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THE SITUATION ROOM
Signs of Nuclear Detonation Imminent; NBA Star's Friendship with Dictator; Sterling Speaks Out about NBA Scandal; Sterling's Wife Backs Husband's Ouster; Islamist Terrorist Vows to Sell Kidnapped Girls
Aired May 5, 2014 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Jake, thanks very much.
Happening now, breaking news -- ominous signs in North Korea. U.S. satellites spot something very suspicious at a tunnel entrance. There are new fears the North is getting ready for a nuclear test.
Dennis Rodman opens up -- the ex-NBA star offers extraordinary new details about his friendship with North Korea's dictator.
But is he still in denial about human rights abuses?
Shocking terror video -- the leader of a violent Islamist group vows to sell more than 200 kidnapped school girls.
So what is the U.S. doing to help?
And digging in their heels -- the ousted Clippers' owner and his wife are both battling for control of the NBA team.
Is Donald Sterling's girlfriend now helping his case?
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news this hour. Disturbing signs North Korea may be on the verge of detonating a nuclear device at any time.
We're also looking into a shocking claim that an uncle of the leader, Kim Jong Un, reported to have been executed, is, in fact, alive. The former NBA star, Dennis Rodman, says he saw him alive.
Plus, a claim of responsibility for a horrifying crime -- the kidnapping of more than 200 school girls. Their al Qaeda-linked abductors are now threatening to sell them.
Our reporters and analysts are covering all of those stories and a lot more.
Let's begin with our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
She has details of ominous new developments in North Korea.
What are you hearing -- Barbara, from your sources?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a senior U.S. official tells me that late last week, U.S. spy satellites flying over North Korea spotted a tarp. And it was over a tunnel entrance at North Korea's nuclear test site.
Why is it so important that there may be a tarp over a tunnel entrance?
This is a site where North Korea conducts underground nuclear tests, the kind they've been threatening to do if they put a tarp over it, they don't want the U.S. satellites to see what they're up to.
Closing off the tunnel entrance would be the final step, one of the final steps, before they actually initiated an underground nuclear explosion. If they put the tarp up, that could be -- could be a sign they are nearing that final stage, closing off the tunnel entrance. And that, Wolf, is a huge concern to the US.
BLITZER: I'm sure they're watching it very, very closely.
Barbara at the Pentagon.
Thanks very much.
Now to the stunning claim by Dennis Rodman. He says that on his latest trip to North Korea, he saw Kim Jong Un's uncle -- the same uncle reportedly executed for treason only a few months ago.
CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us -- Brian, this is getting a lot of attention because Dennis Rodman is close to the North Korean leader.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
You know, when talking about Kim Jong Un, Dennis Rodman said, quote, "That little kid is changing North Korea for the better."
In his interview with "DuJour" magazine, Rodman spoke of his personal fondness for the man who executed his own uncle and who is again threatening to destabilize an entire region.
DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER NBA STAR: This night was really -- really different.
TODD (voice-over): Far from being contrite, Dennis Rodman is still glowing about the trip he made to North Korea in January and the basketball exhibition he staged for Kim Jong Un's birthday.
In an interview with "DuJour" magazine, Rodman said he's still impressed with the show of worship Kim got when he entered the arena that night.
RODMAN: I was just so just amazed just to see the people crying, I mean literally crying.
TODD: Some of the interview was videotaped. But in the more substantive portion, Rodman wanted just the audio recorded. He told "DuJour," Kim Jong Un's uncle, Jang Song Thaek, was still alive when he was there.
RODMAN: That's his girlfriend, that's his uncle, that's his sister (INAUDIBLE), they were standing right there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The uncle is alive?
RODMAN: They were all right there sitting right behind me.
TODD: The interviewers were skeptical, asking again if the uncle was alive.
RODMAN: And they both sat right there.
TODD: This despite reports from North Korea's own government news agency the previous month that Kim had had his uncle executed for treason.
Other Rodman revelations -- he said he paid the other former NBA stars who accompanied him to North Korea $30,000 to $35,000 each out of his own pocket. He said he's held Kim's baby and portrayed the uneven, volatile young dictator as something like a cruise director.
RODMAN: And jokes and do all kind of (EXPLETIVE LANGUAGE) things.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
RODMAN: He loves playing basketball and loves (INAUDIBLE). He loves playing pool. He has this 13 piece girl's band.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's wild.
