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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
CNN Confirms FBI Assisting Missing Student Search; Police Narrow Search for Alleged Cop Killer; Investigators: White House Intruder Had Body Rounds of Ammo in Car; Official: FBI Radicalized Tracking Radicalized Americans Back from Syria; U.S. Airstrikes Begin in Syria
Aired September 22, 2014 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHIEF TIMOTHY LONGO, CHARLOTTESVILE VIRGINIA POLICE: We want to talk to him. We want to talk about his interaction with a sweet young girl that we can't find because he was with her.
CASAREZ: Today, police issued this wanted poster.
LONGO: It's important we talk to Jesse Matthew for very obvious reasons, but it's also important that if he and Hannah parted ways on this mall, we need to know that as well.
CASAREZ: Police have not charged Matthew with Graham's disappearance but he is wanted on charges of reckless driving. Police say he was seen speeding after showing up Saturday at the police station and asking for a lawyer.
LONGO: Detectives don't know anymore about the interaction he had with that young girl anymore in the moment he walked in.
CASAREZ: The 32-year-old has been employed since August 2012 by University Hospital as an operating room patient technician.
According to police, surveillance video shows Matthew putting his arm around the 18-year-old. They say they ended up at the Tempo Restaurant. I asked investigators if they can confirm the two left the downtown area together.
DET. SGT. JIM MOONEY, CHARLOTTESVILLE VIRGINIA POLICE: We do have them together after they left Tempo Restaurant. So he's still with her at that time.
CASAREZ: Law enforcement searched Jesse Matthew's apartment for a second time today. Police say, forensic results of items previously collected won't come in until tomorrow.
And earlier, I spoke with Jesse Matthew's family. They say, his attorney told them not to comment.
Graham's family hopes that someone comes forward with information that will bring their daughter back.
JOHN GRAHAM, FATHER OF HANNAH GRAHAM: Somebody knows what happen to Hannah and others maybe watching and they may know something about what happened to Hannah.
CASAREZ: Police believe Matthew can provide answers that Graham's grieving parents need to know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Jean joins me now.
Obviously, a lot of activity today and I'm going to talk to the police chief in just a moment.
Are authorities talking about their plan tomorrow?
CASAREZ: Well, the police chief told me that his forensic investigators spent hours on the car of Jesse Matthew, collecting potential evidence, which has been at the crime lab. They wanted the results today. They think they're going to get them tomorrow and that's critical right there because they're looking for a link. They're looking for a crime that may have occurred in that car right there.
And secondly, Jesse Matthew is a wanted man. There are arrest warrants out for him on reckless driving and he's not turning himself in. Police are actively looking for him so something could change in that area tomorrow, too.
COOPER: Yeah. Only a matter of...
CASAREZ: He could be arrested and brought -- yeah, brought to the police department.
COOPER: Only a matter of time on that one. Jean, thanks very much.
Earlier this evening, I did have a chance to speak up with the chief of police, Chief Longo. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So chief, what's the latest on the investigation? Where do things stand?
LONGO: Well, we're still looking for Jesse Matthew. As you know, he came into the police department on Saturday afternoon. He asked for a lawyer. Our Commonwealth attorney was consulted as oppose to acquire a lawyer on his behalf. We did that. A lawyer came and spoke with Mr. Matthew and about an hour later, the two of them walked out of the police department without a statement.
So we haven't seen them since then. You might also recall that shortly thereafter, he was seen speeding off and driving in such a reckless disregard that the officers that were behind him in our neighboring jurisdiction had disregard and disengage and since gotten warrants for him for two counts of reckless driving. So we're looking to serve those warrants but more importantly, we're looking to sit down with Jesse Matthew and find out just what happen to Hannah. COOPER: At this point, how much do you know about the night Hannah disappeared, as well as whatever interaction she may have had with this guy Jesse Matthew?
LONGO: Well, we know by video surveillance that they first engaged each other on the mall as she was walking east bound. We know through our investigator...
COOPER: He had been talking...
LONGO: Yeah. He was -- She was going east bound. He was coming west bound. He doubled back. He caught back up with her and they both proceeded east bound together. We're told at some point thereafter, they made it to the Tempo Restaurant bar, which is just over my shoulder, a distance down this road behind me that they were in there a very brief period of time.
He purchased outcall in her behalf. They had a drink and then they were seen leaving together by eye witnesses. We believe they've made their way down the mall and that's the last we know. At this point that we're willing to discuss, suffice it to say that we believe that they left this mall together.
COOPER: And he was seen leaving the area in a vehicle but it's not clear whether or not she was in that vehicle with him, correct?
LONGO: That's correct. I believe we have surveillance video not far from here, a vehicle we believe is that vehicle leaving the scene that the angle of camera as such that we can't discern whether a passenger is in the vehicle or not. That's why it's so very important that we continue to re-canvas for surveillance video to see if we can catch that video leaving the downtown area either on a westerly or easterly direction.
COOPER: Hannah's parents, and I know you've been in contact with them a lot, they say they believe her disappearance was the result of foul play. Do you agree?
LONGO: Yeah. There's no other way to look at it quite frankly at this point. There's just no other explanation but for that. I wish we knew more than that though. I wish -- it's why it's so critically important to talk to Jesse Matthew because he is the last person that we know of that saw her before her disappearance.
COOPER: At a press conference, you asked the public for information about this guy, any information about his whereabouts or activities before that night and also in the days subsequently? Have you gotten people who know him coming forward to you?
LONGO: Yes, sir. Yes, we do. I certainly keep going to the substance of their information but, you know, it is as you're pointing out it's really important as well to know what his behavior was like and what his actions were after the time we believe the disappearance took place. Up to this point, quite frankly, and we're engaged with people and talking to folks and people are calling in and they're writing in and they're providing us with information. Unfortunately, that information has not got us to a probable cause level.
