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THE SITUATION ROOM
Ebola Concerns; Secret Service Director Resigns; ISIS Adapting, Advancing Despite Airstrikes
Aired October 1, 2014 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The retired U.S. general in charge of the U.S. coalition talks exclusively to CNN about the battle against the terrorist forces. What does he believe will ultimately be their downfall?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking news stories this hour. The sudden resignation of the Secret Service director just hours after the White House expressed support following shocking security breaches.
Also, disturbing new details about the patient with the first case of Ebola diagnosed here in the United States, including the multiple flights he took to get to Texas, and how a friend had to call the CDC directly after he was initially sent home from the hospital.
Plus, disturbing ISIS advances in the face of escalating airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition. We have an exclusive interview with a special envoy in charge of building that anti-ISIS coalition. He tells us what he believes that the terrorists' greatest weakness.
We're covering all the breaking stories with our correspondents, our guests, CNN's global resources.
Let's get straight to the White House, though, first.
Our senior correspondent Jim Acosta is there.
Jim, what's the latest you're hearing about the resignation of the U.S. Secret Service director?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Julia Pierson submitted her resignation to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson earlier this afternoon. The president then called Pierson to thank her for her many years of service. But now the White House begins the process of finding a successor for this embattled agency.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Even as the White House was publicly backing her, it was a speedy departure for Secret Service Director Julia Pierson. President Obama and his homeland security secretary quickly accepted her offer to step down.
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: They both agreed with that assessment because of the recent and accumulating reports that raise legitimate questions about the performance of the agency.
ACOSTA: And the questions were snowballing well beyond the stunning security breach involving accused White House intruder Omar Gonzalez. During a presidential visit to the CDC in September, a security contractor, armed with a gun, rode in an elevator with Mr. Obama, a blatant violation of protocol, a lapse the White House didn't know about until 24 years ago.
(on camera): Did Director Pierson brief the president on that incident?
EARNEST: Jim, I can tell you that, no, that the White House first learned of that incident yesterday shortly before it was reported by -- before it was publicly reported by news organizations.
ACOSTA (voice-over): When the president tasked Pierson to become the first female director of the Secret Service 18 months ago, her mission was to fix the agency's culture.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's breaking the mold in terms of the directors of the agencies, and I think that people are all extraordinarily proud of her. I couldn't be placing our lives in better hands than Julia's.
ACOSTA: Pierson took over in the wake of an embarrassing scandal, a slew of Secret Service agents fired for cavorting with prostitutes during a presidential trip to Colombia in 2012.
MARK SULLIVAN, FORMER DIRECTOR, U.S. SECRET SERVICE: I am deeply disappointed and I apologize for the misconduct of these employees and the distractions that it has caused.
ACOSTA: But Pierson's sometimes shaky testimony to Congress this week appears to have backfired.
JULIA PIERSON, DIRECTOR, U.S. SECRET SERVICE: This is unacceptable, and I take full responsibility. And I will make sure that it does not happen again.
ACOSTA: Her appearance sent key Democratic leaders into open revolt.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: I want her to go if she cannot restore trust in the agency, and if she cannot get the culture back in order.
ACOSTA: But Pierson is now gone and she spoke to Bloomberg News after her resignation was announced.
She said the following, we will put it up on screen -- she -- quote -- "Congress has lost confidence." First, she said: "I think it's in the best interest of the Secret Service and the American public if I step down. Congress has lost confidence in my ability to run the agency. The media has made it clear that this is what they expected. I can be pretty stoic about it, but not really. It's painful to leave as the agency is reeling from a significant security breach."
And it certainly was, Wolf.
BLITZER: And the president, and I'm sure the first lady, they're pretty upset about all this, because after all, this is their home. It has been for six years. Another two years. Somebody fires shots into the White House and they don't discover that for four days? A housekeeper discovers that. Somebody runs into the White House and gets into the East Room of the White House and now the security breach of this guy with gun in an elevator at the CDC.
I'm sure the first family must be pretty upset.
ACOSTA: That's right. And press secretary Josh Earnest said as much earlier this week, Wolf. He said that the president and the first lady are both concerned about the security breaches, these security lapses over here at the White House.
You mentioned the incident back in 2011. One of the president's daughters was home at that time. During the fence jumping incident, the family had just left four minutes before that intruder made his way into the White House. So the family has had, Wolf, what I would call some very close calls, not to mention this elevator operator down at the CDC who had a gun on him in the presence of the president with the Secret Service not knowing about that until later on when they interviewed this gentleman.