RODMAN: It's no karaoke machine, it's a band, a real band. It's all girls. They all...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you ever sing?
RODMAN: Yes, I sang with them. They sang -- they played "Rocky" and "Dallas."
TODD: Rodman has admitted that he was drunk for part of the time and said he went to rehab after returning from North Korea.
But he remains the only American ever to have personal, face-to-face meetings with Kim Jong Un. Rodman says Kim wants to change that.
RODMAN: He really, really wants to talk to Obama. He says he can't say that enough. He said he don't want to bomb nobody, that he don't want to kill Americans. TODD: U.S. officials are now concerned Kim's regime is preparing to stage another underground nuclear test. But Rodman told "DuJour" Kim Jong Un only wants nuclear weapons to defend his country.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: Rodman was not only apologetic for the regime, but in denial over North Korea's human rights record. When asked about the hundreds and thousands of people suffering in labor camps there, his response, quote, "Which country does not have that?" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And, Brian, in the interview with "DuJour," he also slammed the U.S. government over this whole thing, right?
TODD: He did. He has much kinder words for North Korea's government than he does for America's government. He says he asked the U.S. government six months ago for help in setting up his trip to Pyongyang. He says the U.S. government ignored him.
Now, we asked the State Department about that today. A spokeswoman there, Marie Harp, responded to that by saying her -- to her knowledge, they had no contact with Rodman. So she's pretty much denying that he ever reached out.
BLITZER: All right, Brian Todd reporting for us.
Let's get some more.
The "DuJour" CEO, the founder, Jason Binn, interviewed Dennis Rodman for the magazine. He spent two hours talking to him.
He's here with us in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Jason, thanks very much for coming in.
JASON BINN, PUBLISHER, "DUJOUR": Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: So he believes that his friendship with Kim Jong Un is real and genuine.
Does he really believe that, based on the impressions you got, or is this all just publicity for publicity for Dennis Rodman?
BINN: I think in the beginning, he didn't know what to think. But as time evolved and through his trips, I think he's very confident and convinced that they do have a solid relationship.
BLITZER: Does he understand the threats emanating from North Korea right now, how tense that North Korean Peninsula is, a million North Korean troops along the demilitarized zone, nearly a million South Korean troops, 30,000 American soldiers in between. One miscalculation could trigger who knows what?
BINN: We approached that question with him on numerous occasions and he kept saying, I'm not a politician. All I can tell you is what my experiences were.
And that's what we did at "DuJour."
BLITZER: And he keeps -- and he says he keeps in touch with Kim Jong Un.
How does he do that?
I mean it's not as if there's open communications between the United States and North Korea.
BINN: He says that he has direct communication with him.
BLITZER: He doesn't -- he didn't explain how that works?
BLITZER: But you got no sense, Jason, that he is backing away from that so-called friendship with the North Korean leader?
BINN: He did say that this summer that he would go there and that he was concerned that if he did come back to America, or tried to come back, they wouldn't let him in. And that was kind of disturbing to him.
BLITZER: Well, here's a quote from the interview in "DuJour" magazine. This is Dennis Rodman. "The U.S. Treasury," he says, "wants to indict me. And I'm like, for what, treason? They threatened me. They said I gave his wife a fur coat, a dress, I gave all these gifts. I was like, I did? No, I didn't."
Does he understand that the regulations -- the the Treasury Department regulations barring U.S. citizens from making gifts to North Korean leaders and that kind of issue, did you get a sense he understood the ramifications of that?
BINN: His focus was is that he's not the one giving the gifts and nor does he want to be known to be that person. And that's what we reported at DuJour.com.
BLITZER: Did he really believe -- does he really believe the U.S. is going to pull his passport and actually indict him for going to North Korea?
BINN: He kind of -- he basically said read between the lines. When I -- I kept asking him, why do you believe that if you come back to America, that you will not be allowed back into America?
And he says, it's not going to be America's -- North Korea's doing, it's going to be America's doing.
And I asked him, what do you mean?
Where are you going with this?
And he said read between the lines. BLITZER: So he didn't really spell it out.
You know, give me a little sense of his demeanor. He, himself, has said he went to rehab, he's got an alcohol problem.
How did he seem in the two hours you and your team spent with him?
What was he like?
BINN: We expected to actually have a very short interview. The interview went for around two to three hours with a photo shoot. And we got video, as you know, and we taped it.
