the department needs new programs and so forth to keep the American people safe, and that it's time to do that. There probably will be enough Republicans who don't want to have egg on their face for another shut down that they're going to pass this and the Senate will do so as well.

But then that just means three weeks from now, we're going to be having the same conversation. How are they going to reconcile these philosophical and political differences whether to fund the department and how far to push back on the president's immigration policy.

BURNETT: Pretty sad from Washington as ISIS grows.

Tonight, we are learning ISIS is abducting even more Christians. More than 260 Christians from Syria now have been kidnapped. And activists close to the groups is giving these numbers. And as we've reported, right, it was not even 100 a few days ago. Now, it's up to 260 as they go from village to village, according to reports we have.

Tonight, there are growing fears that the men, women and children will suffer the same fate as the Egyptian Christians who are beheaded by ISIS last month.

Our Ben Wedeman is in Iraq. We're going to be joined by him in just a moment.

I want to bring in Juan Zarate right now, the former deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism.

Juan, this is pretty frightening when you think about it that these numbers are going up every single day. They are taking more and more Christians. We keep anticipating. They are keeping reports that maybe there will be some sort of video from ISIS about what they intend to do with them.

What do you think they're intent could be?

JUAN ZARATE, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, Erin, this is again tragic, because it's part of ISIS' plan to take over more territories, also to terrorize minorities. Recall the challenge with the Yazidis, the ISIS troops going on into Iraq and going after Syrian Christians in the Nineveh province, long standing home of the Assyrian Christians.

And so, what they're trying to do is take more territory, terrorize more the minorities, and engage in culture and heritage genocide. And unfortunately, we have seen what they have done with hostages in the past. With the males, the potential they could kill them, slaughter them, put them on videos. The women -- perhaps marry them off or sell them into sexual slavery and sending back the elderly and those that are infirm back into the communities. And so, it's really a tragic situation and difficult to predict what will happen at this point.

BURNETT: Pretty awful, though, when you look at the precedent here. There's not been a single moment of humanity in these situations. Is anything being done on the ground, do you think, by anyone? Whether it's by U.S. Special Forces or anyone to try to rescue these 262 Christians? Or does pretty much everybody have no idea where they are, what happened to them, until ISIS decides to tell the world?

ZARATE: Well, I think two things have been happening. I've seen some reports that the Syrian Kurds are beginning to push and attack ISIS positions in this part of Syria. And that may lead to, perhaps, more information and more intelligence where the hostages are being held. And that's being supportive based on some of the reports I've seen by American air power.

You may also have the advantage of if these numbers continue to swell, it's hard to hold that many hostages or at least to control them without being noticed. And so, there may be more intelligence being gathered. But the reality is that these are territories where ISIS controls the ground and it's difficult to capture not only them, but find these hostages.

BURNETT: All right. Juan, stay with me for a moment. I have Ben Wedeman now with me on the phone from Irbil, Iraq.

And, Ben, I want to you about another new development today -- another upsetting video that's out from ISIS that we got late today that shows the destruction of priceless pieces of history of antiquity. Tell me about this and why they say they're doing it.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, Erin, this is a five-minute video that was posted on the Internet today. It appears to show the Mosul museum. There you see a variety of men pushing one statue over after another, smashed to the floor and they go after them with sledge hammers. Then you see another man with a drill defacing these famous winged bowls that dates back to the 7th century B.C.

During this video, there's an unidentified man who explains that they are doing this, they are destroying idols because that's what God has ordered them to do and they will do it even if they were worth billions of dollars. This is really part of this long-term campaign by ISIS to eradicate any vestiges of pre-Islamic, non-Islamic civilization.

And we've seen this happen in countless places, in Syria, as well as here in Iraq. And we've also spoke to sources in Mosul that say the video is only half the story. The other half is that ISIS has sold many of the priceless antiquities from the museum to merchants on the black market for antiquities -- Erin.

BURNETT: It is horrible. It's like some of the militants did. Of course, in Mali with priceless artifacts.

One, you just heard Ben reporting that they are saying God ordered them to do this. What does ISIS gain by -- being so destructive of things like this and releasing the video? Who says that's a good thing, I'm inspired by that?

ZARATE: Well, among their followers, many of them think this is exactly what should be happening. They are justifying this in their own minds, based on the principles that these statues, this history is some ways blasphemous.

And as Ben reported, the idea is they are trying to reshape the map not just erasing the border between Syria and Iraq but also changing the face of history and culture itself. And part of this is their attempt to drive their agenda, their ideology and to reshape the identity and history of the very region they're occupying. And so, this is part of that program.

And anyone who asks the question what is ideological battle against ISIS look like, you just need to watch that video.

BURNETT: All right. Juan, thank you very much, and to our Ben Wedeman reporting live from Irbil, in Northern Iraq tonight.

