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Videos Shown To Senate As Proof Of Sarin Gas Use In Syria; How International Law Plays Into Possible Strike On Syria; International Olympic Committee Rules Out Madrid for 2020 Games; Two Olympic Gold Medalists Give Back

Aired September 7, 2013 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. You're in the CNN newsroom. We have some breaking news on an important development in the debate over what the U.S. should do about Syria. Chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper joining me live now. Jake?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, CNN has obtained videos that were shown on Thursday to the Senate intelligence committee in a classified briefing. These videos that the senators were shown were presented to the senators by the intelligence community as having been verified as authentic by the intelligence community. They show the victims of a chemical weapons attack, and according to intelligence officials, it is specifically a sarin gas attack.

CNN cannot independently verify the authenticity of these videos. We are reporting on them because we have verified that the Obama administration is showing them to members of Congress as they hope to build a case to support military strikes against the Assad regime.

We are going to show you the videos right now, walking you through them very quickly. I want to first caution viewers that some of the images in these videos, in fact, all of the images in these videos are disturbing. But we are showing them to you because the nation is about to make a very momentous decision. We have seen a lot of video out there of alleged barbarity by Syrian rebels. This is also part of the debate, what is being shown to members of the Senate intelligence community.

So here is video number one of the 13. It was shot, filmed on the date of the chemical weapons attack, the intelligence community says, in Jabar, which is outside Damascus in Syria. It focuses on a little boy maybe 8-years-old in a roomful of what appear to be dead and dying Syrians. We'll going to video number two now. This video is about a 1:26 long. It was shot in eastern Guta. It shows a man, if we can go to video two, it shows a man having a chemical reaction. I'm still looking at, there he is, in video two, a man having a chemical reaction, it appears, vomiting.

Those who have seen the video in the intelligence community say that this is consistent. These are symptoms consistent with an attack of a nerve agent, a chemical weapon. There is also a little girl who appears in this video in a yellow shirt. She is alive but also appears to be having a reaction.

Video number three of the 13 shown in the Senate intelligence community was allegedly filmed in Duma outside Damascus. It starts off with some night vision video. The intelligence community told the senators that for outdoor videos, they were able to compare the videos with overhead imagery and verify the terrain as legitimate. These are bodies of Syrians.

And video number four of the 13 is approximately 51 seconds. It shows close-ups of eyes of Syrians who appear dead or dying from this chemical weapon attack that no one disputes happened. The question, of course, is who did it, who carried it out. These videos do not show, they do not prove who carried them out. You can hear Syrians shouting that Assad's dogs are responsible, but that, of course, is not proof that Assad and his regime carried out these chemical weapons attacks.

Let's look at video five of the 13 that were shown to members of the Senate intelligence committee on Thursday. This one is approximately 32 seconds long. It's from eastern Guta. It's the close-up of a face of a boy who appears to be in the midst of a severe reaction.

Again, these images are difficult to watch. We are showing them to you because it is part of what senators and members of the house are being shown as they make their decision.

Video number six is approximately two minutes long, this boy in the red shirt appears to be having convulsions. He's maybe 5-years-old. Very upsetting image. The intelligence community has told senators that these have been verified as authentic.

Video number seven is approximately 18 seconds long filmed in the Damascus suburb of Kafur Botna (ph). It shows a bearded man convulsing on the ground. This is a quick video clip.

Video number eight shot outside Madamea (ph) outside Damascus, appears to show a man frothing at the mouth. Again, the intelligence committee, senators were told by the intelligence community that these have been verified and they show symptoms of a chemical weapons attack.