He said he went to rehab for more about decompression. He didn't feel like he was -- he had a lot of stress and pressure going on, obviously, with everything that happened with his other interviews and his trip and he just needed to decompress.
BLITZER: Did he seem stable?
BINN: He seemed completely stable. He was clear, coherent. He was -- he answered every question. Yes.
BLITZER: He clearly wasn't drunk, from your impression?
BINN: He was not drunk. He was really direct. He was -- he gave us straight shooting answers.
BLITZER: All right. Let's talk a little about the other exclusive DuJour.com had the other day. And you caused a huge stir, especially here among our viewers in THE SITUATION ROOM on Friday, when you reported on your Web site, part of the conversation. You had a phone conversation with Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, in which he said to you -- and I'll put it up on the screen -- "I wish I had just paid her off."
Take us behind the scenes.
What was going on?
How did you -- you alone, Jason Binn, you got to speak to Donald Sterling. He told you all this. It was on the record.
What did he say?
BINN: He basically was -- obviously, this has been an amazing -- a very challenging time for him. And it just came out naturally. He just said, "I should have paid -- I wish I had paid her off. I should have just taken care of it."
And at that point, I knew I had a great quote.
BLITZER: Did he seem remorseful to you at all?
BINN: It -- he seems very confused at this point. You know, there's a lot going on. I couldn't really answer that question. BLITZER: All right. But did -- the impression you walked away with, he's going to fight to try to keep the LA Clippers?
BINN: I asked him and it seems what the media has been saying and the impression, I think, is that that's what's going to happen.
BLITZER: All right, Jason Binn. You had two big exclusives in the last few days, Dennis Rodman and Donald Sterling.
Thanks so much for joining us.
BINN: Thank you for having me.
BLITZER: Jason Binn joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Up next, more on the Clippers' owner, Donald Sterling. He may have been ousted by the NBA, but his wife has made it clear she's not going anywhere.
And NBA owners have kept a very low profile since the Sterling scandal broke, but now, one of them is getting ready to speak out here in THE SITUATION ROOM. There he is. Bruce Levinson, one of the co-owners of the Atlanta Hawks. He's going to join us in a few moments.
Say hello to Jason Binn.
BLITZER: Let's get more now on the scandal rocking the NBA, sparked by racist remarks by the Clippers owner, Donald Sterling. The spotlight is now increasingly on his wife, a co-owner of the team, who's alternatively stood by him and also distanced herself from him at the same time. Our national correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, is joining us now with now.
Suzanne, what's the very latest with Shelly Sterling?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are all waiting to see whether or not the NBA owners vote to force Donald Sterling to sell his team. There is plenty of drama still courtside.
While Donald Sterling has basically stayed out of the spotlight, it's his wife that continues to make the headlines and fuel speculation now that the L.A. team might stay in the family.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): Shelly Sterling, the wife of the ousted Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, is not retreating, showing up at game seven on Saturday and saying she supports the NBA commissioner's decision. "I welcome his active involvement in the search for a person of the utmost character, proven excellence, and a commitment to promoting equality and inclusiveness."
She's facing Renewed scrutiny as this grainy video of her all so publicly surfaced from a 2003 civil rights lawsuit against her and her husband.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you Ms. Shelby (ph) from the health department?
SHELLY STERLING, CO-OWNER OF CLIPPERS: Yes, sir.
MALVEAUX: She was accused of posing as a housing inspector at a building she and her husband owned, as part of a campaign to harass and get rid of the black and Hispanic tenants.
CHANCELA AL-MANSOUR, HOUSING RIGHTS CENTER: He preferred Asians over African-Americans and Latinos. He told his management staff that African-Americans smelled and they smelled like vermin, where -- and he stated that Hispanics, all they did was drink and smoke all day long.
MALVEAUX: They Sterlings settled the suit out of court and were ordered to pay the plaintiffs $5 million in attorneys' fees.
But she also hinted she's not going away, adding, as a co-owner, "I'm fully committed to taking the necessary steps to make the Clippers the best team in the NBA."
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Shelly Sterling feels that she is an owner, plans to remain an owner. There is no question that Donald Sterling and Shelly Sterling are part of the Sterling team. They are in this together.
MALVEAUX: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti says Donald Sterling told him he most likely will not sell the team.
