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Kerry Cites New Evidence; U.S. Analyzing Ship Deployments; McCain To Meet with Obama at White House; The Battle for Public Opinion; Kerry Sells His Boss' Vision; The American Journey; U.S. Intel Points to Sarin in Syria; Tim Tebow Cut by the Patriots
Aired September 1, 2013 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone, I'm Don Lemon.
We have new warnings on possible terror threats inside the U.S., including cyber-attacks on Americans. The Syria crisis has prompted U.S. officials to beef up security and focus on investigations related to Syria and the region.
Plus this, the Secretary of State John Kerry revealing new evidence on Syria's alleged chemical weapons attacks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: It has tested positive for signatures of sarin. So each day that goes by, this case is even stronger.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: We'll break down what signatures of sarin means straight ahead.
And this -- Saudi Arabia backing a possible U.S. military strike in Syria; the Saudi foreign minister says Syria's regime has crossed all lines. We're going talk to experts about Saudi Arabia's role in this crisis.
And we have new information coming in to CNN this hour about the development -- or deployment I should, say of U.S. military assets in case of a potential military strike against Syria. CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins me by phone.
Barbara what did you learn?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well Don I don't think it will be a big surprise to people. But now that a strike appears to be days off, the Pentagon is going to take a look at those five warships with the Tomahawk missiles and figure out if they need to swap out fresh ships, fresh crews. They can't leave everybody you know just sitting there forever because a lot of these ships may be due to return to their home port. People are due back to their families.
Officials tell us that it is routine. They're going to look at it all, make some decisions in the next few days and that it will not affect military operations. They've already told the President that everybody will be ready to go, the missiles will be targeted and everything will be ready at all times for him.
But for when he makes a decision but that doesn't mean that they may not swap some ships out and put in some fresh crews -- Don.
LEMON: Barbara Starr with the new information coming from the Pentagon. Thank you Barbara -- I appreciate that.
In Syria, military forces loyal to President Assad's regime are reportedly moving into presidential -- residential areas and schools. A Syrian opposition group says the regime is transferring troops and ammunition from military sites to areas where civilians live in preparation for possible U.S. strikes.
Now this video reportedly shows clashes between opposition and government troops yesterday in a suburb near Damascus. A British reporter in Damascus has more on possible troop movement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL NEELY, INTERNATIONAL EDITOR, ITN: There are reports within the last few hours that Damascus International Airport, which was thought to possibly be one of the targets, that radar systems were being moved from that airport -- that's today; that there had been a lot of digging and drilling overnight. That a Republican Guard complex or building or barracks at that airport was deserted and there have been reports over the last few days that the Syrian army is moving equipment, scud missiles, tanks, everything down to computers and furniture, moving those away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And Congress is eight days away from starting its debate on a possible U.S. military strike on Syria. That delay will give Syria's troops more time to prepare.
So I want to bring in CNN military analyst Lt. Col. Rick Francona in Washington. Colonel, thank you for joining us again today. Is the U.S. showing its hand here too soon?
LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Oh yes. I think so. We've been telegraphing for a long time that we plan to do this. It's very helpful to the Syrians to be able to plan what they're going to do in the way of defense or reaction. They know nothing is going to happen now for ten days or eight days now.
They are going to have time to move as that reporter just mentioned. They are moving things out of where we think they are, where we know they are to places that we hope we can't detect.
Now we have very good capabilities to monitor all of this. But you can't see everything all the time. And the -- the chance that we're going to catch every move of every high value asset is pretty low. That said, with the cruise missiles on these ships, they're going to have to go after a specific set of targets because these missiles are not going to be able to hit you know hardened facilities, hardened bunkers. These aren't bunker busters; these are high explosive war heads. They'll do a lot of damage, but they are more of that these like radar sites, air fields, hangars, that sort of thing, command and control facilities, excellent for that.
So they are looking at those target sets. The mobile things are going to be much more difficult now.
LEMON: Colonel, I want to get your reaction to what our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr just reported. You heard her reporting the U.S. considering swapping out destroyers near Syria. What do you make of that? Is that normal procedure?