Video number nine of 13 shown to members of the Senate. Members of the house will be shown these videos shortly, if not before Monday, then on Monday. Video number nine shows the close-up of a boy with an oxygen mask on his face. Later in the video, the boy sits up. He appears to be struggling, but he is alive. But again, the intelligence community is telling members of the house and Senate that this is some of the proof of a sarin gas attack on the suburbs of Damascus, Syria. They say by the Assad regime. These videos do not prove that. These videos do not show who carried out this attack. Separately, the intelligence community says, they have evidence as to that. We have not been presented with that, the public or members of the media. Video number nine, we showed that already, the boy with the oxygen mask. Video number 10 from Kafur Botna (ph) as well. It shows a little boy maybe 2-years-old as they try to give him oxygen or water in a second, very upsetting. The theory, of course, is that Damascus is an area that has been sympathetic and supportive to the rebels, and conventional rebel fighting by the Assad regime was not sufficient, and therefore this theory goes, not proven, theory, goes there was a chemical weapon attack on the suburb. But we know a chemical weapon attack occurred. We do not know who did it.

Video number 11 of the 13 is also very upsetting, perhaps the most upsetting of all 13 appearing to be the dead bodies of many Syrians, dozens of Syrians, many of them children, some elderly individuals as well.

Video number 12 of the 13 shown, two members of the Senate select committee intelligence, was filmed in Duma outside Damascus, showing bodies wrapped up in shrouds. In the Muslim religion, bodies' burials take place within 24 hours of death.

And then the last video shown to members of the senate, intelligence committee and obtained by CNN. It was filmed in eastern Guta outside Damascus. It's a man holding a little boy, a little boy who appears lifeless around other bodies. It is a very upsetting and disturbing image.

Obviously, more evidence as to why the Obama administration feels that chemical weapons are weapons beyond the pale and why military intervention is need. Whether or not military intervention, Fredricka, is the answer, is the appropriate response to such an attack is not a claim we are making right now. It is not a suggestion I am making at all. But we are showing these videos because, as upsetting as they are, it is part of the debate. It is part of what members of the house and Senate will make their decision on. Whether or not this kind of barbarity, if there is evidence that Assad was responsible and I, as a member of the public and a member of the media, have not been presented with any evidence proving that Assad carried this out, but if there is evidence, it is an open question whether military response is the appropriate one. But members of the house and Senate are looking at videos like these and deciding whether or not this will play a role.

I want to play some sound from Senator Dianne Feinstein. She is the chair of the Senate select committee on intelligence. She requested this evidence, and she requested the hearing that was on Thursday that we got these DVDs from, and she explains why this video is compelling to her and why she thinks it will be compelling to other members of the house and Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: I had asked the CIA to prepare a DVD which would have specific instances of evidence, largely victims, and what we see means, what pinpointed eyes mean, what the convulsions mean, a number of aspects. And we received that this morning. And it's horrendous. So, we are having that DVD multiplied, and we're going to get it out to every member of the Senate and possibly members of the House so that they can, at their leisure, go through it. And also what each instance means in terms of making a determination that chemical agents were used.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So very clearly, Fredricka, that is Senator Dianne Feinstein of the Senate select intelligence saying that she believes this evidence, which puts an actual face and actual examples committee on intelligence making the case that she believes that this evidence which puts an actual face and actual examples of convulsions, not just the word convulsion and an intelligence briefing report, but actual evidence of convulsions. She believes that will help make members of Congress decide that action needs to be taken against Assad.

We, of course, have seen video in recent days showing barbaric activities by some of the Syrian rebels, making individuals in Congress question whether or not defeating Assad is the correct course of action.

All we are doing by showing this video is making sure the public is as informed as they can be. They can make their decisions as they want. They can -- polls overwhelmingly show people oppose military intervention in Syria. We're just trying to supply everyone with the whole story as much as possible, Fredricka.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. So Jake, so some outstanding question, how do you verify, how chemical weapons were indeed used and who would be using them?

Let's bring in Brian Todd in Washington and former U.N. weapons inspector David Kay joining us via Skype from Stephanie, Delaware.

So actually Brian, let me begin with you. How does anyone go about verifying authenticating that, indeed, chemical weapons were used here by the naked eye, looking at this kind of videotape?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, that phrase you just used, by the naked eye, it's hard to discern the use of sarin gas by the naked eye. Chemical weapons experts tell us that when you look at these videos, you will see that sarin gas doesn't burn your skin. You don't get that kind of outward visual. But with some of the other images that we saw there, some of the other reactions from some of the victims, you do see some of the consistencies with what experts say is the use of sarin gas, the convulsions, twitching, the difficulty with vision, foaming at the mouth.