So it seems like close call after close call for the Secret Service. I think what the White House and members of Congress want to avoid is something that gets much more serious, Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks very much.
Let's bring in our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown. She has new information about the shocking incident that triggered this unfolding Secret Service scandal.
Pamela, what are you hearing from your sources?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Several new developments today, Wolf.
The same day that Pierson resigned, the man at the center of the latest White House security breach appeared in court, 42-year-old Omar Gonzalez, an Iraq war veteran, pleaded not guilty today. Tonight, CNN is learning new details about the breach, including the fact that Gonzalez was limping across the White House lawn through a foot injury.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BROWN (voice-over): Tonight, a Secret Service source tells CNN
the entire incident, from the time Gonzalez went over the fence to the time he was tackled inside the White House, was captured on tape by an elaborate surveillance system, video now in the hands of investigators.
CNN has learned that as Gonzalez ran into the White House, he bowled over a female officer who was trying to close one of the mansion's double doors. That officer, a source tells CNN, was able to get up, chase the 42-year-old and eventually tackle him just outside the East Room.
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: This is a person who is disability because he has problems with his foot. And nobody could get in front of him. Every layer fails.
BROWN: Today, the former Iraq war veteran appeared in a federal courtroom pleading not guilty to the three charges, including entering a restricted building while carrying a deadly or dangerous weapon. A federal judge ordered Gonzalez, who had previous run-ins with the Secret Service, be screened to see if he's competent to stand trial.
BROWN: Today, Gonzalez's attorney pushed back at the judge saying he is fit to stand trial and he doesn't need to take a competency test. And he asked to delay the judge's order -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Pamela, thanks very much.
The scandal certainly raising serious new questions about the culture inside the Secret Service.
CNN's Brian Todd is working this part of the story.
What are you finding out, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, a source in the Secret Service tells CNN Julia Pierson did not have the confidence of the rank and file, that "Management is a huge problem."
Pierson's resignation may well not solve what we have been told is a larger cultural problem inside the Secret Service, what's being called a culture of cover-up. Critics say many agents and officers don't want to report security lapses and others problems for fear of retribution within the agency.
One example, "The Washington Post" reports the Secret Service officer who heard gunshots actually heard debris falling in the shooting incident in November of 2011 at the White House that we have reported on. That's where seven shots smashed into the building, by the way. "The Post" reports that agent did not want to challenge her superiors "for fear of being criticized."
Her bosses had concluded early on that there had been no shooting. Here's what Secret Service critic author Ron Kessler said today about the atmosphere inside the agency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD KESSLER, AUTHOR, "THE FIRST FAMILY DETAIL":What connects them all is a management culture which punishes agents for pointing out deficiencies or pointing out even potential threats and rewards agents with promotions if they just keep quiet and go along.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Now, the Secret Service is pushing back hard on all of this, an agency official telling CNN it is not true that there's a cultural problem. The official says agents and officers are not punished for speaking out, that they have established processes for bringing issues forward.
I pressed Ralph Basham on that. He was director of the Secret Service from 2003 to 2006. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Has there ever been a problem with agents being punished for reporting these things?
RALPH BASHAM, FORMER SECRET SERVICE DIRECTOR: In my career and my time in the Secret Service, I don't know that I know of a case where someone has been punished for coming forward with relevant information that has to do with the protection of the president of the United States. I do not remember that. I don't recall that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Julia Pierson was grilled about all of this yesterday during her hearing with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Ranking member Elijah Cummings really hammered on that issue of the young Secret Service officer who did not want to report what she knew of that 2011 shooting incident. He said to Pierson -- quote -- "That has to concern you." She said yes, it does, it's unacceptable. She promised to make changes.
But with critical mass building against her, Wolf, it's going to be someone else possibly making those changes.
BLITZER: And, Brian, there's a survey that really spoke to how bad the situation inside the Secret Service has been. Tell us about that.
TODD: Incredible, really.
An independent group did a survey last year. The survey is called best places to work in the federal government. The report said attitudes inside the Secret Service are worse than most agencies. Out of 300 agencies in that survey, Wolf, the Secret Service, look at that number, ranked 226th, clearly a problem, cultural and otherwise, inside the agency.
BLITZER: Yes. They have got to fix that and they have got to fix that quickly.
All right, thanks very much.
Let's dig a little bit deeper right now.
Joining us, our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes. He's a former assistant director of the FBI. And a former Secret Service agent Daniel Bongino.
Guys, thanks very much for joining us.
Is there a cultural problem right now inside the Secret Service?
DAN BONGINO, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: Yes, but it's not the broad-based cultural problem that I think some in the media are reporting.
