Return to Transcripts main page


Interview With Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Mike Rogers; North Korea Imagines Attack on U.S.; Chemical Weapons in Syria?

Aired March 19, 2013 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: That's politics, unusually tough politics.

Lisa, thanks.

Happening now: the White House in the crosshairs. A startling video from North Korea envisions an attack on the United States Capitol.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: A killer's T- shirt. A convicted school shooter shows his defiance in his clothes and on his face.

BLITZER: An emotional reunion. CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta catches up with a United States Marine whose life he saved in Iraq exactly a decade ago.

KEILAR: I'm Brianna Keilar in for Kate Bolduan.

BLITZER: And I'm Wolf Blitzer.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

They're powerful images designed to fire up North Koreans and to scare Americans.

KEILAR: Strongman Kim Jong-un has been escalating his nuclear threats for weeks.

BLITZER: Certainly has, and now he's provoking the United States in a new way.

Let's go straight to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She has details -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the concern is that Kim's fiery rhetoric could become a reality that the White House has to deal with.


STARR (voice-over): The North Korean video shows the White House in the crosshairs, the U.S. Capitol blowing up, the latest messages posted by the North Korean government online a further sign of what the U.S. worries is an increasingly unpredictable Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader who threatens war with the United States and South Korea.

On CNN's "THE LEAD," the president's chief of staff told Jake Tapper, the U.S. will be ready for any provocation.

DENIS MCDONOUGH, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Obviously, the kind of antics and the kind of language that we have heard from them, to include what you have just shown on your show here, are the kinds of actions that don't connote strength, but rather connote some kind of weakness and frankly outlandish behavior.

STARR: Even before this video, the U.S. intelligence community had a grim outlook.

LT. GEN. JAMES CLAPPER (RET.), NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: The rhetoric, while it is propaganda-laced, is also an indicator of their attitude and perhaps their intent. So , for my part, I am very concerned about what they might do.

STARR: The latest video is full of images of the North Korean military. The announcer says, the fuse of nuclear war is slowly burning and that there will be -- quote -- "no warning of North Korean plans."

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), CHAIR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The shear threat that they would openly threaten a nuclear attack against the United States is problem enough. But their military movements along the DMZ, the demilitarized zone in North Korea, a whole new set of problems for us.

STARR: The White House is taking all of this very seriously, because the U.S. cannot predict if and when threats might become a military confrontation.

ROGERS: So you have a 28-year-old leader who is trying to move himself to the military, and the military eager to have a saber rattling for their own self-interest. And the combination of that is proving to be very, very deadly.


STARR: Now, U.S. officials say Kim might be backing himself into a corner he cannot get out of. That's the big worry. He's trying to appease his generals, show how strong he is. But he might be backing himself into a corner, having to face the possibility of trying to live up to some of the threats he's making -- Wolf.

BLITZER: People are trying to figure out what he's up to. They're having a very, very tough time. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

KEILAR: Now alarming claims and cries of anguish in Syria. The men in this video claim they're victims of a chemical weapons attack. Syrian rebels and the Assad regime are accusing much using weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. is investigating whether one of the worst fears about Syria's civil war has now become a reality.

Here's CNN's Nick Paton Walsh.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have reports from activists of two separate incidents, one near Aleppo, where it appears a gas was released somewhere in between rebel and regime lines and seems to have mostly hit a regime-loyal area and regime troops, reports people suffocating in the streets and some fatalities, and another near Damascus where we have images of people in a hospital of people also experiencing breathing difficulties.

Not clear what that gas is. The regime said the rebels use it. It really, really doesn't pass the logic test. It's much more likely that it comes from the regime's well-documented stockpiles if it does turn out in fact to be a chemical weapon. But it's vitally important on the international stage. The Russians have stood forward and said according to their information, they believe the rebels used this chemical weapon. The U.S. is investigating, doesn't have any immediate signs that was the case, but once again reiterates the Obama administration red line, that if such chemical weapons are used, there will be consequences -- Wolf, Brianna.


BLITZER: Nick Paton Walsh on the scene for us.

Let's bring in the two chairs of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees right now.

