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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson; Ebola Fears; Battle Against ISIS; Texas Deputy May Have Been Infected with Ebola; Women CEOs Stand By the NFL
Aired October 8, 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: We're going to talk about all of this with the homeland security secretary of the United States, Jeh Johnson. He will join us live.
Plus, the fight against ISIS, the Pentagon now warning the world that an embattled Syrian city just yards from Turkey will likely fall to terrorists. There could be a massacre. Here's the question. Why is the U.S. not doing more to stop them? Why isn't Turkey doing more?
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: Let's get right to the breaking news. A possible new case of Ebola in Texas. A sheriff's deputy who was inside the apartment of the man first diagnosed in the United States, that deputy now showing signs and symptoms of Ebola.
The homeland security secretary, Jeh Johnson, is standing by. We will speak with him live. He just met with President Obama and other top officials. We will get the latest from him.
We also have complete breaking news coverage with our correspondents and our guests this hour.
But first, let's go to senior CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, and she's monitoring all the late-breaking developments in Dallas.
Elizabeth, what are you seeing and what are you hearing?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: What we're hearing is that this concern about this sheriff's deputy who we're told was in the apartment when the orders were given for the family not to go anywhere.
It's not clear if he had actually contact with Duncan. In fact, the state Department of Health said he didn't. So without direct contact with Duncan, it's unclear how he would get Ebola. Even if he did touch surfaces inside that apartment, Duncan had been out of that apartment for several days and Ebola doesn't usually, according to studies, stay on surfaces, doesn't alive on surfaces for that long. It just stays alive for a matter of hours. So it will be interesting to know if they test this patient for
Ebola today, if indeed it is Ebola, and that's a big if, the test might still be negative.
COHEN (voice-over): Tonight, five U.S. airports have their orders for new screening measures for travelers arriving from West African countries hardest hit by Ebola. The new measures include taking passengers' temperatures, administering questionnaires, and conducting visual assessments regarding the passengers' health.
New York's JFK airport will be the first, beginning Saturday, to enact the new procedures, followed by Newark, Chicago O'Hare, Washington Dulles, and Atlanta.
The new airport screenings come on the same day the man with Ebola who traveled from Liberia to the United States died at a Dallas hospital. Thomas Eric Duncan came here to visit his girlfriend, Louise Troh. Reacting to his death, she said in a statement, "I trust a thorough investigation will take place regarding all aspects of his care."
The CDC says that none of those who Duncan came in contact with in the Dallas area, including Louise Troh, have shown any symptoms of the deadly virus.
DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: But we recognize we're not out of the 21-day waiting period and we're actually at the peak incidence period of eight to 10 days. So it's certainly a time when we're anxious and carefully assessing.
COHEN: Over the weekend, doctors had given Duncan an experimental drug. But ZMapp, the drug that may he helped save the lives of two Americans who contracted Ebola, was not available.
Texas health officials said in a statement, "This past week has been an enormous test of our health system." The details of Duncan's case from his entry into the United States to the mishandling of pertinent travel history information to the timing and availability of treatment medication have led to criticism, evaluation, and now reform.
COHEN: Now, this person who is now showing these early signs and symptoms of Ebola, I want to be very clear about something, Wolf. The early signs of Ebola look like many, many other things. All of us at some point have felt them, a fever or some body aches or a headache or vomiting. So Ebola can look like a lot of other things at the beginning.
BLITZER: Let's hope he does not have Ebola. Thanks very much, Elizabeth Cohen, for that.
Let's get some more now.
Our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh, is joining us from Dulles International Airport. That's just outside Washington, D.C.
Thomas Duncan first entered the United States from Belgium at Washington's Dulles Airport.
Walk us through the new procedures that are about to go in effect at Washington's Dulles airport and four other international airports in the United States.
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
We know Dulles is one of them. We also know that Atlanta, Newark, JFK and Chicago, those are the five airports where they're really going to be ramping up these measures. You will see Customs and Border Patrol officers with something that looks similar to this thermometer that I'm holding here. This is a laser thermometer.
You do not need to touch the individual. You simply hold it up to the person's forehead it gives you a reading of what their temperature is. Remember, they're only focusing on people coming from three distinct countries. We're talking Liberia, Sierra Leone as well as Guinea. If you come from those three countries, a Customs and Border Patrol officer will likely take your temperature with a thermometer looking something like this.
Wolf, again, we know this is not foolproof. We spoke with many experts who say this sounds great, it's wonderful that the federal government is stepping up their efforts, but they say this is not 100 percent. If you have a low-grade fever, you may be able to take anything, like Tylenol and bring that fever down. So the moral of the story here is, we will have these checks in play at these five airports.