And I think it's important to mention, although you didn't ask is, you know, we work hand and hand with our Commonwealth attorney, the chief prosecutor in these cases and he assesses the probable cause which causes us then to seek a warrant for this person's arrest and it's his opinion, we're just no there yet.
COOPER: Chief Longo, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
LONGO: Thank you, Anderson.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The search goes on late.
A word tonight on the nation's other being man hunted, authorities in North-Eastern Pennsylvania said they have narrowed down the search area for alleged cop killer Eric Frein. They say he's still somewhere out in the woods, a territory that he knows very well.
Alexandra Field is on the scene for us tonight. She joins us.
So besides the reported sightings, do police have evidence Frein is actually still in the area?
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're expressing a lot of confidence that he is and they feel that they are moving in closer on the suspect.
And, Anderson, that's because of a couple of findings that we've recently learned about. We know now that police had found an AK-47 out here in the woods as well as ammunition and they believe that Eric Frein left those things here recently.
It isn't clear if he meant to hide those things, if he had abandoned them, if he wanted police to find them but that is evidence to police that he still in this area. They've been searching a few square miles of wooded area. They say they've continued to narrow that search based on that evidence and also based on some tips of credible sightings they feel of Frein.
Again, though, Anderson, we got to underscore the point that while hundreds of officers are involved in this search, they do so at their own peril. This is a man who they believe continues to harbor a very serious grudge against law enforcement. He's a survivalist. He was on the rifle team. He was part of a military simulation unit. And frankly, Anderson, his father has admitted to police that when his son shoots, he doesn't miss.
COOPER: And though they found an AK-47, he still does a have a long range rifle, correct?
FIELD: Absolutely. They still consider him to be armed and dangerous. He was believed to have the AK-47 and the rifles so they assumed that he still has that rifle. It's one of the reason that people in this area have been so concerned for not only the officers' safety but for their own safety. There was a shelter in place order here that was lifted. People are still being advised to use caution.
But authorities here in Pennsylvania are saying that they do not feel that civilians are the target. They say that Frein has had the opportunity to go after civilians if that's what he wanted. They are clear in maintaining that they believe that he is after law enforcement officials.
COOPER: All right. Alexandra Field, I appreciate the update.
Coming up next, breaking news with the White House fence jumping, it's in reveals about security lapses. There are very serious questions being raised about security of the White House now. The investigation reveals also information by the fence jumper including his weaponry and past run-ins with police.
COOPER: Tighter security at the White House tonight, tough question as well for officials especially the Secret Service and breaking news tonight about the harm that this man may have been capable of.
For starters, Omar Gonzalez, that's his name, he did more than jump the fence, he made it through the front door of the White House and now we're learning from authorities that the Iraq war vet had 800 rounds of ammunition in his car. Plus, a record of run-ins with the law that authorities say suggested he may even intended to harm the president.
Gonzalez was in court today. Jim Acosta is at the White House tonight.
So the new information about the ammunition and other weaponry this guy's car, plus his past record -- I mean, the White House has got to be concerned that this could've been much more serious.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They are concerned about it, Anderson, and actually the president as, you know, and the First Family, they left only five minutes before this incident occurred. And all weekend long where the president and the First Family were in Camp David, the president was making repeated calls back to the White House to check on the status of this investigation.
Homeland Security Secretary Jay Johnson earlier today put out a statement saying that there shouldn't be a rush to judgment. But, Anderson, some judgments are already being made within the Secret Service community. I talked to one law enforcement official who described what happened on Friday night as inexcusable.
COOPER: Yeah, I mean, there's a lot that didn't happen on Friday night after this guy scaled the fence. Security dogs weren't released nor the White House front door locked.
ACOSTA: Right. I mean, you know, the fact that the K-9s were not deployed that night is one big lapse in security that I'm hearing from a federal law enforcement official. Those dogs are supposed to act like missiles and really just sort of go after an intruder who makes it on to the ground, to the White House and starts making his or her way towards that front door.
One reason as to why those dogs were not deployed, I did talk to an official who said in some of these cases, those dogs can attack the other officers. So that is something that they're obviously going to have to look at.
In terms of the door and it's right over my shoulder, Anderson, the reason why it was unlocked, that is typically or that was typically the case up until Friday night because there are so many people coming and going, just the human traffic coming in and out of that door. But as we heard earlier today from the White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, that much has changed, that door is locked tonight.
COOPER: Does the level or intensity of security dropped when the president and his family have left?
ACOSTA: You know, we did ask about that and -- yes, the president does have a security detail that is with him at all times and is with the family at all times and so when they leave, perhaps that detail may not be on guard. As you might see when he is at the residence or when he is around the White House.
But typically, you know, the way the Secret Service looks at their staffing here is that they should be able to deal with any kind of situation at any time. And simply what happened, Anderson, on Friday night is the ball was dropped and they're trying to figure out now as to how that ball was dropped and how it can't be dropped in the future. That's an expert perspective.
COOPER: Yeah, I mean, besides locking that door which seems the most obvious thing. I mean, have they signaled any kind of changes that they're going to make? Because obviously, there's things we know about in terms of security and things we don't know about.
ACOSTA: Right. You know, I can tell you just from walking down Pennsylvania I would say, there were additional Secret Service officers patrolling the area. You know, I was told by a law enforcement official that they are doing more surveillance looking for people who don't belong here or don't look like they belong here.
And, Anderson, I can tell you, we don't always report on CNN when somebody, you know, tries to get inside the White House or, you know, when a baby goes to the fence that we saw a couple of months ago. There are unusual incidents that are occurring and this is such a big tourist hotspot.
But one thing that has been talked about, and it's not clear as to whether or not this will happen, they're talking about having magnetometers around the White House and various areas but it's unclear at this point how they would man those checkpoints if that were to happen, because we have so many various jurisdictions handling security for this area, the National Park Service, the Secret Service, the D.C. Police Department. So really at that point, that kind of measure is really just in the talking stages...