We're joined by Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, and Congressman Mike Rogers, the Republican of Michigan.

Let's talk about Syria first, Senator Feinstein.

How serious do you take these reports that chemical weapons were used either by the rebels or the Syrian regime?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: The Senate this afternoon was briefed. And this is one of continuing briefs.

I think any public response should come from the White House. Let me just say, it is serious. And it may well take some action.

BLITZER: Because when you say may well take some action, Congressman, you know that the president, not that long ago, said if chemical weapons were used by Bashar al-Assad's regime, that's a game changer as far as the U.S. is concerned. Are you with him on that?

ROGERS: Absolutely. I think the president is exactly right.

I argued before -- we had reports, if you recall last summer, that they had at least public reports where they moved munitions in a place where they could be used on a short notice. And there's some configuration they have to go through to be used on a short notice. That was alarming and concerning.

Now, they need to make sure. We need to verify that in fact this was a chemical weapons usage. But I argue, given the last summer's reports and what at least appears today to be some sort of some level of chemical weapons used, that we're obligated to stop the use of a weapon of mass destruction. And we have limited capabilities.

This is not big military we're talking about. I think Dianne would agree with me on that, very limited efforts, very small special capabilities that could render their nuclear weapon delivery systems not for use.

BLITZER: Well, you don't mean nuclear weapons. You mean chemical or biological weapons.

ROGERS: Chemical. Chemical. But those are considered under treaties as weapons of mass destruction.

BLITZER: Weapons of mass destruction. Well, let me be precise and pin you down, try to pin you down, Congressman. Do you believe chemical weapons were used by the Syrian military?

ROGERS: I have a high probability to believe that chemical weapons were used.

We need that final verification. But given everything we know over the last year-and-a-half, I, Mike Rogers, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, would come to the conclusion that they are either positioned for use, and ready to do that, or in fact have been used. Both of those scenarios, I think we need to step up in the world community to prevent a humanitarian disaster that we haven't seen since Halabja 25 years ago in Iraq where they killed 30,000 people with chemical weapons.

BLITZER: The Iraqis did, yes.

Let me get -- ask if you agree, Senator Feinstein, with what we just heard from the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He suspects, he believes that the Syrian military did in fact use chemical weapons.

FEINSTEIN: I believe with the -- I agree with the comments that Chairman Rogers has made.

I think we hear all this in a classified session. This is highly classified. We have been advised to be very careful what we say. I am told that the White House has been briefed the same thing that we have been briefed. What I said earlier is that the White House has to make some decisions in this.

I think the days are becoming more desperate. The regime is more desperate. We know where the chemical weapons are. It's not a secret that they're there. And I think the probabilities are very high that we're going into some very dark times. And I think the White House needs to be prepared. Both committees now have been fully briefed.

BLITZER: Are we on the verge of U.S. military action to destroy those chemical weapons stockpiles, Senator?

FEINSTEIN: I can't say. All I can say is this is a decision that the White House has to make.

BLITZER: Would you support that, Congressman?

ROGERS: If in fact we prove beyond a shadow of a doubt they have used these chemical weapons, I wrote in an op-ed over the weekend that I think we are morally obligated to do something about their ability to deliver these weapons.

And if that was a very limited military strike to do that, again, I think we're morally obligated to do that, if in fact they have crossed the president's red line of chemical weapons use. I argued in my op-ed maybe we should have even looked at something earlier. I think there's a new day. Again, we have to prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt, but I think many people believe who have been studying this issue for some time that they are committed to their use. They have configured them for their use. And now we just need a little more forensic evidence to prove their use.

And we should be -- as I said, I think the international community should be morally motivated to stop their use, because we see what a horrible way to die, number one, and the huge humanitarian crisis that it causes on any scale of chemical weapons, the psychological terror, the real threat, the horrific way that people die. It's pretty bad and ugly stuff. And I think, if we have the capability, we should use it.

BLITZER: Senator, Congressman, if both of you can stand by, I want to take a quick break. I want to discuss other important issues with both of you, including what's going on in North Korea right now and what's going on, or maybe what's not going on with any ban on assault-type weapons.