I talked to Amy Smithson from the center for nonproliferation studies a few days ago. Here is a quote from here. Your body will begin to shut down. It is not just the types of things that you have seen on these video with the twitching, the convulsion, the difficulty seeing thing and foaming at the mouth. She said your body will short- circuit. You will die within minutes.

According to every expert we've spoken to, the situation plays out so that if you're exposed to enough sarin gas in one particular attack, your nerves will shut down and then you suffocate. But these images are at least consistent with what appear to be the use of sarin gas.

And as for the verification, Fredricka, it may appear to some that because the Syrian government shelled that neighborhood of Damascus in the days after the August 21st chemical attack, that maybe a lot of the evidence might have been degraded or contaminated. Well, experts tell us that's not necessarily so. They can test in crevices, they can test in walls, they can test in clothing that is left over and still get a very accurate sample. They run it through a gas chromatographer, sometimes they have horrible versions of those machines that can give you spikes in the use of sarin that can confirm the use. So, that is undoubtedly and some of the U.N. inspectors are doing now.

WHITFIELD: All right.

Let's bring in former U.N. inspector David Kay.

So David, we hear that explanation as to how inspectors might go about picking up the forensic evidence and matching that with visually with what we're seeing in that videotape. But then, how do you determine who was responsible when one side said it was the rebels and the other side says it was the Syrian government? How do you make that determination definitively?

DAVID KAY, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Well, it is a very difficult decision based solely on the samples. I mean, there are some characteristics of sarins has used by the Syrians. The Syrians have what is called a binary form of sarin, two relatively innocuous liquids who when mix together and form sarin. They are stabilized by (INAUDIBLE) chemicals that stabilize them and make them less likely to lose their potency, their lethality, quickly.

Their formula, the one the Syrians have used, is one initially developed by the Soviet Union. The means were passed to the Syrians in the 1970s. You can detect that by analysis. It's highly unlikely that a group of terrorists, in fact, there is no known case that I know of, of a group of terrorists ever stumbling on this formula because it's quite a clever hack to do it. I think that will show up in the analysis, and that clearly points its finger towards the Syrians.

There is other evidence you would like, there is other evidence the administration claims to have that is the actual track of the rockets and communication intercepts. I think those, too, ought to be put out, and they add power to this video which is powerful and revolting in and of itself. But as Brian said, it does not answer the question of who did it.

WHITFIELD: All right, David Kay, Jake Tapper, Brian Todd, we will check back with all of you. Thanks so much, gentlemen. I appreciate it.

We are going to talk about this very complex situation in Syria. We will talk with former U.N. ambassador, Bill Richardson, about these tapes and what the president needs to do on Tuesday when he addresses the American public. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WHITFIELD: President Barack Obama is fine-tuning his pitch for military action in Syria, getting a bit more forceful along the way. Monday and Wednesday, members of the house and senate get another round of top secret briefings. And Tuesday the president takes his case directly to the American people with a strike on Syria with a national address.

Let's bring in former New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson, who also served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. He's on the phone with us from Massachusetts.

So Mr. Ambassador, as you know, most polls are showing that most Americans are really against striking Syria militarily. Well now that audiences have seen this video that we have been showing the last hour and a half, that members of the Senate intelligence committee have viewed, the intelligence community has authenticated it, how might this influence what the president needs to say to America on Tuesday?

BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS (via phone): Well, it's probably the most important speech of his presidency, and so he's going to have to be very persuasive. The main question is going to be, why is this in the interests of the United States? And I think the president can make a persuasive case. But I think that video will sensitize the American people that this isn't just an intervention, this is a military strike to stop that kind of atrocity.

So, it's going to help. I mean, it's mainly geared right now, if only the Senate intelligence committee saw it. He will want to have house members see it. They start getting back early this coming week. They have been out in their districts being pounding against the vote. But I think this is the time that members of Congress are starting to make up their minds, they are keeping their powder dry. So, this address is hugely important. It's got to be strong, it's got to be emotional, it's got to make a persuasive case.