It's an insulated, small group of managers within the Secret Service, Wolf, who have been there for a long time who, in my opinion, have decimated the agency. They have almost used it as a job search for their second career and subordinated the interests of the rank and file.
BLITZER: How many people are involved in this decimation?
BONGINO: Say between 20 and 40. And most of the agents, if you got them off the record, they know who they are.
BLITZER: They have to get rid of these people then, right?
BONGINO: They do. That's why I think a lot of the people who are speaking off the record, some of the sources are saying this may not necessarily cure the problem right now.
BLITZER: Do they need to bring in a new director from the outside or move someone up?
BONGINO: Well, I thought an outside director would have been a better choice. But I'll tell you this. If there was an insider you were going to bring into the director position, you are not going to find a finer person than Joe Clancy. He's excellent.
BLITZER: He's going to be the acting director for the time being, but I'm sure there will be a lot of pressure to bring somebody from the outside, some very high-profile person who has a lot of clout and a lot of credibility and a lot of experience in dealing with these kinds of agencies.
BLITZER: Tom, you used to work at the FBI. What's really shocking is that yesterday the White House was saying they had full confidence in this Secret Service director. Today, she's gone. That's pretty unusual, isn't it?
TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think when members of Congress from both parties start to say there's a problem with the culture, that's the kiss of death. That's the buzzword for bye-bye when they say there's something wrong with the culture.
BLITZER: How much of a distraction is this for the president right now? Obviously, the most important issue is his safety and security, the first lady, the entire family and all those at the White House. There's hundreds of people that work at the White House who need to be safe.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I don't think it's a political problem, as much as it's a substantive problem. The Secret Service is not doing the job it's supposed to do.
I think the Secret Service has to decide what it's really doing at all. Most people don't realize that the Secret Service is responsible for protecting the president, but it's also responsible for counterfeiting investigations. Why?
It makes no sense. It's a relic of when the Secret Service was part of the Treasury Department, which it no longer is. The Secret Service should do one thing and do one thing well. But instead it's got this bureaucratic spread to these other kinds of criminal investigations, and it's just a distraction.
BLITZER: Do you agree with that, Daniel?
BONGINO: I do, and it pains me to say that, but it was the most enjoyable portion of the job, the criminal investigations. It could be very complex.
But I agree. It's an accurate analysis. You just can't do it. When you have things like the United Nations General Assembly and a full presidential detail going on the same month, how do you expect an agent to go out and chase counterfeiters in New York City? It just can't happen. There's no enough resources to do that.
BLITZER: Here's what worries me, is that some terrorists out there are going to get some bad ideas. They see some lax security around the president of the United States. I assumes that worries you too.
BONGINO: It's actually -- if I had to triage my problems with this incident, it's the now YouTube video tutorial on how to leap the fence in the White House. I can only hope this exhaustive review leads to a better plan.
BLITZER: Why don't they build a bigger fence then? What's the problem?
FUENTES: I think they're going to now. But I will bet you the problem had to do with the Pennsylvania Avenue beautification committee and getting permission to build a higher fence.
I remember when that commission ordered the FBI to cut down the trees in front of FBI headquarters because it didn't match the type of tree that was down the street. So you have other factors, political and otherwise.
TOOBIN: I'm sorry to interrupt, but I also would like to put in a word for -- no one wants to live in a police state. It's always possible to justify more security.
Every tourist in the United States and outside the United States takes a photograph in front of that beautiful fence at the White House. That's a great rite of passage. And to put up some sort of horrible looking fence would be a terrible thing.
BLITZER: But you don't have to do that. There's technology. You could put something on the grass over the fence, somebody jumps over and there's going to be some invisible material there that's going to stop that person right away.
TOOBIN: You know what? They do it in office buildings. You think they could do it in the most secure building in the United States. I think that's why we're all so surprised. It's not just the unlocked front door, which I think most of us in our homes and apartments have locked front doors.
The idea that the White House is so insecure is just what is so shocking.
BLITZER: What bothered me also is that there's a button there. If somebody gets into the White House, the residence or whatever, you push the button and sirens go off or whatever. But it wasn't working.
BONGINO: That's what is so shocking, Wolf, because there's about 50 to 60 eyeballs, if not more, on that front lawn, from all kinds of different locations, without giving anything up here.
There's so many different ways to do it. The fact that it wasn't done is really stunning to most of the agents I have spoken with.
BLITZER: Yes. That was pretty shocking.
You know this acting -- the new acting director. Right?
BONGINO: Very well.
BLITZER: Tell us about him.