We have much more coming up on that, also more on the breaking news. We're getting ominous reports coming out of Syria right now. You just heard what the two chairs of the Intelligence Committees had to say. Stand by.


BLITZER: We're back with Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Congressman Mike Rogers, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee.

And I just want to clarify the breaking news, because I don't want our viewers to be confused right now. So, very concise, and very precisely, Senator, first to you, are we on the verge potentially of a U.S. military strike to knock out Syria's chemical weapons capabilities?

FEINSTEIN: Well, let me put it this way, because I have to be very careful.

I think it's fair to say that -- I will speak for the Senate Intelligence Committee -- we have been fully briefed. I think every member that was at the briefing is very concerned. I think it is a very serious situation. I think the president of Syria ought to know this. And I think that the White House needs to complete an assessment and make some statement as to what action the United States will take.

BLITZER: What's your assessment, Congressman, right now? What are the chances of a U.S. military strike to knock out Syria's weapons of mass destruction capabilities?

ROGERS: I want to clarify something.

I did not confirm the fact that we know there was a chemical attack. I said it is something we have to confirm beyond a shadow of a doubt, to take that next step. That's important. Do I believe that they have configured weapons and may have used them? Yes.

However, we don't know for sure and for certain. I think that will happen within hours, if not days, that we will get some kind of confirmation on those chemical weapon uses. But we have to prove that point. Secondly, after that, I do think we are morally obligated to take some action to make sure that they cannot use their -- they lose their capability to use their chemical weapons. I think that's incredibly important.

What that looks like is subject for discussion outside of the public view. However, I think, again, we're talking about chemical use on civilian populations. That is a use of a weapon of mass destruction. That is a serious event, of which I think would require serious action.

KEILAR: And, Senator Feinstein, this is Brianna.

Before we let you go, I want to get your reaction to the -- obviously the issue of gun violence, a cause very important to you, the assault weapons ban. It appears that your effort is all by dead. Listen to what Harry Reid said today.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm not going to try to put something on the floor that won't succeed. I want something that will succeed. I think the worst of all worlds would be to bring something to the floor and it dies there.


KEILAR: Now, Senator Reid, Senator Feinstein, had said before that you deserved a vote. But it's appearing now that it's going to be an amendment that could ultimately just be a symbolic vote. What's your response to this new...

FEINSTEIN: No, no, if it's an amendment, that is not a symbolic vote.

I did the bill in 1994 on the floor as an amendment. It enacted a law. It went on to the House. It was enacted. What Senator Reid told me is that I would have an opportunity for a vote. I take him at his word. I told him also that it would be my intention to separate out the prohibition on the future manufacture, transfer, sales, possession of large-ammunition feeding devices of more than 10 bullets.

I asked him if this could be part of a package. He said no. And I took away from that meeting the belief that we would have a vote on the full bill and a vote on ammunition-feeding devices of more than 10 bullets. This is very important to me. And I'm not going to lay down and play dead.

I think the American people have said in every single public poll that they support this kind of legislation. It's aimed to protect children, to protect schools and malls. It's aimed to dry up the supply of these over time. And it came out on a 10-8 vote of the Judiciary Committee. Not to give me a vote on this would be a major betrayal of trust, in my -- as I would see it.

KEILAR: And we know that you will fight that fight until the end.

FEINSTEIN: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

KEILAR: Senator Feinstein, thank you.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you.

BLITZER: And let's thank Congressman Mike Rogers as well.

Important news, both of you bringing to us, obviously a lot of tension right now as far as chemicals weapons in Syria are concerned. We will stay in close touch with both of you.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you.

ROGERS: Thanks.

BLITZER: Let's take a quick break.

When we come back, we will get the White House reaction to what's going on. Jessica Yellin is already in Jerusalem awaiting the president of the United States. Stand by for that.


KEILAR: There are reports of chemical weapons having been used in Syria, something that President Obama has described as a red line.

Let's get now to chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin. She's in Jerusalem awaiting President Obama as he heads in her direction for his trip to the Middle East.

We just heard, Jessica, from Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Intelligence Committee. She said President Obama has a decision to make. Are you getting any sense of where he's going to go on this?