COOPER: And we should also point out this guy, you know, I mean, has record. He was, you know, caught with a shotgun, with a map of Washington, circled the White House as well as like the Masonic Temple. He'd also being apprehended with a hatchet outside the White House previously in search in that incidence
Jim Acosta, I appreciate it.
ACOSTA: You bet.
COOPER: Republican Congressional Candidate Dan Bongino knows what it's like inside that fence. He used to be Secret Service agent, his brother still is and he joins me now.
Dan, this new information, the ammunition and the intruder's car, the hatchet that -- he'd previously been caught outside the White House with a hatchet, the previous, he had a machete in the car as well, and previously he'd been caught with a shotgun and a map with the White House circled and some Masonic Temple circled.
The fact that this guy, I mean, had been arrested in the past, charged with possession of a shotgun, a sniper rifle, what do you -- how bad a security lapse is this?
DAN BONGINO, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: Well, Anderson, unfortunately there is no putting lipstick on this one. This is really a catastrophic security lapse.
And, you know, I want to be clear on this. It wasn't just one or two scene security measures that failed uniform officers, the dogs which you mentioned in your opening segment there, but there are a lot of unseen mechanisms that failed as well and that's why I think so many active and retired agents who, you know, I've spoken to were so disturbed by how this happened.
COOPER: Can you walk us through what should have happened that didn't happen? I know you've said there are unseen measures and obviously you don't want to discuss those and that's, you know, fair enough. But what should have happen that we know of?
BONGINO: Well, the dog should have been deployed. We have Belgian Malinois, we don't use German Shepherds and the dogs are specifically trained to knock those targets down.
And, Anderson, if you've ever seen some of these training videos of Malinois or, you know, the police tactics with the dogs hit the man in the chest, it's like getting hit by a man on a motorcycle. It's almost impossible to stay up.
Why the dog wasn't deployed, I think, is the question that I hope an exhaustive analysis will, you know, will get to the bottom of that but that to me is puzzling. Remember there's a handler and the handler ultimately hasn't deployed the dog. I mean, obviously the dog doesn't walk the grounds by himself but why the handler shows in this case not to has just about everybody puzzled.
COOPER: I mean, what's terrifying about this is had this guy had a suicide vest on with explosives? He could've gone in the White House and blown up, you know, the portico.
BONGINO: Exactly. I mean, you just said it. This is frightening because it -- you don't know how -- he was rather big individual. Suicide vest could have done some significant damage.
And, Anderson, I mean, he could've gotten in there with that -- even that knife and taken a hostage. You know, we're thinking worst case scenario but even, you know, lesser degrees of threat or a serious problem. If you were in there with a blade to someone's, you know, someone's throat or whoever it maybe, I mean, you've got a very, very serious problem on your head.
COOPER: I think, you know, some of you will be surprised that he wasn't shot, I guess, it's -- I mean, is it up to the Secret Service both uniformed and non-uniformed and snipers to make a judgment call about whether that person is wearing some sort of explosive device or has a backpack that could have an explosive device?
BONGINO: Well, I'm glad you brought that up because this is an important point and I've gotten this question a lot today.
The Secret Service agents and uniformed division officers in this case, if you noticed there's a guy at the door to the left in the video you're playing now that has his gun drawn. They are subject of the same escalation and use of force guidelines, Anderson, that every other federal agent and law enforcement also in the country that they don't any special powers. They cannot shoot unless there is, you know, eminent threat to themselves or others.
That didn't seem to be the case. I know it sounds kind of crazy to some listening but, you know, hand shoot, not feet, not ears, not eyes. There was nothing in his hands. He wasn't vocalizing a threat that we know of and there was no evidence from printing on his garments or -- of any explosive vest or any weapon underneath his clothing either and they are trained to look for that stuff.
So, you're right. You can't shoot a trespasser. You can't.
COOPER: It's amazing. Obviously, a lot of internal reviews going on since it began. I appreciate you being with us, Dan Bongino. Thanks very much.
COOPER: Up next tonight, another breaking story, one more security concern inside Washington and potentially nationwide. Some of the Americans who went to fight in Syria are now coming home and may already be here. The fear is they maybe bring some of the violence with them. Details on that.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: More breaking news tonight, a word that some of those 100 or so Americans who went to Syria to fight have now come home and authorities are watching them.
Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto has been monitoring the developments. He joins us now.
So 100 or so Americans, maybe not linked directly to ISIS itself, it really doesn't mean they don't have ties to other terrorist groups.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question. These are a 100 Americans that either tried or succeeded to go to Syria to fight for militant groups there that includes ISIS, but not exclusively ISIS, also other extremist groups like al-Nusra, which is tied to al-Qaeda as well as other more moderate groups.
And the concern here as you highlight, Anderson, is that some of them have managed to return home. The current intelligence said that none of those who fought with ISIS specifically have returned home to the U.S. but others who fought for other militant groups, they are being track by the FBI and others, but that it just shows you exactly how deep the connection is between our own homeland and the fighting that's going on there in Syria.
COOPER: Well, how confident our authorities that they actually know who these people are and where they are because there was that guy from our al-Nusra who came back to Florida according to New York Times and then went back to Syria and finally blowing himself up.
SCIUTTO: It is a great point, Anderson, that J. Johnson, the secretary of Department Homeland Security, he said they have reasonable confidence that they know where these fighters are. That doesn't mean a 100 percent though and it's hard to do this. They might have complete information on some of them but partial information on others. And as you noted, folks have gotten through that before.
Now, I could tell you this that this is becoming major priority for U.S. Law Enforcement for U.S. intelligence, they are throwing all the resources they can at this so the tension is raising. And they're also seeking the support of a country like Turkey which is the key transit point into Syria for these foreign fighters to help stem that flow on the way in, but also keep track on the way half.
COOPER: And ISIS is now calling for lone wolf trial attacks against the U.S. through any means.