BONGINO: Absolutely terrific, a man of unbelievable character. I think he was considering being a priest before. They used to call him Father Joe jokingly.
BONGINO: Terrific. Has the respect of just about every agent with any credibility in the Secret Service. He will be terrific.
BLITZER: Give me your recommendation what they need to do, as a former assistant director of the FBI. Should the Secret Service stay as the principal protector of the United States or should the U.S. military, elite units, commando units, for example, be brought in to protect the president?
FUENTES: Because the military -- it needs to be a civilian agency, not the U.S. military, and it needs to be I think the Secret Service. They're trained for it, they're the best in the world at doing that. I agree with Dan that they might have too many other missions with the criminal investigations going.
But the protection that they do, it's not just the president, past president, the vice president, the families, all candidates that run for president. We will have that season coming up in a couple years. The heads of state from all over the world who were just here at the U.N., that they have that responsibility, and they do it better than anybody in the world. I think that part of it should stay with them.
TOOBIN: Jeh Johnson, who is the secretary of homeland security, came from the Pentagon, where he was general counsel.
I think it might be time to bring someone in from the military who could be the new director, bring a new set of eyes with a different set of experiences, rather than promoting from within.
BLITZER: Daniel Bongino, you're running for Congress, right?
BONGINO: Yes, sir.
BLITZER: As a Republican. Which district?
BONGINO: That's right.
Sixth in Maryland, Western Maryland.
BLITZER: How does that look for you?
BONGINO: I'm going to be the upset of the cycle.
BLITZER: Who are you running against?
BONGINO: John Delaney, first-term incumbent.
BONGINO: That's right.
BLITZER: He's from Bethesda and Potomac, right outside of Washington, D.C.
BONGINO: That's right. BLITZER: He thinks he's going to win. You think you're going to
BONGINO: Of course. That's how this works. Right?
BLITZER: All right, thanks very much for joining us.
More breaking news. That's coming up next. Shocking new details about the Ebola victim in a Texas hospital, including the planes he took to the United States from Africa and how a friend had to call the CDC to get him help.
And we're also getting the latest from our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He's at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. He's got new information for you.
BLITZER: Breaking news about the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the United States, now identified as 42-year-old Thomas Eric Duncan from Liberia.
Sources tell CNN a friend of his had to call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to call them directly after a Dallas hospital initially sent him home. Now we're learning he took a United flight to get to Texas.
Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is at the CDC in Atlanta.
What is the latest, and what are you hearing over there, Dr. Gupta?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I imagine for the first patient ever diagnosed in the United States with Ebola, this is not how they wanted it to go.
We're hearing some of these same details, he's 42 years old, he's a Liberian national. He was in critical condition yesterday but was upgraded to serious but stable condition today. We hear that he's talking and even asking for food, all very good signs.
But, Wolf, to your point, a frustrating few days, it sounds like. They went to the hospital. He said I'm from Liberia. He was nauseated, vomiting and had fever, thought he had Ebola, and he was sent home. It's quite remarkable.
The CDC was called. Then the friends were told to call the Texas Department of Health. That's been his last few days, it sounds like, very frustrating. I will tell you, Wolf, as a result of some what's happened there, very frustrating for many other people he may have come in contact with as well. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
GUPTA (voice-over): ... are working to identify every person who's been in contact with the infected man, now identified as Thomas Eric Duncan.
He had multiple interactions over more than a week, so they are monitoring more than a dozen people for symptoms, including five school-ages children from four schools. But so far, none has been confirmed to be infected.
DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: Every step, every contact where he might have had direct physical contact with somebody, and for each one of those contacts, we will monitor them for 21 days after exposure.
GUPTA: The patient flew from Liberia on September 19 and landed in Dallas the following day. It was four days later when he first developed symptoms. He walked into a Dallas emergency room on the 26th. He told the nurse he had traveled to Africa.
But he was sent home with antibiotics and did not undergo an Ebola screening. On Sunday the 28th, his condition worsens. He returns to the hospital by ambulance and is placed in isolation. On Tuesday the 30th, lab results confirm the patient has Ebola.
A failure to communicate we are told among hospital staff led to the patient's release after his initial visit.
DR. MARK LESTER, TEXAS HEALTH RESOURCES: He volunteered that he had traveled from Africa in response to the nurse operating the checklist in asking that question. Regretfully, that information was not fully communicated throughout the full team.
GUPTA: Today, the patient is in serious but stable condition.
FRIEDEN: He remains critically ill, but what we will do is make sure we get him any support and treatment that might help.
GUPTA: To curb infections, the Texas doctors insist every precaution is now being taken.