WHITFIELD: And when you say that, if I could interrupt, when you say it has to be a persuasive case, we are not just talking from a humanitarian standpoint, because I think most people universally will agree this is atrocious, this is disheartening to see something like this in this videotapes, but the president needs to make the case that this is a case of national security. Because that's what many Americans, based on the polling, that's what so many lawmakers are saying is absent in this mission.

RICHARDSON: That's right. That why is it important to American national security that -- what we don't want, where we have enormous interest in the Middle East is Iran and Hezbollah and a threat to Israel, a threat to stability in the region and the critically important part of the world. But he's got to make the case, too, that this is a violation of international norms. Hat poison gas, this atrocity, cannot be tolerated. And so, the humanitarian side, as an effort to protect American national security, has to be made. I think the president is very good at these. He rises to the occasion when he makes these very important addresses, and this is the first time he's addressing the house. Because the house members, they have been out -- I was a house member. You're out in your districts, just people are tired. They're fatigued about wars, about spending money, about PTSD and veterans coming back hurt. They want us to invest in the economy and education and domestic issues.

WHITFIELD: So I wonder, as a former ambassador member to the U.N., how confident are you that the U.S. would get involved even though Russia and China vote no for any kind of military action? And do you think it's important that the U.N. get behind what the president is saying, what the evidence behind the White House is presenting? Does he need not go alone?

RICHARDSON: Well, the problem, Fredricka, is that the president and the administration has tried to get the U.N. involved, and the U.N., the security council, the Russians have put the word out, we will veto any authorization of military action. Plus, there has been a U.N. envoy. Like Barbara hemi, I know this guy very good. He's tried to get Kofi Anan (ph), has try to get the Syrians to have a dialogue with each other, and it hasn't happened because Assad feels he's got Russia on his side, he's got Iran on his side, he's got Hezbollah, he's got military superiority.

So, I think this is why these military strikes are so important to get. The president has tried to go to the U.N. He did at the G20 try to get an international coalition. He didn't get the support but Putin wasn't helping. So, it's still undecided, but I think in the end the president wins this one.

WHITFIELD: OK.

All right, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and former Mexican governor, Bill Richardson, thanks so much for joining us from Massachusetts on the phone today.

And we will be right back with much more breaking news right here in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Welcome back.

This breaking news we have been sharing with you for the past hour and a half, nearly two hours now. We have been sharing with you graphic images of Syria and the intelligence community says have been exposed to chemical weapons, and these video images were viewed by the Senate intelligence committee on Thursday. And we understand now members of the house will likely be seeing them as well in the form of DVDs, if not by watching today's broadcast today. And all this takes place as U.S. secretary of state John Kerry travels abroad in Europe trying to drum up more world support for the president's mission to strike militarily. And now, we understand ahead of the president's planned address to the nation on Tuesday, now President Obama will be making himself available to cable and broadcast networks for individual interviews, that taking place on Monday. So, a lot to cover here all as it pertains to the crisis in Syria.

Let's now go to Elise Labott. She is traveling with the secretary, John Kerry, in Paris. He is trying to get more support working with the EU. Is it working? Is there any development coming from the Obama administration's standpoint to get some kind of world support?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, Fred, Secretary Kerry is having a little more luck than President Obama had yesterday at the G20. Today, the European Union, you know that they have been very skeptical, passing a statement calling for clear and strong support for international action.

But Fred, they want to see that U.N. inspectors' report on this chemical incident first. You know, we have our politics in the United States. The Europeans have their politics, and this is the kind of horse trading that's going on in capitals. They want a U.N. cover, if you will.

So a lot of deals being made. Secretary Kerry, the United States doesn't really want to go through the U.N. They think Russia has been blocking them. They call this Russian intransience and say the world needs to react to these attacks.

Let's take a listen to secretary Kerry just moments ago with the French foreign minister.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: The principle one is the U.N. cast that they able to respond because one nation keeps vetoing its ability, or two nations, to be able to act. So are we supposed to turn away because the U.N. itself has begun a tool of ideology or of individual nations and not say that the principal we put in place and have fought for all these years is going to be thrown away? I don't think so.

