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Ariel Castro Commits Suicide; Obama: "The World Set the Red Line"; Putin: Russian Would Back Syria Strike; "The Flag"; Boots on the Ground Option in Syria

Aired September 4, 2013 - 10:30   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Plus we'll have more of course of the situation unfolding surrounding Syria as well. Thank you -- Wolf.

The first thing we're going to talk about right after a break is Ariel Castro, the man who kidnapped three women and tortured them for years hangs himself in an Ohio prison.

We'll have more on that story after this.


COSTELLO: Good morning. Thanks so much for being with me. I'm Carol Costello.

This morning the three Ohio women held captive for about a decade learned that the man who inflicted those years of torture hanged himself. Ariel Castro used a bed sheet in his prison cell, this despite being in a special cell where guards checked on him every 30 minutes. It was about a month ago that Castro apologized to his victims and received life in prison.


ARIEL CASTRO, CONVICTED KIDNAPPER: I would like to apologize to the victims, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight. I am truly sorry for what happened.


COSTELLO: Those three victims: Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus and Amanda Berry are aware that Castro killed himself, but their attorney says the three women will not be making any statement today.

George Howell is live outside of Castro's prison complex. Good morning George.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, good morning. So as you mentioned we now confirmed through the Franklin County Coroner's office that Castro was discovered that he died from hanging by a bed sheet. Again, as we know the details at this point -- around 9:20 p.m. yesterday, that's when went through and discovered him hanging in his cell.

Again as you mentioned this was one cell that he was in. He was alone in the cell. He was in protective custody and those guards went through every 30 minutes in staggered shifts. So there is an investigation to determine exactly how this happened under such close watch. But again at 9:20 he was discovered hanging in his cell. He was then transported to the Wexner Medical Center nearby and pronounced dead at 10:20.

So there is an investigation under way to figure out how this happened. We're waiting for more information from officials here to see what they have to say about it. But you know certainly a big surprise for a lot of people here.

COSTELLO: George Howell reporting live from -- from Ohio this morning -- from I guess near the Columbus area if you're in Franklin Country. Thanks George.

Military strikes on Syria, President Obama gains ground in the United States and now takes his case overseas after winning the support of some congressional leaders in both parties. President Obama spent the last hour addressing an international audience.

From Sweden, he says his administration is convinced the Assad regime gassed its own people and that there can be no suggestion of tolerance.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First of all I didn't set a red line; the world set a red line. The world set a red line when governments representing 98 percent of the world's population said the use of chemical weapons are abhorrent and passed a treaty forbidding their use even when countries are engaged in war. Congress set a red line when it ratified that treaty. Congress set a red line when it indicated that in a piece of legislation entitled the Syria Accountability Act, that some of the horrendous things that are happening on the ground there need to be answered for.

And so when I said in a press conference that my calculus about what's happening in Syria would be altered by the use of chemical weapons, which the overwhelming consensus of humanity says is wrong, that wasn't saying I just kind of made it up, I didn't pluck it out of thin air. There is a reason for it.


COSTELLO: That was President Obama in Sweden last hour. Back here in the United States, it is round two for the Obama team: Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the Joint Chiefs Chair General Martin Dempsey all returning to Capitol Hill. They will be testifying again today before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the administration's case for military action against Syria. Their appearance before a Senate panel yesterday drew concerns about the potential for U.S. boots on the ground at some point.

Congressman Matt Salmon of Arizona is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Good morning Congressman.

REP. MATT SALMON (R), ARIZONA: Good morning Carol how are you?

COSTELLO: I'm good thank you so much for joining me this morning.

SALMON: Thank you.

COSTELLO: You heard what the President said in Sweden that Congress itself drew a red line against using chemical weapons. Do you agree?

SALMON: Well -- well he also said that the world set a red line and if the world set a red line, why is this coalition that he has built almost nonexistent? So far the only one of our allies that appears interested in working with us is France. Even our strongest ally, Great Britain will not support this kind of endeavor. And so I think that the President in spite of what he says this is -- this is something that he wants us to do so he can politically save face. I don't see any great justification yet for committing our troops and putting our young people's lives on the line. There is no threat to our national security, and there is no guarantee that these strikes will have any effect.

And -- and we don't know what the desired effect is. We don't know what they hope to accomplish. And do they also believe that Assad and his forces are just idly standing by waiting to be bombed? The fact is that they're going to be putting up -- putting civilians around locations that they believe will be bombed that there will be having casualties.

COSTELLO: Well as the President also said no there is no immediate threat to the United States, but if you let people like Assad get away with this kind of thing in the future, what's to stop Assad and other dictators who has chemical weapons from unleashing them on the United States?

SALMON: Well I think that ultimately we have to deal with a current and real threat to the United States and right now frankly that doesn't exist.

COSTELLO: So -- so the Senate at least some senators appear convinced by testimony yesterday. The House is going to hear testimony today, what could convince you to at least open your mind to the possibility of military strikes in Syria?