DR. EDWARD GOODMAN, EPIDEMIOLOGIST, TEXAS HEALTH PRESBYTERIAN HOSPITAL: The people caring for the patient have a buddy watching them to ensure that they're doing all the things proper for their own protection. It happens to be a segregated area away from any other patients by convenience. And we have put restrictions so that there's no traffic coming through that area. It's an ideal location, in fact.
GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: This is all hands on deck.
GUPTA: With a mortality rate of approximately 50 percent, state and federal officials are in full force to prevent more Ebola victims.
FRIEDEN: I have no doubt that we will stop this in its tracks in the U.S., but I also have no doubt as long as the outbreak continues in Africa, we need to be on our guard.
GUPTA: He also said he has no doubt that none of the passengers on any of those three flights are at risk, Dr. Frieden saying there's zero percent chance of transmission because Mr. Duncan wasn't sick when he was on those planes, Wolf.
BLITZER: He wasn't showing symptoms, right, although he may have been carrying the virus, is that right?
GUPTA: No doubt that he was carrying the virus. He was in what's called the incubation phase, carrying the virus in your body, but not yet showing symptoms.
What the science suggests is when you're in that stage, you're not spreading the virus. You don't transmit it to others. That's why they're not concerned about the passengers on those planes or the people in those various airports, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's hope they're right about that. Sanjay, thanks very much.
We have just learned, by the way, that the patient flew on a flight from Liberia initially to Brussels, Belgium. And then, get this, he took two flights on United Airlines, one flight from Brussels to Washington's Dulles International Airport, then from Washington- Dulles to Dallas, Texas.
Our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh, is working this part of the story.
Rene, what else are you finding out?
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we know that this passenger arrived in the United States on the 20th. As you mentioned, we just received word from United Airlines that the infected man, Thomas Eric Duncan, was on board those two United flights, one of those passing right through the Washington, D.C., area.
MARSH (voice-over): The Liberian government tells CNN the infected passenger, Thomas Eric Duncan, stopped in Brussels on his way back to the U.S. We now know he boarded United Airlines Flight 951 to Washington Dulles, connecting to another United flight, 822, to Dallas. Local governments in Ebola hot spots screen passengers with temperature scanners and look for signs of illness.
FRIEDEN: We have made sure that every single traveler who leaves that country is tested to see if they have a fever before they get on the plane. If they have a fever, they don't get on the plane.
MARSH: CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and her crew were checked at the airport as they prepared to leave Liberia. And when passengers arrive on U.S. soil, Customs and Border Patrol officers are questioning their whereabouts and visually scanning for symptoms.
EARNEST: To bolster that screening effort, the CDC has been involved in training CDP officers who are on the front lines of this to make sure they understand and that they have been trained on the symptoms of this illness.
DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT: The most important thing to do is ask every patient with a fever, have you traveled? And if so, where? And if they tell you they have just come from West Africa, put them in isolation immediately.
MARSH: All right, well, U.S. customs flags the sick passengers, the sick passengers arriving in the United States, and it's the CDC who takes over from there. The CDC is on hand at most international airports.
In the meantime, the U.S. government is not advising airlines not to fly to countries impacted by Ebola. That said, the CDC is putting out travel notices, warning travelers about the potential dangers. We can tell you United does have a flight that goes between Houston and Nigeria. Of course, we know Nigeria has also been impacted by Ebola.
At this point, the airline tells me that they do not plan on making any travel changes to their flights. However, if the government mandates that, they will follow.
BLITZER: Rene Marsh reporting for us, thanks very much.
We just saw in Rene's report our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, in Liberia, actually leaving Liberia. She's now joining us from Dallas right outside the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital where Thomas Eric Duncan is described as being in serious condition.
Elizabeth, what are you learning about his condition? And are you specifically hearing if he's getting that experimental medication that those two Americans who came down with Ebola from West Africa, came to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta received that may have helped them?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they haven't commented on what medications Mr. Duncan is getting, but I highly, highly doubt he's getting that medication, because we have been told for some time now that there's no more of that medication left.
You know, there are other kinds of medications and treatments that doctors have been trying. We don't know what he is receiving inside. But it is great news, of course, that he appears to be getting better.
And it's important to know, Wolf, that you don't necessarily need sort of a fancy new drug to get better from Ebola. Really good, sort of basic medical management, keeping someone really hydrated, dealing with their bacterial infections, if they can get one, can really go a long way towards survival.
