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Two U.S. Special Forces Operations in Africa, Anniversary of Black Hawk Down; Interview with Rep Luke Messer and Rep. Ami Bera; Bikers Charged in SUV Incident

Aired October 7, 2013 - 11:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: Wanted in two U.S. embassy bombings, on the run for 15 years, and captured in less than a minute by U.S. Special Forces in Libya in one of two weekend raids on global terror suspects.

The second one however, did not go so well.

Also coming at you this hour, terror of a different sort at the track in Texas, an Indy car going flying into pieces, the driver and more than a dozen fans hurt.

And no i.d., no boarding pass, no problem. How on Earth did a nine- year-old boy outwit the TSA and airline security, hopping on a flight halfway across the country?

And by the way, where on Earth were his parents?

Hello everyone and welcome. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is Monday, October 7th. This is LEGAL VIEW.

Let's start with the president. Mr. Obama appears to be making a strategic shift in the way the United States hunts down people we consider terrorists, from drone attacks to boots on the ground.

And a dramatic example, not one, but two U.S. special operations raids in Africa, both coming two weeks after a deadly attack by al Qaeda- linked terror group, Al-Shabaab, on a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya.

In a pre-dawn operation, U.S. Navy SEALs landed on the coast of Somalia. In their hunt for an Al-Shabaab leader, the SEALS came under serious fire so bad they withdraw. And as far as we know, all returned safely to their ship.

But 3,000 miles away in Libya, U.S. Army Delta Force commandos captured a suspected senior al Qaeda operative at his home in Tripoli. That man is Abu Anas al Libi.

He's been spirited away to a Navy ship, purportedly to be interrogated. He's wanted by the United States for the 1998 twin U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa.

Our Barbara Starr joins us live now from the Pentagon.

Are we certain at this point, Barbara, that all of the U.S. personnel who were involved in these two raids are safe, that they all survived and made it back?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ashleigh, I asked a senior Pentagon official that a short time ago.

He says everyone is back safely, both operations very risky, and as you say, the one in Libya went off without a hitch, was over in a minute without a single shot being fired.

Somalia, not so easy. The SEALs came under heavy fire there, but they were able to get out of there, and everybody is fine, no wounded, no killed in action.

BANFIELD: Barbara, apart from the fact that the embassy bombings seemed to link these two raids, is there anything else about this remarkable coincidence that they went down literally within hours of one another?

STARR: Not at this point, it doesn't really look like they were related at all.

I think what officials are saying is, though, you are beginning to see in a more public fashion perhaps this era of the war on terror.

The 9/11 era, you know, the big land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to go after terrorists networks, that's pretty much gone. That land war kind of scenario is just not going to happen anymore.

So we have seen drone attacks when they want to kill the target. Make no mistake. That's what they're after, killing the target, and in that case, they use a drone.

In both of these cases, even in Somalia, they wanted to capture the target. They wanted to capture the person alive for interrogation.

They were able to do that in Libya. In Somalia, the SEALs ran into a firefight. They realized they were not going to be able to capture the person, and so that's when they made the decision to retreat.

But we're just learning this morning that in Somalia the mission was to capture him, and that's why they went to the extraordinary risk of sending SEAL Team Six into Somalia, the very same guys that went on the bin Laden mission.


BANFIELD: Clearly and understandably, Barbara, there's a lot we don't know, and that is by design.

But when you say that they wanted to capture these targets instead of kill these targets, these are targets from 1993.

I thought, when I heard Libya, this was about Benghazi. That's why you'd want to capture somebody, to lead to the other players.

We're talking about a decade and a half ago. STARR: Well, let's take them one by one. Now, you're absolutely right, of course. Al Libi, the man captured in Tripoli, said to have been involved 15 years ago in the 1998 bombings of the embassies in East Africa. So, you know, he'd been out of that picture for a while.

But the U.S. believes he was continuing to have contacts, that he might have even been in Libya to set up an al Qaeda network in Libya, and he is under federal indictment for his role in the 1998 bombings.

So justice being delivered many years later, but justice delivered, nonetheless, in the U.S. view, and especially for the families who lost loved ones in the embassy bombings.

In Somalia, the man they were going after there, very much a current target, an Al-Shabaab leader, the network in East Africa linked to al Qaeda.

