Return to Transcripts main page


Interview With Admiral William McRaven; Mitt Romney Criticizes London Olympics

Aired July 26, 2012 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: Mitt Romney upsets the British in London and gets an earful from the prime minister.

The admiral who planned the raid on Osama bin Laden shares details with me that he never revealed in public before.

And we're learning more about the lab technician accused of infecting thousands of people possibly with hepatitis C. I am Wolf Blitzer in Aspen, Colorado. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Syrian rebels fighting to the death to take control of the country's second largest city. The battle for Aleppo could prove to be decisive in the bloody war against Bashar al-Assad's regime.

CNN's Ivan Watson will join us live from inside Syria in a moment, but first take look at this report filed on the rebels and what they're up against.


IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Syrian rebel fighters show off captured weapons of war. These are the largest guns we have seen yet in rebel hands, a vehicle-mounted mortar that fires giant .120-millimeter rounds, an armored personnel carrier, and an anti-aircraft gun mounted on a pickup truck. This one has gotten use in battle.

"A couple weeks ago, I shot down a helicopter," says this Jamal Awar (ph), bus driver who is now a rebel. Moments later, a helicopter flies high overhead.

(on camera): So, we're looking at a helicopter that is circling over this town right now, and we're hearing gunfire, and this is what scares the fighters the most. This is what has been killing the most rebels that we have come across, the most casualties.

(voice-over): This chopper came from the embattled city of Aleppo, located just six miles away from the rebel-held town of Anadan.

(on camera): They Syrian rebels say they're fighting for freedom from the Assad regime and they have succeeded in pushing out government security forces from this town of Anadan. But look at the cost. There is not a single civilian resident left in this town. It has been blasted and is almost completely deserted, except for fighters.

(voice-over): The town is scarred by artillery fire, and eerily empty.

(on camera): This is why this town is so deserted. Two days ago, three people, Kurds from out of town were driving this small vehicle, small truck up this road, and they were hit from a military checkpoint it looks like right about here. It still smells like rotting flesh right now.

(voice-over): A fighter tells us there's a government army base out in the farmland just a few miles away, and the soldiers there fire at us. Bullets whiz overhead as we film a defaced statue of the current Syrian president's father, Hafez al-Assad.

Nearby in the mansion of a wealthy businessman, we find a squad of rebels taking up temporary residence. They show me an entire armory of weapons they say are captured from Syrian security forces. It's a small arsenal, stacked up next to the original house owner's gilded chairs and dainty pillows.

(on camera): Have you even captured armor? What happened to the guy you captured this from?

(voice-over): "He died," the rebel commander says. "God willing, he went to hell."

Unlike Libya, these rebels don't show off by constantly firing their weapons in the air. Syria's rebels aren't getting nearly as much help from the outside world. For them, every bullet is precious.


BLITZER: And Ivan Watson is joining us now live from inside Syria, obviously a dangerous assignment that you have.

Ivan, the rebels that you're with, do they think this is going to be a long, drawn-out war, or do they see indications that there's been a tipping point and that the handwriting is on the wall, might take weeks, might take months, but for all practical purposes, they think they're going to win?

WATSON: It certainly already has been a long, and drawn-out struggle, 17 months, the deaths of at least 15,000, 16,000 people.

Depending on who you talk to, some are very optimistic, particularly after a big bomb went off in Damascus last week and killed four top security chiefs. But the inroads that the rebels made into the capital, Damascus, last week have kind of faded as a result of the very strong Syrian military counterattack.

And now I think the rebels see that Aleppo, the second city, the commercial city, is the linchpin. That's why they're throwing apparently all their manpower in the north of the country into the struggle for control of that city. BLITZER: Yes, it sort of reminds me of the struggle in Libya, a lot of differences, but if they control Aleppo, like the rebels in Libya controlled Benghazi, not the Capitol, Tripoli, but Benghazi, they have got a real base there from which to operate to set up a sort of opposition government, and that would be a huge, huge development.

Ivan Watson doing amazing reporting for us here in the United States and around the world.

Ivan, thanks so, so much.

Mitt Romney was hoping to make a big impression on the world stage just weeks before he officially becomes the Republican presidential nominee. That will happen at the Republican Convention in Tampa at the end of August, but not necessarily like this trip, which is a trip that got off to a little bit of a rough start, and some very undiplomatic remarks about the Olympic Games in London only making matters a bit worse.