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI, LOS ANGELES MAYOR: I think he thinks that he's going to be the owner for a long time, that he wants to stay the owner. I think he believes in his heart that he's a very good person.
MALVEAUX: So does his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, who talked to ABC's Barbara Walters.
BARBARA WALTERS, ABC NEWS: Is Donald Sterling a racist?
V. STIVIANO, GIRLFRIEND OF DONALD STERLING: No, I don't believe it in my heart.
WALTERS: You've heard him say derogatory things.
WALTERS: Don't they sound racist to you?
STIVIANO: I think the thing he says are not what he feels.
MALVEAUX: Public statements like these could lead NBA owners to ultimately allow Sterling to keep his team.
HOSTIN: This is going to be a very difficult, difficult choice for the NBA owners. I don't think it's a slam dunk case at all. (END VIDEOTAPE)
MALVEAUX: And as for the Clippers, they are playing well on the court, moving on to the second round of the NBA playoffs, and at least one sponsor that temporarily dumped the Clippers, Red Bull, is back to support them as we are still waiting, Wolf, to see what those NBA owners decide.
BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux, thanks very much.
Let's get a little bit now. Bruce Levenson is one of the co-owners of the Atlanta Hawks, one of the first NBA owners to speak publicly about this. Bruce is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Bruce, thanks very much for coming in.
BRUCE LEVENSON, CO-OWNER, ATLANTA HAWKS: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: I know you're outraged by the comments that Donald Sterling made and you believe there should be zero tolerance, right?
LEVENSON: That's correct.
BLITZER: When you heard what he said, what immediately went through your mind?
LEVENSON: Well, first of all, I've got to say a couple things. Donald Sterling, what he said, I'm his partner. I can't be partners with somebody who shares those views.
BLITZER: Partner because you're another owner of an NBA team?
LEVENSON: Yes. Thirty of us, we're in business together. Adam Silver has made it very clear ...
BLITZER: The commissioner?
LEVENSON: The commissioner has made it very clear that Donald Sterling has been banned from the league. And it will move forward with the process now to remove this owner. I support what Adam is doing, and I think it resonates it resonates with all the owners.
BLITZER: What about the wife, Shelly Sterling? Assuming he's banned for life, should she be punished along the same lines?
LEVENSON: I think we need to let this process play out. I think we'll have a result that makes sense for our fans, for the public.
BLITZER: Hold on for a moment because Rachel Nichols, the host of CNN'S "UNGUARDED," Rachel Nichols, is also with us. Rachel, let me get your quick thought on Shelly Sterling. Is she going to emerge as the owner of the Clippers even if he's kicked out?
RACHEL NICHOLS, HOST, "UNGUARDED": Well, it's unlikely that we would see Shelly Sterling not be allowed to own the team. The question is, what's her involvement with the team in this interim period? Is she allowed around the team? Well, the answer is obviously yes. She's been at the games.
Is she allowed to make any management decisions? Well, that's a big question Mark. Doc Rivers so far, the coach, has been relatively complimentary of Shelly Sterling. I don't know how much of the previous allegations as I've reported on Doc has heard. It's a big mess over there. You heard the NBA say that they want to appoint a CEO to sort of clear things up. We're waiting for them to do that in the interim period.
BLITZER: Bruce, there's a CNN poll, a new CNN poll. And look at this. Should NBA owners force Sterling to sell Los Angeles Clippers? Forty-seven percent say yes; 50 percent say no. I take it you are stunned by that.
LEVENSON: I was. And I think as this process plays out, Wolf, people's views on that will change.
BLITZER: Why do you say that?
LEVENSON: Well, first of all, they need to understand that this isn't a litigation, a legal matter. We're partners together, and as such, I was voted into this league by my partners. I could be voted out of this league by my partners.
I think I speak for all my partners when I say we were all deeply offended. We all quickly spoke out against these words that we heard on that tape.
BLITZER: You think the vote will be unanimous; all 30 owners, in the end, will vote to get rid of him?
LEVENSON: I can't tell you how voters -- owners will vote. I can only tell you how I feel about this.
BLITZER: You feel very strongly. Rachel, what do you think about that poll? That CNN poll: 47 percent say yes and 50 percent say no that the NBA owners should force Sterling to sell the L.A. Clippers?
NICHOLS: Yes, I think it reflects the mixed feelings that some people have. And Bruce, I would be curious to ask you. You obviously feel so strongly about this.