FRANCONA: I think so. But it gives the Navy ten days or whatever time they have before the execute order is given to bring in exactly what mix of weapons they want. Now if they bring -- they rotate those destroyers out, those are early birth class destroyers right now they carry -- they can carry 90 Tomahawks, but during peace time deployments, they only normally carry about half of that.
So they may bring in fresh ships with full complements of missiles. May have an upgraded capability, they may bring in a different class of vessel with different capabilities. So this gives the Navy a little breathing time, too. And it gives us a chance to make sure we've got the right weapons to do what the President wants them to do.
LEMON: So if you're going to do this, would you want to boost military advantage? Should the President have gone to Congress before? And the timing just seems a little bit weird. You said we are showing our hand too soon. And you want to boost military advantage here. What timing wise could have been done better, in your estimation?
FRANCONA: Well, it could have been done much quieter. You know if the President was going to consult with Congress, he could have done that you know in a much quieter way, and make phone calls and have all the ducks lined up before making the announcement that I'm contemplating military action against Syria.
By -- by making the announcement yesterday, he has taken a load off of the Syrian military. They know they have time now. And you know right after that happened, we saw Syrian troops moving, not only hiding things, but going on the offensive. So they know that they've got time to consolidate their gains.
Now I doubt if we're going to see more chemical weapons used. They know that that is a red -- you know I don't want to say a red line. But they know that that's a -- a trigger point for the United States. But they are going to try and do what they can in this -- this grace period that they have.
LEMON: Yes stranger things have happened though. You never know. You never know. Thank you, Lt. Col. Rick Francona, I appreciate it.
FRANCONA: Sure. LEMON: Two powerful Republican senators will discuss Syria with President Obama tomorrow at the White House. Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham serve on the Armed Services Committee. And McCain has a big question for the President -- he wants to know whether he has a plan to take out Syria's regime.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I want to talk to the President. I want to find out whether there is a plan and a strategy. I want to find out whether this is just a pin prick that somehow Bashar al-Assad can trump that he defeated the United States of America. But I will say that if Congress overrules a decision of the President of the United States on an issue of national security that could set a catastrophic precedent in the future. It would be very dangerous precedent to be setting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Well McCain has pushed for strong U.S. military action in Syria.
And members of Congress got a classified briefing today on Capitol Hill getting a look at U.S. intelligence on Syria. Chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash is back standing by in Washington.
So Dana I hear there are some skepticism -- there were some skepticism in the room among those law makers. Tell us about it.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And that is an understatement. Obviously, we weren't in the room. It was a classified briefing, but it lasted a long time. And to a person Republican or Democrat, nobody denied the fact that there were a lot of questions, a lot of skepticism. And many people came out saying they are -- that if they had to vote today that they would vote no.
One of the reasons is because there's a lot of concern about the way the administration wrote the language, legislative language of the authorization they want Congress to pass. They simply say that the President says he wants this to be a narrow military action but the legislation that he sent up is broad in scope.
So they want to change that. That is a very big issue. Listen to what one Democrat, Jerry Connolly of Virginia said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY CONNOLLY (D), VIRGINIA: I believe that there will be some tweaks to the resolution. I think that's a safe assumption.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What needs to be changed?
CONNOLLY: Well again, I think there is wording in there, for example, that basically gives the President pretty broad authority as he determines. I don't believe that there is a great appetite, certainly speaking for myself and I know a lot of my colleagues, to entertain language quite that broad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: So that's the issue with the actual legislative language which is absolutely crucial. It seems pretty clear that that's going to change -- how, we're not sure yet. But beyond that, never mind what's written in this legislation. There are a lot of members of Congress who say that they actually believe the intelligence that they saw, that Bashar al-Assad is responsible for using chemical weapons against his own people, but what they don't know and they are not sure about is what the White House's real plans are and the Pentagon's as well in terms of military strikes. And more importantly perhaps for many of them, what happens after these military strikes? Then where are we and what are the perhaps unattended consequences? It's very interesting to hear a lot of the skepticism and also to hear that in this room, members said that the hang-over and maybe the 800-pound gorilla in the room was the Iraq war. And members of Congress not wanting to make what many of them believe was a mistake that they made last time again. So that's why we are hearing a lot of this.
