Return to Transcripts main page


Baltimore Police Department Under Investigation; Threat Alert Raised; George W. Bush Advising Jeb; Police Union Asks Fed to Review Baltimore Mayor; Thousands Pay Respects to NYPD's Brian Moore; Obama Slammed by Left for Supporting Trade Deal. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired May 8, 2015 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: ISIS putting U.S. military bases on alert, not in Iraq, not in the Middle East, but right here in the U.S.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The national lead: the U.S. military elevating the threat level at any -- every base in America, as the FBI director says there are potentially thousands like the Texas terrorists planning to unleash destruction here in the U.S. at any moment.


Also in national, in New York, an officer gunned down in the line of duty given one final salute by thousands of his brothers and sisters in blue, while the U.S. attorney general puts Baltimore's police department under investigation.

And the politics lead. Two Americans want another four years of George W. Bush's Mideast policy, Governor Jeb Bush telling a room behind closed doors full of donors that his brother, the former president, is a top adviser on the region. How will that square with voters?

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Breaking news in our national lead, an elevated threat level at all military bases here in the United States, more on that in a moment, because right now Oklahoma is under siege from a severe storm system, a state of emergency declared in that state, people there in places like Caddo County, which already had to hide from tornadoes earlier in the week, again are burrowing in storm cellars, bracing for what meteorologists say could be the worst day yet this year.


TAPPER: To our top story and the entire U.S. military apparatus here in the United States put on alert.

Overnight, the commander in charge of security at all bases across the U.S., like the largest ones you can see on this map, he inked an order, raising the threat level to Bravo, based on a -- quote -- "increased and predictable threat of terrorism" threats posed by people such as Elton Simpson, the foiled terrorist who, with a partner in crime, tried to shoot up an event in Texas, though he was thankfully shot and killed by an off-duty traffic cop before either terrorist could do any serious damage.

I want to get right to CNN chief security national correspondent Jim Sciutto.

Jim, one official has called this the new normal for military bases. But what prompted this change, this elevation, and what does it mean for service men and women?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, the military grew alarmed in recent days when two of the jihadists, overseas jihadists linked to that Garland, Texas, shooting tweeted out the name and address of a U.S. military officer connected to the military's Syria rebel training program, that tweet published on an account connected to the British-born jihadi Junaid Hussain sent out a few days after the attack on that Prophet Mohammed cartoon exhibit in Texas, and that tweet coming just weeks after the U.S. military alarmed by a recent publication on ISIS accounts of the names and addresses of hundreds of military members, the military taking this threat very seriously.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): The U.S. military is raising the security level at every base across the country, as concerns grow over the threat from ISIS.

It was the shooting in Texas on Sunday that prompted the increased security measures, though the military says the step is not tied to a specific, credible threat, saying, "We have the same concern about the potential threat posed by violent homegrown extremists."

The security level has now increased to Bravo, a ranking signifying an increased and predictable threat of terrorism. U.S. bases generally have not been at this level since the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Not only do you have to secure the access to those bases. You have to ramp up security on the post itself. So this is going to be a big operation for the security forces of all of the services.


SCIUTTO: The Texas shooting is highlighting the threat from ISIS supporters hiding within the United States.

JEH JOHNSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Groups like ISIL or al Qaeda now are calling publicly for attacks in the West of people who they would have never recruited specifically, they have never trained, they have never even met. Someone could decide on their own to answer that call with little or no notice.

SCIUTTO: U.S. authorities are investigating hundreds of people in the U.S. who have some social media link to ISIS, a severe challenge for law enforcement to keep tabs on. LORETTA LYNCH, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: It really is an expansion of

how the Internet has been used, frankly, for several years now, both in recruitment and radicalization of young people to join terrorist groups.


SCIUTTO: The new security measures will mean more inspections of vehicles and I.D.s, as well as surprise measures to keep potential attackers off-guard.

We're also learning today that an event that was planned at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio canceled tonight because of these new security measures. That's not happening across the country, but it's the kind of thing you might see more of in light of these changes.

TAPPER: Interesting.

Jim Sciutto, thanks so much.

Let's dig a little deeper on this threat with CNN counterterrorism analyst and former CIA counterterrorism Phil Mudd. Also joining me, a terrorism lecturer at Harvard and author of "ISIS: The State of Terror," Jessica Stern. She's live in Boston.