A lot of concerns about what this guy was up to, and that he was heavily involved in planning future attacks in East Africa and attacks potentially against Western interests. That's why they wanted to get him, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: All right, Barbara Starr, obviously a lot of reporting still to be done on this, just fascinating developments. Thank you for that.

And as Barbara just mentioned, the Navy SEALs raid on Somalia -- in Somalia came on the 20th anniversary on the "Black Hawk Down" battle in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu.

Look, it's fair to say that ended in complete and total failure. Eighteen American troops were killed. Five hundred locals were also killed in that operation.

This latest operation was very different. It lasted only hours instead of two days, like what happened in '93.

And joining us now is CNN's military analyst, General James "Spider" Marks.

"Spider," I'm just curious as to your take. This was just so remarkable to hear about this, considering that, no matter how long ago "Black Hawk Down" was, it is still very fresh and painful in the minds of Americans and certainly American military members.

Were you surprised to hear there were boots on the ground instead of a drone attack?

MAJOR GENERAL JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RETIRED), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Not really. As Barbara indicated, it clearly is the requirement to get your hands on this individual.

Clearly, our understanding, our intelligence was that this guy, this leader of Al-Shabaab at this particular location had information and we wanted to extract it.

So there was a risk-reward determination made. Let's get our hands on him. Let's try to bring him out so we can interrogate him and learn more, certainly on the heels of what happened in Nairobi.

Clearly, the alternative would have been, let's just put a drone attack on this thing, very precisely kill him and his local associates.

But what we don't know is what is motivating these folks and what do they have currently on their -- in their deck of future operations. So I think clearly the intelligence drives the decision-making.

And in terms of the coincidence of those two attacks, I think al Libi was, I would say, probably pretty fleeting. That information, that intelligence, needed to be executed on very quickly.

And in the case of the other one, it was a compound that had a presence and a footprint and they could have attacked almost at any time, so you try to link them up.

BANFIELD: So when we talk about what Barbara was speaking of, and that's that they want information, they don't want the targets dead, they want information from these targets, we're told that al Libi is on some -- one of the naval ships that's in that region.

Clearly, with Syria, there were a lot of naval ships in that region.

What is the legality of interrogating on one of those naval ships? Do U.S. laws apply on the naval laws, international laws apply? Is it a dark zone? What is it?

MARKS: I don't know what a "dark zone" means, but I --

BANFIELD: Black zone. I should call it a black operation site, a black site.

MARKS: Clearly, but he has not been given his rights. He doesn't have any rights. He's not a citizen of the United States, so this is an interrogation in a very classic sense, and it's being done by the best of the best.

So you have CIA certainly is involved, FBI is involved. This is someone who's going to be indicted. Military intelligence is there. There are current targets they want to pick his brain in terms who his associates are --

BANFIELD: Yes, but Spider, that's what I mean. They want to pick his brain. What can they do legally onboard that ship, and is it the same as if he were on U.S. soil?

MARKS: A U.S. ship is U.S. soil. He doesn't have any rights, Ashleigh.

What we want to is we want to extract as much information as we can and see if any of that is targetable and it gives us a better -- it gives the United States and its allies a better sense of what this individual knew, not only then, so that you can move forward with the prosecutorial route, and frankly, that's of less interest.

What's of amazing interest is, what does he know now? Let's confirm what he knows, deny what he may not know, so that we can do something with him and get him off -- you know, put him over the horizon for the rest of his life.

But he probably is sitting on information. We need to confirm or deny that, right now.

BANFIELD: All right, James "Spider" Marks, thank you so much for your insight. I always appreciate hearing from you.

MARKS: Thanks, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: And then, of course, what Spider was just talking about was al Libi, who now is, I assume, not having a very good day on board that U.S. naval ship.

There's the other target, though, the Somalian target, who goes by the name of Ikrima. He does have a full name. In fact, it's Mohammed Adikbar Mohammed (ph), and there is someone who knows much more about this man than I, and that's CNN terrorism analyst, Paul Cruickshank.

Paul, you wrote a piece on this person and the significance of this person. I believe you called him "one of the most dangerous commanders in the Somali terror group, Al-Shabaab."

I'm just curious about the significance of this person to the United States. I get it. I get that he's seriously dangerous in Africa, and we know that from what happened in the Nairobi mall.