This is not something the White House is yet commenting on, except that White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, speaking to our own Jake Tapper, said if these reports -- and I do underscore if -- are substantiated, it is a game changer. And that was his word.

You're right. The president has said the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime would be his red line. But, of course, we would have to see what kind of action the president then would take. And the White House, again, watching this very closely. We don't have comment from them at this point beyond what White House Chief of staff Denis McDonough has said to Jake Tapper. But, again, that's very meaningful.

He said, if substantiated, it would be a game changer, not backing down from that language that this is still the president's red line. So we would expect to hear more from the president on that while he's here in Israel when we get more details on these reports -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Jessica, this is a big trip that President Obama is taking. We will be watching this while he is there. Talk to us about the timing of the trip. Why now?

YELLIN: Yes, it's an excellent question. It's left a lot of people here confused.

This trip is rich in symbolism, but it's questionable what the president can achieve here strategically. In the past, presidents have come here to Israel when their visit could be a decisive political force to drive peace talks or even bolster Israel during a time of crisis. For example, President Carter came in 1979. The peace treaty with Egypt was signed later that month. Clinton came four times, and on his first visit Israel signed a peace with Jordan while he was here.

George W. Bush came twice, both times to build momentum for ongoing peace talks. But this time, you know there's no groundwork for peace talks. There's no sign of a strategy to resolve conflicts in the region. So the president's critics especially in this area worry whether this trip is little more than a courtesy call. They're grateful for the courtesy call, but strategically they question what he can really get done -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Interesting. Jessica Yellin in Jerusalem, we will be checking in with you tomorrow. Thanks.

BLITZER: A convicted school shooter in court laughs off his crime and mocks his fate, his shocking sentence. That's next.


BLITZER: Happening now: a killer sentencing -- a convicted school shooter taunts victims' families and leaves the prosecutor disgusted.

Inside a deadly dorm room plot -- new information about a student who killed himself and his plan to take others with him.

And rainbow revenge -- a colorful slap at an anti-gay group that hits close to home.

I'm Wolf Blitzer, along with Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A life sentence for the Ohio teen who shot and killed three students at his former high school last year.

KEILAR: During the hearing, T.J. Lane took off his button-down shirt to reveal a T-shirt with the word "killer" written on it, and that's not all.

CNN's Mary Snow is working this story for us.

Mary, what happened here?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, this was such a disturbing scene.

Families of victims went to court seeking justice, but their pain was only made worse when they were subjected to the gunman making an obscene gesture and cursing at them.


SNOW (voice-over): Moments after entering the courtroom, Ohio school shooter T.J. Lane took off his shirt. Underneath was a T-shirt with the word "killer" handwritten on it. It was similar to what he was wearing when police arrested him in February of 2012, after he opened fire in the Chardon High School cafeteria in Northeastern Ohio.

Lane killed three students and injured three others. And he pleaded guilty last month. When given a chance to speak, the 18-year- old Lane turned to the victims' families, made an obscene gesture with his finger and used profanity. Crying could be heard and people were visibly upset.

Lane smirked as a prosecutor called him an evil person. A mother of one of the teens who survived addressed Lane directly.

HOLLY WALCZAK, VICTIM'S MOTHER: You're really lucky there are so many police in this room right now. You can smile all you want.

SNOW: The judge sentenced Lane to life in prison without parole. He was not eligible for the death penalty, because he was a minor at the time of the shootings. After the sentencing, prosecutor James Flaiz spoke out about what happened in court.

JAMES FLAIZ, PROSECUTOR: I'm totally disgusted by that. But it has been our position all along that he knew what he was doing. He planned this out. And what he did today is consistent with what we thought of him all along.

SNOW: Lane's sister, who was herself in the school cafeteria when her brother opened fire, offered sympathy for the victims' families.

SADIE LANE, SHOOTER'S SISTER: What I keep coming back to is that hate will only generate more hate, but forgiveness and compassion will bring peace and understanding. The brother in the courtroom and that did this was not the brother I knew.