SCIUTTO: They are and these opens up a whole another possibility because it doesn't -- it means that you don't just need to have a fighter returning from Syria who's been trained, radicalized there, encouraged to carry out attacks when they return home. It could be other sympathizers including in the U.S. who are radicalized on the internet and this latest radio audio message were out there encouraging them to take any means they can to kill any nonbelievers as they say that they can in any means possible. Don't wait in effect for directions from home base. But if you have the opportunity, take it. We saw on Australia last week that there was a very, you know, worrisome plot foiled there thankfully but along the same lines encouraging sympathizers there to carry out public beheadings, you know, those lone wolf attacks in many ways harder to track than the fighters themselves.
COOPER: Yeah, and we saw a British soldier being killed on the streets in the United Kingdom...
COOPER: ... several months ago as well. Jim Sciutto, thanks.
Joining me now, our CNN Senior National Security Analyst Fran Townsend, a member of the DHS and CIA External Advisory Boards and Former FBI and CIA Senior Official Philip Mudd.
It is interesting, Fran, I mean there has been so much focus on somebody who fought with ISIS since coming back but, you know, we've talked a lot about it on this program, what worries me the most are these lone wolves who are just ideologically motivated they watch the stuff on the internet and think, "Oh, I can be part of ISIS without even actually going over there.
FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: That's exactly right.
Look, you know, when you look at this and you triage the threat, when you look at the foreign fighters, some percentage of them, some high percentage of them will be killed on the battlefield. Some who are smarter, more capable, maybe reserved to commit attacks either coming back to the U.S. or in Europe and again, you know, American interest. But it is the lone wolf that they're harder to identify, they're harder to stop and intercept before they commit an act. And you really rely on local police, local communities to identify those who are behaving sort of, in a way, inconsistent with their normal patterns at exhibiting behavior that's concerning.
COOPER: Philip, I mean, it is the lone wolves that worry you the most?
PHILIP MUDD, FORMER SENIOR OFFICIAL, FBI AND CIA: Yeah, I would say it's the guys who aren't connected to the hear beat of ISIS. For a simple reason that is if you're connected to a larger organization, in my old world of intelligence you live off mistakes and vulnerability.
If you're part of a large organization, a larger conspiracy, you talk to the wrong person, communicate with the wrong person, associate with the wrong person. That is red meat to a security service. If you're sitting in a basement with two other guys and you're only ideologically inspired, as Fran was pointing out, that is really tough to find in a country of 330 million people where we have civil liberties that mean you can't follow everybody around. It's the lone wolves, I think, who you got to worry about most.
COOPER: It's also really changed, Fran, in that given social media, given sort of the way information spreads. A terrorist group doesn't even need to do a large scale style attack to either paralyze a city. I mean, you look the attacks in Mumbai, you had a handful of guys with the AK-47s basically shutdown Mumbai for several days as they took over a hotel and a couple other installations. You had the beheading of a British soldier on the streets in England. That can cause panic in a city. If we have one or two of those things here in the United States, that would be kind of a whole new ball game.
TOWNSEND: Well, that's absolutely right. And when you listen to this message that the spokesperson for ISIS put out calling on these lone wolves to launch attacks. It talks about, you know, get them in their homes, take them out of their homes, it's very sort of a much more -- suggesting a much more personal style attack, something that we're very on unaccustomed to in this country. And I think one of those and you will see people really frightened and really sort of taken aback by it and rightly so.
And so, it's why the Australia case was so concerning, right? Can you imagine an innocent civilian not connected to a government installation or a government official grabbed off the street, beheaded, filmed and have the body exposed. It's just unthinkable and...
COOPER: And I mean, Philip, you know, actually, let me just interrupt right now. I just want to go to our -- Jim Sciutto. What are you learning?
SCIUTTO: Hi, Anderson.
I've just been told by U.S. official that the U.S. air campaign is underway in Syria. It has started and we've already begun to see some reports on social media online reporting airstrikes underway in the city of Raqqa that the stronghold for ISIS in Syria, in central northern Syria. But a U.S. official confirms to me now that the U.S. air campaign and the airstrikes are underway. I'm told it's going to be a long night there. We should expect to be seeing more of this.
As you know, the Pentagon had been telling us for a number of days now that they were ready to go. They've prepared a list of targets inside Syria against ISIS positions that they were confident in. They had presented those targets, that target list to the White House for the president's approval, that's what they were waiting for, clearly they got the president's approval. And just in the last few minutes I could tell you, Anderson that that air campaign is now underway.
COOPER: And I should point out, we've been monitoring this over the last five or 10 minutes really on Twitter. I saw a tweet during a commercial break probably about five or 10 minutes ago from somebody in that area saying that there had been a large explosion and what they believe to be sort of the ISIS headquarters in Raqqa.
Fran, let's just continue this discussion with Philip and Fran and Jim. How many hard targets are there with the group like ISIS? I mean, we know in Iraq, ISIS is a terror force but also in many ways a conventional army that has been using equipment that they've taken from the Iraqi security forces. So it seems if there are at least a fair number of really typically low hanging fruit that the U.S. getting out of those airstrike.
TOWNSEND: That's exactly right. Especially -- and that includes in Syria. Remember, when they took over the Raqqa -- after they took over the Raqqa airbase in northern Syria, they issued a video tape. It was very graphic. It showed the battle. It showed the hand to hand battle. It showed the mass executions after they took it over. It showed surveillance video from the air that they had taken as they plan their siege to the Raqqa air base.
And so this is an installation just like any government would have an installation. This is a major installation for them and then as you would put it, low hanging fruit. This is an easy target for them to hit.
COOPER: So what about the other kind of target? I mean, how long are there targets of the U.S. can actually strike from the area, you think in Syria?
MUDD: We're going to be at this, Anderson, for months if not longer. Divide targets into two categories. That is what, Fran, you're referring to rightly as low hanging fruit, infrastructure targets for the ISIS per military...