Our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta , is traveling with Romney in London.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, with no Olympic swimming pool in sight, Mitt Romney is already making some waves of his own here in London.

(voice-over): As Mitt Romney chatted up the Olympics in meeting after meeting with former and current British leaders, the London media were already off to the races with comments the GOP contender made about the city's preparations for the Games.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, it's hard to know just how well it will turn out.

ACOSTA: In an interview with NBC, Romney noted some of London's problems in getting ready for the Olympics.

ROMNEY: Do they come together and celebrate the Olympic moment? And that's something which we only find out once the Games actually begin.

ACOSTA: It was that remark that drew a sharp response from British Prime Minister David Cameron. In the hours before his own scheduled meeting with Romney, Cameron put diplomacy aside and took issue with the Republican candidate's comments.

DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I think we will show the world not just that we come together as a United Kingdom, but also we're extremely good at welcoming people from across the world.

ACOSTA: Then, in what sounded like a jab straight from a gold medal boxing match, Cameron appeared to draw a contrast between staging the Games in London vs. Salt Lake City, where Romney had guided the Olympics to success. CAMERON: We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world. I mean, of course, it's easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere.

ACOSTA: After his meeting with Cameron, Romney faced reporters outside Number 10 Downing Street, where he tried to walk back his comments.

(on camera): Did you intend to criticize the way London has prepared for these Games?

ROMNEY: I'm very delighted with the prospects of a highly successful Olympic Games. What I have seen shows imagination and forethought and a lot of organization, and expect the Games to be highly successful.

ACOSTA (voice-over): On the same day the torch made its way through London, it was a diplomatic flame-out for Romney, who had come to the city hoping to tout his Olympics experience to voters back home. He did receive some shout-outs from British leaders.

ED MILIBAND, BRITISH LABOR PARTY LEADER: It's great to have somebody here who's organized a successful Olympic Games.

ACOSTA: Not so much on the streets of London.

OWEN CORRIGAN, LONDON: Mitt Romney is rude in what he says. He comes to visit the prime minister of the country and then he criticizes the country for the effort they put in to putting on the Olympics. I don't think it's right.

ACOSTA: It is unclear whether any of this is having an effect on the campaign back home, where Romney is pummeling with president with ads on the economy. Romney and his wife plan to attend the Olympics' opening ceremonies here in London before he heads off to Israel this weekend -- Wolf.


BLITZER: All right, Jim Acosta reporting for us from London.

Let's dig a little bit deeper right now into Romney's trip to London.

We're joined by our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Gloria, this was supposed to be sort of a victory lap for Romney to remind people of his success at turning around the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. But now will Romney's campaign live to regret this trip to London?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it depends on how it all turns out, how the European trip turns out.

This isn't going the way they had intended. As you said, it was supposed to be a victory lap. And even later today, the mayor of London mentioned Romney saying he wants to know whether we're ready. Are we ready? He was being ribbed by the mayor of London. It seems to me he had a pretty uncomfortable conversation with David Cameron, the prime minister,

I wasn't in the room. But this trip was supposed to remind all of us back here that Mitt Romney ran a very successful Olympics in 2002, that he came into a scandal-plagued Olympics that was about $400 million in debt, and that at the other end, it turned out to be incredibly successful and ended up in the black.

So this was supposed to be the reminder to us. And, by the way, Wolf, also it was an Olympics that came after 9/11 with a real security problem, and wound up being just fine. So when you heard Romney's comments about security, I thought back to his own Olympics where he had a security problem and managed to overcome it. But, clearly, Cameron was not happy.

BLITZER: Yes, I think it is fair to say, in the Salt Lake City Games, he did an excellent job organizing those Games.


BLITZER: Besides the Olympics, what's the rest of the overseas trip supposed to accomplish for the Republican candidate?

BORGER: Well, it is supposed to put him on the international stage. The one area where he has a real deficit against President Obama is the question of ability on foreign policy.

So these conversations with international leaders are supposed to put him on that stage, much in the same way as candidate Barack Obama did back in July 2008. Of course, he had a couple hundred thousand people at an audience in Berlin, as you see there. I don't think Mitt Romney will have that.

But he is going to go to Israel, as you well know. And in Israel, they're making a really big point and in fact probably an indirect slap at President Obama, who has not been back in Israel since he was candidate Obama. And Jewish voters have had some problems with President Obama in terms of Mideast policy. And they don't like that he hasn't visited Israel since he has become president. And so that kind of -- it's a clear message from the Romney campaign that he is there.