SNOW: What remains unknown is the motive. The judge said Lane was not insane or incompetent. And it was noted at the sentencing today that Lane told his attorney not to offer any reasons for a lighter sentence -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Unbelievable. Mary Snow, thank you for that.

BLITZER: Horrible story indeed.

Meanwhile, a school massacre at the University of Central Florida averted by the gunman's suicide. Campus police have released dramatic and disturbing video of officers storming his dorm room, where they found his body and details of a chilling plan for a mass shooting.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Orlando for us.

Ed, you also have the 911 tapes. What's the latest?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, police here on the campus of the University of Central Florida, Wolf, releasing a great deal of information surrounding this case, and everything that they've gathered in the last 24 -- a little more than 24 hours now, since this incident took place in this dorm building that you see behind me.

But it all started just after midnight on Tuesday morning, when a roommate of this suspect heard the fire alarm. He came out of his room to see what was going on, and he placed this phone call to 911.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He just pulled a fire alarm and he's got a gun out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are you at?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm in the University of Central Florida in Orlando. The fire alarm went off. I opened the door to see what was going on and he's there with, like, some sort of, like, a gun, like a large assault gun. I don't know if it's a real gun. I don't know what it is. But I just saw it. I slammed my door shut and locked it.


LAVANDERA: Now, police say they suspect that the gunman, the suspect in this case, James Oliver Seevakumaran, was actually trying to lure students out of their rooms there in the early morning hours with that fire alarm. But something changed; his plan had changed, apparently.

And the police officers also released video from a -- the helmet of one of the police officers going inside the room. It shows them going inside the room where the suspect was. This is -- it could be disturbing for many people, so we caution you as you're watching this. But you can see the legs of the suspect there at the foot of the bed. And when they walked into the room they found that he'd committed suicide.

Now, authorities also say what they found after that was very disturbing. A number of firearms, about 1,000 rounds of ammunition as well as a backpack with four improvised explosive devices. That he had a plan to carry out mass murder. But for some reason all of this changed, and then he decided to kill himself.

But authorities here, Wolf, say that they have no information as to a motive or what might have been behind all of this. But even his own parents released a statement today saying that they described their own son as a loner, but someone that showed no history of violence -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Oh, my God. What a story. You said 1,000 rounds? Is that what you said?

LAVANDERA: Yes, 1,000 rounds, and two firearms. There was a great deal of weaponry and an arsenal that had been amassed there. And authorities say that his roommates, who shared very close confines there, had no idea that he had done all of this.

BLITZER: University of Central Florida in Orlando. What a horrific, horrific story. All right. Ed Lavandera, on the scene.

KEILAR: It is the kind of plot that you might find in a spy novel. An older man who falls for a beautiful young woman who's after something, and it isn't love. That's what allegedly happened to this defense contractor and former Army officer. He's charged with passing nuclear secrets to his Chinese girlfriend. CNN's Brian Todd is here with this story. This is fascinating.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Brianna and Wolf. U.S. officials say this also could be very damaging to U.S. national security.

This man had access to some of America's most sensitive military secrets. And he's accused of falling for what experts say is a so- called "honey trap."


TODD (voice-over): He's an Army reservist who had top-secret clearance doing contract work for the U.S. military's Pacific Command in Hawaii. Benjamin Bishop now stands accused of leaking military secrets, including information on nuclear weapons, war plans, early- warning radar systems. U.S. officials say he gave them to a Chinese woman 32 years younger who he was having a relationship with.

Bishop has been arrested and is in custody. His attorney says this.

BIRNEY BERVAR, BENJAMIN BISHOP'S ATTORNEY: He served his country honorably for 29 years. He maintains he would never do anything to intentionally harm the United States.

TODD: Is the woman a Chinese spy? Court documents identify her as Person 1, 27 years old, a Chinese national. The documents say she met Bishop at a defense conference and, quote, "may have been at the conference in order to target individuals such as Bishop who work with and have access to U.S. classified information regarding Person 1's purported interests."


TODD: Eric O'Neill, former FBI counterintelligence officer, says that's when a spy master sends an attractive person to lure a target with sex or blackmail to give up information. O'Neill took down FBI agent Robert Hansen, who spied for the Russians. O'Neill's portrayed by Ryan Philippe in the Hollywood movie, "Breach." On spies who use honey traps...