BLITZER: You were just there in Monrovia, in Liberia. I've got to tell you, Elizabeth, as a friend of yours, I was really worried about you. I'm sure your family and your four kids were really worried about you, as well. Fortunately you came back and safe and sound. But you filed some amazing reports from there.
Talk a little bit about the difference in the health systems you saw firsthand in Liberia versus what's going on here in the United States?
COHEN: Wolf, it's completely night and day. I mean, it really -- one of the few words I can use to describe Liberia in this situation is miserable.
People are in taxis driving around, or sometimes walking around the city looking for care. I mean, here you see what happens. Someone's diagnosed with Ebola and they're immediately isolated; they get, you know, great medical care. The survival rate for patients here has been, you know, quite good. It is a completely different situation.
One, because, you know, Liberia is a very, very poor country, and it's hard to give good medical care when you don't have enough doctors; you don't have enough nurses; you don't have enough medical supplies. It is night and day from here.
BLITZER: Did you walk around with protective gloves and gear and facemasks? I mean, how -- what was it like over there?
COHEN: You know what, Wolf? We didn't, and here's the reason why. In order to get Ebola from someone, you need to have contact with their bodily fluids.
We were extremely, extremely careful not to get close to Ebola patients. We were, you know, nowhere even three, five, six feet. We were quite far away from them. And, you know, of course, we didn't touch dead bodies or anything like that. So there was no need to for us be wearing gloves or a mask.
You know, the people who -- my heart went out to them was the family members who just wanted to help their sick relatives, and they kind of had to touch them. And that was just heartbreaking to see and hear what kind of risks those people had to take.
BLITZER: Fortunately, you made it back safe and sound. I'm sure your family is thrilled. I'm thrilled. All of our viewers here in the United States and around the world around thrilled. Excellent work.
COHEN: Thank you.
BLITZER: A very courageous medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, doing wonderful work for all of us. Thank you.
One of the first American Ebola patient, by the way, tells her story tonight. Former missionary Nancy Writebol will join CNN's Anderson Cooper later tonight, 8 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.
So just ahead, how does the resignation of the Secret Service director reflect on President Obama? How can the agency's culture be fixed?
Plus, ISIS forces adapting and advancing despite escalating air strikes by the U.S.-led coalition. We're going to have the very latest on the war against the ISIS terrorists.
BLITZER: ISIS forces are said to be adapting and advancing in the face of airstrikes by the growing U.S.-led coalition. British Royal Air Force jets dropped more bombs today. Australian planes are now patrolling skies over Iraq, and Turkey's parliament is weighing possible military action against ISIS.
Our chief national security analyst -- correspondent Jim Sciutto is following all of these developments for us. What's the latest, Jim?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this week, the U.S. coming face-to-face with two of the deficiencies of an air campaign. One is that air strikes often cause collateral damage. That is, bombs dropped from the air kill innocent people.
And two, without a ground force, air power alone is not quickly altering the balance of power on the ground. And so far, that is what we're seeing in both Iraq and Syria.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): It is a fight for their lives and their homes. Syrian Kurds battling ISIS militants in the town of Kobani on the Turkish border. U.S. and coalition aircraft unleashed the biggest day of the air campaign so far Tuesday, with many strikes targeting here.
But today ISIS is holding ground, and even advancing.
LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: The fact that ISIS can still move under this American air power is very surprising. It tells me that that they're very resilient; they're adapting their tactics, so they move when they think they can.
SCIUTTO: In Iraq, mortars rained down on Baghdad's Green Zone today, home of the U.S. embassy. And on the streets of the capital, a devastating series of bombings in Baghdad's Shiite neighborhoods.
At least nine people killed, 40 wounded, following two car bombs and seven mortar attacks.
Outside the capital, ISIS militants are testing Baghdad's defenses from several directions.
The U.S.-led air campaign, adding more French warplanes today, is coming under increasing scrutiny with the first reports of civilian casualties.
The Obama administration now acknowledges that the high standard that is applied to drone strikes, the near certainty there will be no civilian casualties, does not apply over Syria and Iraq. Pentagon says it is, at times, foregoing targets to minimize civilian deaths. However, former commanders say a broad air campaign is fundamentally different from relatively isolated drone strikes.
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: A drone strike is going to be a single piece of munition. It's going to be directed against a target that's been there probably for a while. And it's just very different from a fast-moving aircraft.
SCIUTTO: And the differences don't end there. Compared to drone strikes, an air campaign has a vastly larger number of targets struck with much greater frequency with jets flying at much higher speeds and altitudes than drones do. And with the coalition, you have another issue, Wolf, which is that you have multiple countries, militaries taking part that don't necessarily have the same capabilities that U.S. pilots and U.S. aircraft have to avoid that kind of casualty.