SALMON: It's going to be very, very difficult to convince me that this is -- this is one that the United States should be involved in. He has taken his case to the world and it's fallen on deaf ears. There is no broad coalition of support, there is no international body that I know of that has sanctioned this kind of an effort. And ultimately my test is what -- what will this do to protect our national security and I don't see a rationale yet to do that.

COSTELLO: Congressman, what if the President, despite what Congress does, goes ahead and carries out a military strike anyway. No matter what Congress does what then?

SALMON: Well the President has pretty much acknowledged by the fact that he has come to congress, and by the way I do praise him for that, the fact that he has come to Congress as for the War Powers Act to request our consent on any kind of military involvement I'm glad that he's done that but then if he goes ahead anyway if Congressman Jackson, I believe that he would be in violation of the Constitution.

COSTELLO: Congressman Matt Salmon thank you so much for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.

SALMON: Thank you very much.

COSTELLO: You're welcome.

Russian President Vladimir Putin now says he could get behind a UN approved military strike against Syria. In an interview with the Associate Press Putin said if there is evidence of chemicals being used against Syrians, it should be submitted to the U.N. Security Council. And when it comes to supporting a UN resolution this is what Putin had to say.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT, RUSSIA (through translator): If we have objective, precise data of who is responsible for these crimes then we'll react. Right now we are just guessing it is too early to say, "Yes we will do this or that." This would be absolutely incorrect. People in politics don't act like that.

But I assure you that we're taking a position --


COSTELLO: When asked what Russia would do if the United States attacked Syria alone, Putin says, quote, "We have our plans."

President Obama will see President Putin tomorrow by the way and just a few minutes ago the President talked about the fact the United States and Russia would not always see eye to eye.


OBAMA: I have not written off the idea that the United States and Russia are going to continue to have common interests even as we have some very profound differences on some other issues. And where our interests overlap, we should pursue common action. Where we've got differences, we should be candid about them, try to manage those differences but not sugarcoat them.


COSTELLO: Phil Black is in Moscow this morning. So Phil, soon the President and President Putin will be in the same place on Thursday. They'll be there for the official meetings for the G-20 summit. And while there is no official face-to-face meeting planned between the two, the word is they're going to meet on the margins, what does that mean?

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes Syria is not only the official agenda for the G-20 summit Carol because it is an economic summit. And what normally happens at these meetings is yes, there's lots of one-on-one meetings on the sidelines and Syria is expected to be the hot topic there as those countries in favor of military action to try to rally support among other leaders who might be a bit wobbly on the subject.

But there is still a real question mark over whether or not President Vladimir Putin and Obama will share any really one-on-one time. Remember that he's Sweden today because he canceled that was supposed to be a big summit here in Moscow ahead of the G-20. That was canceled because these leaders agree on so very little right now.

And as it stands at the moment, these two leaders are not expected -- they are not scheduled to have any meaningful one-on-one bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G-20.

So just a few moments ago speaking in Sweden where President Obama is now, the President made the point that he will continue to engage with Russia's president on this subject, on Syria and he remains hopeful of getting his support because he thinks international action will be so much more effective with Russia behind it.

But in terms of real engagement he's canceled this meeting in Moscow and at the moment they are not expected as I say, to have any real one-on-one meeting in St. Petersburg there either in the coming days -- Carol.

COSTELLO: So it seems like President Putin kind of opened the door to at least a little face time with his interview on Russian television?

BLACK: Well there is a comment and he's made a comment there that really is unprecedented to Vladimir Putin on the subject to Syria. What he said was that he doesn't rule out, he doesn't exclude the possibility of backing military action against the Syrian government as punishment for using chemical weapons, but he set some pretty strict conditions that really put that comment in context. He said it would have to go through the United Nations and it would have to involve overwhelming evidence. That is something that is specific, that is convincing, in his words not rumor, not information that has been gathered through eavesdropping on conversations.

And he went on to make it pretty clear that he doesn't believe that sort of evidence exists. Because in his words he says it's absurd to consider or to suspect that the Syrian regime was responsible for using chemical weapons in this way. The logic he says is that the fight is going the Syrian government's way, and the Syrian government knows that should it use chemical weapons that would very likely trigger an international reaction possibly even a military response.

So on one hand it does appear to be a departure perhaps leaving the window open just a little but I think in the context of all of his remarks there, it very much seems more like a hypothetical that President Putin doesn't think he'll have to be realistically addressing any time soon -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right Phil Black reporting live from Moscow this morning.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM: a mystery. The flag from this iconic image taken after the 9/11 attack is missing. We'll take you inside the search for "THE FLAG" in a CNN Special Report.


COSTELLO: CNN is following the mystery of a missing American flag. It's part of an iconic image from 9/11 and seen on magazine and newspaper front pages. But now this symbol of hope has gone missing. And a CNN Films project is following the search. Jason Carroll has more for you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It deserves to be up in the sky, you know?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it would be in the museum.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the image seen around the world: three firefighters raising this flag from the rubble of Ground Zero -- a photo taken on the afternoon of September 11th, 2001.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything had this grayish-blue tint to it and there you saw the red, white and blue. And I sat there and I said, that's an incredible picture and Danielle was standing behind me and she said, that's not a picture, it's an icon.