Thanks to you both for being here.

Phil, let me start with you.

The FBI director testified earlier this year that there are would-be terrorists and ISIS sympathizers in all 50 states. Given that, should the threat level on these bases have been raised earlier?


One of the things you want to do with raising a threat level is, this is about a conversation with the American people. And the first thing they are going to say is, what do I do? If the federal government comes in says, worry, worry, worry, but we can't give you enough specificity to do something, I think that's not helpful.

In this case, we have some specificity. We think there should be concern at military bases that allows base commanders to take action. If you just go out and say, hey, we're seeing a lot of threat stuff, Americans, but we can't give you anything to do, I don't think that is helpful.

TAPPER: So, you don't think threat level Bravo for military bases is the new normal?

MUDD: I think it may be for the short term for military bases.

The problem is, as this threat moves out, and as the FBI director has talked about, not only cases in 50 states, but you're talking about thousands of people, over the course of time, we have seen threats to major iconic targets, World Trade Center, White House, Pentagon. We have seen threats to what we call soft targets, things like fast-food restaurants.

We saw the London and Madrid metros attack. I think, as the threat moves out to thousands of people, we're going to have a harder and harder time to give specificity in terms of the potential target, because you have got 1,000 17-year-olds saying, I will pick whatever target I want.

TAPPER: Right.

Jessica, U.S. officials say that there doesn't seem to be a specific threat right now from ISIS or from any other terrorist group that caused them to raise this alert lever -- level. Do you buy that? Do you believe them? No specific threat?

JESSICA STERN, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Well, there are a number of things that have happened in the last week that seem important to me.

One is that we just started training the so-called moderate rebels in Syria at an undisclosed location. That just happened this week. And, of course, the attack in Texas and the fact that ISIS has been specifically proposing that lone wolves attack military bases, along with other symbolic targets -- there may be something even more specific, but I wouldn't know about that.

TAPPER: Phil, how long do you think bases can stay at this elevated threat level? What does it mean in terms of manpower and money, and at what point does it become overreaction?

MUDD: Well, this is the problem you face with generic threats.

In my business, you want specificity, you want time, place, who are the plotters, what kind of device are they going to use? Typically, if you have that kind of specificity, you should also have enough information to disrupt the plot.

If you just get chatter, where extremists are saying, hey, we're kind of sort of interested at some unspecified time to go after military bases, you don't know what the back end is. So, you're sitting in the White House Situation room saying, we think it's appropriate to alert people, but we're not going to have the jihadis, the terrorists come in say, now we have decided not to do this.

So, at some point, you are going to sit back and say, without any additional intelligence, we have been at this for two, three weeks. Time to sort of back off.

TAPPER: Right.

Jessica, Congress held an urgent meeting -- urgent hearing, rather, to try to figure a solution for shutting down ISIS, making them ineffective on social media. We know that one of the Texas -- Texas shooters talked directly with an ISIS recruiter.

What exactly do you think needs to be done in this space? STERN: Well, one of the things that many experts propose is that we

get much more -- that Twitter get much more serious about shutting down ISIS accounts.

Of course, there's the problem that they start new accounts under new handles, but there -- it does slow them down. It does take a while for followers to find the new handle. That's one thing that has been considered.


And, of course, getting better at disseminating a counternarrative is very, very important, a very important part of the battle against ISIS and very important for our government, something our government is very concerned about.

TAPPER: But, Jessica, I have heard the counterargument that shutting down the ISIS accounts on Twitter or elsewhere will just drive them to parts of the Web that intelligence officials don't know about, whereas, if they're out in a place where intelligence officials know where they are, they can at least monitor it.

STERN: Yes, but the counterargument is that when the ISIS recruiters find a new handle, the passive followers don't necessarily follow again.

So, in a way, it can enhance intelligence, because it narrows it down, leaving out the just passive followers or perhaps people like me, scholars. So you get -- you get better intelligence as a result, is the counterargument.

TAPPER: Phil, bottom line, hearing that the U.S. is upping the terror threat level at U.S. military bases in the homeland, I mean, in the United States itself, how worried should people be out there watching?

MUDD: It defines what -- the question is whether they're worried about their family or whether they're worried about America.

