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Obama On ISIS In Syria: "We Don't Have A Strategy Yet"; Two Minnesota Friends Killed Fighting For Terrorists

Aired August 28, 2014 - 19:00   ET


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, breaking news, a stunning admission from the president. The administration has no strategy to defeat the terror group, ISIS, in Syria.

Plus what we're learning about Douglas McCain, the American who died fighting for ISIS and his close ties to another American jihadi.

And mounting evidence of Russian troops inside Ukraine. One Ukrainian official calling it, quote, "A full scale invasion." Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Jim Sciutto in again tonight for Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news, President Obama speaking out on two major world crises.

First, the fight against the terror group, ISIS. A group a top official told me last night here on our air that poses, quote, "a very serious threat to the homeland."

But while the Pentagon has said repeatedly that it is working on a range of options to deal with ISIS inside Syria, the president said tonight not so fast.




SCIUTTO: That's no strategy to fight this terror group in a country where they've captured multiple cities, an air base and many weapons including 20 Russian tanks. That same group that released this video today.

Video they say shows some of the 250 Syrian soldiers they captured and later executed after gaining control of that Syrian air base this week. And I want to warn you, this next video is graphic. This is video from Syrian activists claiming to show the bodies, the dead bodies of those soldiers.

The brutality of this terror group again on full display and here at home, a frightening new terror tie uncovered. The American killed fighting for is in Syria this week was a close friend of another American killed fighting alongside a terror group as well.

Douglas McArthur McCain and Troy Kastigar, both from Minneapolis. Kastigar killed in 2009 fighting in Somalia even appearing in this terror recruitment video.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you guys only knew how much fun we have over here, this is the real Disneyland.


SCIUTTO: A terror Disneyland.

And the other major crises for the president tonight, up to 1,000 Russian troops crossed into Ukraine. Will President Obama stand up to Russia's President Vladimir Putin? Our own Diana Magnay is going to be on the frontlines.

But we begin tonight with Jim Acosta who is at the White House. Jim, some remarkable words from the president tonight live on television.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. As we both know the dangers of live television and they played out here in the briefing room at the White House earlier today.

But as the president was trying to take on the two major crises facing his administration right now, both ISIS and Russia, let's start with Russia first. Russia's apparent military moves in Ukraine.

The president stopped short of calling that an invasion, but made it clear that additional sanctions for Russia are coming very soon, perhaps in the coming weeks.

But the president once again ruled out any U.S. military solution to resolve that crisis. But as for the big moment of the day, and it was arguably not the president's best moment that he's had in some time.

The president tried to explain to the American people what his strategy was for dealing with the ISIS threat in Syria, and he used the words -- and you just played them there -- we don't have a strategy yet.

Jim, I have to tell you that as soon as the president made those remarks, White House officials were crashing the phones. One called me to explain almost immediately doing instant damage control that the president was talking about the ISIS threat in Syria.

That he was not talking about his overall strategy for ISIS. The White House maintains he does have an overall strategy for dealing with ISIS that involves not only military solutions and air strikes like you're seeing in Iraq, but also building up regional partners to help combat that terrorist threat.

That's why Secretary of State John Kerry is heading to the region after next week's NATO summit, but make no mistake, Jim, this was a press conference the president wanted to have today to sort of tamp down speculation that he was on the verge of launching air strikes.

There's been some media speculation about that all week long, but instead the president created another controversy. We saw the White House Press Secretary Josh Ernest go on "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer an hour or so after the president made its remarks. It's never a good day for the White House when the press secretary has to do that.

SCIUTTO: It still raises hard questions. Jim Acosta at the White House. To help answer some of those questions, joining me now Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.

She is an Iraq veteran and one of only two female combat veterans ever to serve in Congress. Congresswoman Gabbard, thank you very much for joining us tonight.


SCIUTTO: I'm sure you've heard the president's words now, we do not have a strategy yet in Syria, the White House clarifying saying that's just in Syria, not in Iraq. But just yesterday the president's point man in Iraq told me that ISIS is a very serious threat to the homeland, whether ISIS in Iraq or Syria. Was this a stunning admission from the president?