When you look at those videos of those children heaving for breath, unable to move, spasming (ph), their lives stolen from them or their parents' lives stolen from them by gas in the middle of the night, when they should have been sleeping comfortably at home in their beds, instead they are wiped out by a man who has no conscience about what he does to his own people, are we supposed to walk away from that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LABOTT: Now, Fred, I asked Secretary Kerry's aides isn't talking specifically about the video we have been showing today ,but video that's open source, that any American and European person can see, and that's the case that secretary Kerry is making to the European public today.

Earlier, he was in Lithuania talking to those foreign ministers. Tomorrow, he will be meeting with Arab ministers saying the world must act. We all have a shared responsibility to make sure nothing like this happens again, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Elise Labott joining us from Paris. Thank you so much.

So again, the president trying to make his case, not just on the world stage, but more specifically to the U.S. Congress. And we have been showing you some very graphic images, videotape that members of the Senate intelligence committee have been viewing, had viewed on Thursday, and we saw and heard from Dianne Feinstein who said it was very graphic, it was very persuasive, and only if you had seen what I saw.

Let's turn now to chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash for more of the reaction of this video that senators have seen, but apparently not all members of the house have.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Hi, Fredricka.

Well, apparently at this point, just the members of the Senate intelligence committee have been shown this video. The plan, according to Senator Feinstein herself and some of her top aides who talked to our Ted Barrett about this on Friday, was to distribute it more widely to the Senate, and that is certainly expected to happen early next week.

But as you said, the whole reason she wanted this to be compiled and shown to the intelligence committee is quite obvious. I mean, we are playing them right now. They're absolutely not to be believed. It's hard to watch. And that's the point. Most of this, if not all of this video, is as Elise just said, open source material, can be found on You Tube. Some of it likely has been on CNN.

But the idea of compiling it all the way that they did, putting it together in one long video and having it in a room and playing it with members of the Senate -- at this point so far has just, again, been the intelligence committee. But still, members of the Senate who will determine whether or not this is enough of a factor to authorize military action for the president that he's seeking. I mean, that is -- it's powerful. It's absolutely powerful --

WHITFIELD: So Dana, what are lawmakers saying about how persuasive this video is? Persuasive yes, that it is atrocious, it is heartbreaking. But is this the stuff that you need in order to justify a U.S. military strike?

BASH: Exactly. That's exactly the point I was just going to make.

First of all, I should say that it was shown in a class of -- even though it's, as they call it, open-source material, it was shown in a classified setting. So, you know, Senator Feinstein is the chairwoman. She felt comfortable talking about it broadly and publicly. Other members did not. But I think now that it's out there, they will. We've got calls in to members of the committee.

But the point that you're making is a really, really important one, Fredricka. And that is that, obviously, the moral argument that the administration is making that supporters on Capitol Hill are making to their colleagues who are on the fence is huge.

But the problem is -- and the reason why they're having such an uphill battle or a heavy lift, as the president called it yesterday, is because the questions are still out there about the military strategy, and more broadly, the U.S. policy strategy towards Syria. There are a lot of unanswered questions about, okay, let's say the U.S. acts on this. That there is a military strike. What happens if the U.S. doesn't -- and if the strikes don't take out all the chemical weapons facilities? What if Assad does what we're seeing again? Then what? Does the U.S. strike again?

Well, as Senator Susan Collins said earlier this week, that's called a war. And people are very reluctant to say yes to authorize this strike, not feeling comfortable that the administration has a broader strategy and has sort of gamed out all the contingencies of what could happen. And that is where you have the reluctance from the lawmakers. Never mind what they're hearing from people back home.

WHITFIELD: And again, on Monday will be more classified hearings. Members of the Obama administration will be pressing their case with certain members of Congress?

BASH: Exactly. You know, so far we've had, according to a House Democratic leadership aide talked to, apparently only about a third of the House and Senate have been in these classified briefings. Not seeing these videos, but in classified briefings with Obama officials, listening to them make their case, not just about the intelligence but about the military plans.