LEMON: The Iraq war is in the rear view mirror at least when it came to voting on it, but not that far behind for a lot of lawmakers -- right.
BASH: Not at all.
LEMON: All right. Thank you, Dana. Appreciate it.
BASH: Thank you.
LEMON: Earlier I spoke with CNN's senior political analyst David Gergen. He believes the President has a lot of work ahead of him selling the idea of an attack on Syria to a war-weary American public.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALSYT: The way this is shaping up right now, I will tell you, you know the President doesn't have the Congress nor public opinion and there are going to be a growing number of people who will put pressure on him. You've got to sell the country in order to sell the Congress. And they're going to push him to go out and make the case. I think we're going to see more of the President possibly on primetime before this fight is over because he does need to move the needle and public opinion in order to have a better shot. I think he'll get the shot, I think he'll get it, but it's going to be -- he's got a lot of work to do.
LEMON: Do you think -- you said get the shot, do you think he will get approval?
GERGEN: I think it's likely he'll get approval.
GERGEN: Members of his own party at the end of the day they have to realize that to defeat him on this would humiliate him and could potentially cripple him as Commander-in-chief. So there are going to be a lot of Democrats like Nancy Pelosi who are going to -- you know are going to want to vote for him.
And then there are Republicans who believe in the substance of it. You know they would like to be much tougher. I mean there are obvious splits but I think you'll probably get it. I do think though that there is this question that has come up because of the way this has been done.
This sort of sense, you know we all heard the hoof beats last week. You and I assumed that we are going to probably be at war by now by now or at least be firing missiles by now. And then to have this sort of about-face -- you know suddenly, unexpectedly, has given increased sense that this administration is sort of winging it as it goes. And maybe it doesn't have a firm handle on the wheel. And I think the President has to be also, along with John Kerry who did well today on television, they have to be clear, decisive, clean in their arguments in order to get this done, to give us a real sense we know what we're doing, we know what the consequences of this may be.
We have them in hand. We thought about this. This is well thought through. They haven't convinced people of that yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: David Gergen.
Well today the world is talking about that interview with John Kerry on CNN. He talked about those sarin gas signatures. And we've got that sometimes-heated interview. That's coming up next.
And just ahead -- why are chemical weapons a red line what makes them so bad? I'm going to asking intelligence experts to break it down for us.
LEMON: While President Obama waits for Congress to return to seek their approval for a strike on Syria, many have been focused today on Secretary of State John Kerry's announcement that signatures of sarin were found in an attack site in Syria.
CNN's Gloria Borger talked to Kerry about the discovery.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We don't contemplate that Congress is going to vote no, Gloria. I believe this case is powerful and grows more powerful by the day. I can share with you today that blood and hair samples that have come to us through an appropriate chain of custody from east Damascus, from first responders has tested positive for signatures of sarin.
So each day that goes by, this case is even stronger. We know that the regime ordered this attack. We know they prepared for it. We know where the rockets came from. We know where they landed. We know the damage that was done afterwards. We've seen the horrific scenes all over the social media and we have evidence of it in other ways, and we know that the regime tried to cover up afterwards.
So the case is really an overwhelming case, but the President really felt very strongly that the Congress of the United States weighing in makes our nation stronger in whatever action we take.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: But doesn't it worry you that you have put this heavy responsibility on a Congress that is notoriously paralyzed and divided?
KERRY: We have confidence there are good people in the Congress of the United States. I know they've been politically, it's been difficult, but this is a matter of national security. It's a matter of the credibility of the United States of America. It's a matter of upholding the interests of our allies and friends in the region. Jordan, which is threatened by what is happening, Israel, Turkey, Lebanon, all of which, as I said the other day are just a stiff breeze away from chemical weapons being used. I mean there are huge interests here.
In the long term, Gloria, you know, what we may or may not have to do if we cannot find a peaceful resolution with Iran. What we need to do with North Korea, all of these things are part of a continuum of decision-making that is made in foreign policy. And we believe the Congress of the United States will recognize that responsibility and do what is right.