GABBARD: Jim, a couple of weeks ago, I was talking with you on this show. Talking about mission and strategy. We've got to be very clear in what our mission is. Our mission is to take out these Islamic extremists, those who declared war on us, those who killed innocent Americans on 9/11.

And those who our leaders said, we will seek them out and take them out wherever they are. So as we talk about strategy, good, first of all, to recognize that President Obama and his administration is now focusing and recognizing and remembering, actually, that ISIS is our enemy.

ISIS, al Qaeda, whatever name they go by, they're our enemy and we have to execute a smart strategy to take them out. Give the Pentagon a little bit of room to figure out what the specifics of that strategy needs to be in Syria.

SCIUTTO: But let's get at the distinction the White House is making here. They said coming out of the president's comments that, listen, the president has a strategy for ISIS in Iraq. He hasn't worked out the strategy for ISIS in Syria.

But the fact is ISIS straddles the borders of Iraq and Syria. In fact, that border is meaningless. They have a presence on both sides. They're killing people on both sides. They're taking over military bases.

They are confiscating military equipment on both sides. How can it truly be a strategy to confront ISIS if the president and the administration is only focused on Iraq right now? GABBARD: I agree with you in that there's really no border that needs to be considered when you're talking about this group called ISIS or al Qaeda or whatever they might be when they don't consider there is a border between Iraq and Syria.

I think we should look at what has been working very well in Northern Iraq, in Kurdistan where we've got air strikes supporting very capable, courageous ground forces in the Peshmerga.

We should be arming them still. They are not receiving the heavy weaponry and the support that they need to be able to take that offensive action and see how we can continue to do that. Tweaking the strategy where necessary based on the situation on the ground.

SCIUTTO: Let's look at the military strikes have had some success stopping ISIS' advance in Iraq, but hasn't pushed them back very much to be frank. But even if you do push them back a bit there, they still have a tremendous base of operations, home base in effect in Syria. Can the White House strategy truly damage and degrade ISIS as the president said tonight if it is only taking them on in Iraq and not in Syria?

GABBARD: No. We cannot. We can't think that this is about one country. That this is about Iraq or Syria. We've got to recognize that these Islamic extremists present a very direct threat, and we've got to have a comprehensive strategy to take them out wherever we are.

Today we're talking about them being in Iraq and Syria. Tomorrow we could talk about them being in a completely different country or we can talk about another group of Islamic extremists that go by a different name, not ISIS, but really are that same threat to the United States that they are those same group of extremists that attacked us on 9/11.

So as we look at this, we absolutely have to take this on with a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy. What we should have done after 9/11, but unfortunately our mission at this time that was stated has been -- was lost.

You know, I and a lot of other people enlisted in the army or enlisted in the military to join that fight then we were sent on missions of nation building and occupying other countries.

That's been a distraction that's allowed these terrorist groups to strengthen themselves and we've got to get back to that. Remember, what ISIS our mission and come up with a smart strategy to execute that mission.

SCIUTTO: I know you had a very personal experience, the blood and treasure lost in Iraq serving a medical unit there. So few people know as well as you the danger of going in without a strategy.

GABBARD: And that point, Jim -- thank you, we can't highlight that point enough that we cannot afford to make these same mistakes that were made by the Bush administration and carried on by the Obama administration to continue to allow that loss in precious lives and American treasure.

SCIUTTO: Great to have you on. Thanks very much for your thoughts on this.

GABBARD: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT next, new details tonight about a second American who died fighting for ISIS.

Plus the next generation of Jihadis. A look at the young children being recruited and brain washed by the terror group.

And President Obama blames Russia for violence in Ukraine, but why is the White House stopping short of calling Russia's advances an invasion?