Everybody is going to come back, because again, they're still officially on summer recess. Everybody is going to come back on Monday, and there is -- at this point, the schedule is to have the House and Senate, everybody, have a very big, very important classified briefing on Monday night. So that is really -- as Bill Richardson was saying to you earlier, you know, that is going to be one of the key moments in addition, of course, to the next day when the president speaks to the nation. Because like he said, he was a member of Congress. He knows what it's like to get pounded.

And Fredricka, I cannot emphasize enough how unbelievable it has been to talk to members of Congress, even those who represent districts that are hugely supportive of the president, that are very reluctant to do this. Very reluctant to do this. And that's what members of Congress are hearing. Don't do it. Don't do it.

WHITFIELD: And in large part because their constituents are saying we don't want to engage militarily anymore. All right, thanks so much, Dana Bash, I appreciate that. And of course (INAUDIBLE).

And Dana underscored that the president will be speaking to the nation on Tuesday. But before that, now the White House is saying the president is making himself available to cable and broadcast networks for individual interviews on Monday. And our own Wolf Blitzer will be sitting down with the president as he, the president, leads up to addressing the American people on Tuesday to make his case about why the U.S. should strike militarily on Syria.

All right, now, let's also talk about the world stage. And internationally -- and based on international law, whether, indeed, the U.S. would be justified in striking Syria militarily. We're going to be talking to international law expert coming up, David Kaye, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Here's the question: can the United States president order a military strike against Syria without breaking any international or domestic laws? Let's bring in David Kaye, former U.S. State Department attorney and international law professor at the University of California. Professor, good to see you.

DAVID KAYE, INTERNATIONAL LAW PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA: Thanks for having me.

WHITFIELD: So, at one point the president said Assad's actions quote, unquote, "break international laws." International norms, I should say. So, you say the moral obscenity of it all really is not enough to justify military force.

KAYE: Well, there are a couple of questions here, and I should definitely start by saying those videos indicate just why these kinds of weapons, whether they're chemical or other kinds of weapons like this, are banned. They are directed against civilians, they cause suffering that's unimaginable that even in the context of war where killing is justified in some context, it's beyond the pale.

So the president and his advisers would certainly be right in saying Assad has crossed a line on international law. But that's different from saying that the United States can unilaterally or even with a coalition of other actors use force in this situation. I mean, in essence, we have a clash of two different international laws. On the one hand, the violation of the chemical weapon ban, which is clearly a violation. And on the other, you have the rules of use of force, in which case force without the authorization of the United Nations Security Council is only allowed in self-defense.

WHITFIELD: So let's tackle the first one first. If it's a violation of the chemical weapons ban, then what is the penalty? What is supposed to be happening to the country that's using them?

KAYE: Well, it's a really good question, and what you would want to see is a host of things happening, right? You would want to see sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council. You would want to see the U.N. Security Council referring the situation of Syria to the International Criminal court so that people would use these weapons could be held accountable as a matter of criminal law.

There are other things like that that could be done, but it's clear also that the Security Council is hamstrung in this situation, as ambassador Samantha Powers said yesterday. And as the president has said, there is nothing that can get out of the security council at this time, so unfortunately --

WHITFIELD: And there's nothing that can be - there's nothing that can happen out of the U.N. simply because Russia and China would vote no?

KAYE: Well, that's unfortunately the case if we're talking about forcible measures, whether we're talking about sanctions, which are economic coercion, or we're talking about the use of military force. The Security Council is the body that is solely allowed to authorize that kind of measure.

Now, there are other measures through the U.N. General Assembly that might be possible, but those haven't been tested, really, since the Korean War, and they would probably cause as much discomfort among international lawyers and among others in the international community as going alone. And I think that we should really --

WHITFIELD: So what you're saying, then, the U.S. would be breaking international law by going it alone, but it would not be breaking it if it had some company? Aside from the U.N.?