If you're worried that your family will be affected tonight, I would say that your concern should be focused on things like drugs and gang violence. If your question is broader, will America face an expanded threat from this target, I would say absolutely yes -- 3,000, 4,000 people in the United States, the threat's got to go up.


TAPPER: All right, Phil Mudd and Jessica Stern, thank you both so much. Appreciate it.

Just hours ago, the Justice Department launched an official investigation into whether the Baltimore Police Department has a pattern of using excessive force. And now Baltimore's police union is reportedly responding, saying it welcomes the investigation, with one request. They want the mayor of Baltimore investigated, too.

That story is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:16:18] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

This just in, on the same day the Department of Justice announced a federal investigation into the Baltimore City Police Department, the police union there is now asking for a separate investigation into the city's mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. You may recall it was the mayor who initially asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch to look into whether Baltimore's police department showed any pattern of excessive force, unlawful arrests or racial profiles. That request sparked by the death of Freddie Gray. The 25-year-old man who died while in police custody, leading to charges against six officers.

CNN correspondent Sara Sidner is live in Baltimore.

Sara, the relationship between the mayor and the police, at least the police union in that city, in Baltimore, has taken something of an ugly turn?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Deteriorated, the best word to use for it and you can see that spelled out in their statement, the police union. And the mayor had said early on that she was fine and wanted the Department of Justice to come in and take a look at the department, and now that is exactly what the DOJ is doing.


SIDNER (voice-over): Freddie Gray's arrest and death in police custody, and the intense backlash put the city of Baltimore in the national and international spotlight. Now it's under scrutiny from the Department of Justice. The decision announced by the new attorney general.

LORETTA LYNCH, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: This investigation will begin immediately, and will focus on allegations that Baltimore Police Department officers use excessive force including deadly force, conduct unlawful searches, seizures and arrests and engage in discriminatory policing.

SIDNER: This announcement just 11 days after the city saw some of the worst riots in recent years, and then charges brought against six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray.

The investigation launched at the urging of Baltimore officials hoping to begin the healing process.

MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE (D), BALTIMORE, MD: Such an investigation is essential if we are going to build on the foundation of reforms that we have instituted over the past few years.

SIDNER: Attorney General Loretta Lynch and her team will be looking to see if Baltimore police had engaged in a pattern of civil rights violations.

LYNCH: If unconstitutional policies or practices are found, we will seek a court enforceable agreement to address those issues.

SIDNER: Which means the Justice Department can change the police department's policies and procedures.

(on camera): The investigation echoes what was done in Ferguson, Missouri, after the death of Michael Brown last summer. The Department of Justice collecting massive amounts of electronic data and doing extensive interviews ultimately deciding that the police department had racial bias in its patterns and practices.

(voice-over): Baltimore's police commissioner sat down with CNN and acknowledged a divide between the community and the police.

COMMISSIONER ANTHONY BATTS, BALTIMORE POLICE: There is a lack of trust within this community, period, bottom line. And that's going to take healing. That's going to take us acknowledging as a police department, not just here in Baltimore but law enforcement as a whole that we've been part of the problem.

SIDNER: The city's Fraternal Order of Police is firing back, in a statement saying it wants the mayor to be part of the probe.


SIDNER: Now, we've certainly seen these investigations before. Most recently, of course, you remember this, Jake, the investigation by the DOJ into the Ferguson Police Department. I was there throughout that entire time that they were investigating.

Took them about a little over earn six months to get through it. This is a much bigger department with a lot more data to look at, a lot more interviews to do. I mean, they really do an extensive, extensive investigation. So I wouldn't expect to see the results of this for some time to come, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Sara Sidner in Baltimore -- thank you so much.

Let's turn to another police-related story. Moving images out of New York today. Tens of thousands of police from all over the country showed up to pay respects to 25-year-old Brian Moore, an NYPD officer whose life was cut short in a cowardly act of violence.

[16:20:08] Moore and another officer were shot while sitting in an unmarked police car over the weekend. He died of his injuries days later. The suspect identified as Demetrius Blackwell will now likely face a first-degree murder charge.

CNN's Jean Casarez is live in Seaford, New York, where Moore's funeral was held.