BLITZER: Yes, because a lot of Israel's supporters, they say the president had the time to go to Cairo, he had the time to go to Istanbul in Turkey, yet he didn't have the time to go to Israel. So they're upset about that. He did go to Israel several times as a senator. He was there four years ago as a candidate.

BORGER: And a candidate.

BLITZER: And his campaign now says he will be there if he's reelected. He promises to make a visit to Israel.

All right. We will see what Romney does in Israel over the next few days.

Mitt Romney isn't letting his misstep in London discourage him from touting his own experience running the Olympic Games. He and his wife, Ann, sat down for an interview with CNN's Piers Morgan in London today. Romney told Piers he sees parallels between turning around the Olympics and turning around the country.


ROMNEY: I was able to establish with them a clear vision of what we needed to do. We tackled a budget crisis that we faced, and we were able to come together in a way through unity that produced an extraordinary success.

The country is in need of a turnaround. The Olympics was a turnaround. There are businesses I have been associated with that needed a turnaround. That kind of experience of focusing on the most critical issue, building the most effective team possible, creating a common vision, unifying around that vision, and then delivering results is something I think the American people would like to see in our economy right now.


BLITZER: And you can see Piers' interview with Mitt and Ann Romney later tonight on "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT." It airs at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

And, by the way, I will be heading to Israel this weekend to interview Mitt Romney myself during his visit there. I will be in Jerusalem for the interview. You will be able to see my interview with Mitt Romney right here in THE SITUATION ROOM on Monday. That's coming up on Monday.

Perhaps thousands of Americans may be infected with hepatitis C right now, all because of one man who is accused of being what they call a serial infector. We're talking to someone who knows him.

Plus, he's a real hero who planned the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Now U.S. Navy Admiral William McRaven is speaking out about leaks within the Obama administration. Stand by for more of my exclusive interview with him.


BLITZER: Thousands of patients in New Hampshire have to be tested for hepatitis C because they may have come in contact with a traveling medical technician. He's being called a serial infector for allegedly passing off his dirty syringes as clean ones. Concern is spreading across the country right now.

He has worked at hospitals in at least eight states.

Our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is at a community meeting in Exeter tonight.

Elizabeth, these victims have been quite silent. but you talked to one of them today. What did he say?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I did. I talked to a man named Ron Cross who went in Exeter Hospital for a heart procedure in February, and then was told a few months later, hey, we may have given you hepatitis C during that procedure because the technician was drug sharing, taking some drugs for himself, then giving that dirty syringe to patients.

And here is what Ron Cross had to say.


COHEN: The scary thing is this could happen to any of us.

RON CROSS, FORMER PATIENT: Yes, I know, huh? I mean, it kind of changes how you're going to approach things from now on. I mean, are you going to ask for credentials at the door of the hospital, to see who you really are and what you're really going to do?

COHEN: Because there's nothing you could have done to...

CROSS: Nothing. And some people -- I don't know, it sounds morbid, but this is a death sentence for some people. I'm hoping I'm not one of them.


COHEN: Now, Ron had his surgery in mid to late February. He won't know until next month whether he has hepatitis C or not because it takes a couple of months the way the tests are designed -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Did this man ever suspect anything was wrong?

CROSS: You know, he actually knew Kwiatkowski from the hospital and he also knew him because owed a restaurant and Kwiatkowski would come into eat.

He said from the minute he met him, something was odd about him. The minute he met him, Kwiatkowski said, oh, my fiance died in a terrible car accident five days before our wedding. Oh, my dog has diabetes and was telling all of these sad stories that turned out not to be true.

When Ron found out one of the employees was involved in this drug sharing incident, he immediately thought of Kwiatkowski. He said he was very odd. And he was surprised that hospital personnel didn't realize that something was wrong with him.

BLITZER: What a story, unfortunately. Thanks very much, Elizabeth Cohen, on the scene for us.

We're also getting our first look tonight at the man suspected of abducting Cal Ripken's mother. He's still out there, he's armed and dangerous. We will have the latest. That's coming up.


BLITZER: The admiral who planned the raid that killed Osama bin Laden tells me what he really thinks about President Obama. Stand by for more of my exclusive interview with Admiral William McRaven, the head of U.S. special operations.

And the final test before a record-breaking freefall from the edge of space.


BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's turn to my exclusive interview with the U.S. Navy admiral who planned the raid that took out Osama bin Laden. You are going to hear from Admiral William McRaven talk about that historic night last May. He is also going to give us his thoughts on gays serving openly in the U.S. military.

But let's start with his assessment of President Obama's performance as commander in chief. The admiral, shall I say, is a fan.


BLITZER: What kind of commander in chief is he?

ADM. WILLIAM MCRAVEN, COMMANDER, U.S. SPECIAL OPERATIONS: The president of the United States is fantastic.

And, again, I am not a political guy. I have worked in both administrations. I very, very much enjoyed working for President Bush, and I very much enjoy working for President Obama.

And it's -- this isn't about politics. This is about a commander in chief who I have the opportunity to engage with on a routine basis, and watching him and the decisions he makes, along with his national security team.

They're a very impressive group of guys and gals. And so, as an operational -- as a commander, I feel comfortable that, when we present our best military advice to the president and his team, they take it very seriously. They consult routinely with the senior leadership of the military. And they do the best they can to make the right decision.

BLITZER: The fact he never served in the military and Mitt Romney, never served in the military, is that at all a factor that the American people should consider at all?

MCRAVEN: Well, I know from the uniform military standpoint, I mean, we serve the president and commander in chief, and irrespective of whether they served in uniform or not. So again, I'm not getting into the political discussion, but I will tell you, we're proud to serve whoever sits in the White House. BLITZER: Share with us one nugget, one nugget that without violating sources, methods, classified information, that you believe is important that the American people know about this raid that they may not have read about, don't know about, something that you want to share.

MCRAVEN: Yes. You know, I think what the American people, they probably know but may not appreciate is how great our interagency process is, and I look around the audience at some of our great interagency representatives here, but when you look at the CIA, the FBI, the defense intelligence agency, NGA, homeland security, national counter terrorism center, all these folks day-in and day-out that are going after the threat that's out there, that are looking at the threat, that are protecting the American people, and how well they work together day-in and day-out, and you don't see that.

You tend to think the FBI's lane is clear, the CIA's lane is very clear, and defense intelligence is very clear, but in reality, they're all talking to each other all day long, making sure the information they've got and intelligence they've got is right. They're checking, double checking.

So, as we went into the bin Laden raid, this thought that this is going to be difficult pulling the military and CIA together along with the support we have from the national security agency, and NGA and others, this was easy for us. It was easy for us because for the last ten years, we have been doing this, we have been building this interagency team, and I got to tell you today, it hums.

BLITZER: And how good is the intelligence? Because without good intelligence in the bin Laden raid, if you didn't have good intelligence, you wouldn't have known anything.


BLITZER: When you go into a mission in Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world, do you have confidence in the intelligence?

MCRAVEN: We have the best intelligence in the world, bar none. There's nobody even close to us.


BLITZER: Now that gays are allowed to serve openly in the U.S. military, I assume special operations, among the 66,000 troops that you command there are gays and lesbians who served. How is that working out now? Because we heard all sorts of horror stories, fears this would be a disaster.

MCRAVEN: Yes. But at the end of the day, all we care about is whether you carry your rough sack and do your job, you know. So, whether you're a female, whether gay or lesbian, whether you're a minority is immaterial to the guy in the military. We just want somebody that steps up, does their job.

BLITZER: And close quarters, has that been an issue at all? Because we heard also, it is a fears, it would be bad.

MCRAVEN: I can tell you and I don't want to speak for other services and folks down range. I can tell you, I haven't had to deal with any of those issues as the commander so far. That's not to say they're not out there, and somebody else has to deal with them. But for right now, nothing has been raised to my level.

BLITZER: There's a huge uproar now, from your perspective, I am anxious to get your sense about the leaks of the bin Laden raid, whether it did undermine sources and methods, it went too far, there are investigations as you know on the hill right now. Can you share a thought with us on how you feel about all of this?

MCRAVEN: Well, we're never happy when leaks occur obviously. We go to great lengths to protect our national security, very great lengths to protect our sources and methods. So all of that we guard very carefully.

Unfortunately, not everybody guards it very carefully. And I think what you've seen is the secretary and the president and Capitol Hill of taking the leaks very, very seriously, as they should, and we need to do the best we can to clamp down on it. Because sooner or later, it is going to cost people their lives or cost us our national security.