But what about us in the U.S.? How bad a guy is he to this country?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORSIM: Well, Al-Shabaab, the terrorist group, has said they want to actually launch attacks in the United States.

That may actually be beyond their capability, but they also said they want to kill Americans across East Africa, and that was what they were trying to do two weeks ago at the shopping mall, the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi.

Now, Ikrima is viewed as sort of a senior operational planner within Al-Shabaab, somebody who has conceived of a string of plots against Kenya in the last couple of years, including a plot against the Kenyan parliament.

He's seen as sort of a very dangerous operative, and we've actually been speaking to a Western intelligence informant who had deep penetration into Al-Shabaab.

And I believe it's one and the same person that he was dealing with within Al-Shabaab, a guy who he describes as being the guy who handles the foreign fighters coming into Somalia, a guy, Ikrima, who had connections into Anwar al-Awlaki, the American cleric in Yemen. So a real mover and shaker when it comes to these terrorist operations in East Africa.

And the concern, Ashleigh, is that if he's got away, his stature will now grow and Al-Shabaab are going to be able to make propaganda out of it.

BANFIELD: I'm also wondering how much of this operation and sending in the SEALs may have actually been a favor as well, to work with the Kenyan government to perhaps yield further information, further terrorists down the line?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, that's absolutely right, and given this guy's, Ikrima's, track record, he'd be near the top of the list of the sort of person that would be suspected of orchestrating the attack that we saw in Nairobi two weeks ago.

Now, the United States has not confirmed that he was a suspected mastermind this in that attack, but if you're able to capture somebody like Ikrima, you can get real operational, actionable intelligence about this terrorist group, Al-Shabaab, what it wants to do next.

This is a group which has threatened more attacks in East Africa, including against American interests, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Paul Cruickshank, excellent reading on, thank you very much for your perspective on the program today. Appreciate it.

So, heading into week two, if you're counting, of the government shutdown, and as of right now, sorry to report no end in sight.

Speaker John Boehner adding to the uncertainty on the TV this weekend, saying the House would not pass a clean debt-limit increase.

Later on, this guy was part of that mob of bikers allegedly in New York that swarmed an SUV.

Some new charges in that case and some pretty interesting defense stories. Why they say, got the wrong guy. That story is coming up, next.


BANFIELD: As we enter into week two of the government shutdown, the stock market, I guess this is not a huge surprise to many, is down. About 92 and some change down. Maybe more significant number is that it dipped below 15,000 today. We're going to keep a close eye on Wall Street. That happened on Thursday as well. So this is not an easy time for people on Wall Street or those who have a 401(k), which pretty much sums up many of you watching right now.

Week two of this partial government shutdown will likely bring a little less anxiety to 800,000 furloughed federal workers because the Senate is likely to pass, and the president likely to sign a bill, that's going to give them all the back pay when the shutdown ends. Whenever that happens to be.

The back pay bill passed the House unanimously. Look at the numbers. No Nays. Just feast your eyes and don't get used to it.

So, this would be the good news, right? I have some less than hopeful news, sadly, as well. There are no signs that either side is budging in the fight over the government funding bill, that CR, continuing resolution, or the raising the debt ceiling issue. We're now ten days away from a potential first-ever government default on its bills and obligations. Just listen to what John Boehner told ABC about a clean or unconditional debt ceiling increase.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R) HOUSE SPEAKER: We are not going to pass a clean debt limit increase. I told the president, there's no way we're going to pass. The votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit. And the president is risking default by not having a conversation with us.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC HOST: So under no circumstances will you pass a clean debt limit?

BOEHNER: We are not going down that path.


BANFIELD: Here we go again. Boehner says he also lacks the votes needed to pass a clean government funding bill to keep the government open. But if you ask the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, she says she has 197 Democrats that would sign on and a whole bunch of Republicans that she didn't name. So, there's that.

The Senate Democrats and the White House say they are not going to negotiate on Obamacare or anything else with a government shutdown and risking the default on our debts. So Speaker Boehner now acknowledges that he and Harry Reid all but did agree on spending weeks ago but that the House Republicaned would not go along with it.