SCIUTTO: Guys, I have more details...
MUDD: ... insurgency that it's things like tanks...
COOPER: OK. Jim, I'm sorry. Go ahead. You got more details?
SCIUTTO: Listen. I'm sorry to interrupt, Philip, but I just wanted to share, Anderson, that details on the scope of these strikes right now.
The spokesman of the Pentagon tweeting now, Admiral John Kirby that the airstrikes are underway using a mix of fighters, bombers, and tomahawk missiles and that this is not only the U.S. caring out these airstrikes but also partner nation forces. Those countries are not identified yet but you'll remember in the run up to these airstrikes there was talk one in particular of one or more Arab nation that may take part in the airstrikes.
You also noticed that France just in the last week conducted its first airstrike inside of Iraq exclusively, although France at the time saying that they would only carry out strikes in Iraq. There're also reports in British newspapers overnight that Britain had agreed to take part in the airstrikes. We do not know who the partner nations who are taking part with the U.S. tonight. But we do know that it is more than one nation that has planes in the air now and as I just said, these strikes, a broad variety of tools being used now, fighters, bombers and tomahawk missiles.
COOPER: Well, Jim, just to clarify on that point. Is that partner nations taking part, does that mean definitely that there are airplanes from other nations in the air or that there are facilities being used or, you know, over flights allowed from -- in some countries or? SCIUTTO: The language at this point, Anderson, U.S. military and partner nation forces have begun striking ISIS targets.
SCIUTTO: That would seem to say that the aircraft are in the air as well but I'll seek further detail on that.
COOPER: OK. Everybody stay with us.
I want to bring in Jim Acosta who's standing by at the White House. Jim, has the White House made any actual statement on this?
ACOSTA: They have not, Anderson, and I can tell you that they've given us over here what they call a full lid. So we don't expect to see the president or hear from the president or read anything from the president.
Later on this evening, of course, this is the White House, he's the president, that could change but we don't expect that to happen. I will say though and I think Jim Sciutto highlighted this that this notion of partner nations conducting airstrikes in Syria, I think that's a very important development as we've heard over the last couple of weeks.
White House officials, administration officials have been hinting that during this week, they would be rolling out or there'll be somewhat of a rollout of this coalition. Which countries will be in the coalition? What are those countries doing? What roles will they serve? And we maybe seeing the front end of that right now. The reason why they were saying this week is special because the president is heading up to the United Nations tomorrow to do a lot of things over at the U.N. Security Council, reciting over a session of the U.N. Security Council on the topic of foreign fighters and while -- this is a very interesting development that these airstrikes have begun.
Keep in mind that administration officials have repeatedly said that they don't see a pure U.S. air power solution to the ISIS problem and that this issue of foreign fighters is going to have to be dealt with and the president will be giving some pretty high profile remarks on that. They're going to be seeking a resolution that would really try to compel other nations to stick to the same kind of law enforcement and counterterrorism standards when it comes to tracking, monitoring and even stopping the flow of these foreign fighters in and out of the U.S. and the west towards those battle fronts in Iraq and Syria.
COOPER: And Philip Mudd, I want to go back to you. You were just saying that this is, you know, this is the beginning of a long campaign with a variety of different kinds of targets.
MUDD: Yeah. Think about what we just heard in the past minute, Anderson, that is strikes with major air platforms against the ISIS military infrastructure, if you will, things like tanks headquarters, contrast that to what we've been doing in place like Somalia and Yemen against this -- go ahead.
COOPER: Go ahead, Philip.
MUDD: ... against the slivers of these organizations that are involved in things like recruiting westerns from Europe and United States. What I'd expect to see overtime is a conversation about not only how we hit ISIS insurgent targets but also how we hit those individuals, point targets, who are responsible for staging terrorism against places like London and New York. Very different targets set that what we're saying tonight.
COOPER: Jim Sciutto, I'm sorry. Did you have something?
COOPER: Jim is on the phone. We can just hear his microphone.
So Fran, I mean, this does not mean that -- I mean, this is just now one leg of the operation, the attempt to identify and train, you know, anti Assad forces inside Syria who will also fight against ISIS, that continues, that's one the like of this and obviously, the multiple legs inside Iraq. I mean, this is an open-ended engagement with a timeline that's completely unspecified.
TOWNSEND: That's right. In some way sort of the three dimensional chest game, right, because you've got the effort inside Iraq, you've got the effort inside Syria, you've got this training effort that this is being conducted both in Jordan and in Saudi Arabia. The president is creating this coalition. You ought to expect to see not only more of a diplomatic effort but also a financial effort without treasury and additional sanctions and things to target the leadership.
And as Phil points out, what you're seeing it -- they're hitting tonight infrastructure targets, you know, their main military headquarters in Raqqa but you'll also see a real campaign or you ought to see a real campaign to go after leadership target. Where is al- Baghdadi and what are we doing to get the intelligence we need to target him?
COOPER: But Philip Mudd, I mean, in terms of a targeting, you know, this isn't like when the U.S. was going against command and control facilities of the Iraqi military in the, you know, before the ground invasion started in Iraq. It's not as if there are such major commanding control facilities. This is a still an insurgent army which is relatively mobile, you know.
MUDD: I think that's correct. What you'll see overtime is I think the degradation of the capability of ISIS to stage things like attacks with armored personnel carriers for example. That's a pretty easy target to see what the intelligence means.
But what you got to worry about overtime is what we're talking about earlier whether there is a capability in ISIS to bring together small groups of recruits from Europe and United States. That takes a lot of intelligence to build a target not only to locate the target but to ensure in civilian areas, you don't kill a lot of women and children. That also takes years of effort. Remember in Pakistan, al-Qaeda moved from Afghanistan to Pakistan in the winter of 2002. We are still hitting targets there in 2014. So people will say, "Why haven't we succeeded in three or four days?" You got to get a different mindset here because we're going to be at this for a long time.