OUTFRONT next, United Airlines revealing recent string of near- misses. I've got the memo that went to every pilot at United. Some pretty terrifying things happening here at one of the most prominent carriers in the world, and the safest.

Plus, the video everyone is talking about. A pair of llamas versus law enforcement.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Tonight, significant safety concerns at the world second largest airline, United, warning its pilots to improve cockpit coordination and also saying, a, quote, "brutally honest message that there's been a series of near-misses and pilot errors at that airline."

Pretty frightening when you consider one of the safest airlines in the world supposedly has a two-page memo incredibly terrifying. Officials write, "Over the past few weeks, our airline has experienced near-misses."

This is an airline with a lot of money at stake, 5,300 flights a day. It's safe to say most people consider and its record shows to be one of the most preeminent and safest airlines in the world warning of massive pilot error.

Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT with tonight's money and power.

Tom, you know, reading this is pretty scary. And you say this is United Airlines. What are the safety events that they're talking about?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is serious stuff, Erin. They are talking about a plan running low on fuel, one taking off before it was really ready, and twice they're talking about planes nearly hitting ground. You know what it's like when you come in and a plane does a fly around, where it basically says, something is wrong here, we're going to go around here. It's normally not such a big deal.

But if you wait too long before initiating such a thing, which seems to be what happened here, then you're talking about a much more serious measure.

Why is that? Well, think about this -- this plane is coming in hundreds of thousands of pounds at hundreds of mile answer hour. And, suddenly, they have to change the physics and go a different direction.

What does that mean? That means in the cockpit, a series of precise things must be done very quickly. They have to go to full power. They have to reset the flaps. They have to retract the landing gear. They have to stabilize their climb and they have to inform the control tower.

Now, in a big jet, a lot of this may be somewhat automated. But the crew is still has to be in charge of all of it, Erin, and that means a lot of stuff has to happen in a very short period of time. And the closer you are to the ground, the less time you have, Erin.

BURNETT: So, Tom, let's say the pilots don't perform the pull up at the right moment, right? I mean, the training obviously is such that, that's not something that happens every day, you're supposed to be training for it. So, you can get it slightly wrong. That's the fear in the memo.

So, if you don't pull up at that exact instant, what then happens?

FOREMAN: Any number of things could happen, Erin. First, one you may not succeed. The truth is, this plane is at one of the most dangerous points of any flight, which is where it's transitioning from being a flying vehicle to a rolling vehicle. If you don't get it right you actually can just go into the ground in an uncontrolled fashion. Is it a wreck at such? Maybe not as we know, but it certainly is not a good thing.

Secondly, all that being done at once could create an instability in the aircraft and make it incredibly hard to manage on the ground there. If you're way up in the air, you can recover from that. But if you're only 100 feet or 200 feet off the ground you may not have room, and then you have a catastrophe.

And what if you do power through all of this and go blasting into the air? The truth is, even if you do that, Erin, especially with little warning, you can create a big hazard zone, turbulence wakes and air traffic where it's not expected for all sorts of other aircraft.

So, Erin, even those incidents in the past few weeks have not caused an accident, this is why United is taking it so seriously, because they know the ingredients are there for something terrible to happen and they want their people to get on it -- Erin.

BURNETT: And bottom line, Tom, I would say is that this is what United is saying, then you have to think about, my goodness, a lot of other airlines that could be the same, if not a lot worse.

FOREMAN: I'll guarantee you that they're paying attention, Erin.

BURNETT: Yes. All right. Tom, thank you very much.

And OUTFRONT next, pot now legal in Washington, D.C. Tokers ignoring warnings from Congress that they could end up in jail. We have a special report. What happened at the moment it became, quote- unquote, "legal"?

Plus, what's better than watching an L.A. car chase? Oh, this is -- actually, you know, llamas on the loose are great. Camels might be slightly better. But we'll show you the llamas on the lam.

(COMMECIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Tonight, Washington, D.C. is lighting up. It's now legal to grow and smoke weed just down the street from the White House, or hey, in the White House.

But not everyone is happy. Congress is threatening to throw the mayor in jail over it.

Miguel Marquez is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Are you guys happy to be here?

CROWD: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Beyond happy.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Happily and legally, smoking up in the nation's capital.

ALEX JEFFREY, D.C. NORML: For the first time ever, recreational marijuana is smoked without taxation and regulation in Barack Obama's backyard.

MARQUEZ: No one at this midnight pot party a stranger to using marijuana, but for those who enjoy it, being able to use it legally, a new and nearly emotional experience.

JEFFREY: For the first time, I feel safe and I feel respected and I feel comfortable.

MARQUEZ: Not everyone so satisfied. The chairman of the congressional committee overseeing the District of Columbia insists the city is breaking the law in allowing residents to smoke.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R-UT), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Free rein on marijuana use, I just don't buy that. I just don't think that's the way they should operate. So, states right, yes, but Washington, D.C. is not a state.