BOEHNER: I gave the Senate majority leader advice at the White House about how to proceed. I have him some advice over a week ago about how to avert this. Yet, they refused do it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Speaker, he says, and he said it publicly on many occasions, that you came to him back in July and offered to a pass a clean government resolution, no Obamacare amendments, that was $70 billion below what the Senate wanted. They accepted it and now you've reneged on that offer.

BOEHNER: Clearly there was a conversation about doing that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Several conversations.

BOEHNER: Several. But --

STEPHANOPOULOS: And you offered a clean resolution.

BOEHNER: But I and my members decided that the threat of Obamacare and what was happening was so important that it was time for us to take a stand.


BANFIELD: So now another wrinkle, at least when it comes to the debt ceiling. Speaker Boehner says he is not holding out for Obamacare changes. Let me repeat that, he's not holding out for changes in the healthcare bill and law. Now, instead changing that fight to cuts an entitlements -- Medicare, Social Security -- and that brings me to my next guest.

Freshman GOP congressman Luke Messer of Indiana, and fellow freshman Democratic congressman and physician Ami Bera of California.

Gentlemen, welcome. Freshmen! This is going to be great.

Let me start with you, may I may, Congressman Messer. When I hear that the speaker is switching the battle now from this very aggressive fight over Obamacare, which so many of the freshman were sent to Capitol Hill to fight, and instead switching it to entitlements, I'm wondering if you got that memo too, or if you sent that memo to the speaker. Who is setting the agenda, please?

REP. LUKE MESSER, (R) INDIANA: Well, listenm the speaker is the speaker. I think what his comments acknowledge is that as this debate has moved on, these two issues are now being combined. We've got the debt ceiling limit that comes in about ten days here, and then the continuing resolution. But more importantly how we're going to fund the budget in the next year. I think the speaker is acknowledging we have to do both of those things.

I still believe there are ways we can improve Obamacare, and it ought to be part of the debate. But clearly we've moved past where we were just a few days ago.

BANFIELD: Let me ask you this, if I may please Congressman Bera, I heard Senator Ted Cruz say over the weekend to our Candy Crowley, and I'm going to quote him specifically, "the debt ceiling historically has been among the best leverage that Congress has to reign in the executive."

And it turns out, I think it's like 28 times over the last 55 times that the debt ceiling has actually been increased since 1978, there have been strings attached. So where do the Democrats get off saying that it is untouchable, that the debt ceiling is untouchable?

REP. AMI BERA, (D) CALIFORNIA: Well, it's untouchable. We pay our bills as Americans. So is it sometime to negotiate? Absolutely. And I actually like what the speaker is saying. All along I've said what we really need is to put a real budget together.

Let's open the government, let's -- whether it's two weeks, whether it's six weeks, but let's take that time to put together a real budget that starts to deal with our debt, that starts to deal with the deficit. And the only way you're going to be able to do that is by looking at everything.

We've got to strengthen our entitlement programs, we've got to strengthen Medicare, Social Security. The shift in conversation is a good thing, but it starts with Leader Reid and Speaker Boehner actually being able to sit down and listen to one another. Name calling is not going to get us anywhere.


BANFIELD: I hear you.

BERA: These guys have to be able to negotiate.


BANFIELD: The listening and the talking - go ahead.

MESSER: The thing I would add is that every major legislation that's actually reduced spending that's passed here in Washington in the last several decades has come in conjunction with a debt ceiling conversation. The thing I hear back from my district is --

BANFIELD: Yeah, but you know what, congressman, I gotta stop you there. It's never been -- the stakes have never been this high. Sure there have been strings, but they've been threads. They haven't been massive cables and ropes. So that's where I think a lot of the criticism will come on your side.

But, I want to read you specifically, sir, something that Warren Buffett said. And when Warren Buffett actually I'm not going to read it, I'm go let him say it. Because when Warren Buffett speaks, I listen, everybody I know listens, Wall Street listens and Congressmen and congresswomen should listen as well. Here's what he had to say. I'm going to ask you something about it on the other side.


WARREN BUFFETT, CEO, BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY: It makes absolutely no sense to let it be used as a lever for other things. I mean if you want to change laws on abortion or immigration, or you name it, tax laws, whatever, let that be a piece of legislation that people hammer out.