So, it is important and frankly, it is important, I would tell you, for reporters that are here. You know, you're going to hear things. You're going to see things that you think the public needs to know. And I will tell you, I'm not sure the public needs to know all of that. A lot of times you all are racing to a deadline to try and trump the next network, potentially at the expense of somebody's life. And I have had discussions with editors --


MCRAVEN: I have had discussions with editors about the sensitive nature of some of the things they're about to print. And they have been very candid with me, said you know if so and so is going to beat us to the story, I'm going to print it. And all you can do is make the best case you can. That's not to say the American people don't need to have a completely transparent government. I got it. And I'm the guy working to protect that transparency for all of the right reasons. But I do think as reporters you have an obligation as well. And I would encourage every reporter in this room to respect that responsibility.


BLITZER: Fascinating interview with admiral McRaven. Raising a lot more questions among other things after the death of bin Laden, is the U.S. really safer? We will talk about that and more with two special guests. Stay with us.


BLITZER: For the first time, the man that planned the raid that took down Osama bin Laden is giving a frank, public interview about what happened that night. You heard some of it. Let's talk about what we heard from admiral McRaven.

Joining us now are two guests, Clark Kent Ervin with Aspen Institute's homeland security program. He is also a former inspector general over at the department of homeland security. Also joining us, Steve Coll, he is president of New American Foundation and staff writer at "the New Yorker," also a bestselling author.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in. Do you think the U.S. is really safer now that bin Laden is dead?

CLARK KENT ERVIN, ASPEN INSTITUTE'S HOMELAND SECURITY PROGRAM: Well, it's a complicated question, Wolf. There's no question but the killing of bin Laden was a huge, huge psychological victory, cut off the head of the snake, great retaliation for 9/11.

On the other hand, there is no question that there are affiliates in Yemen, Somalia, West Africa, on the march, and they pose a potential threat to the home land. Likewise, we are concern about on board. Now, the Aurora, Colorado, not far from here, incident that happened last week could easily have been a terror attack by a lone wolf or terrorist.

So, the thread picture is more complicated now than at any time in a long time. And so, there's a lot of work to be done.

BLITZER: Are you surprised the number two al-Qaeda leader (INAUDIBLE) is still out there, roaming around some place?

STEVE COLL, PRESIDENT, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: It is a big area. He has gone underground and shut off all communications. But al-Qaeda in that part of the world, long before the border was set, Afghanistan is under enormous pressure. And I think it won't be too long before eventually he gets detected or sold out by one of his colleagues for reward money.

BLITZER: It is unusual. This is the first time Admiral McRaven has really spoken out about any of this publicly on television since the death of bin Laden. Were you surprised he was willing to come to the aspen institute forum, which I must say, we are co-sponsoring this forum with "The New York Times" and CNN. Were you surprised he was willing to be public and talk about that as much detail, he was measured, but he did open up.

ERVIN: I was surprised by it, Wolf, but I think he understands it and he talked about it last night. That the American people have a right to know what they can be told about what the country is being done to defend the country, at the same time not compromising sources and methods. And so, I think he walked that fine line well last night.

BLITZER: Steve, you're a journalist like I am. But listen to this little clip. We heard it but I'll play it again about the leaks. He is obviously very concerned about what the news media sometimes reports in books and elsewhere. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCRAVEN: Are people affected by the information that comes out? You bet they are. Are lives at risk, absolutely.


BLITZER: What did you think of the lecture he basically gave you and me and all our journalist and colleagues.

COLL: With respect to Admiral McRaven, I think he deserves respect. I wouldn't take the judgment of the leader of the most secretive military unit in the United States as the basis for evaluating where the line in the first amendment in this country lies. There are certainly are operational details no responsible journalist would disclose if they jeopardized lives in a concrete way. But I found his lecture a bit brought, it's sweeping, and typical of those on the frontlines. They don't -- it is not their responsibility to judge how the first amendment operates in our society, but his voice is an important one. It was good to hear from him.

BLITZER: Do you think this administration, Obama administration, Clark, has a leak problem?

ERVIN: Well, it certainly appears to be the case. But on the other hand, the president seems to be really determined in a way the frankly, Bush administration wasn't to go after leakers. The attorney general has been very, very strong on this. And so, we will see where it goes.

BLITZER: What do you think?

COLL: Look, the Bush administration, if you go back, look at the journalism that followed 9/11 was full of just as much national security information as the Obama administration. If anything, the Obama administration has gone further than any recent American president in cracking down on whistle blowers, inside U.S. government even when their dissent involves misappropriation of taxpayer money and that sort of things.