SCIUTTO: Breaking news tonight, we're learning more details about another American who died fighting for the terror group, ISIS. A friend tells CNN that Abdirahmaan Muhumed is the second U.S. citizen killed in the fighting last weekend along with Douglas Arthur McCain.

A U.S. official says they are trying to confirm his identity now. Like McCain, Muhammad had ties to Minnesota. Also tonight, we're learning about McCain's childhood friend, who also died fighting for extremists overseas.

Troy Kastigar is seen in this video trying to recruit others from Minnesota to join the terror group, Al Shabaab in Somalia.


ABDIRAHMAAN MUHUMED: If you guys only knew how much fun we have over here. This is the real Disneyland. You need to come here and join us and take pleasure in this fun. We walk amongst the lions. Places so much tranquilly and happiness in your heart when you're amongst these people here. And we can't thank Allah enough.


SCIUTTO: A terror Disneyland. Troy Kastigar's mother spoke to CNN's Jason Carroll today. It was her first television interview. Jason is OUTFRONT tonight with this exclusive report.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For years, Troy Kastigar and Doug McCain, were the picture of the average teenaged American boys. They grew up in Minneapolis, both loved playing basketball and were in some ways inseparable.

JULIE BOADA, TROY KASTIGAR'S MOTHER: There's quite a few people who you would say they would say they were best friends and Doug was one of those really close friends. He spent a lot of time at our house. He went to family gatherings with us. They played basketball together.

CARROLL: So how did two respectful young men go from this image to this?

MUHUMED: This is the real Disneyland. You need to come here and join us.

CARROLL: This recruitment video featuring Kastigar was posted from the militant group, Al Shabaab. Both Kastigar and McCain ended up fighting for terrorists overseas. McCain killed in Syria days ago. Kastigar killed in 2009 in Somalia. His mother still trying to understand how it all happened.

BOADA: I'll never not have that pain and that bitterness, but by trying to fill my life with joy and recognize the gifts and the beauty of the world, it makes it easier.

CARROLL: Kastigar's mother said he started having trouble at 16. He began using drugs and was searching for help and spiritual guidance.

(on camera): And he found comfort in turning to the Koran?

BOADA: So then he became Muslim and I don't know exactly how that happened. He had some friends who were Muslims, some friends who were Somali who had emigrated here. It was great for him. He all of a sudden was I have my boy back. His eyes were bright again.

CARROLL (voice-over): Kastigar said he was going to Kenya to study the Koran, but his destination ended up being Somalia. He'd spent nearly a year overseas with little communication. Then in July 2009 --

BOADO: I had no clue that he was going into a dangerous situation in that way or to fight. And I think he knew.

CARROLL: The FBI came to his mother's home.

BOADA: They said he could have been recruited.

CARROLL: Weeks after that visit, her son was dead.

(on camera): Were there any warning signs along the way?

BOADA: With Doug for sure there were no warning signs because I just haven't been around him for a long time. The one thing that I thought was really strange with Troy is that they -- someone, they were willing to pay for him to come to Kenya. And I really question that. I think they were manipulated and I don't think they knew what they were fully what they were part of.


CARROLL: A lot of conflict, internal conflict with Kastigar's mother. She also said that she felt as though her son had expressed early on worry for the Somali people, worry that some of the Somali people were being oppressed and he went over there to try to help them, but simply got lost along the way -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: The temptation of terrorism stretching all the way to several families in the U.S. Thanks very much to Jason Carroll in Minneapolis.

OUTFRONT tonight, CNN terrorism analyst, Paul Cruickshank. Paul, thanks for joining. You heard Jason's report there. Just as you hear the profiles of each of these young men whether Douglas McCain or Kastigar or others, it really is incredible to see average Americans become radicalized. Can you explain how that happens?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, the fundamental reason these people are going off to fight jihad, Jim, is that they become convinced that it's their religious duty to do that. They've been exposed to radical message online or in the community.

And we've seen quite a high degree of radicalization in Minneapolis in recent years. A couple of dozen Americans, many of them young Somalis going off the fight. Now we've seen another two. Great deal of concern about this that there may be more in the future. There may be a surge of Americans going to fight in Syria.