We heard Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, say that he did have some reservations and concerns. We've been worried about the, quote, slippery slope, about voting out fellow owners based on private conversations. I'm wondering what top talks you've had with fellow owners, whether anybody has expressed those kinds of reservations with you, not about what Donald Sterling has said, per se, but just about the idea of this process.
LEVENSON: I have great, great respect for Mark Cuban. When I first came into the league ten years ago, he was a mentor, an adviser. But for me, the only slippery slope here is the one that would in any way, shape, or form tolerate the messages that I heard on that tape.
BLITZER: And I want to get -- it's very personal, Bruce, for you, because I've known you for a long time. You've known me.
Long before we knew about Donald Sterling's racist comments, the Atlanta Hawks, your team, were here in Washington, playing my team, the Washington Wizards. You're from Washington originally, so it used to be your team. You did something special with the team, the coaches, everyone else. Tell our viewers what you did and this is before the Sterling up roar happened.
LEVENSON: Yes, towards the end of the season it's something we had wanted to do for some time, and the schedule allowed it. We were coming to Washington to play the Wizards. So we went as a team to the holocaust museum.
BLITZER: The U.S. National Holocaust Memorial Museum?
LEVENSON: Yes. An extraordinary experience.
BLITZER: Tell us why you wanted to take the players there?
LEVENSON: Well, I mean, it's a very personal thing for me. They had an opportunity to meet my mother-in-law. She is a survivor of unspeakable acts during the Holocaust. She lost two brothers in the Holocaust. It was an opportunity for them to meet her. It was an opportunity for them to visit the museum and to learn the lessons that that museum teaches us.
BLITZER: And that was a powerful moment for you and for the entire team.
Rachel, let me just get back to you for a second. NBA fans, I think by and large, the overwhelming majority, they want him gone, Donald Sterling, whether or not a national poll has it 50/50 or so.
NICHOLS: Yes, reaction within the league was very strong. Reaction among fans, among players. And that's why there's going to be pressure on each of these owners. If an owner feels differently than, say, Bruce does, well, now he's accountable, because Adam Silver has made this a public issue. The fact that they're going to vote, the fact that Adam is pushing for everybody to oust Donald Sterling.
And any owner that feels differently is not only going to have to answer to himself and his business partners, but he's going to have to answer to players, to his fans. And fans around the country and certainly all of the players on all of the teams have made it clear, pretty much unanimously, they want this guy gone.
BLITZER: Yes, that poll, Bruce was should NBA owners force Sterling to sell the Los Angeles Clippers? That doesn't necessarily mean they support or like what he said. They clearly don't.
LEVENSON: Wolf, this is what's so great about America. When something like this happens, we quickly, we loudly, we clearly reject it. The fans spoke up. The players spoke up. Our NBA business partners spoke up and every NBA business owner spoke up. Nobody said this is OK.
BLITZER: How long, do you think, before we know the final outcome? How long is it going to play out?
LEVENSON: I think the process is going to go quickly now.
BLITZER: Within a few weeks?
LEVENSON: I can't tell you -- I can't tell you exactly.
BLITZER: It will be relatively quickly?
BLITZER: Bruce Levenson, co-owner of the Atlanta Hawks. Rachel Nichols, thanks to you, as well. We'll see you back here in our next hour.
Coming up, hundreds of schoolgirls kidnapped. Now a group with ties to al Qaeda threatening to sell them.
Plus millions of dollars and many more months of effort. New details of the next phase of the search for Malaysia Flight 370.
BLITZER: Is the hunt for Flight 370 now back to square one? After a high-powered huddle among the nation's most involved in the search, officials say they will take another look at the data and refocus their effort to find the airliner.
The next phase could last many months and cost tens of millions of dollars.
Let's get the details from CNN aviation correspondent Rene Marsh, who is here in THE SITUATION ROOM -- Rene.
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, one new detail that we're learning today is that the data that they have been relying on for nearly two months and has led crews to the current search zone will now be reviewed again to see if there are any flaws in their calculations.
MARSH (voice-over): Reset.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The operation must now enter a new phase.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have a look at all of the data that has been gathered and make sure that there's no flaws in it.