BLITZER: Even communicating with all the different countries, that's not necessarily all that easy.
SCIUTTO: Absolutely. It's a challenge.
BLITZER: Coordination very important. All right. Thanks very much, Jim Sciutto, for that.
Just ahead, a CNN exclusive: He helped lead the fight against al Qaeda. Now can retired U.S. General John Allen rally U.S. allies against ISIS? We're going to hear from him next, an exclusive interview.
And even after stunning security lapses, the White House backed the Secret Service director almost up to the moment she resigned. Is there any leadership lapse going on inside the Obama administration?
BLITZER: Now a CNN exclusive. A one-on-one conversation with the U.S. general leading the international effort against ISIS. He reveals what he says will ultimately be the downfall of the terror group.
Our global affairs correspondent Elise Labott sat down with retired Marine Corps General John Allen.
Elise, thanks very much for doing this. What did he say about this fight against ISIS?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this was General Allen's first interview since taking the post earlier this month, and he was very candid about the challenges that are ahead as he leaves tonight for his first trip to the Middle East to shore up this coalition. And he said it's an important moment, so many countries with different agendas and backgrounds partnering together to fight ISIS. But he was very candid about the fact that it will not be easy, and it will not be quick.
LABOTT (voice-over): He was a key player in Iraq's Sunni awakening, turning tribal leaders against al Qaeda during the Iraq war. Now he's President Obama's handpicked envoy to build a global coalition against ISIS.
In an exclusive interview with CNN, retired General John Allen says he's convinced he can repeat his success.
GEN. JOHN ALLEN, MARINE CORPS (RET.): There will come the time when ISIS cannot tolerate the tribal structure within ISIS territory, because that tribal structure is in direct opposition to the full exertion of ISIS influence over the population. And ISIS will turn on the tribes. As soon as the sun will come up tomorrow -- as sure as that is, that's going to happen.
LABOTT: The U.S. has acknowledged coalition air strikes cannot break ISIS hold on Iraq alone. Allen says Iraqi and Kurdish forces will be key to the success of the campaign.
(on camera): As a former general, would you ever advise the general to take U.S. boots on the ground?
ALLEN: I have extensive experience in training indigenous forces. And with the right kind of training infrastructure and the right kind of forces that we're working with, I think there's a very good chance that the Iraqi security forces can be the adequate -- the term is not a good term -- boots on the ground -- could be the adequate arm of decision ultimately to decide the outcome with ISIS on the ground in Iraq.
LABOTT (voice-over): Iran is not part of Allen's global coalition, but he admits Tehran has deep interest and relationships in Iraq and shares the threat posed by ISIS.
(on camera): Why not just coordinate with the Iranians? It seems like a no-brainer.
ALLEN: Well, I think that we recognize that they have a role to play, and where that role is helpful, we'll encourage it.
LABOTT: With a 40,000 strong army, hundreds of millions in cash, and a sophisticated media campaign, some say President Obama's goal of defeating ISIS is mission impossible. Allen laid out his definition of success.
ALLEN: We dismantle ISIS in a credible, physical way, in the physical sphere. We compete with them in the information sphere and ultimately deny them the credibility of their message and the legitimacy of their movement. And we also deny them the oxygen that comes from their elicit finance and revenue interests.
LABOTT (voice-over): A key element of the strategy: arming and training the Syrian opposition. Last month, President Obama said the idea that the ragtag Free Syrian Army could be trained to battle the Assad regime was a fantasy. Now the U.S. wants to turn the rebels into a credible fighting force against ISIS.
(on camera): It's going to take a while, though.
ALLEN: Well, it is, yes. And we've been saying that all along. It is going to take awhile. It could take years, actually.
And so, we have to manage our expectations. But the process of getting that unfolded is occurring right now with the idea of locating training camps and beginning to accumulate the Syrian elements that will go into those training camps. Ensuring that we've got the right kind of combination of trainers who can provide the substance that they're going to need to be credible and capable fighters on the ground as time goes on.
LABOTT: And until that time comes when the Syrian rebels are also a credible fighting force, Allen said President Assad and his forces are not an option for the coalition, even in the short term. He said it cannot predict the day Assad will go, but that there will be a political solution in Syria, and that will not include Assad, Wolf.
BLITZER: That will take a long, long time, as he himself acknowledges. This is a war that's going to go on not for weeks or months, but years.
Elise, thanks very much for doing that report.