But to tie it about something whether you break the promises of the United States government, the people all over the world as well as its own citizens, just makes no sense. It ought to be banned as a weapon. It should be like nuclear bombs, I mean basically, too horrible to use.


BANFIELD: Whoa, now those are pretty strong words. Congressman Messer, are you listening to a man like Warren Buffett, you Republicans and your demands, when you talk about the leverage of the debt ceiling?

MESSER: Of course. No one wants to see the debt ceiling breached. But with all due respect to Mr. Buffett, his comments ignore history. Whether it's Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush, or even President Obama just a few years ago, the leverage of the debt ceiling has been the times when we've come together as a nation and worked to pass plans that would reduce spending. We ought to do it now. You know, it's the president and Harry Reid who are saying they won't negotiate. The House Republican position on both the debt ceiling and our budget, is we want to come to the table and we're being told unless the president gets his way, that he won't come.

BERA: Well, here is what I would say.

BANFIELD: Quickly. Last comment.

BERA: Let's not use the debt ceiling. We've already authorized these bills. Let's pay our bills, but let's put a real budget together, get everyone together in a room, put everything on the table, learn how to listen to each other, and let's get a real budget that puts us on the right track.

BANFIELD: All right, best of luck to you freshmen, and thank you very much. Congressman Luke Messer and Ami Bera. Appreciate you coming out today.

Nice to see you sake. This is becoming a special event on our program. You can come back any time.



BERA: Exactly.

BANFIELD: I just want to let our viewers know as they head off into the sunset together, you want to stay with CNN for a special coverage of the government shutdown. Tonight on "PIERS MORGAN LIVE," Senator John McCain is going to show up. It's going to be good. Make sure you tune in at 9:00 eastern. Don't miss it.

Coming up next, something else you don't want to miss, the lawyer for the biker who was caught smashing the window of that SUV said, hey, my client overreacted. But he says, you got the wrong guy if you think he took part in the beating. Why his defense might actually be effective.

And later that incredible crash in Indy Grand Prix in Houston. The driver surviving with treatable injuries, and a bit of a celebrity himself. Spectators injured as well. More coming up on that next.


BANFIELD: Welcome back to LEGAL VIEW. I'm sure that you have seen at least some portion of the video of the biker swarm story where hundreds of bikers were on a street in Manhattan. One SUV driver was surrounded. A bump, an attack, an escape, and then a bloody drive on the ground.

And now word three people have been arrested, three people have been charged. At least two of them saying you got the wrong guy when it comes to the actual beating. And at least one person in that crowd, an off-duty undercover cop. Margaret Conley reports. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARGARET CONLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Reginald Chance seen here pounding his helmet on an SUV car window made his first appearance in court Sunday. Defiant, as he flipped off reporters in court. He faces charges including gang assault and assault in the first degree, and criminal possession of a weapon. His attorney says the charges are too severe; he says his client wasn't even there when Alexian Lien was pulled out of his car and beaten, and a witness says the bikers went after his wife as well.

GREGORY WATTS, REGINALD CHANCE'S ATTORNEY: My client obviously overreacted in smashing the window, but beyond that he was not a participant in any assault on that victim.

CONLEY: Another biker, Robert Simms, seen here trying to open the door to the SUV as it drove away, appeared in court on Saturday and faces some of the same charges.

And we're now hearing the story of this biker, Christopher Cruz, who appears to be slowing down in front of the SUV, when he was struck, allegedly triggering the mayhem. He defended himself to ABC News yesterday.

CHRISTOPHER CRUZ, BIKER CHARGED IN ASSAULT: I think the media is being unfair with me.


CRUZ: Because they don't know who I am. They don't know what actually happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What should we know about you?

CRUZ: That I'm a family man of go kids. I have a 2-year-old and a 6- year-old. I try to stay away from trouble as much as possible.

CONLEY: And his attorney weighed in as well. He told CNN Cruz wasn't slowing down. Saying, quote, there was no intention on Christopher's part to slow this 3.5 ton vehicle with his motorcycle. He also said Cruz was injured by the SUV driver when he suddenly pulled away.

Edwin Mieses was critically injured. His family says he's paralyzed.

Now, police are asking for the public's help to identify these two people who believe were present at the assault. All in an effort to further piece together this puzzle that's far from complete.


BANFIELD: Our thanks to Margaret Conley for that report.