MARSH: And reorganize.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Other meetings will look at the same time as to what assets might be required. MARSH: More than 300 search flights, over 3,000 flying hours, and at least 1.7 million square miles of ocean off the coast of Australia searched for floating debris, that's like scanning the entire state of Alaska three times. The underwater search of 154 square miles also found nothing, a giant operation back to the drawing board.
WARREN TRUSS, AUSTRALIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: One of the key elements of the next stage will be to undertake more detailed ocean -- oceanographic mapping of the search area. Much of this area has never been mapped.
MARSH: A major meeting today between Australia, China, and Malaysia. The game plan is a broader underwater search using the Bluefin-21 and more specialized sonar equipment, likely from private companies, that can dive deeper and withstand the underwater pressure.
These styrofoam cups were in the Bluefin-21. The enormous pressure shrunk them during its three-mile down.
CAPT. JAMES LYBRAND, OCEAN SHIELD: The Ocean Shield will stay here for a number of days whilst the software and hardware upgrades take place and will proceed to sea shortly.
MARSH: The search effort paused, Ocean Shield docked to refuel, and Bluefin sitting on deck. Both will return to search where pings thought to be from the black boxes were detected.
ANGUS HOUSTON, CHIEF SEARCH COORDINATOR: I still put the most weight on the work that the expert team in Kuala Lumpur has done. That's the best information we have.
MARSH: The next phase of the search could last a year and cost about $60 million.
MARSH: Well, last week, 11 people were arrested on suspicion they were involved in a militant group that is responsible for planning terror attacks within and outside of Malaysia. Of course, the first question was, did they have anything to do with the disappearance of the missing plane?
Well, at this point, Malaysian police telling us that there's no indication to show that this group is linked to the missing plane.
BLITZER: Rene, hold on for a moment.
I want to bring in our aviation analyst, the former NTSB Managing Director Peter Goelz, and our law enforcement analyst, the former FBI Assistant Director Tom Fuentes.
On that last point, Tom, that Rene just made about an arrest of 11 suspected terrorists in Malaysia and perhaps questioning them to see if there might be some connection to the missing Malaysian airliner, you have looked into this. TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I have learned this morning from the FBI that the case has been going on for more than a year, members of that group were under very tight surveillance all during this past year, and that they were not related to the Malaysia disappearance.
BLITZER: All right, so it's just coincidental that now they are talking to them and...
FUENTES: Right. But this goes back to more than a decade of working terror groups in Malaysia between the FBI and the Malaysian police.
BLITZER: And on this front, there's very good cooperation between the U.S. and Malaysia?
FUENTES: Been excellent cooperation, right. They have worked a number of groups very successfully.
BLITZER: Peter, let's talk about this new search stage, this phase.
They're going to -- you just heard the Australian minister suggest that they are going to be going to depths, doing things they haven't done over these past couple of months. This is going to be a long, drawn-out process now.
PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: It's going to go at least a year, Wolf.
I mean, this thing, they're -- they are looking at a completely new approach. They are probably going to be using towed vehicles, instead of remotely driven ones. I would say that the Bluefin is going to be put on the dock for a while, and they're going in for a long, hard winter.
BLITZER: You have been hearing some information, Rene, about how they are going to upgrade some of the technology, because this is going to be a long process, and they are going to have to basically start from scratch.
So, we know the Bluefin right now, it is on the deck of Ocean Shield, which is at the port. So, they are not doing any searching right now, but what they are going to do is upgrading the software, essentially making it possible for Bluefin to possibly go even deeper than we saw it go. We saw that they pushed the limit to beyond what they thought it was going to be able to before. They want to try to push it a little bit more.
BLITZER: And since, Tom, they haven't found any even tiny piece of wreckage of this plane, I assume they are going to look at all the Inmarsat data, they're going to look at all those pings that they thought they heard, they are going to look at everything to see if they are even looking in the right place. FUENTES: I think so. I think they are not going to just take it for granted that they have been in the right place. They will just keep looking and re-looking and re-analyzing and try to reaffirm that they are in the right place.
BLITZER: What are the chances that that Inmarsat data -- data that brought them to that Southern Indian Ocean location, where they have been spending the last several weeks looking without success, and those pings that they thought they heard from these black boxes, what are the chances that both of those assumptions turn out to be wrong?
GOELZ: I think it's slim, but you have got to challenge every assumption right now.
You have got a couple of weeks where everything is unsure. Go back to the beginning, make sure that everything is correct, that what facts you have, you have got to challenge them. So we will see.