CARROLL: An iconic image that became the symbol of American resolve.

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NYC MAYOR: My goodness. That was quite a picture.

Whoever actually thought of just taking it at exactly that time or the firefighters in doing it performed just like a tremendous service for the country.

CARROLL: In the weeks and months to come, Americans saw what they thought was the 9/11 flag raised at the World Series and on battleships in the Middle East, but it wasn't, as revealed in a CNN films documentary "The Flag".

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We knew right away it was the wrong flag.

MICHAEL TUCKER, DIRECTOR, "THE FLAG": This is another flag that somehow became substituted for the original flag. Where is the original flag?

CARROLL: The documentary tracing the flag from the original owners to many who believe they had contact with it.

The film's director says the documentary is not only about the mystery of the flag but what it represents.

TUCKER: That sense of unity, that sense of how we felt in those days and weeks after 9/11, and that's really something that we've also lost.

CARROLL: The film not only trying to recapture that feeling but trying to help put an end to the mystery. CNN has already received some credible tips but so far none have led to the authentic patriotic symbol of that fateful day in American history.


COSTELLO: Jason carol reporting, but you know we've received some tips, but if you think you have a tip that could help us find the flag, go to and click on the link and tell us what you know or you can send an e-mail to You can also watch the CNN Films presentation of "THE FLAG". That's tonight at 9:00 Eastern.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, John Kerry's mixed message on Syria. No U.S. ground forces -- well, really. Did he say that is still an option? We'll discuss that next.


COSTELLO: So President Obama is now trying to garner international support for a military strike while his cabinet continues the fight at home. But Secretary of State John Kerry didn't help the cause much with his mixed message about the use of ground forces. He told a senate committee Syria could implode and if it does that ground forces would be needed to prevent chemical weapons from falling into the wrong hands. And then Mr. Kerry quickly backtracked.


JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I know the administration has zero intention of putting troops on the ground.


COSTELLO: Ok. He said that several times throughout the hearing. Let's talk about this a little more with CNN military analyst, Col. Rick Francona, he's a former U.S. military attache in Syria.

Good morning sir.


COSTELLO: Glad you're here. So the Senate will soon vote on the resolution that bars the United States from using ground troops. But Kerry's comments they make you wonder. Do we need to worry?

FRANCONA: They do make you wonder and if they have this 60-day window, there is a lot that can happen. The situation could change drastically. And we do note that there is a carrier attack group moving into the Red Sea and closer. So there's nothing really in that language to preclude the use of manned aircraft other Syria.

So I think there is a lot of wiggle room built into that language and I think that is causing a lot of angst on the Hill. COSTELLO: Exactly. So the Senators are like -- the Senators say we're going to expressly write that in to our resolution that no boots on the ground but will that resolution hold if the United States does, indeed, need to do that?

FRANCONA: You know, you wonder because if they up the ante, if the cruise missile strikes are not enough, they decided they need to introduce additional weapons systems and these are manned aircraft, of course, you're putting American pilots at risk. Suppose that Syria's air defense system is able to knock one of our aircraft down, we may face a situation like we did in Serbia where we needed to go in and get that pilot.

And I think what they're looking for is the authorization to conduct those kinds of activities, and you would expect that.

COSTELLO: Yes. Maybe so; it is just such a frightening possibility for many Americans to envision. Boots on the ground in another foreign country, right.

FRANCONA: And one other comment, you know, the Secretary did mention that the chemical weapons might fall into the wrong hands, and that's been one of the reasons that we've heard in the past, but you could make the argument that maybe the chemicals weapons are already in the wrong hands.

COSTELLO: Well, it will be interesting to see how the House hearings go because I'm sure this issue will come up a lot this afternoon.

Let's talk about Russia for just a bit. Russia says it might consider a military option if the United Nations passes a resolution authorizing a military strike. There's a lot of qualifications to that, but do you believe Mr. Putin?

FRANCONA: I think he might go along with it or not protest it too much if all of his conditions are met, go to the U.N. and they show him the overwhelming proof. But they won't participate, of course. I mean this is their client state.

What's interesting is he said they have their plans, and that is kind of ominous because the last thing any of us want is a confrontation between all of those of vessels that are tying the Eastern Mediterranean. There's a lot of fire power out there in a small body of water.

COSTELLO: Wish we had time to talk more about this. But thank you so much for your insight, Col. Rick Francona. Thanks so much.

FRANCONA: Sure, Carol.

COSTELLO: And thank you for joining me today for this half hour. I'm Carol Costello.

"LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. Good to have you with us. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It's Wednesday, September 04. You're watching the "LEGAL VIEW" and we have a very busy show for you.

Let's get started with something that's just about to get under way. President Obama is yet again, he is out with the big guns helping to explain some of his policies. And this time we're not talking about Syria. That's been all morning. Now it's about health care. Your health care -- in fact the health care of the country.

This is what's happening right now.