However, it is very possible that you can have another person with Ebola come right here to the United States undetected despite these checks. Some may be asking why these five airports? According to the White House, they say some 94 percent of the travelers coming from these three countries come through those five airports.
One other point I want to bring up, Wolf, we mentioned the three very specific countries in which they will be taking a closer look at these passengers. Nigeria not one of those countries. I reached out to the CDC and asked why not Nigeria? Because we do know, although they have it under control, there were case there of Ebola. What I'm told is that situation is under control, they have been able to trace all of the people who may have had it and come into contact with the virus, there have not been any new cases.
So they don't consider it an outbreak situation in Nigeria. So the focus, Wolf, on those three countries.
BLITZER: Nigeria clearly the largest country in Africa has done a very good job containing Ebola in that country. Quick question. Rene, somebody comes to Washington Dulles Airport where you are, says they're from one of those three countries in West Africa. They show they have a fever. What does the TSA or the customs agents, what do they do then?
MARSH: Quickly, this is what they do. They are visually looking at you. Do you have any obvious signs that perhaps you are sick? They're also taking your temperature.
If there's a red flag, we do know at 20 of these major airports, including the five we mentioned at the top, there are CDC staff on hand 24-7. There are quarantine units. So that individual will get escorted to a quarantine unit. They will get a more in-depth examination. This lasts about 15 minutes. If they determine that this person needs medical attention they are then whisked off to the hospital for further examination. That is the process. That is how it will work.
BLITZER: Rene, thanks. Good explanation, Rene Marsh in Washington's Dulles Airport.
Let's dig deeper right now.
Joining us, Dr. Jesse Goodman of the Georgetown University Medical Center. He's the former chief scientist for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Also joining us, Professor Gavin Macgregor- Skinner, assistant professor of public health preparedness at Penn State University.
Gentlemen, thanks very much for joining us. Let's get back to this deputy now who is in a hospital, he's being tested presumably for signs of Ebola. He was in that apartment but apparently never had direct contact with Mr. Duncan who passed away this morning. Can you get Ebola from just being in that apartment without having direct contact with the individual who had Ebola?
GAVIN MACGREGOR-SKINNER, PENN STATE UNIVERSITY: Yes, you can, Wolf, because Ebola is spread by bodily fluids.
So Mr. Duncan was in that apartment, if he had diarrhea, vomit. There's billions and billions of Ebola virus in vomit and diarrhea. If it hasn't been decontaminated properly or even at all, when the police officer went it, he may touched objects with the virus on them. If areas are still wet, he could have easily picked up virus and then may put it in his eye or his nose or his mouth.
BLITZER: Because, Dr. Goodman, we know that for several days no one came in there to decontaminate that apartment. There were sheets that he slept in and sweated in overnight that were still on that bed and then all of a sudden some police officers come in there.
If they would have touched those sheets, for example, could he have gotten Ebola from that?
DR. JESSE GOODMAN, FORMER FDA OFFICIAL: While I think that it's possible, it's probably a pretty low risk after that passage of that time, unless there is bloody material or thick biologic material, which would be unusual for someone to touch. But, again, I think out of an abundance of caution, it's totally
appropriate for them to follow this patient, isolate him, and be sure he doesn't have Ebola.
BLITZER: Would they immediately do -- he's in the hospital in Frisco, Texas, outside of Dallas. Would they immediately do an Ebola test to see if he has Ebola or do they wait?
GOODMAN: I think it's really a clinical judgment of the physicians consulting the state health department and the CDC.
Certainly, if they're quite ill, have a high fever, it would be very appropriate to do an Ebola test at that time. As your correspondent noted, sometimes, early on in infection, the tests may be negative. So if you really have a high level suspicion, you then will need to repeat it.
BLITZER: Because with an Ebola test, correct me if I'm wrong, Dr. Skinner, in just a few hours you know if the patient has Ebola or not.
MACGREGOR-SKINNER: Yes, we take a blood sample, and we use what is called real time PCR, state of the art equipment that CDC and many other laboratories throughout the U.S. are well-trained on. So, again, we can get those results now today using today's technology in hours.
BLITZER: What would be the downside of just doing a test?
MACGREGOR-SKINNER: At the moment, he may not have enough viral -- he may not have enough virus in his blood to actually be sensitive to the test, even though the test is very, very sensitive. It may give it an inconclusive result at the moment.