BLITZER: Tell us what you're hearing, Rene, about this trilateral meeting that is going to take place later this week, Wednesday, I think? The Malaysians, the Australians, and the Chinese, they're going to come in. They're going to partners. I assume the U.S. will be on the sidelines helping as well.
And the main things that they are going to be hashing out is, what kind of assets are we going to bring in? They are also going to be talking about costs. We just heard there 60 -- roughly $60 million. How is that going to be divided up, who is going to pay for what, and also how they are going to move forward with the search -- we talked about the search zone.
When Ocean Shield returns, it's going to go back to that general area where the pinging sounds were detected. However, they are going to be widening the search area. So, this is all about the kind of equipment that they are going to be bringing in and reaching out to those private sector, those private companies who may have this equipment.
Is it available? That's another issue. They want to know what is available to them.
BLITZER: You have been involved, Tom, in major international investigations over the years. How critical is it, this phase right now, when they are regrouping?
FUENTES: It's always critical to have proper planning.
So, to go to regroup, re-plan, chart out what is going to be done in the months ahead is always a critical factor.
BLITZER: All right. We will see what happens. This is going to be a long, drawn-out process.
Tom, Peter, Rene, guys, thanks very much. Up next: the leader of an Islamist terror group boasting, boasting he will sell more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls. Can the U.S. do anything to help?
And a U.S. spy plane causing a major disruption in air travel -- we have details. That's coming up.
BLITZER: A shocking new video from the leader of an al Qaeda-backed Islamic terror group, at times boastful, cruel, and taunting.
He takes responsibility for the mass kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls. And he's vowing to sell them.
The United States is taking some steps to help Nigeria get the girls back, but authorities are up against a merciless and deadly foe.
Let's go live to CNN's Isha Sesay. She is joining us live from Nigeria with the very latest.
What are you learning, Isha?
ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this video that emerged today with the leader of Boko Haram is gut-wrenching and, quite frankly, just sickening.
It's been three weeks since these 200-plus girls were snatched from their school in northeastern Nigeria. Until today, there had been claim of responsibility. And, today, we heard from the group that says they are responsible, and it only deepened the anxiety and the desperation being felt by the families of these girls and the people of Nigeria.
SESAY (voice-over): New horrors from a brazen and increasingly dangerous terrorist organization. A man claiming to be leader of the Islamic militant group Boko Haram is promising a grim fate for 223 Nigerian girls kidnapped in the dead of night during a fiery attack on their school three weeks ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah. There is a market for selling humans.
SESAY: Outrageous threats in a rambling nearly hour-long video, more reason for the United States to be very worried about Boko Haram's expanding campaign of terror, with some financial help and training from al Qaeda.
The group has killed thousands of people, including innocent children, since its emergence in 2009 in bombings and armed attacks on buses, churches, mosques, and villages. Boko Haram means "Western education is sinful," its goal, to create a radical Islamic state in Nigeria.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell the women. I sell women.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Bring them back. Not for sale. African lives matter. Bring back our girls.
SESAY: Protesters in Nigeria and around the world are demanding action to find the abducted girls, who may already have been sold as child brides, or worse.
CNN has learned that the Obama administration has started sharing intelligence with Nigeria where the government is under fire and accused of incompetence. The country's president spoke out for the first time about the kidnapping.
PRES. GOODLUCK JONATHAN, NIGERIA: Let us reassure them that we will get the other girls out.
SESAY: Well, the president saying that he will do everything he can, him and his security forces, to find these girls but also admitting in that first on-camera statement that he made on Sunday to Nigerians that they simply don't know where those girls are.
In a conversation that I had with Nigeria's finance minister just a short time ago, he stressed that Nigeria is open to help, they are asking for help from the international community to help them find these girls -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What a -- what a heartbreaking story this one is, Isha, thank you very much.
Isha Sesay reporting live from Nigeria.
Let's get a little closer look at this desperate kidnapping situation, the deadly terror group which has been leaving a trail of blood across Nigeria.
Joining us now our national security analyst Peter Bergen who has studied this horrible, horrible group, Boko Haram.
It literally means, translated from the local language, Western education is sinful. And they'll go after Muslims, they'll go after Christians. They just don't believe that girls should get an education.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. They actually originated as a group called the Nigerian Taliban which kind of explains where they're coming from. They are aiming to impose Taliban-style rule on much of Nigeria, particularly in the north where they are based.