KAYE: Right. So it would be breaking international law if it goes without the U.N. Security Council, even if other states join in. I think what we're seeing right now, we need to separate out from the question of legality. What the administration is doing right now is trying to build a coalition in order to build legitimacy for the use of force in this situation.

The videos present a very deep human and emotional case even if they don't prove who used the weapons. The efforts with the European Union and in the G-20 demonstrate that the administration thinks, look, we're not going to get a legal case here. I think they know that. But at the very least, they want to have a case that is widely seen as legitimate so that when they do -- if they do break the law, and if Congress authorizes the president to use force, then they could go forward with that veneer of legitimacy even though it's not legal.

WHITFIELD: So you say if the videos do convey a deep, human, emotional case, then how does the U.S. or what would the U.S. need in which to convey that national security -- U.S. national security is at stake as a result? And this is not an issue of humanitarian efforts at all -- or solely?

KAYE: Right. I mean, this is complicated, right? It's complicating for the administration, of course, because this kind of -- or these kinds of videos play into the argument that there's a humanitarian need to use force here. That's what those videos are designed to do. They don't necessarily make the case on their own about the national security interests of the United States, and I think that's why you hear the president and his other senior advisers making the case that these kinds of weapons, if they are used, they break a taboo, they tend to be seen, then, as usable in war, and over the long term, will be a harm to U.S. national security. That's a case that they can certainly make. It's not a legal case, though. It doesn't make using force under international law any more legal than it would be.

WHITFIELD: All right, University of California professor David Kaye. Thanks so much for your time. I appreciate it.

KAYE: Thanks so much.

WHITFIELD: And we'll have much more from the NEWSROOM right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right, we'll get back to the crisis in Syria in a moment, but first we are on the verge of witnessing an Olympic moment. The International Olympic Committee is going to announce within the next hour which city will host the 2020 Summer Games. And in the last hour, Madrid was eliminated in the first round of voting.

Let's go to CNN's Shasta Darlington. She's on the phone from Buenos Aires where the IOC is meeting. So Shasta, Tokyo is a favorite. And the last two finalist cities, Istanbul is the other, but why not Madrid? What happened?

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on the phone): Well, you know, Fredricka, they actually gathered a bit of momentum at the end, and people thought they might have a decent chain (ph) set- up. But their final presentation lacked a bit of pizzazz, bit of a lack of passion, if you will. Had all along pitched and felt this is a penny-pinching Olympics. They already had 80 percent of the venues built, they had the cheapest budget, less than $2 billion.

But when it came down to the wire, they really didn't give members a real reason why they should win it. They really gave their argument for how they would do it cheaply, but why should they be the ones to host these Games? And that's where they really didn't come ought ahead.

As you said, Tokyo is the favorite at the point. These things can change at the last minute. There are lots of lobbying and politicking going on behind closed doors, but Tokyo came in with a very strong campaign. They really pitched themselves as the city that would host these modern Games.

Also, they tackled head on their biggest drawback, which was the Fukushima disaster, with the prime minister himself coming out and saying he would personally be responsible to assure everyone that there was nothing to fear, that Madrid (sic) had never been and would never be affected by the nuclear disaster, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Shasta Darlington, thanks very much. Of course, we're all waiting with baited breath to find out which city will get it. We'll let you know when that happens.

But you know, we're actually having our own Olympic moment right now because we have two Olympians in the house who have teamed up with one of the nation's leading youth organizations holding a national day for kids. And I kind of -- kids, because adults are kids, too, these days. Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Gail Devers, gold medalists right here to help kick it all off. Good to see you all!

DEVERS AND JOYNER-KERSEE: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: So, before we talk about your favorite Olympic pick city -

(LAUGHTER)

WHITFIELD: -- what you're hoping for 2020, let's talk about today. You had big people acting like little people. Why? What's going on?

GAIL DEVERS, OLYMPIC ATHELTE: Oh, my gosh, it was a day of fun, and it was a day for kids. But we wanted adults to remember what I was like to be a kid. To just - with carefree and no worries in the world. And from that, they can be the advocate and the voice for kids who are facing some crises that they probably wouldn't have to face.