SCIUTTO: U.S. officials have estimated about 100 so far, just Americans, perhaps hundreds more Europeans. We know that in European countries they've already reported specific terrorist plots tied to fighters returning from Syria and Iraq.

There was a shooting at a Jewish museum in Brussels at the end of May and another involving explosives. What is the level of concern that Americans returning from the fight in Syria and Iraq will attempt to carry out similar attacks here on the U.S. homeland?

CRUICKSHANK: Jim, there's a very high degree of concern. In those two plots officials tell us that French ISIS fighters were involved. They'd spent time in Syria connected with the group and came back to Europe. In one case to launch a plot about a kilogram of high explosives found along with shrapnel.

And in Brussels in May a deadly shooting that led to four people being killed. The worry is that more of these people will come back and some will be Americans.

But from the United States' point of view there's concern that some of these Europeans -- and there are a thousand that joined ISIS -- may come to the United States and launch attacks here. It's easier for Europeans to get here than others.

SCIUTTO: Of course, they don't need visas to travel. What about another concern because there is the concern of the fighters returning from the battlefield there, but others being home grown, radicalized here much like the brothers in the Boston bombing. Is that a concern as well?

CRUICKSHANK: This is the most immediate concern especially if there are U.S. air strikes in Syria, that could lead to a great amount of additional anger amongst radicals here in the United States. The United States would be seen essentially as Assad's air force regime supporting ISIS, which is very brutal a and really hated by the people who might decide to launch lone wolf strikes.

So a lot of concern about that, that they could download instructions from the internet, groups like al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are putting out instructions how to make bombs. We saw that happen in the Boston bombing. A great deal of concern here, Jim.

SCIUTTO: A collateral damage, as it were, from U.S. military action there a possibility going forward. Thanks very much to Paul Cruickshank in London.

OUTFRONT next, the relentless recruitment strategy of ISIS and the children too young to understand the magnitude of the atrocities they see.

Plus a dire warning on the Ebola outbreak. It could ultimately infect 20,000 people and spread to even more countries. A look at a new experimental vaccine under testing to fight the epidemic.


SCIUTTO: We're back with our breaking news. President Obama acknowledging tonight the U.S. does not have a strategy for dealing with ISIS in Syria. That is the same terror group that is boasting today it has executed at least 250 captured Syrian soldiers.

ISIS released this video showing half-naked prisoners being marched into the desert to be slaughtered. And we must warn you this next video very graphic, from Syrian activists and claims to show the dead bodies of those soldiers.

Now ISIS is trying to build a new generation of terrorists, young children learning to shoot machine guns and forced to watch beheadings and stoning at the terror group's training camps inside Syria. Nick Paton Walsh has our story.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): ISIS want their caliphate to span generations so ideas are crammed into minds that are often too young to understand. Like these weapons absurdly held and manipulated by limbs that cannot control them.

Yet still ISIS films and boasts of their youngest. Mohammed has now fled to safety in Turkey, but was age 13 when ISIS said he should attend a children's camp in the Syrian city of Raqqa.

His father didn't agree. "They didn't threaten me" he says, "but they threatened my father when he prevented me from going to jihad and the camp, they said they cut off his head.

We stayed in the camp for a month. Every morning we exercised, then we studied the Koran and the life of the prophet, then we studied the weapons, the Kalashnikov and other light military stuff." It's rare testimony from schools where boys learn Koranic verse by rote. As you hear in this ISIS video and from which few escape and about which few will talk. I understood some things such as praying and worship, he says, but many words I didn't understand like infidels and apostates and why I should fight them.

Everybody pledged allegiance, everybody who went to the camp pledged allegiance to Caliph Al-Baghdadi. They take an oath, yes, seen here, but also indoctrinated into ISIS' barbaric system of justice. They ordered us to come at a specific time, he said, and a specific place to watch heads being cut off, lashing or stoning.