BLITZER: Most Americans have never heard of this group Boko Haram but it does have links to al Qaeda and al Qaeda-affiliated groups?
BERGEN: Yes. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb which is in the North African Al Qaeda affiliate has given money to Boko Haram in the past. There is reporting suggesting that Osama bin Laden was in communication with the leadership of this group. There is no indication that Boko Haram is affiliated to al Qaeda formally or that al Qaeda is affiliated with Boko Haram but there are certainly some links.
BLITZER: What -- I mean, are they growing now? Are they increasing their influence in Nigeria?
BLITZER: Because it's not just Nigeria. They've got influence in other African countries as well.
BERGEN: I think they are growing. Amnesty International released a report on Saturday indicating that 1500 people have been killed in -- the last three months, Wolf, violence between these kinds of groups and the government. And that's, you know, more than half of what happened in 2013. So the groups are able to, you know, produce more violence and it's a problem for Nigeria which is now in fact the richest country in Africa.
They are about to hold this world economic forum meeting on Wednesday and, you know, instead this is going to dominate the headlines. And Nigeria wants to position itself as a -- you know, oil rich country which is doing well economically.
BLITZER: Can the Nigerian military, their security forces get the job done and crush this group?
BERGEN: Well, it's been around for a decade so I guess the answer is not immediately.
BLITZER: Are they doing enough? Do they need help from the outside, from other African countries, from the U.S., Europeans?
BERGEN: Yes, I think that's right. I mean we saw in Mali in 2012 that if we're to acquire the French military going into exterminate the sort of al Qaeda affiliate there, I'm not suggesting military intervention but clearly this group has been growing for the last decade now and the government I think this kidnapping speaks for itself. They haven't got really a handle on it and it's causing a lot of problems for them domestically.
BLITZER: Peter Bergen, thanks very much. We'll stay on top of this for our viewers. A horrible story indeed.
Just ahead, how a spy plane created an air traffic nightmare for countless thousands of U.S. travelers. I'll speak to a reporter on the ground.
Also, in eastern Ukraine, about as terrifying ordeal, he was detained, he was threatened by militants.
BLITZER: Firefighters are battling heat and winds in Oklahoma along with a large wildfire that's killed at least one person. More than 30 buildings already have been burned. Dozens of homes are threatened. 1,000 people already have been evacuated.
Our meteorologist Chad Myers is joining us with an update.
Chad, tell us what's going on over here.
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I spent three years of my career in this area here, Oklahoma City, Norman, Edmond, Guthrie. And this is the fire near Guthrie. A controlled burn that got out of control because of winds and a little bit of dry. This has been a drought area for so very long. Hasn't rained in so many days. I think 180 days in a row without truly significant rain other than a thunderstorm, which half of that runs off anyway, Wolf.
But the fire here along the Guthrie line can still blowing to the northeast at almost 30 miles per hour. At that type of wind speed, the sparks from the fire are picked up and sent a mile forward. And so when the firefighters believe they have a handle on the fire, these are the cedar trees. They're cedar and they're scrub oak here. When you see the flames explode like this, this is cedar.
They go up and literally they go up like they're coated with gasoline. The energy in that cedar sap is tremendous, and it's hot and it sparks and the sparks and the ash and the timbers and the cinders just fly and fly for miles. And every time you see a white smoke area, that's truly trees. That's only trees and grass burning. But when it gets dark and it gets black, that's when homes or structures or cars or tires or tractors that are in the way, that's when you begin to know that there is real truly damage on the ground when you see that dark smoke -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What's the forecast for the immediate hours and next day or so as far as these fires are concerned? Is the forecast going to help or hurt?
MYERS: You know, I don't see relative humidities getting involve even 40 percent overnight. To the west of this area, the relative humidity earlier today was 9 percent. That's just ripping any moisture that might be in that plant away from that plant. And the winds are still going to be blowing 20 or 30 miles per hour tonight and, Wolf, tomorrow is a much more severe day. Could be 40 miles per hour then.
BLITZER: Chad Myers, we'll stay in close contact with you for more. Thank you.
Coming up, as bloody clashes escalate between government troops and pro-Russian militants in Ukraine, we're going to hear from an American journalist who was detained and threatened by those separatists.
Also how a spy plane created an air traffic nightmare for countless thousands of U.S. travelers.