BORGER: But Mr. Secretary, the head of the council on foreign relations, for example, says that in fact President Obama has gone, these are his words, "from leading from behind to not leading by going to Congress." He says that it raises doubts about the United States' reliability and determination. Can I get your response on that?
KERRY: Absolutely, of course you can. The fact is that the President of the United States is leading and he's leading very powerfully and is leading in the right way. If he didn't do this, I can hear all of the critics saying why didn't the President go to Congress? Why didn't the President, he could have asked, he had time to ask. It didn't make a difference -- I mean all of this --
BORGER: Why didn't he -- but then they could ask why didn't he go sooner?
KERRY: The President made his decision first. He announced his decision. His decision is that he believes the United States of America should take military action to deter Assad from using these weapons and to degrade his capacity from doing so. That's the President's decision.
BORGER: No matter what Congress does?
KERRY: But he wants the Congress of the United States to weigh in. He has the right to do that no matter what Congress does. That is his right and he asserted that in his comments yesterday. But the President believes -- and I hope we will prove to the world -- that we are stronger as a nation, our democracy is stronger when we respect the rights of the Congress to also weigh in on this.
And since it is not an emergency overnight as we saw in a place like Libya where people were about to be slaughtered, since we have the right to strike at any time if Assad is foolish enough to engage in yet another attack, we believe that it is important before this takes place to have the full investment of the American people and of the Congress.
BORGER: Well, what are you telling the Syrian opposition now? They are clearly counting on military action sooner rather than later. Now it's been delayed.
KERRY: Sometimes the wheels of democracy require us to take an extra day or two to provide the legitimacy that our founding fathers contemplated in actions that we take. I talked yesterday with the president of the Syrian opposition. I believe he understands that America intends to act, that we are going to continue to support the opposition; that we may, even as a result of this, be able to provide greater support to the opposition and do a better job of helping the opposition to be able to continue to fight against the Assad regime.
I think they will be stronger -- we will be stronger in the end. It's amazing to me to see people suddenly standing up and taking such affront at the notion that Congress ought to weigh in. I mean I can hear the complaints that would have taken place if the President proceeded unilaterally and people said why didn't he take the time to consult?
BORGER: Mr. Secretary, it seems -- I think the questions are raised because it seems that from the onset of this over the last couple of weeks, it seems that the President was poised to take action sooner rather than later. You came out and said it matters if nothing is done.
KERRY: It does matter -- Gloria. None of that has changed. Every bit --
BORGER: So people are raising -- why didn't he decide to go to Congress immediately if it was so constitutionally important?
KERRY: Because the President needed to gather the evidence and have asked me and others to make judgments, and ultimately, to make the case to the American people.
BORGER: Did he conclude that he didn't have enough political support in the country to go it alone that way?
KERRY: Absolutely not. The President of the United States asserted yesterday, you know, that he has the right, and I believe he has that right. But the President made, I think, a very courageous decision. Just because he disappointed some people who thought, who thought -- who thought without any basis, that he was setting up to go take a strike, doesn't mean that he didn't reserve the right to make the judgment that he made.
No decision is made by a President until the decision is made. And this president did not make the decision until he finally came to the conclusion that he wanted to take this to Congress in order to have the greater strength of the American people speaking as a whole. I think it's a very -- I personally believe at a time when the institutions of governance are being doubted by many people, I think this is a very courageous decision. I think it is a big presidential decision. And no one should misinterpret it particularly Assad or the opposition.
BORGER: But it's also risky, Mr. Secretary, isn't it? I mean, the risk is if Congress were -- and I know you don't expect this -- but if Congress were to vote no and then the President were to strike, wouldn't that set up a constitutional crisis?
KERRY: The President has the right, and he has asserted that right that he could do what's necessary to protect the national security of the United States at any point in time. The President believes that we are stronger as a nation when we act together; the branches of government that are designated with powers with respect to foreign policy. So the president has made his decision, and he courageously went out yesterday and announced his decision to the nation and the world. He believes that this -- this outrageous attack by Assad merits the United States joining with others to stand up and defend the international norm with respect to the prohibition of the use of chemical weapons. The President announced that decision and now he has asked the Congress of the United States, representing the American people, to join in with him in that decision.