We saw some of these scenes. We saw a young man who didn't fast during the holy month of Ramadan, so they crucified him for three days. And we saw a woman being stoned to death because she committed adultery. This boy has learned his lines.

There was one of my friends, he says, who went with them for a battle and he was martyred when he fought the Free Syrian Army rebels with ISIS. He was my age, 13 or 14 years old. Merely a year into its creation so much ISIS has already damaged that can't be undone.


WALSH: Now, Jim, really, it's the indoctrination of the very young that forms part of this radical ideology. We've seen it in the mass execution videos from that air base in the north of Syria where dozens were potentially executed.

They were regime fighters, but as you saw there, that kind of society they're trying to create born simply of the most extreme almost warped radicalism almost distant from the Islamic faith is starting with the very youngest.

SCIUTTO: Child terrorists. Our thanks to Nick Paton Walsh.

OUTFRONT next, President Obama blames Russia for the violence in Ukraine. The satellite images that may show signs of an invasion.

Plus the Ebola outbreak already the worst health officials have ever seen. Now a prediction that the number of people infected could increase dramatically.


SCIUTTO: And breaking news tonight: President Obama vowing new consequences for Russia for its actions inside Ukraine. The president again stopped short, though, of calling Russia's incursion into Ukraine a full-scale invasion.

But the evidence is clearly mounting and President Obama did make note of these alarming new images from NATO satellites -- satellite images which NATO says show Russia self-propelled artillery units moving inside Ukrainian territory.

Officials say that in the past 24 hours, up to a thousand Russian troops with heavy weapons have crossed Ukraine's southern border to fight alongside pro-Russian rebels. And this video shows what the Ukrainian government says is a Russian tank further south where a new front is opening up in the conflict.

Our Diana Magnay is near Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine.

Diana, is that what we're seeing here, Russian forces in effect opening up another front in their battle inside Eastern Ukraine?


Well, it does look a bit that way. What we know is that a town very close to the Russian port border called Novoazovsk has been taken over both by pro-Russian rebels with the banking of the Russian troops and Russian tanks and artillery shelling to support their march in from across the border in Russia. We've heard that from Ukraine's National Security Council.

I also spoke to one of the commanders of the volunteer battalion who was routed from that town, who said it was perfectly that these men were Russian troops. They made no pretense about it. Their vehicles, the license plates were painted over.

And, really, what you get the sense of is that this is a direct invasion right now. But if Russia did want to push in more troops, there would be very little in terms of Ukraine defense around this region to stop them, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Diana Magnay in Mariupol in Southeastern Ukraine.

We want to go now to Senator Bill Nelson, who just returned from a fact-finding mission in Ukraine.

Senator Nelson, thank you for joining us tonight.


SCIUTTO: I understand on your trip you met with Ukraine officials. What help are they asking for from the U.S.? And are they disappointed with what they've seen so far?

NELSON: I thought that they would ask for guns and ammo. What they need the most is up-to-date timely intelligence as well as help in the training and the organization of their army. You know, this is a relatively new group that came in with Poroshenko, the newly-elected president. And they're trying to group everybody together and now fight the Russians.

And let there be no doubt. It's the Ukrainian military against the Russian army.

SCIUTTO: Has the administration said to you they're going the answer those calls with more intelligence and training? The president has said no military action on the ground, but there has been intelligence sharing up to this point. Are the Ukrainians going to get it? NELSON: I believe at the end of the day, that the United States is

going to support them. I've certainly called on that. I spoke as recently as this afternoon to the secretary of defense. I've made a number of speeches about it that we ought to help arm these people to protect themselves.

Otherwise Putin's going to keep on this head fake and slight of hand kind of warfare where he denies that he's involved, as he did just a few days ago when he met with the Ukrainian president and then, lo and behold, the next day, on Wednesday, more Russian troops are coming into Eastern Ukraine.

SCIUTTO: You know, the president said again today that he wants to raise the economic costs on Russia for military action there. He said that Russia's increasingly isolated, but have you seen any evidence that that strategy is working while, as you say, Russia continues this stealth invasion, continued escalation of military intervention there?