Just ahead, despite shocking breaches of security, the White House backed the Secret Service director almost until the very last minute. Does her sudden resignation reveal some leadership problem inside the administration? Gloria Borger and Dana Bash -- they are both standing by to join me.
BLITZER: Let's get to more on the breaking news we've been following, the resignation of the Secret Service director. The president expressed support for Julia Pierson, even after shocking security lapses.
Here's President Obama speaking after a man with a knife ran deep inside the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you have confidence in the Secret Service?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Secret Service does a great job. I'm grateful for the sacrifices they made on my behalf and my family's behalf.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And listen to what the president's senior adviser, Dan Pfeiffer, told me right here in THE SITUATION ROOM yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Does he still have confidence in Julia Pierson, the director of the Secret Service?
DAN PFEIFFER, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRES. OBAMA: He does. And they're undertaking this review. They're going to figure out exactly what went wrong. We've already taken some steps in the short term to address some of the problems that happened on that evening, and when we get to the end of review, I'm confident that they will implement whatever reforms necessary to ensure something like this never happens again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BBLITZER: All right. Let's discuss what we just heard with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash.
Does this reflect poorly on the administration?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I don't think it reflects poorly on the president himself. It reflects poorly on government and the competency of government these days. You can go down the list of everything from the website on healthcare to the IRS, everything else, and people take a look at this and say, wait a minute, the Secret Service of the United States, by the way has had problems going back to when the Salahis crashed the state dinner, not as serious as the fence jumper, but, you know, they go back and they say, can't the Secret Service even protect the president of the United States?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. But I think that the reason I think this is different, and, Wolf, you covered the White House for many years, I did cover it for a few years, for a while, is that this is -- this is different. This is unique. The relationship that the president has with the Secret Service is something that is hard for us who aren't protected to understand, but those of us who view it get it, that, of course, it's first instinct to support them.
Their job is to say they will take a bullet for him. And there must have been a reason why these things happen. What is questionable, though, is why the press secretary at the White House came out this morning and said that the White House had full confidence in here, and knowing full well and even more known now from sources, that it was clear after her very poor performance yesterday before Congress that it was -- curtains for her.
BORGER: But the cardinal sin is not to have answers for Congress, but also for the White House to learn things by reading it in the newspapers, or from calls from the media. And without being told the entire --
BASH: Right, it's not White House's fault.
BORGER: No, but that's one of the reasons she's gone, is that clearly -- and that may have been the difference between Dan Pfeiffer being here yesterday and today, is that this story was unraveling in real-time and they weren't hearing about it from the Secret Service.
BASH: Exactly, and what is so disturbing, even as we speak, at this very moment, I was just speaking to a source who is part of the government, the agency that oversees them, the Secret Service, they, to this moment, don't know if they have all of the facts right about what happened, which is kind of scary.
BLITZER: Apparently, other shoes that are going to be dropping, too, if you heard Jason Chaffetz, he was the congressman from Utah who leads the sub-committee investigating the Secret Service, he says there are other incidents that we don't know about, that we'll probably know about fairly soon.
BORGER: And so you have an agency that's clearly unraveling. You have a director that clearly didn't have the confidence of the people who worked for her. It was a culture she was brought in after Cartagena and the sort of escapades there to kind of change, particularly being a woman. And --
BASH: That there were Secret Service agents with prostitutes.
BORGER: Prostitutes, right, in Cartagena.
And so, you look at this dysfunctional agency which has such an important job and you scratch your head and say how can you fix it?
BLITZER: This is a president who doesn't like to fire people, as you know. But Eric Shinseki, he had problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs, he was forced out by all accounts. Now, Julia Pierson of the Secret Service, they're going to get some -- they need someone new to fill that slot and that is not going to be easy.
BASH: It's not going to be easy at all. I mean, as Gloria is saying, look at what got them to Julia Pierson. The reason she is in this job, she clearly had qualifications, she's been with the Secret Service for 30 years, she was chief of staff, but she was also a she and it was coming off of a very big scandal where it looked like it was a boy's club and they wanted to have a woman in there and it didn't work out.
Ironically, for the same reasons that the men had problems because it was a culture of cover-up and not having actual accountability, and so, it was gender neutral. But finding somebody who is going to be appropriate, but not too heavy handed is not going to be easy.
BORGER: It's going to have to come from the outside, I think. They went inside and stuck with the culture, now I think they have to go somewhere else.
BLITZER: They need somebody with a lot of credibility, a lot of experience, someone who can take that Secret Service and make it what it is supposed to be, really the elite organization that protects the president and the first family, all of those who work at the White House.
Guys, thanks very much.
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"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.