(on camera): When they're in the compromising situations, how do they actually get the information from them?

O'NEILL: They can use a couple of different things. If it's a prostitute, for example, pillow talk. You know, pillow talk comes from this, from the honey trap, from spies. You talk to someone. You get them to talk after you're done and you're very relaxed and all the endorphins are flowing and the happy things are going on in your brain, and people's tongues loosen.

TODD: It's not exactly a new phenomenon. One of the most famous cases of a honey trap was the Mata Hari, an exotic dancer who during World War I was accused of seducing military officers and diplomats into giving up their secrets. She was eventually executed by the French for spying for the Germans.

Peter Earnest, a former CIA officer who runs the International Spy Museum, says it's not always female spies approaching male targets.

PETER EARNEST, FORMER CIA OFFICER: During the Cold War, these Germans through Marcus Wolf (ph) had a very active program of sending Romeos, as they were called, into West Germany. Seeing who they could meet and develop relationships with them if they had access to intelligence.


TODD: A program that Earnest says worked very well for the East Germans. We tried to get the Chinese embassy in Washington to respond to the documents indicating the woman in Benjamin Bishop's case was likely a Chinese spy. They have not responded to our calls and e- mails. U.S. officials have not yet charged the woman with a crime.

Wolf and Brianna, this man knew, apparently, that he was going to be in trouble. He altered travel documents. He altered the woman's name to make it seem masculine. He knew he was taking a huge risk.

BLITZER: Honey trap.

TODD: Yes.

KEILAR: Wow. Brian Todd, thank you for that.

Airline CEOs in the hot seat on Capitol Hill. What will their plan to combine their companies mean for you? Find out next.


KEILAR: You probably noticed that you don't have many airlines to choose from when you fly anymore. Soon you may have one less.

BLITZER: In fact, before 9/11, there were at least seven major U.S. carriers. But mergers over the last decade have left just four. And now American and U.S. Airways want to combine forces. CNN's Rene Marsh is here. She's looking at this.

What I'm especially interested in, what does this mean for the passengers?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, and I was just going to get to that, because I know you two fly a lot. So the big question is, what does it mean? And a lot of the consumer advocates say this is bad news for the passengers.

Brianna, I know you travel, so what does it mean for frequent flier programs, for example? Well, the two companies, the programs would become one. So advocates that simply means that a larger pool of fliers will be fending for fewer seats and upgrades. But the airlines say not true.


MARSH (voice-over): Higher fares, delayed and fewer flights to small and medium-sized cities, devalued frequent flier miles. Consumer advocates say it could all happen if the Justice Department OKs the $11 billion merger of American Airlines and U.S. Airways.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The whole truth, the truth and nothing but the truth.

MARSH: Airline CEOs under oath and on the record, lawmakers on Capitol Hill pressing them on how you'll be affected when you fly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have to get answers for the people of this country. Whether it's the American family looking for an affordable trip to Disneyland or looking to visit their grandma in Pittsburgh.

MARSH: Both American and U.S. Airways insists the merger will be good for consumers.

THOMAS MORTON, AMERICAN AIRLINES: It creates another global airline on par with Delta and United. So it creates a competitive counterweight to those two big airlines.

DOUGLAS PARKER, U.S. AIRWAYS: By putting these two networks together, we will provide better service, more efficient service to consumers.

Also note that in the $1 billion of synergies that I noted in our analysis there's not one assumed fare increase in there.

MARSH: Consumer advocates say 20 years ago there were 11 major airlines. This merger would bring it to three.

WILLIAM MCGEE, CONSUMERS UNION: We're concerned that, as the major airlines become bigger and fewer, they increasingly will be regarded as too big to fail.

MARSH: While the merger could impact travel nationwide, lawmakers made sure any negative impact won't be felt at home.

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Tell me about the impact of the proposed merger on services to my state of Iowa. Will you commit to maintaining service at the locations across New York state which are currently serviced by your two airlines?

PARKER: Yes, sir.