And then we need to wait a little bit more time and then we will take another test. Again, he will be evaluated as much as he can.
BLITZER: In other words, they would be afraid if they do the test too early, it could be a false negative, if you will.
BLITZER: That's very, very important that we explain. There was a patient over the weekend I remember at Howard University Medical Center in Washington. There was some fear that this individual who just arrived in the Washington area from Africa may have had Ebola.
They waited to do the test and the next day they saw he was fine, so there was no need to do the test.
GOODMAN: Yes, or you may have another hypothesis that a person has -- in the case of a traveler, malaria, typhoid fever, and it may be that you then make that diagnosis and don't need to do the test.
MACGREGOR-SKINNER: It's a very good point that Jesse has made.
The point is, though, just because a patient has malaria, they can also have Ebola. You can have two diseases at the same time. We have to be very careful about that.
BLITZER: This are about 30 or 40 other individuals in the Texas area that are still being monitored. They were in contact with Mr. Duncan, who passed away this morning, but that 21-day window is moving along.
Obviously there is still concern, though.
GOODMAN: Yes, I think while, as Dr. Frieden and others have said, it's a good sign that nothing has popped up. We're all happy about that.
But I wouldn't be shocked, particularly for some individuals who had very significant contact with this patient, were there what we call a secondary case to occur. I hope not, but I would not be shocked.
I think a very important thing for listeners to realize if that occurs, that that is a cluster of disease related to one source. That's not the disease spreading uncontrolled in the United States. There's a real difference between the two.
BLITZER: Dr. Skinner, as you know, this police deputy, who is now being checked out at this hospital in Frisco, Texas, over these past several days he has been in contact with a lot of people. I assume a lot of those people who know this police deputy they are very worried about themselves. Here's the question to you. Should they be?
MACGREGOR-SKINNER: This virus, this Ebola virus disease actually has two phases to it.
It has the biological agent which causes the actual disease, but it also has a psychological phase, which comes much earlier. Again, even before we get the diagnosis, all his family and his friends and his colleagues must be extremely worried at the moment, even the patient itself. So we have to deal with the mental health and the psychological effects of Ebola as well as dealing with the agent.
GOODMAN: I think that's a really good point. One thing I really feel is important is that we take every step to stop and prevent an epidemic. We have to stop the epidemic that is over there in Africa.
That's the best way to prevent it here. But, also, you don't want to have an epidemic of fear. We don't want people to be so afraid that we're making irrational decisions that make the problem worse.
BLITZER: That nurse's assistant in Spain who contracted Ebola, even though she was never in West Africa, but for some reason she got it in Spain right now, and apparently she was not in direct contact with somebody that did have Ebola, but maybe there was something went wrong in terms of touching certain items and she all of a sudden got Ebola. This is a very worrisome development.
MACGREGOR-SKINNER: In our hospitals, anywhere we have got Ebola virus, it's all about management and implementation. And we aren't used to having strict supervision of our staff, our doctors and our nurses and our auxiliary staff, our janitorial staff, when they're handling possibly infectious material.
You have to have good supervision, strict supervision, and you have to have very good management.
BLITZER: You're the former chief scientist for the Food and Drug Administration in the United States. ZMapp, that drug that was given to those Americans that were airlifted to Emory University in Atlanta from Liberia, they gave them ZMapp, which apparently there's none of it around anymore, is it too early to conclude that that's some sort of miracle drug that will save the lives potentially of millions of people?
GOODMAN: Yes, it is absolutely too early to conclude that about either ZMapp or any other promising therapy, as well as a couple of really promising candidate vaccines we have.
It's very important to realize that lots of things, even when they work in animal models of disease, the majority of products that are tried don't end up working in people. So we need studies of these medicines to determine whether they're helping people so we can help the most people most quickly.
I just think it's very important that we realize medicines can help people, but they can also harm. We have good medical care that we know can help. That's why making a diagnosis and getting into care quickly is so important.
BLITZER: We're doing a lot of experimenting right now because they don't have any cures. There's no vaccine. Blood transfusions, they're giving that NBC News freelance cameraman in Nebraska right now from an Ebola survivor. We don't know if that will work or not work, but they're just rolling the dice and doing the best they can.
Gentlemen, thanks very much for joining us, Dr. Goodman and Dr. Skinner. Appreciate it very much.
We're standing by also for the homeland security secretary of the United States, Jeh Johnson. He has just been meeting with President Obama at the Pentagon. We're following up with him. Stand by for the interview.