NELSON: Yes, I have. It is starting to hurt.

SCIUTTO: What is that evidence?

NELSON: Well, it's starting to hurt the Russian economy, and now, Russia has to deal with the fact that if it wants to play games with cutting off the gas going into Europe, then that's going to be less revenue for Russia and they're already cash strapped. Plus, there are a lot of high officials around President Putin that are saying ouch, and they don't like it one bit because their bank accounts have been fiddled with.

And now, the next strategy to expand it is to get the European powers to really clamp down on the economic sanctions and to go into the private sector and start putting economic sanctions there.

SCIUTTO: Just very quickly, though, Senator Nelson, you say that it has raised the costs, but has it changed Russian behavior yet, this policy?

NELSON: Well, it hasn't changed the one guy who makes the difference and that's Putin because he says one thing in his summit on Tuesday and does exactly the opposite on Wednesday of this week.

SCIUTTO: No question. And the question is what will he do next as well?

Thanks very much, Senator Bill Nelson.

NELSON: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Joining me now, CNN military analyst, Spider Marks, as well as former supreme NATO allied commander, Wesley Clark, as well.

I wonder if I could begin with you, General.


SCIUTTO: Just showing our viewers today exactly what happened, the new evidence. We're going to start here.

You had -- this is where the satellite pictures that NATO released zeroed in on. And here close to that eastern border, you see the tank movements in and you see some of the movements that they're carrying around on the roads there. What also happened today, and that's where our Diana Magnay was down here in the south -- southeast part of the country and that's where this video, what Ukrainian officials say was a Russian tank seen there, evidence of a second front opening up here.

How significant are these moves?

MARKS: Hugely significant. "New York Times" this morning called it a stealth invasion. There's nothing stealthy when you have this type of imagery, this type of intelligence evidence that clearly Russia is involved directly in these operations in Ukraine.

SCIUTTO: Listen, that's the thing. But you still use the word "invasion".

General Clark, I wonder if I can ask you -- and we're going to throw up on the screen the comments so far, because there's been a lot of verbal gymnastics by the Obama administration to avoid using that term "invasion." You had the State Department spokesman Jen Psaki calling it a pattern of escalating aggression. You have David Cameron, U.S. ally, calling it a large-scale incursion -- again not invasion. But you also have the NATO commander calling it military interference. It is the Ukrainians who use the term "invasion".

Based on what we're seeing here on the map, General Clark, is this anything but an invasion?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Well, I think the American people deserve some straight talk, and I think this is an invasion. I don't think you can call it anything else.

This has been -- it's been organized, directed, supported and in every way encouraged by Putin from the very beginning. It's part of a many year strategy to take back Ukraine. And he's lifting it up step by step. He's counting on the leaders in the West and not just in the United States but elsewhere in the West to be slow to recognize it, hesitant to call it what it is because we don't want to have to face the fact that we're dealing with real aggression here.

It's going to have to be responded to in some effective way. I'm all in favor of the sanctions. I think they need to be toughened up. But as the senator indicated, they haven't changed his behavior yet. They're not likely to.

Actually, they probably help Putin because they help him create the atmosphere of crisis that he needs to bring people together. So, this is going to require some strong leadership at the NATO summit and even before that.

SCIUTTO: And that's where the president is going next week.

Today, the president said again that the U.S. will not take military action against Ukraine. This is clearly the administration's decided they're not going to war against Russia to protect Ukraine.

What are the real options short of going to war there that help shore up the Ukrainians so they can push back this Russian advance?

MARKS: Well, clearly, the United States has multiple options that they can employ, all those elements of power that have been described. But immediately, you have to affect what's taking place right now on the ground.

And as Senator Nelson indicated, it makes perfect sense. It's increased intelligence, targetable intelligence and also the assistance in terms of possible adviser, whether that's from the United States or NATO powers that can shore up the Ukrainian military as they try to they're not going the take on Russian forces in pitched battles. That's not going to take place.