WHITFIELD: And this is all part of the Boys and Girls Club in America. But why is that? I mean, is it to address the obesity problem in America? Is it that so many times adults kind of get disconnected with the kids; they just don't remember what it is to just have fun and be active too?

JACKIE JOYNER-KERSEE, OLYMPIC ATHELETE: I know. It's so important how much it is to have fun. And the Boys and Girls Club mission, the things that they do, the places - the Boys (ph) club place are a safe place. And then also it was another opportunity for the sponsors to come on board because in order to run a Boys and Girls Club, it's expensive. So Lunchable was a part of that. And we had other sponsors, too, but it was just great to see everyone out there having fun.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my goodness, that's fun. Oh, tug of war! Oh my gosh, I remember that.

JOYNER-KERSEE: We lost. We lost to the kids.

WHITFIELD: What?! You're kidding!

JOYNER-KERSEE: We were like, we're ready, we're ready, and they just tugged us like --

WHITFIELD: Oh, no! Oh my gosh! Time to get back in the gym!

JOYNER-KERSEE: Exactly.

WHITFIELD: Oh my gosh! This is so inspiring. A lot of fun. And you know, so often we do forget how great it is to be a kid. Just that carefree, just out having fun. And lo and behold, you're getting great exercise.

DEVERS: Yes, we are. And the critical issue is there's 15.1 million kids who go home with no adult supervision. And so we're trying to say if you're out there and you're acting like a kid, you mom said don't try to grow up soon. Be a kid. Be that carefree person.

So now, these adults can remember that and they can be the voice to tell these kids let's go into a Boys and Girls Club. It's a safe haven. Instead of you making adult decisions at a young age where you're not ready to make those decisions. And you kind of get lost.

So, that's what it was about. And it was just having fun. And we did.

WHITFIELD: All right. Let's talk about Olympics. You all know very well, of course, probably both very excited about Rio 2016. But now we're even thinking beyond that to 2020. So, Madrid out, what's your pick? Istanbul or Tokyo?

DEVERS: I'm saying Tokyo. But I don't know.

WHITFIELD: That's your hope.

DEVERS: That's my hope. We'll see.

WHITFIELD: OK. Jackie?

JOYNER-KERSEE: It's a tough decision because I've been on both ends when Chicago was trying to get 2016. And a lot of times the frontrunner you think is going to win, but you never know because so many things happen behind closed doors that could change the vote.

WHITFIELD: Yes. You're Summer Olympians but you know, the Sochi Winter Games, and there's been so much about Russia and its policies, its anti-gay laws, etc.. Do you have any thoughts about that? How disturbing or disenchanting is it that that has become part of the equation when we're talking about the greatest peacetime event?

JOYNER-KERSEE: I know. And you know, as a nation and as a world, one thing you respect, different countries' laws or the different guidelines they put forth. But equality, injustice - you know, injustice to one is injustice to all. And it's so important that athletics bridge that gap. And when it (INAUDIBLE) with the politics - you know, these young people train day in and day out. And give them that opportunity to shine on that world scene.

WHITFIELD: Do you worry some athletes will be distracted by that?

DEVERS: I think as athletes, I think we've trained for so long, we've had to deal with adversity in your life that I think you're - you're keyed on just getting on there and doing what you've trained for. You're not going to let a political issue take away from what you trained for for four years. So, my hope is that all the athletes just get out and just compete to the best of their ability.

WHITFIELD: And I just realized what a dumb question that is because to be an Olympian, it's about focus --

(LAUGHTER)

WHITFIELD: And you have to just forget about everything else and have that tunnel vision. So, if you're going to make it to that point, be an Olympian and compete, you're certainly not going to allow anything from detracting you or derailing you, right?

DEVERS: No, no.

(LAUGHTER)

WHITFIELD: Emphatically, no. You have to gold medals to prove it. Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Gail Devers, thanks to both of you ladies. Good to see you.

JOYNER-KERSEE: Thank you very having us.

DEVERS: Thanks.

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much.

And we'll have much more on the Boys and Girls Clubs on our Web site. Just go to CNN.com and check it out. We'll be right back.

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