MARQUEZ: Congress has stopped D.C. from allowing recreational sales but the cultivation, possession, and use here now legal for anyone over 21. After being arrested, his head shop raided and shut down in 2012,

Adam Eidinger led the charge to legalize pot here and more.

ADAM EIDINGER, POT ACTIVIST: We didn't just focus on passing a marijuana initiative. But we're focused on making sure that politicians were elected, that they're going to support us once they got in office.

MARQUEZ: A pot revolution in the Capitol, a sign of a growing movement nationwide.

MICHAEL COLLINS, LOBBYIST: From the nation's capitol to change the marijuana laws in such a way, it will have an impact across the nation, but also internationally.

MARQUEZ: By 2017, nine states may join the four already moving ahead with recreational marijuana sales, despite federal laws saying possession and the sale of pot is illegal.

Michael Collins lobbies for marijuana legalization.

COLLINS: Sooner or later, Congress will have to take action on this issue and it's going to go in the direction of allowing states to set their own marijuana policies.

MARQUEZ: The end of national marijuana prohibition on the horizon?

JEFFREY: It's very weird to be able to do this on camera and know that it's OK.

MARQUEZ: Here in the nation's Capitol, it already feels that way.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: So, Miguel, how long before pot could be legal across the nation, given that the states seem to be beating the feds every way?

MARQUEZ: Yes, they are really moving ahead fast. In 2017, when you have those states come online, California, if it goes as well and legalizes recreational pot, you'll take this industry from tens of billions of dollars a year to a hundred billion, perhaps even more than that. There will be great pressure on Congress at that point to regulate from banking to finances and taxes to interstate commerce.

And then, I think, soon after 2017, if you have all those states come on board, there will be serious pressure -- Erin.

BURNETT: What was your verdict of the quality of the goods at the party?

MARQUEZ: Well, just being in there, I can tell you, I slept very well without having to do anything.

(LAUGHTER)

BURNETT: Secondhand, right? You don't even need to inhale.

All right. Thanks so much, Miguel.

MARQUEZ: You got it.

BURNETT: All right. Next, llamas on the lam. Yes, this is the video of the day, evading arrest in search of freedom in Arizona and beyond. By the way, llamas, guys, they're not sweet. They're tough. And you'll see why.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: So if you know me or have watched the show for a long time, you know I love camels and llamas and camels come from the same genetic family. So, when the llama drama was playing out today, you know who I was rooting for. Guys with the long legs, the hair, and the big eyes.

Here's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They were like the Bonnie and Clyde of llamas, when they law closed in, there was no shootout. Just some fancy footwork for a couple of hours, the llamas led authorities on a wild llama chase.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Llamapalooza 2015 continues.

MOOS: Televised live. MSNBC switched from coverage of the strategy of terror to llamas on the run.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not kidding. This is a pair of llamas that are on the loose.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not sure what the strategy is here in trying to get these two llamas.

MOOS: Just talking about it induced anchor giggles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll check in on black llama and update the status of this white llama.

MOOS: The two llamas, reportedly mother and child, were doing therapy work at an assisted living facility in Sun City, Arizona, when something spooked them and they took off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've been out here for an hour trying to catch them. We are wondering if we can get some help.

MOOS: Over and over, authorities try to cut them off but it's not easy to cut off a llama. Even a golf cart was deployed. One news banner echoed the double L in llama, calling a "llow speed chase." Sometimes, they ran into traffic and other times, they changed into the proper lane to go straight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll get to the news. W have 24 hours a day to do the news. Enjoy with us the llamas.

MOOS: At one point, they were surrounded and separated. The younger black one barely escaped being grabbed and then lassoed, managing to rejoin the white one. Together, the two gave the slip to an ever growing number of pursuers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel kind of silly talking about this, but it's not something CNN typically covers, sort of hard to take your eyes off the screen here.

MOOS: Llamas are twice as big as alpaca but that didn't stop the alpaca jokes. Tweeted Jake Tapper, watch out that one on the left may be alpacking heat.

Finally, the black llama was lassoed. And a few minutes later, it was the mama's turned.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The llamas had been captured. All right. Let's move on to an important story right now for our country.

MOOS: What could be more important than this? The sheriff's department said the llamas were taken back to the ranch. There was no therapy -- no therapy? This was therapy, for the llamas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There he goes, wants to be free.

MOOS: And maybe for the newscasters.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: I have to say, I have no shame. We have to cover serious things so much of the time, I would have been happy to be on during the llama chase because the llama drama is continuing tonight. You will not believe this, people. There are reports there are llamas on the loose in Vancouver, Washington, north of Portland.

This is not a joke. Llamas are taking over. They are out there on the lam. Beware because they spit.

Thanks for joining us. Be sure to check your DVR to record the show anytime.

Anderson starts now.