If Putin wants to, he can cut this off immediately. He's chosen not to do that. But the United States has several options. Those are some that are immediate and could effect an outcome here on the ground.

SCIUTTO: General Clark, I've spoken to our Ukrainian officials as I know you have. And they're nervous about Russian moves there, but they're not the only ones who are nervous because you have these other NATO allies along the border who are close. You have the Baltic States up here, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia. They're concerned. Poland here, because they're worried about what this means for their security going forward.

What military steps can the U.S. take that it has not taken yet to reassure those allies, beyond the few troops that had been sent there for exercises, some increased overflights? What can the U.S. do to truly, you know, get rid of or minimize their real fears that we're hearing from them?

CLARK: Well, the United States is going to have to help Ukraine fight the battle. That battle Ukraine is fighting is being fought on behalf of people who believe in democracy, who want freedom and who want the right to govern their own country. That's exactly what NATO stands for.

So, rather than let the Ukrainian state stumble and falter out there and try to put a few dozen troops on the ground in other countries in NATO, NATO's going to have to step forward now and provide real military assistance to Ukraine -- real backing, intelligence, military training, support, help them organize.

Ukraine is a modern country. It's got 45 million people. This is not Syria. This is not the Syrian opposition. This is a country that's fighting for its freedom and independence.

And I'm sure if NATO comes together with U.S. leadership, we can stop this in Ukraine.

SCIUTTO: As I always remind viewers, this is in Europe. It's not some far-away place. A real test for NATO. Thanks very much, former supreme NATO commander, General Wesley Clark.

Also Spider Marks, always great to have you with us.

MARKS: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT next: the World Health Organization predicts that the Ebola epidemic could infect some 20,000 people. Is there a miracle drug? Sanjay Gupta is next.

Plus, all this guy wanted was to make a splash with his sports car, and boy, did he ever. Why this stunt could now cost him years in prison.


SCIUTTO: The outbreak of Ebola is getting worse. The death toll is now more than 1500 people and the World Health Organization is warning that we could ultimately see more than 20,000 cases of Ebola before this outbreak ends.

Today, the Food and Drug Administration here in the U.S. has given the green light for researchers to start testing a new Ebola vaccine in humans.

Joining me now is chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Dr. Gupta, you look at this initial test here and they're starting with a very small group, just a handful of people. How good are the hopes are here? How high are the hopes here that this could do something -- make a difference?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, the answer in part is this is why you do science. What we know about this ahead of time, it hasn't been used in humans before, so it's hard to predict, but it has been used in non-human primates, chimpanzees. It's been pretty effective. Some people may look at that and say, well, there's a lot of examples where things work on animals then don't translate to humans. That's true. And I think that's why this is being done.

But look, there are a lot of different vaccine trials out there, Jim. We've been talking about this for some time. This is the one they sort of zeroed in on.

Why exactly this one, I'm not sure but it's probably in part because of -- you know, this one holds more promise than the others, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Now, with the vaccine in layman's terms, this is -- this is putting a piece of the virus in effect in your body, is that right, to stimulate an immune response?

GUPTA: Yes, that's the way to think about it. It's an interesting sort of model. They use a different virus altogether as a transport vehicle and then they take a couple of parts of the Ebola virus and put it into someone's body and see if the body starts to respond, starts to make antibodies that would fight that virus, if it ever saw it again.

So, you're sort of priming the body, if you will, Jim, with this sort of vaccine.

SCIUTTO: But no danger of the person actually getting Ebola from taking the vaccine?

GUPTA: I asked the same question. There doesn't seem to be any danger either from the virus that's transporting it or these fragments of the Ebola virus. You couldn't get the Ebola infection from these parts of the Ebola, if you will.

SCIUTTO: One final question, then. This is an experimental vaccine that the FDA is proceeding with. You also have an experimental treatment that's been talked a lot about, this ZMapp drug that's had some success, including with the Americans, American victims of this disease.