BORGER: Mr. Secretary --
KERRY: We are stronger as a nation when that happens.
BORGER: -- let me ask you about our coalition. When you were running for president in 2004, you said that in Iraq we should not have relied on what you called a coalition of the few. Isn't that what we have here right now?
KERRY: Well, I think we have a coalition of more than a few. But this is a situation that is going to grow as the evidence comes out. That's another reason why the President believes there is a value in going through this process. I talked with a number of nations who have offered to be helpful.
No decisions have been made about what shape that will take, but I believe that there are many, the Arab League has already spoken out. Voices as far away as Japan, New Zealand, Australia, other places have spoken out. I think the world takes enormous affront at this incredible abuse of power, this attack on decency and incredible crime against humanity. I think voices will grow over the next days as people see the evidence. That evidence is becoming more powerful every day. As I mentioned to you, we now have the additional evidence of the signatures of sarin gas from the first responders.
BORGER: Is this from the United Nations? KERRY: No. This is independent. This came to the United States. It's independent. But it is confirmation of the signatures of sarin. And so the case gets stronger by the day. And I believe the case for action will grow stronger by the day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So how strong is the case that Secretary Kerry and President Obama are laying out? We're going to talk about the political battle they face right after this.
LEMON: All right. So we just saw the John Kerry interview with CNN in its entirety just a moment ago. So how did he do?
We've got Ana Navarro, she's a CNN political commentator and Republican strategist, L.Z. Granderson, a CNN commentator as well. They're back.
So you guys are blowing up on Twitter. My goodness. Everybody is commenting on your -- our last conversation.
So, Ana, we're going to start with you this time. David Gergen says he thought Kerry did a good job selling his boss' vision. If you had to give the secretary of state a letter grade, so to speak, what would -- what would it be?
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think he gets an A and I also think he gets a best-supporting actor nomination for the Oscars. When you -- you know, listen, John Kerry gave some of the strongest speeches I've ever heard him give in his career this week. On Monday and then again later on in the week. It was obvious that he thought action was imminent.
And President Obama changed course. I'm not sure how much Secretary Kerry agreed, but I can tell you he went out there and defended it passionately and vigorously. So though I don't agree with the decision, I think John Kerry did a fine job defending his boss today.
LEMON: Yes. And that is his job. You said he did it passionately.
How about you, L.Z.? I mean, do you think the secretary of state helped to move the needle in the public opinion column as David Gergen was saying? He's probably going to get it, but he's going to -- it's going to be a tough slog to try to move the public opinion.
L.Z. GRANDERSON, CNN COMMENTATOR: I'm not as optimistic as David Gergen is about whether or not he is really going to get it.
GRANDERSON: Not based upon what we saw thus far. I think that John Kerry did as much as John Kerry could do. But at the end of the day we need to hear from the president. I do agree with -- with David that we need to hear from the president. We need to hear it from him in primetime and we need to hear him repeatedly.
And not just making the case in terms of protecting U.S. interests but in making the case about protecting U.S. and enforcing -- protecting human lives and enforcing international law. The international law that's been around even during World War I. Conversations about chemical war or chemical weapons has been talked about. So he needs to make that case in addition to whether or not this has direct interest with the U.S.
LEMON: Ana, is a president in any real danger that -- go ahead and comment. I'll ask you a question. Go ahead.
NAVARRO: I agree with what L.Z. just said. I think President Obama has lost some precious time in making the case to the American people, in explaining why it's so morally outrageous what we have seen. And, you know, the images were a lot more outrageous when we first saw them, where they were shocking when we first saw them.
We haven't seen those images as much in the recent days as just after they happened. What we've seen is a lot of speeches and a lot of politicians spinning on TV. Let's go back to those images and why they should be so outrageous to any human in the world.
LEMON: Is the president -- I'll continue my question now. Is the president any danger that this difference to -- this deference, I should say, to Congress, could it backfire on him? I mean, there a lot -- that is what a lot of Republicans wanted.