So, actually, my concern about Obama administration goes the other way. I think they're taking hard use of criminal statutes to punish dissenters inside the government in a way prior presidents haven't done.

BLITZER: He commands 66,000 special operations forces. And since don't ask, don't tell policy went away, hasn't had one problem with gays and lesbians serving openly under his command. Were you surprised?

ERVIN: Well, not really Wolf. That's the history of the military. You know, during the 1940s and '50s, the segregation of the rights debate, the same things were raised about the degree it would compromise the force and there was no problem there. I think, you know, we need a military that's more diverse, that is more reflective American, and every respect in terms of life experienced as well. So, I am not at all surprised by that. But, I was very glad to hear the admiral say it On the Record.

BLITZER: Yes. For 20 years, hearing from NATO allies, from the Israelis, they allow gays to serve openly in the military. They never understood why the U.S. had this big problem with letting gay serve openly. But that's all history now. I take it that that's just the rhetoric of the past.

COLL: I think on the frontlines, American military noncommissioned officers, as he put it down range, officers down range have a lot of learning to do about how to create the right environment for the diversity that Clark correctly describes as the goal. But it is encouraging that a commander like Admiral McRaven can readily acknowledge it is not a problem.

BLITZER: Not only him, but heard it from several other generals and admirals as well, recently. Appreciate it, guys. Thanks very much for organizing this.

ERVIN: Thanks so much, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks Steve. You have a new book coming out?

COLL: I got one out in May, but I'll keep you posted.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

The price of facebook stock plunged to a new all time low today. The company's first quarterly earnings report came out since going public. That failed to wow investors.

Let's bring in CNN's Erin Burnett. She just back from reporting in Mali in Africa, right back into the swing of things.

You did amazing work there, Erin. You made all of us very, very proud.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST, OUTFRONT: Thank you very much, Wolf. I really appreciate that. We are going to be talking about facebook tonight, what's going to happen with nearly a billion people using facebook. How big of a failure really was that IPO. We have a Special Report on that.

And also Wolf, from where you're from, the assistant secretary for special operations Michael Sheehan was speaking where you are out in Aspen, said all options will be on the table when it comes to Mali.

The Mali situation, you know, it would make clear as a crucial for this country to consider for perspective of Islamic terrorism, extremism and also from a humanitarian perspective. So, we have a Special Report on that tonight, and exactly what U.S. forces might decide to do in Mali.

Also, Wolf, I don't know if you know, that the other day, I called the military leader of one of the main al-Qaeda linked militia and tried to speak with him while I was in northern Mali, and he said I won't speak to you because you're a woman, and you're violating my religion by calling me.

Well, he has a message that we are going to play of something he say specifically to the United States, that I think is a chilling reminder of the fact that the ambition of this organization remains much bigger than gaining territory in remote parts of this planet. Back to you.

BLITZER: Excellent reporting, Erin. Glad you're back safe and sound. We'll be watching at the top of the hour. Thank you.

I have a plane to catch back to Washington. Lisa Sylvester though is going to be here with all of the day's other news, including a sky diver testing himself one more time before a death defying jump that could shatter a record and the sound barrier.

And stand by for the camera thief who's a real shark. Stay with us.

You're in the SITUATION ROOM.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you've ever looked out the window of an airplane, you know how high 30,000 feet is. Well, that's the flying altitude of most commercial flights.

Now, imagine you're three times higher than that and it's just you with no plane. That's what one daredevil did just yesterday. And in a few weeks, he'll try pushing the limits even further.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): This is a man who, just minutes ago, was going 536 miles an hour in free fall with nothing but a flight suit.


SYLVESTER: The skydiver, Felix Baumgartner, after surviving a jump from nearly 18 miles, that's 96,000 feet, over the New Mexico desert. It's his final test before attempting a record-breaking 120,000 feet, and trying to break the sound barrier on his way down.

BAUMGARTNER: The sky was totally black, you know, I could see the curve of the earth so it was amazing today.

SYLVESTER: But in the extreme cold and near vacuum where a drop of water would vaporize instantly, any puncture of the suit or a malfunction of his life support system would mean instant death.

Boarding his capsule at dawn, Baumgartner was launched with the help of a crane. Then an hour and a half trip up with a helium balloon to a flight about three times your average jetliner cruising altitude.

BAUMGARTNER: I have to be focused. Otherwise, you're going to die. SYLVESTER: Then the critical jump.