We're also following other breaking news this hour. The bloody battle against ISIS for that Syrian city, Kobani, only yards away from the border with Turkey. U.S.-led airstrikes have killed dozens of ISIS militants, we're told, but the Pentagon is now saying the air assault cannot, repeat, cannot save the town, and the world should be prepared to see it fall to terrorist forces.
Lots of concerns there could be a massacre of people in that town. Let's bring in our chief national correspondent, Jim Sciutto.
He's over at the Pentagon.
Jim, you also have news about the U.S. military advisers helping Iraqi forces fight ISIS. What are you learning?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
A senior U.S. official tells me that the U.S. military advisers in Iraq advising Iraqi forces as they fight ISIS that they have been confined to joint operation centers in both Baghdad and Irbil in Northern Iraq. I'm told that they have now been moved down to the brigade level, much closer to the Iraqi units locked in combat now with the ISIS forces in Iraq.
This does not put those military advisers on the front lines. They are still, I am told, in and around Baghdad and Irbil, but certainly far less removed from that fight on the ground there as they get closer to the Iraqi units that are the ground forces there. That's in Iraq. In Syria, as you referenced, a remarkable moment today at the Pentagon press conference when Pentagon Press Secretary Admiral John Kirby saying Kobani cannot be saved by the U.S. air campaign, but going even further, saying the same for many other Syrian cities and towns that are currently under assault from ISIS, that the U.S. is not in in effect in the business of rescuing them.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): A U.S. B-1 bomber in the skies over Kobani, the rescue that Kurdish fighters battling ISIS there have been desperately hoping for. But their commanders say coalition airstrikes, six in the last 24 hours, have helped push ISIS back.
Today, Pentagon Spokesman Admiral John Kirby bluntly warned that the U.S.-led air campaign will not save Kobani or, for that matter, any number of other Syrian towns under ISIS assault.
Are you preparing the public in effect for the fact that not just Kobani, but other Syrian towns, may fall over the long haul of this air campaign until you have those competent forces on the ground?
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: I think we all should be steeling ourselves for that eventuality, yes.
SCIUTTO (on camera): How do you deny ISIL the safe haven without taking back that territory?
KIRBY: The long-term fix is -- and we recognize that -- is going to be competent ground forces that can retake territory from them. We have been nothing if not brutally honest about the fact that there's a limit to what military power is going to do here.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): With those competent ground forces in Syria, the goal say U.S. officials in unison is not taking back territory, but destroying ISIS command-and-control, heavy weapons and oil depots, targets that Secretary of State John Kerry said take precedence over protecting a besieged population.
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We're trying to deprive ISIL of the overall ability to wage this, not just in Kobani, but throughout Syria and into Iraq.
SCIUTTO: In Iraq, where the U.S. does have partners on the ground, Iraqi and Kurdish security forces, U.S. officials say that territory does matter and they claim victories in retaking the Mosul dam, the Haditha dam and protecting Irbil and Baghdad from further ISIS advances.
Still, the map of ISIS-controlled territory in Iraq looks much the same today 61 days into the air campaign as it did before the bombing started.
SCIUTTO: President Obama came to the Pentagon today -- in fact he's still here today -- to meet with his commanders to discuss the strategy against ISIS. It's a rare visit.
In the last three years, he's only come for 9/11 commemoration ceremonies and for a personal health checkup. Just gets to the urgency of this fight right now, the president echoing a point that many advisers have been saying in these last few days, in his words, this is not a fight, Wolf, that's going to be won overnight.
BLITZER: This is going to take a long, long time. Everyone should be bracing for that.
Jim Sciutto, thanks very, very much.
Still ahead, we will talk about all the breaking news. U.S. homeland Security Jeh Johnson, he is standing by. We will discuss with him what's going on. He's just leaving a high-level meeting with President Obama over at the Pentagon.
Young men in the United Kingdom as well as in the United States suspected of plotting terror. What are their links to ISIS?
BLITZER: There's more breaking news we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're just hearing the FBI is getting hundreds of tips after taking the very unusual step of asking the American public to help identify an English-speaking possibly American masked ISIS killer.
Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, has more on that, other terror developments we're watching.
Pamela, what are you hearing?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the FBI says its request for help from the public has led to valuable information coming in about the I.D. of this masked militant and other potential Americans who are fighting or want to fight with terror groups.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're here in the 17th Division military base just outside the city of Raqqa.
BROWN (voice-over): Hundreds of tips have poured into the FBI in the last 24 hours, since officials called for the public's help in identifying this man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're here with the soldiers of Bashar. You can see them now digging their own graves.