NAVARRO: It's not just a Republican thing. You know, you're putting it on the shoulders of the Republican. There's very strange bedfellows going on here. You've got isolationist Republicans and you've also got liberals and doves who don't want to go into this. So it's not just a Republican issue that he faces in Congress. It's a coalition of strange partners.
NAVARRO: He cannot lose. He cannot afford to lose. If he does lose, we're going to have a very weakened president internationally and also in the U.S.
LEMON: Go ahead, L.Z.
GRANDERSON: And I think that we keep characterizing this conversation in the political fashion. And what I mean by that is, it's not about whether or not he loses, whether or not President Obama loses.
GRANDERSON: This is about what decisions need to be made about a country that is violating international law. We need to have this conversation separate from politics. Not within the bounds of politics. Because then you start wondering, well, do I like the president? I don't agree with his agenda. If I give him this, then what are we going to do with Obamacare? All these other -- you know, side items are going to start becoming part of the underlining conversation when you start saying win or lose in regards to the president personally. We need to be asking ourselves deeper ideological and philosophical questions about international law, how much needs to be enforced and is military action the only way to enforce these laws?
Those are the types of question we need to be asking. Not win or loss for Obama.
NAVARRO: No, L.Z., when it comes to national security -- when it comes to -- when it comes to national security issues, I can tell you that I don't care if there is an R or a D or a what behind his name. I care about first four letters, president of the United States. But there is no doubt that this is his strategy. And this is his gamble.
Let's just look at what happened in England a few days ago. I can tell you that Cameron is a lot weaker and perceived as a more weak leader in -- internationally and in England because of having lost that vote in the House of Commons.
If President Obama took this gamble and loses the gamble, it is his loss. It can be -- we can talk about loftiness and how he should be perceived, but there is a difference between reality and perception. And it will be perceived as his big loss. He cannot afford that.
GRANDERSON: You can frame it as his big loss --
NAVARRO: We must unite as Americans.
GRANDERSON: You can frame as his big loss --
NAVARRO: I'm sorry?
GRANDERSON: -- but the fact of the matter is the decisions that Congress makes -- you know, when they do vote and the actions or inaction that the president takes going forward is not just going to be about what happens during the final years of this president's term. It's going to be about what happens in the following presidential terms, as well. So this is the reason why I keep emphasizing that it's not about the president right now or the president that's currently sitting here right now.
It's about what happens long term. This isn't about Obama. This is about the course that the U.S. is taking in regard to this region and how are we going to go forward in terms of dealing with countries that violate international law.
LEMON: OK. We'll have to leave it there, guys. Thank you very much, Ana and L.Z.
We're going to talk more about sarin now. Sarin gases. Signatures of sarin. John Kerry says they've been found in Syria. But what exactly does that mean and what do these signatures tell us? A pair of weapons experts join me next.
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FOREMAN: And Myrna Perez knows how much that matters. When she moved to this struggling neighborhood it was an urban food desert with plenty of fast food, but almost no fruit and vegetables like she grew up with on the Texas-Mexico border.
MYRNA PEREZ, OWNER LOTTAFRUTTA: I figured if I could not find this anywhere, why not open up my own establishment and be able to offer every single day for me, for selfish reasons, and for everyone else?
FOREMAN: Some predicted locals would not support her. But that was seven years ago.
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BRIAN MCGOWAN, CEO, INVEST ATLANTA: This is an up-and-coming neighborhood being revitalized. And so we are always looking to incentivize and assist investments that help attract and keep residents in neighborhoods like this.
PEREZ: I am, you know, a self-accredited, self-appointed fruitologist only because I have a love and passion for fruit all my life.
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Tom Foreman, CNN.
LEMON: Secretary of State John Kerry argues that signatures of sarin gas were found in Syria. They prove that the U.S. must act against the Assad regime. More than 1400 people were killed in the August attack. Kerry says the evidence is overwhelming.
So joining me now to give me some insight on this is Greg Thielmann and Leonard Cole. Greg is a senior, a senior fellow of the Arms Control Association and Leonard is an expert on bioterrorism and terror medicine.
Thank you both for joining us. So, Leonard, I'm going to go to you first. When we say -- when he says signatures, what does that mean?