BAUMGARTNER: You feel totally different, you know. You have absolutely no control when you exit, so it turned me around a couple times because there's no supportive air. So, there's no way to get of stable. That was the big learning from this one.

SYLVESTER: Then the free fall, just three minutes, 48 seconds, followed by seven minutes with a parachute. His life depended on not getting caught in a spin and on his chute deploying successfully.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Felix has landed safely back to earth.

SYLVESTER: One of his advisers, retired captain Joe Kittinger, who set the record in 1960.

COLONEL JOE KITTINGER (RETIRED), 1960 STRATOSPHERE JUMPER: Now, there are only two of us that have jumped that high.

SYLVESTER: Kittinger jumped from a little higher, nearly 102 feet, a daring jump in spite of an alarming suit malfunction that caused one of his hand to swell up. Baumgartner has done thousands of jumps from planes, sky scraper, cliffs, even the giant statue in Rio. His next jump, if he breaks the sound barrier, would be over 700 miles an hour.

BAUMGARTNER: Nobody can tell you what happened to the human body, if you break or travel at the speed of sound. This is -- until the very end, still the biggest unknown.


SYLVESTER: And if he succeeds, he would be the first person to go Mach 1 with no plane, no vehicle, no equipment, nothing but his body and a flight suit.

And here are some other top stories we're working on this hour right here in the SITUATION ROOM.

Florida health officials are looking for the source of a mystery illness that hit dozens of tourists at Walt Disney world's wild Africa trek safari attraction. According to Bain (ph) news 9, about 30 people who visited in June and July came down with stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea and they think it may be the same virus that sometimes hits cruise ships.

Health official say Disney World is taking extra cleaning precautions.

And an Indonesian zoo is taking desperate measures to help an orangutan kick its smoking habit. She used to pick up still lit cigarette butts to the visitors tossed who are enclosure toss on the ground and well, somehow she got hooked. She has new home in the remote island in the zoo's compound far, far away from litter bugs.

And if you're ever tempted to get up close to a shark with a camera in hand, beware, we'll show you what can happen.


SYLVESTER: You may want to say cheese if you catch sight of this shark. She's a thief and she has snagged some very expensive camera equipment.

Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Officer, I'd like to report a theft in progress, expensive camera gear. Wait a minute. The perpetrator's already getting away. Somebody arrest that shark.

GEORGE SCHELLENGER, PRODUCER, THIS IS YOUR OCEAN: We've known this shark for several years. Her name is Emma. She's 14 feet long.

MOOS: George Schellenger should know. He's the one shooting the theft which occurred at tiger beach in the Bahamas known for its tiger sharks.

The divers were shooting a documentary called "shark obsession" when Emma swiped their gear, leaving the dive master in her wake.

Now, the only thing is, I don't think she knows how to press the shutter.

SCHELLENGER: That's right, that's right. It's actually -- she was actually on the wrong side.

MOOS: Maybe the shark's just sick of all the annoying underwater paparazzi, always sticking cameras in her face, never giving her credit on shark week.

The gear was worth about 15,000 bucks and it weighed about 30 pounds, sort of a heavy snack. So heavy, Emma dropped it within 100 feet or so and the dive master was able to recover it undamaged.

And though Emma's camera wasn't rolling, the one stolen a couple of years ago by this tiger shark was. It happened at the Stuart Cove's dive team in the Bahamas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He opened his mouth, closed his mouth around the video camera.

MOOS: Now, we know what it would look like to be a morsel in that mouth. This shark also spat out the camera about 30 feet away. Even an octopus has stolen a little go-pro camera, though its photography skills seem, shall we say, expressionistic?

The diver, eventually poke the octopus with his spear gun and grab the camera, as the octopus latched on to the spear gun instead.

Now, if you put bait on your camera, you greatly increase the chances of having a shark steal it. The divers documenting Emma didn't hold her attempted theft against her. They're on such friendly terms, they do head-butts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very much like your dog swimming up to you to give you a kiss.

MOOS: At least they didn't have to kiss the camera good-bye. Sea life stealing from humans, it's enough to make a walrus whistle.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN. New York.


SYLVESTER: Am I the only one who thinks those people are absolutely crazy for swimming with those tiger sharks like that?

Well, Wolf is back on Monday with an interview with Mitt Romney from Jerusalem. And that does it for now. I'm Lisa Sylvester in the SITUATION ROOM.

Erin Burnett "OUTFRONT" starts right now.