MARSH: All right. So will this merger mean higher ticket prices or not? Brianna just asked me that. The CNN Money team got ahold of data dating back to 1978. The average price for a domestic flight actually went down over the years. It didn't go up, despite the mergers. So some would argue that a merger does not necessarily mean higher prices. However, those consumer advocates, they're still skeptical.

BLITZER: I'm skeptical.

KEILAR: Yes. I am, too. That's not what I would expect. Rene, thank you very much.

BLITZER: A U.S. Marine shot in the head in Iraq. He's reunited with the doctor who saved his life, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KEILAR: Bombs exploding and smoke rising across Iraq. At least 55 people are dead in more than two dozen attacks today. Mostly around Baghdad. The violence comes exactly ten years to the day after the United States launched an invasion of Iraq.

And early in the war, CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, reported from Iraq. He was embedded with military doctors.

BLITZER: He wound up saving one Marine's life. Sanjay caught up with him to find out how he's doing a decade later.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With his jaw set, his eyes gleaming, Jesus Vidana swells with pride. He's a Marine ready for battle. He has no clue that a single bullet will soon dramatically change his life.

JESUS VIDANA, RETIRED MARINE: You miss it. I do miss it.

GUPTA (on camera): It strikes people as ironic, given that you were shot in the head...


GUPTA: ... to say that you miss being a Marine.

VIDANA: It was probably one of the best experiences of my life. I don't regret being in it.

GUPTA: You still -- you still keep the helmet?

VIDANA: Yes. It's right there. That's the entry wound.

GUPTA: You can tell how much -- how much bigger the opening is when it went through the helmet.

VIDANA: It's been so long. It's been like ten years. Almost ten years.


VIDANA: Next month it will be ten years.

GUPTA: April 8.

VIDANA: Really? Yes.

GUPTA (voice-over): On that day, in 2003, bombs and bullets rained down across Baghdad. Vidana's unit was on patrol when snipers began firing. One moment Vidana was yelling orders from his commander into a radio. The next he fell silent. A single bullet had pierced his helmet.

Just South of Baghdad, I was embedded with the surgical unit called the Devil Dogs, where Vidana would eventually be transported. Less than an hour after being shot, Vidana had already been declared dead twice. But by the time he got to us, he had a faint pulse.

There were no neurosurgeons in the unit. I was asked to operate. I didn't hesitate.

GUPTA (on camera): You're alive. That's what people will always say. You survived when people have thought maybe he wouldn't. But how are you doing?

VIDANA: I don't know. I guess I could always -- always, you know, you can always wish things were better.

GUPTA (voice-over): Since returning from Iraq, Vidana has struggled with side effects of his traumatic brain injury. Seizures, major fatigue, depression.

VIDANA: I have felt like, you know, it would have been better had I not lived, just because, you know, every day is a struggle with the depression. Depression just comes. You know? Unexpectedly. And with a fury.

GUPTA (on camera): What does that mean?

VIDANA: I just feel like I just need to get away from everything. I just want to crawl into some cave and just -- just shut myself off from the world.

GUPTA (voice-over): That metaphorical cave, that darkness, is common among returning veterans. About 1 in 5 Iraq and Afghanistan war vets return with post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression. And just last year, the Army had a record number of suicides among its personnel.

(on camera): You know, one thing to you said to me in the past is that you wished that you hadn't survived.


GUPTA: That was hard to hear.


GUPTA: You still feel that way?

VIDANA: No. I think at the time I was really depressed. And the world seemed really bleak. I'm fully aware that I struggle at times, but I feel like that's not a reason to stop living.

GUPTA: You see light at the end of the tunnel now? I mean, things are brighter for you?

VIDANA: Yes. Things are brighter.

GUPTA: Pepper?


GUPTA (voice-over): So bright that hints of the old Jesus, the one from before the war, sometimes emerge.

(on camera): Would you go back into a war zone?

VIDANA: If I was in the Marine Corps I would.

GUPTA: You were shot.


GUPTA: All of the things that we talk about, the worst-case scenarios...


GUPTA: ... I mean, you experienced a lot of those.


GUPTA: You'd still go back?

VIDANA: I think I would.