LEONARD COLE, ADJUNCT PROFESSOR, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY-NEWARK: Well, any trace of evidence that the chemical was there or is there now. And that can be tissue samples from people who were exposed to it, blood samples from these people or actually some of the material itself.
The sarin gas in particular degrades pretty quickly so that you might not find the chemical itself after a few days but you -- or even two weeks, but would you find some of the breakdown chemicals from the sarin.
LEMON: Are you convinced that sarin gas or chemical weapons were used?
COLE: Short of having been there on site myself, every piece of evidence that I've heard, and including the vice president's persuasive remarks, convinced me that it is so.
LEMON: Greg, are you convinced by the evidence?
GREG THIELMANN, SENIOR FELLOW, ARMS CONTROL ASSOCIATION: I am also convinced. It does occur to me in this case the intelligence community is being very careful about the language it uses and has built a very convincing case.
LEMON: Is this maybe you guys can -- I guess people think it's such a horrible act, obviously, to -- for chemical weapons to be used, but people die by other means. What is this -- is this -- what is the concern here, Mr. Cole? Is it because when you start to use chemical weapons that they may not be as precise as using bullets or bombs? Or what's the issue here?
COLE: Well, I would see it as two issues about why chemical weapons as well as biological, nuclear or weapons of mass destruction. Particularly are heinous and should be outlawed as chemical and biological are. For sure. Even possessing them by international treaty is against the law, international law, as well as in the United States and several other countries domestic law.
The manner of killing, for example, with sarin isn't just a matter of shooting. If there is such a thing as less humane ways of killing or dying, sarin gas surely is a perfect evidence. Your body begins to shut down. Your nervous impulses, the nerve system impulses are stopped gradually as you are infused with sarin either by inhaling it or letting it go through your skin.
Ultimately you begin to choke on fluids of your own, your lungs begin to fail. You get tremors. It's a horrible way to die. And it's an inhumane way because it can spread the -- the gas can spread and affect a whole bunch of people.
LEMON: Greg, clearly, if Syria did use chemical weapons, that is a strict violation of international law. So how should the U.S. proceed from here?
THIELMANN: Well, this is indeed one of the longest-standing taboos that we have. And I would just add to what has been said that chemical weapons are not particularly effective against troops that are equipped to protect themselves. And they always, though, are devastating against civilians in the area. So that's one of the reasons why it's particularly -- has been identified particularly as a pariah weapon along with biological weapons.
In terms of what we should do at this point, there are a number of options. But it does seem to me very important that the world does something to show the perpetrators that this is an international taboo and that there is a consequence for violating the taboo.
And it's worth remembering that when the Iraqis used chemical weapons against their own people in Halabja in 1988, and against the Iranians in an eight-year war, the international community basically turned away.
LEMON: Mr. Cole, you were talking about signatures earlier and the symptoms. Take us a little bit more deeply into that. Again, signatures, what does that mean, what are we gleaning from that? And then -- and what they're testing for there in the Hague now. What they're testing for.
COLE: Sure. Well, the first thing to say is that there are a variety of chemicals that are used as weapons from mustard agent that goes back to world war and much more recently nerve gas, nerve agent has been developed. And we're particularly concerned about the use of sarin, which is a nerve agent.
And this has the capability, unlike some of the other chemicals of being devastating to the individual in ways that previously had not been.
Nerve agents are a more select form of pesticides and insecticides. And as I was speaking with somebody earlier today, when you spray an insect with one of these insecticides you see the writhing that it goes through and it dies. Well, in a much more intense form this is what happens in effect to a human being. We all move, I'm moving my hand now because my brain tells my arm to move. There is an impulse. That becomes blocked when you have sarin or nerve agent in your system either by inhalation or perhaps going through the skin or ingestion.
And it's a slow, tortuous death. And I will have symptoms not -- and then even if I die, I will have evidence that I have died from sarin at least for a period of time because it's in my system. It's in my blood. A tissue sample when looked at in a laboratory will give evidence of that.
Weeks later there will be chemicals around that are breakdown products of the sarin. So it still can be identified.
LEMON: Thank you. Thanks to both of you gentlemen. We'll be right back.