Is that a measure of desperation perhaps? Just the seriousness of the disease that they're resorting to experimental treatments and vaccines at this point?

GUPTA: Well, here's how I would think about this. You know, there's no absolute answer here. You're going to get different answers. I've asked lots of people this question.

What we're hearing, first of all, has never happened before. I mean, we've never been talking about using a vaccine, using these experimental treatments in humans. This is a medical first, so this is really important.

It was expedited. I mean they have been talking about vaccine trials for some time, but it was expedited as a result of what's happening in West Africa. There's no question that has lit a fire underneath this whole process.

But I think it's also really important, Jim, having been there on the ground in West Africa, there are lots of questions that arise even if you have a good vaccine. Who do you give it to? Very important question.

I mean, you don't want to just give it out to everybody. And there's potential risks with that. But also, someone once said to me, Jim, if the cure for AIDS came in the form of a clean glass of water, you still couldn't rid the world of AIDS because you've got to distribute these medicines as well to the people who need it.

And, you know, you've seen these places in West Africa. It's difficult simply to get from point A to point B, so this is not going to be the final answer. The final answer is still stopping the outbreak, going to the burial sites, counseling families, making sure that patients aren't spreading the virus more than they already have.

SCIUTTO: Yes, stopping the outbreak just as difficult as distributing the drugs again because of the health care resources there.

Well, thanks very much, as always, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. We appreciate having you.

GUPTA: Any time.

SCIUTTO: Coming up next, the driver of this million dollar Bugatti barrels into a lagoon. Was he distracted by a cell phone, a low- flying pelican or was it just mosquitoes?

Jeanne Moos is next.


SCIUTTO: The driver of this incredibly expensive sports car puts the pedal to the metal right into a lake. It was meant to be the perfect con, didn't quite turn out that way.

Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hey! Did you see that? That is a Bugatti.

And since this ultra expensive supercar is rarely seen, no wonder a guy riding near Galveston, Texas, five years ago whipped out his camera when he saw one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That will be mine one day.

MOOS: I don't think you want this one. Not after what happens next.


MOOS: The Bugatti slammed into a saltwater marsh driven by a dealer of high-end cars named Andy House.

(on camera): House first told police he dropped his cell phone, reached down to get it. And when he sat back up, he was distracted by a low-flying pelican, which he tried to avoid by jerking the wheel. But that excuse was for the birds, because this week --


MOOS (voice-over): The assistant U.S. attorney says House bought the Bugatti for a million dollars, took out a car collector's insurance policy worth $2.2 million and intentionally totaled the car.

House didn't turn off the engine, so saltwater would ruin it. House's excuse for not turning it off?

TORTORICE: He said the mosquitoes were really bad. But they're not so bad that you need to bail out of a car like it's on fire.

MOOS: The Bugatti is the type of car rappers rap about.

(MUSIC) MOOS: Though it's so unusual, it's hard to identify.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty sure it's a Lambo, dude.

MOOS: No, not a Lamborghini. That Lambo line became a catch phrase.

TORTORICE: I think it's a Lambo, dude.

MOOS: The assistant U.S. attorney called a 24-second videotape of the crash the cornerstone of his case. It shows there was no pelican to avoid and no brake lights.

(on camera): What are the chances of having a video of this happening?

TORTORICE: If there were a Mt. Rushmore of bad luck, I think Andy House's face would be on it.

MOOS: Though there's a 20-year maximum for wire fraud, a more likely sentence is a year or two. There was vindication for one much maligned character. One poster noted, "Finally, after all these years, that poor innocent pelican is off the hook."

Even a tow truck guy bows to the Bugatti, washing his hands in the marsh before daring to touch the wheel.

Bugatti, bugotcha.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


SCIUTTO: That's all for tonight. I'm Jim Sciutto in New York. Thanks for having me this week. It's been great. Erin Burnett is back next week.

And "AC360" with Anderson Cooper starts right now.