BLITZER: And Sanjay's joining us now. What an amazing piece. Thanks so much for preparing it on this tenth anniversary of the war.

Your path crossed with Jesus ten years ago. Tell our viewers in a little bit more detail what you did to save his life.

GUPTA: Well, it was -- it's obviously a day you never forget, Wolf. What needed to be done at that point was pretty simple but tough to accomplish.

He had a significant injury to his brain from that sniper's bullet, and that was causing a big blood collection in and around his brain. Problem was they didn't expect these types of injuries so, without getting too graphic, Wolf, I literally had to take a -- the Black & Decker drill that they were using to put up the tents, take the bits that were used in those drills, sterilize them, and then use that to remove part of the bone around Jesus's injury and then take out a blood collection that was actually causing a lot of pressure on his brain and was, you know, obviously nearly fatal for him.

The other challenging part, Wolf, is you were in a dusty, desert tent. You remember this, Wolf. It wasn't very sterile to perform any kind of operation, let alone brain operations. So I literally took an IV bag, fileted that IV bag open. It was the only sterile thing in that dusty desert tent and used that to essentially create the outer layers of Jesus's brain.

I literally put a head wrap on him, a Black Hawk helicopter was standing by, flew him off. And I wasn't sure how he was going to do, but Wolf, as you just saw, he's doing pretty well.

BLITZER: He certainly is. You did a great job saving his life. You did a great job reporting what was going on.

GUPTA: Thank you.

BLITZER: Sanjay, thanks so much.

GUPTA: I remember our time there well together, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: I'll never forget it either.

Sanjay Gupta is amazing. Great journalist, fabulous neurosurgeon. He saved that Marine's life.

KEILAR: An amazing experience for him.

BLITZER: We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.


KEILAR: A rather unusual paint job on a Kansas house is getting a whole lot of attention.

BLITZER: And it's not so much the colors although there are lots of them. It's the location. CNN's Jeanne Moos explains.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Now who would paint their house like this?


MOOS: Actually, it's a counter offensive. Strategically located across the street from the home of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. You know, the group that's always calling gays the "F" word. Members hate homosexuality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is an abomination. What part of that don't you fools understand?

MOOS: Aaron Jackson wasn't a fool when he decided to buy this house back in 2007. Jackson was voted a CNN Hero for all his charity work in places like Haiti. But now, it's hate he says he's fighting. While Googling the Westboro Baptist Church, he went to the street view of their headquarters.

JACKSON (via phone): I saw the house across the street had a "for sale" sign on it, and it hit me right away. I'm going to buy that home, and I'm going to paint it the color of the pride flag.

MOOS: It turned out that house was no longer available. But another one was. Also across the street from the Westboro Church. (on camera): Jackson tried to get the seller to reduce the price but he wouldn't budge, so Jackson's charity ended up coughing up about $81,000 for the house.

(voice-over): And on Tuesday, the house got painted, transformed into a gay pride rainbow house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh. Beautiful spring colors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Actually looks really good.

MOOS: Jackson himself isn't gay, but he's big on equality.

JACKSON: I'm a straight ally as one would say.

MOOS: The plan is for the charity to run anti-bullying campaigns out of the rainbow house.

As for the Westboro Church's reaction, it sent CNN a statement saying, "We thank God for the Sodomite Rainbow House. It is right across the street from the only church that loves people enough to tell them the Bible truth about the filthy, soul-damning, nation- destroying sin of sodomy. The Sodomite Rainbow House helps shine a bright spotlight on this."

(on camera): A mansion it ain't, but this humble rainbow house has one thing going for it.

JACKSON: Location, location. You know, I bought this house for the view.

MOOS: From now on, the view from the Westboro Church property will be, as Dorothy would put it...

JUDY GARLAND, ACTRESS (singing): Somewhere over the rainbow.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Making a point.

Remember, you can always follow what's going on here in THE SITUATION ROOM on Twitter. You can tweet me, @WolfBlitzer.

KEILAR: You can tweet me, Brianna, @BriKeilarCNN, and you can tweet the show, @CNNSitRoom.

BLITZER: That's it for us. Thanks very much for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.