LEMON: Terence Moore is here. He is a CNN.com contributor and also mlb.com writer.
So Tim Tebow, he was cut by the Patriots? He seemed to do pretty well. What's behind the decision to let him go?
STEPHEN MOORE, EDITORIAL WRITER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: No, I mean, he can go into the ministry right now. I think he will do very, very well. I would go to his church. Will you go to the church of Tim Tebow?
LEMON: Um, well, I don't know. A lot of people were going to the church of Tim Tebow at the football arena, but not anymore.
MOORE: He can't throw. I mean, he can't throw. The bottom line is that. If you can't throw, you cannot play quarterback in the National Football League, even with the read option plays that the teams are going to right now. This is bottom line. It's a passing league and this guy cannot do that basic fundamental thing.
LEMON: You have been saying this to me about Tim Tebow forever. You were like, so you think they finally caught up with him?
MOORE: That's exactly right. You know, the 13 and 18 months, hey, I mean, not everybody can be wrong.
LEMON: All right.
MOORE: And this was his last chance.
LEMON: Yes or no, football, he says he's going to continue to pursue his life-long goal of being a Major League quarterback. Is it over?
MOORE: You know what, I wish I had $1 billion but I don't so. LEMON: OK.
MOORE: Stick a fork in him. He is done.
LEMON: I want to talk some college football now. Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel can't stay out of trouble.
LEMON: We've talked about this guy before. He had to sit out the first half of yesterday's game because of an investigation involving the sale of autographs. After he came in, he was penalized for unsportsman-like conduct.
So his coach benched him. What's the deal with this kid, Terence?
MOORE: Well, you know, I tell you what, people that I blame as much Johnny Manziel for the situation are all the folks around him. And I start with the NCAA. You just mentioned this. This is so ridiculous to suspend him for just a half because what do you is you just enable him for more silliness.
Then you've got Texas A&M. Supposedly this institution of honor. Apparently not so much if you are the Heisman Trophy winner. And I'll tell you something else, Don, other people that are involved here are his parents. His parents are apparently afraid of this guy. They told ESPN, the magazine, last month that they feel that he has an alcohol problem, and he also has an anger problem.
Well, instead of telling a national magazine, do something about it because what you do is you make this guy even more of a knucklehead.
LEMON: Interesting. I hadn't been to Atlanta in a while. Well, actually I was there. What is that big Ferris wheel thing? Is that new?
MOORE: You know what, I just saw that driving in, it kind of scared the heck out of me because I was like where did that come from? It's very scary to have it in that spot.
MOORE: I have no idea.
LEMON: Thank you. Appreciate it.
I thought you were an expert on everything. We'll talk to you about Syria next.
All right, thank you very much, Terence.
MOORE: Thank you.
LEMON: Our conversation about Syria continues right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: The world is watching as tensions over Syria continue rise. It's going to be a busy week in Washington and the Middle East. President Obama is set to meet with two of the Senate's leading Republican voices making his case for military involvement in Syria. Senator John McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham head to the White House tomorrow.
Here now are five other things you need to know for your week ahead. We call it our "Weekly Five."
LEMON (voice-over): Tuesday the new eastern span of the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge is scheduled to reopen to traffic. The new section costs $6.4 billion. It's been nearly 25 years since the (INAUDIBLE) earthquake damaged two sections of the old bridge.
Yahoo is getting a makeover. The Internet giant unveils a new logo on Wednesday. It's been the same since 1995. Yahoo says it's going modern while staying familiar.
Power meeting in Russia. The G-20 summit kicks off in St. Petersburg on Thursday. President Obama will be there along with leaders from the world's leading economy.
Friday Aaron Hernandez will be arraigned on a first-degree murder charge and five weapons charges. Hernandez is a former tight end for the New England patriots. He is charged with murder in connection of the death of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd.
And who will play host to the 20 Summer Olympics? The International Olympic Committee will decide Saturday if it will be Madrid, Tokyo, or Istanbul.
IOC members will also vote on whether squash, wrestling, baseball, or softball will join the other traditional Olympic sports in 2020.
And that's your week ahead.
LEMON: And that's it for me. I'm Don Lemon. Good night.