COOPER: All right. Jim Sciutto, I know you've been on the phone working sources. What are you hearing now?
SCIUTTO: Anderson, some more details now, this from a senior U.S. military official.
First of all, there is more than one foreign partner taking part in these strikes and all those foreign partners are Arab nations. I'm told that the U.S., the only non-Arab nation that is taking part in kinetic strikes tonight. And when we describe the participation of these foreign nations, these Arab nations, we're not talking about, you know, refueling or just surveillance flights, but kinetic strikes, actually dropping bomb. That's one thing.
The other thing I'm told is that it started early this evening with the Tomahawk missile strikes from sea and then later airplanes, war planes the bombers and fighters went into strike. These strikes are still underway. They're going to continue a number more hours I'm told.
And I'm also told this that tonight the intention was to have initial, a very definitive blow against the ISIS targets inside Syria that the major targets were on the list tonight. It doesn't mean that tonight's the only night of airstrikes by any means, but that the pace tonight particularly intense, you'll see those strikes continue over the coming days. But tonight, we'll standout for being, I don't want to use the phrase shock and all, you remember from the Iraq invasion in 2013.
But that certainly this first wave, the most intense and I'm told that over the coming days then you'll see more of a pace that we've seen with the strikes against the ISIS in Iraq, a more regular pace. But tonight, very intense, they are ongoing, more than one Arab nation taking part along side the U.S. in these strikes, the U.S. the only non-Arab partner carrying up bombing runs tonight.
COOPER: That's a very interesting detail. I also want to bring a retired air force Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, we're going to bring him in shortly.
Fran, in terms of the length of this, I mean to Jim's point, they strike hard tonight. The targets get harder and harder as time goes on.
TOWNSEND: That's right.
COOPER: But since there is no timeline in this, there is no -- this is not a run up to a ground invasion, they can take as much time as they want. TOWNSEND: That's right. I think what we're hearing from the administration now is you're going to see an intense period tonight where they're hitting large infrastructure targets, things that don't move, they know where they are.
The second round is really looking for mobile units that have -- that have seized equipment, you'll be able to find them from the air with reconnaissance and surveillance, and you'll see them. But that will be in a much more deliberate pace, you know, it's the one Zs, 2Zs, 3Zs we've seen we took Mosul Dam, for example. And look, there's only a handful of Arab partners in the region, they may not have named them but there's only a handful of that this...
TOWNSEND: ... kind of capability. The Emiratis, the Jordanians, arguably perhaps the Saudis, but surely the Emiratis and the Jordanians have the kind of capability that you're talking about to be able to support a U.S. air effort.
COOPER: Philip, how possible is it, long-term, to continue an operation like this without forwards, spotters, without people, you know, putting lasers on objects that they want to destroy?
MUDD: I think to identify the kind of targets. We need to identify in the leadership overtime and I'm talking about in terms of months. You're going to have to have some capability on the ground to do spotting.
But, Anderson, I'm not just talking about spotting a building looking at where women and children, I'm talking about a human source capability what we will call in the CIA humans, human intelligence, to understand and to penetrate ISIS so we know where the people are. We need to target not only today, but tomorrow.
You can't only target people with technical sources that is listening to people's telephones, you have to have human beings on the ground who can provide predictive intelligence about where somebody is going to be tomorrow. You got to have human source networks to do that.
COOPER: I want to bring in on the phone our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger.
Gloria, what are you hearing tonight?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I'm -- I think we need to presume, Anderson, that we're not going to get details on who our partners are, specific names. I heard Jim Sciutto's reporting. But I don't think you're going to get much more beyond Jim Sciutto's reporting this evening until this major action is over.
But, you know, I do believe that this is something that clearly everybody was anticipating in Washington, the president made no secret that he wanted to do it, that he went up to the United Nations trying to get a coalition together and it certainly seems to have this evening. COOPER: Right.
BORGER: That really -- he's done it.
COOPER: I want to actually read a statement that the Rear Admiral John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman has put out saying, "I can confirm the U.S. Military partner nation forces are undertaking military action against the ISIL terrorist in Syria using mix of fighter bomber and Tomahawk land attack missiles. Given that these operations are ongoing, we're not in a position to provide additional details at this time. The decision that conduct these strikes was made earlier today by the U.S. central commander under authorization granted by the commander-in-chief. We'll provide more details later as operationally appropriate."
I want to bring in retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, Commander of U.S. Forces in Iraq from 2007 through 2009 and also retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona.
General Hertling, what do you make of the start of this?
LT. GENERAL MARK HERTLING, U.S. ARMY (RET.): I think this is the start of striking strategic targets. I think probably General Austin, the commander of Central Command gave some of the target list to the president last week when he was visiting in Tampa. And I think these are all the first step in striking a strategic blow, an offensive strategic blow against ISIS and Syria.
COOPER: But a group like ISIS, I mean, again I go back to, you know, command and control structures that the U.S. targeted in the run up to the ground war in Iraq years ago. We're not talking about massive command and control structures. We're talking about buildings that have group of....
HERTLING: Yeah, we...
COOPER: ... ISIS fighters happen to be staying at.
HERTLING: Right. We are not talking about an intelligence center or a command and control center but I think we do have some targeting capabilities to see where some key elements of this force might be not only there are leaders, but also there are intelligence gathering and there are maneuver forces.
COOPER: I just also want to point out Raqqa on the map, obviously their up the North there, a little bit Northwest of Syria. Obviously, about as far from Iraq as you can get inside Syria, but obviously an area, Colonel Francona, which is a heavy ISIS area an area that they took over and have control, this is really a major staging graph.
LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yeah, they call this our temporary capital of course they believe Baghdad will be the capital of the caliphate once they get established. But, Raqqa is where their headquarters -- one of the major cities that they took over, this is where they setup the state. This is where the most established. So not only do they have their, whatever, passes for their command and control but they've got a lot of people there, they've got a lot resources there and a lot of military equipment that came from Iraq that they captured was taken to Raqqa.
And I think it's wise now to hit it before they have a chance to disperse it because we've seen this over the last couple of days. Once the president announced that we were going to be conducted in this strikes we saw the initial of dispersion of these assets to different places. So, I think it's good that we're hitting them now...
HERTLING: And that's a critical point because Raqqa is a city of about a half a million people. And even if you take the upper end of what might be ISIS in the area of 20,000 maybe.
HERTLING: You're talking about in interspersing some terrorist targets with a lot of population that wants no part of this organization.
COOPER: And that 20,000 figure and we should be conscious on that because that also includes a lot of people who as ISIS have made advances just guys who are unemployed...
COOPER: ... who going to sign on not clear what kind of capabilities they actually have. So the figure of actual fighters who are battle hardened, it's kind of open question.
FRANCONA: It is an open question. Go ahead.
HERTLING: And Raqqa is important because this was the first city that they actually came in and setup the state and set up these Raqqanian measures.
HERTLING: If you recall those gruesome videos where they had the heads on pikes, where they did all, you know, the gruesome beheadings and crucifixions, this was Raqqa and this is -- the people saw this and you got a really -- there's a lot of graffiti we see on the walls the video pans through there of anti-ISIS graffiti. So, all is not good for ISIS in Raqqa. So this bombing might generate some sort of anti-ISIS feelings.
COOPER: Jim Sciutto, also as he continue to work his sources. Jim, what are you learning?
SCIUTTO: I just want to add something, Anderson, in recent days I've been told by more than one military official that they believe that ISIS has been moving around increasing its concealment, hiding weapons, concentrating its position as well inside urban areas. This is something that the U.S. military and other intelligence agencies were observing in recent days, of course that can be a concern because it makes these targets, these key targets harder to hit. But I was told in the run up to this, to the beginning of the air campaign this evening that U.S. intelligence agencies, the Department of Defense remain confident that they knew the major targets they wanted to hit and that they could hit those targets with precession. And that's what we're seeing now. About two dozen targets tonight described as major targets this evening. And I was saying just a few minutes ago that tonight intended to be the most intense night of this air campaign.
Again, I don't want to call it shock and all but I been told that after tonight, not only will they have more details about targets hit sorties run, partner nations that took part. But that in coming days while the air campaign will continue it's unlikely to be intense as tonight more like the pace that we've been seeing now in airstrikes against ISIS target -- targets inside Iraq.
General Hertling, when, you know, Jim says a major target for ISIS, what is the major target for ISIS? I mean, again, I just keep trying to understand what is, you know, it can be a bunch of guys in a room. It's not as if they have a bank of computers or maybe they do somewhere to handle their money but...
HERTLING: Well, you're talking about the command and control element which we're used to in the west is not what you're going to see in this area.
HERTLING: It's not only going to be the commanders, if you want to put in that terminology, it's going to be their Intel folks, it's going to be their Imams who give them permission through Sharia Law to conduct some of the operations. It's going to be some of their financiers and those are the kind of strategic targets that we have to go after.
COOPER: The financial thing really interest me because obviously we know ISIS has a tremendous amount of income coming in, not only from money that they've been able to take although the reports are varied about how much they've been actually getting from Iraqi banks and the like. But they make millions of dollars -- said to be millions of dollars each day from oil fields...
COOPER: ... in Syria. Would those be targeted as well to prevent them from being able to kind of sell oil on the market?
HARTLING: You know, I don't think those would in effect be targeted. Those are the kind of things that are going to be part of the long plan on this. So, stopping the fraudulent exit of oil tankers out of both Syria and Iraq and to other nations, that's where they're selling the oil. They're going across the border and doing those kind of things.
But I think, again, this kind of an attack will blunt them. It will say, "Hey, we are coming after you." It isn't the shock in our campaign that as General Dempsey said the other day is not what we're after, it is going to be, "We now are on your tail and we're going to make you suffer for some of the things you've done."
COOPER: But, you know, Phillip Mudd, I mean, a crucial part of this not only in Syria but also really quite and more importantly in Iraq is trying to get the Sunni supporters who have, you know, helped ISIS, who are fighting with ISIS, who provided -- a lot of the military know-how, the conventional military know-how for ISIS in the battlefield of the last couple of months trying to get them to peel away just as United States did back in 2006 to 2007 during the Sunni awakening. But without having large numbers of U.S. personnel on the ground getting those groups to peel away is going to be all the more difficult unless there's real a change by the Iraqi government, a government which has alienated huge numbers of Sunni, a government which is been run by Shias over the last several years. And this conflict can be seen as part of the Sunni-Shia divide.
MUDD: I think that's true but we've got two opportunities here, Anderson, that I think ultimately over the course of months or years will lead to success. ISIS will not prevail. The first is, we have an opportunity in Baghdad. We're seeing a change in leadership. There have been modest gains there.
The second point, though, is even more important and that is ISIS in my judgment will be the architect of its own demise just as militants like this who killed 150,000 people in Algeria in the 1990s were the architects of their own demise.
COOPER: But it takes a long time.
MUDD: There are Sunni tribesmen -- That's true. In America, it's interesting, we talk about shock and all, I've seen newspaper articles the past few days saying, "Hey, our airstrikes working." We have an optic in this country that is so fundamentally different than what the adversary, "I saw" thought.
They think in terms of decades in their grandchildren. So, until we start to understand that degrading them and inspiring Sunni tribesmen is a years long process, we will not prevail but ultimately that's what it'll lead to success. ISIS will alienate these people and the Sunni tribesmen ultimately will start killing ISIS.
COOPER: Jim Acosta, I understand you have some new information?