Jean, this is an officer who made a name for himself and he'd only been on the job a few years?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. He sure had. And Officer Moore tonight is Detective Brian Moore, because posthumously given that designation in his funeral today. We know he was on the force just almost five years, 150 arrests, two commendation medals and everyone loved him and respected him.

The funeral today, there were thousands of officers here from all over the country. The procession began bringing his casket from the funeral home to here, the church, with hundreds of cops on motorcycles. Finally, there was the color guard, and then there were the bagpipes, and then there was the funeral.

You know, said in the funeral that his vocation was to become a police officer. His vocation was to go into the danger, not back away from the danger. And it was New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton that really broadened the thought here today at the funeral, that the pulse of some in this country today is not for law enforcement.



COMMISSIONER BILL BRATTON, NEW YORK POLICE: Brian's death comes at a time of great challenge in this country, to police officers across the country. We are increasingly bearing the brunt of loud criticism. We cannot be defined by that criticism, because what is lost in the shouting and rhetoric is the context of what we do.


CASAREZ: And I will tell you officers that I saw here today from Florida to Arizona to California to Massachusetts to Connecticut to New Jersey and all over the state of New York, and his mother was given the flag as that casket was carried out, and you can imagine her thoughts. His whole family is law enforcement -- father, uncle, cousins, all law enforcement here in New York -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Detective Moore, rest in peace.

Jean Casarez, thank you.

Coming up, what Jeb Bush is telling donors behind closed doors about the role his brother George W. plays on his campaign. It's something he hasn't exactly said publicly. And that's ahead.

Plus, what it's like to grow up in North Korea? Kids barely old enough to tie their own shoes already talking about spreading the word of dear leader. Our own CNN reporter is inside the hermit kingdom.

Stay with us.


[16:26:42] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Our money lead today good news in the economy: new Labor Department numbers show the U.S. gained 223,000 jobs last month, dropping the unemployment to its lowest level in seven years. President Obama praised the positive news during an appearance at Nike headquarters this afternoon, where he also promoted the Pacific trade agreement. But labor and left-leaning groups hammered the president for his

remarks, and for appearing at Swoosh HQ. Quote, "The only thing weaker than sweat shop king Nike's empty promises is the White House's willingness to hype them as a victory in its push for a trade deal that will make it easier for other huge corporations to ship more U.S. jobs overseas", wrote the group Democracy for America.

The shoe giant's labor practices have, of course, come under fire. But the company says 10,000 new jobs will be created here in the U.S. if the proposed trade agreement moves forward.

Should we go to CNN's Michelle Kosinski live from the White House? Let's do it.

Michelle, did the president acknowledge the criticism coming his way today from his fellow Democrats?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he did and he has to, because this has become quite the battle over the last several weeks. We're seeing big groups jump in, workers groups, labor unions, pro-business groups all fighting over this and all using some pretty strong language.

And this is one of those very weird political scenarios where even though over the last year, it seems like Republicans have been willing to criticize literally everything President Obama has done and said. This is one area where Republicans are backing him up, and it's prominent members of his own party who were really slamming the possibility of this deal. We're talking Elizabeth Warren, Senator Reid, Bernie Sanders, saying that, you know, this could be a race to the bottom. This trade deal won't really be good for American workers.

And the president himself and the White House have used pretty strong language, too, calling his opponents wrong, and even dishonest in some respects. Here's what he said today.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The only reason I do something is because I think it's good for American workers and the American people and the American economy. I don't have -- I don't have any other rationale for doing what I do than I think it's the best thing for the American people. And on this issue, on trade, I actually think some of my dearest friends are wrong. They're just wrong.


KOSINSKI: They're just strident, strident arguments on both sides. The opponents of fast-track trade authority and the TPP, this big Asian trade deal, say that, well, you know, this is going to in some ways make it easier to outsource jobs and that in reality, it's not going to boost working conditions or wages. The White House says just the opposite. And they say that if the U.S. doesn't step in and work with these Asian partners, then China's going to do that and that's going to make conditions worse overall -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Michelle Kosinski, live for us at the White House, thank you so much.

And in our politics lead today: publicly, he has distanced himself from his brother's foreign policy legacy to a degree. But behind closed doors, Jeb Bush is telling a different story. What is he saying about the role George W. Bush is playing in his campaign? Will it be the same if Jeb is elected president? That story, next.