ACOSTA: That's right, Anderson. You know, I was curious whether or not these airstrikes are happening in Syria tonight for time sensitive reasons because the, you know, the president is going after to the U.N. this week. And it is an awfully delicate time to start a new front in the fight against ISIS in this war on ISIS.
And I was told by a senior U.S. official that that is not the case. These are not time sensitive targets that are being hit tonight that these are hard targets. These are buildings that are being hit. And so, that is obviously something that we're going to have to watch and see as it develops because, you know, if we're talking about this very important city of Raqqa in Syria where obviously ISIS has a high concentration of command and control if their hitting buildings, they maybe hitting these fighters word hurts tonight, Anderson.
COOPER: It's interesting. General Hertling, though, you know, people from the White House keeps saying, "Well, look, there's a new government in place in Baghdad," as if that's going to suddenly overnight change things. I mean, yeah, there's new prime ministers and new president, they haven't appointed defense minister...
COOPER: ... they haven't figured out who the interior ministers are going to be.
COOPER: Those are very controversial positions.
COOPER: They haven't gone their act together on that.
HERTLING: And beyond that, those -- that government in Iraq and Baghdad has not reached out to the Sunnis fighters...
COOPER: And in fact, the general -- the officer core of the Iraqi military has actively been decimated...
COOPER: ... by al-Maliki who put in, you know, people would pay to become a general in the Iraqi military because it was so lucrative for them. And those generals abandoned all their troops.
So, changing -- reforming the Iraqi military, getting them operational, getting the government to actually reach out to Sunnis, there's no clear evidence that's going to happen anytime soon.
HERTLING: Well, I think the campaign plan right now, Anderson, is going to be a strategic offensive which we've seen tonight in Syria and a strategic defensive within Iraq.
Again, it's somewhat what we saw on the surge of 2007 where we're giving time to the Iraqi government to get their act together. It's going to take years for them to get the rebreed general officer core to get the connection with the tribal shakes (ph) and with the provincial governments in the North and the West, that's not going to happen anytime soon.
COOPER: But, Fran, if I'm an Iraqi Sunni who's, you know, right now allied with ISIS, do I really I have confidence that this new government is really going to reach out, is really going to share some of the money that al-Maliki took away. Plus, when you see these Iraqi, the Shia, you know, militia death-squads who were basically the most effective fighters right now and some of these Iraqi military units that are in mesh with Iraqi military units.
So, if I'm a Sunni and I see this, you know, Shia militias running around, do I really have confidence that these guys represent my interest?
TOWNSEND: Absolutely not. And here is where the coalition becomes critically important. I think why you hear so much from the president and the White House about building a coalition because the people they do trust are there other Sunni Arab allies in the region. It's the Saudis, it's Emiratis.
The people who got -- reached into these tribes, you can say to them, "Look, this is a new start. We're here with you. We're -- We don't know who the Arab allies are. They're involved in the air campaign." but it gives them credibility with the tribes to say, "We are participating now, physically participating in the military offensive. We are going to see this through that you are protected and that you are represented." And so you're going to have to give this time.
But us telling them or worst the Iraqi government telling them to trust this new government, now of course they're not -- so we don't have credibility but our Arab allies do continue that credibility because they also pay these tribes. They also help support them.
COOPER: I mean, you guys know this better than anybody but no matter what you plan before the bullets and the bomb start (inaudible), everything changes once kinetic activity begins. And...
HERTLING: The old military ad adjunct. No plan survives first contanct.
COOPER: Right. And so, we can say, "Well, we'll work with the Iraqi security force," and we can say, "We're identifying moderate, you know, rebels inside Syria." But, you know, when the rubber hits the road we really have no idea where this is going.
Do you -- I mean, it's hard to predict what happen -- I mean, what will Assad do? We don't really know. Will these moderate Shia rebels who we start to fund, will they stop attacking Assad? Will they really devote most of their time to attacking ISIS? These are things we don't know.
FRANCONA: Right. Well, the free Syrian army if that's who we're putting our -- to be our proxy boots on the ground, you know, I think that's just the coin toss because they'll take the money, they'll take the training, they'll take the weapons and then they'll continue to do what they want to do.
COOPER: Right. Assad is priority number one for...
COOPER: Jim Sciutto, I understand you have some more information?
SCIUTTO: I do, Anderson. It's just been pushing for the identification of these Arab nations that are taking part in the airstrikes and I'm told by a senior U.S. military official that three of those nations are Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. Reported a short time ago that more than Arab nation was taking part in strikes dropping bombs, kinetic activity and then in fact the U.S. is the only non-Arab nation taking part here. So no European partners, it's the U.S. and these three Arab nations. Again, Saudi Arabia, U.A.E. and Jordan.
If you were to pick three countries in the region to be taking out, taking part in strikes like that this would be the three because of capabilities but also because of past path participation. U.A.E. for instance has been taking part in flights over Afghanistan, also took part in strikes against Libya, Saudi Arabia certainly has tremendous capability and Jordan as well has been very deep into this conflict, not only in terms of providing intelligence but also the possible participation of Jordanian special forces...
SCIUTTO: ... as something of a ground presence going forward. So this is really remarkable coalition when you consider the Arab partners taking part.
COOPER: Fran, you travel in the region a lot and you've listed these countries before as the most likely...
TOWNSEND: That's right.
COOPER: ... but it's also -- they're pointing out, they also have the most fear from ISIS...
TOWNSEND: That's exactly what I was going to say.
COOPER: The Jordanian monarchy hangs in the balance.
TOWNSEND: That's exactly what I was going to say. Not only did they have the capability, they also have the most to lose and they've been pushing -- those are three countries that have spent their political investment and pushing the administration to act.
COOPER: I want to thank all our guests for joining us. The news out of Syria and Washington continues to unfold. Of course CNN is going to be bringing it to you throughout the night.
As we leave you tonight, we hand it off to Don Lemon and Alisyn Camerota.