BROWN: Seen in a recent ISIS propaganda video speaking fluent English before appearing to execute a group of prisoners.
HARAS RAFIQ, QUILLIAM FOUNDATION: It's his tone and in the inflection and the way that he actually says certain words that give a lot more away, that he certainly sounds as if he's been educated in North America.
BROWN: Intelligence officials say they're worried the masked man may be someone with a Western airport who could easily slip into the U.S. or Europe.
DAVEED GARTENSTEIN-ROSS, FOUNDATION FOR THE DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: One of the key things to identify in him is that he's going to have a social circle. Given that they're not sure who it is, that shows some of the lack of intelligence on our side as to who precisely has gone over.
BROWN: In London, four men are now in police custody, suspected of conspiring to launch a terrorist attack on British soil, this just two weeks after 10 other men were arrested by British authorities on terror charges, including radical cleric Anjem Choudary. British officials say they believe many of the arrests are linked back to Syria and Iraq.
GARTENSTEIN-ROSS: The London arrests are very much worth watching. One of the key questions after the Islamic State called for the attacks on Westerners is to see if other groups are going to be following that.
BROWN: And here in the U.S., 19-year-old Illinois teen Mohammed Khan is set to appear in a federal court on Thursday, accused of wanting to travel to Syria to fight with ISIS.
BROWN: And federal investigators are still working on bringing additional charges against Khan. That's in addition to the material support cause he already faces -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Pamela, thanks very much.
Let's dig deeper now with CNN counterterrorism analyst and former CIA counterterrorism official Philip Mudd, our national security analyst Peter Bergen, and Douglas Ollivant of the New America Foundation. He was the National Security Council's Iraq director under both Presidents Bush and Obama.
Philip, let me start with you. The FBI asking for help identifying this supposed North American masked terrorist. How helpful would these potential tips be, based on your experience at the FBI or the CIA?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think potentially critical, but for reasons that might not be evident.
The first, I don't think this guy is ever coming home. My guess is, like most of the people I watched at the bureau, he's going to die on the battlefield. But there are two broader questions you have to answer. Number one, was there a circle of support around him that we have to identify that might have sent other people over?
And number two, do you have people offering tips on other potential cells or individuals of interest who are just use thing opportunity to call in and provide what they know?
BLITZER: Have you ever heard, Peter, and you're an expert on terrorism, the FBI issuing an alert like this, look for this guy's eyes, try to find his voice, remember his voice, and give us some tips? Have you ever heard anything like that? Because it's pretty unusual, I think.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I haven't, because it's not very usual for the FBI to be looking for somebody who is masked like this guy.
Typically, we see a picture of somebody's face and information about that person's height and these kinds of things on our wanted posters. Yes, I think it's quite unusual.
BLITZER: What do you think about the arrest of these four individuals in London yesterday? We're now getting word on at least some of them, some more details supposedly linked to what's going on in Iraq and Syria right now. There have been these reports they wanted to do public beheadings in the U.K., in the United Kingdom. What are you hearing?
LT. COL. DOUGLAS OLLIVANT (RET.), FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL STAFF: I think this shows that our real concern really are these copycats, not people who are formally associated with ISIS, not people who are returning from Iraq and Syria, but those who want to make a show, find some validation by becoming part of this phenomenon, but can't get over there, so do these acts whether in the United Kingdom or even conceivably in the United States.
BLITZER: Because this beheading theory, and we haven't confirmed it, we don't know if that's in fact what these four guys in London allegedly were planing on doing, but that's pretty terrifying when you hear that. And Americans who may be watching right now, they're worried, could that happen here? MUDD: I think that's right.
The message I take away from the London situation is the war is potentially coming home. What we have talked about in the past few months is hundreds of kids from Western Europe and the United States going out to fight, beheadings in Syria. Now in the London case, you're seeing four kids who were not planning to go out and fight. They were planning, like a case we saw in Australia a few weeks ago, to take the fight home to London.
So your question is, when does it come to New York or Washington?
BLITZER: And that beheading of that individual in Oklahoma that you remember a couple of weeks ago, workplace violence, supposedly, although this individual who was arrested supposedly had an agenda, inspiration, if you will, from some sort of Islamic groups.
You -- what's your analysis of what happened there?
BERGER: I just don't think we know. Is this guy somebody with mental problems who's sort of, you know, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
But I think the problem is much deeper in Britain where you've had 500 Brits go over. The Brits, by their own account, can't follow everybody who's gone. To follow one person requires at least 20 other people in the mix.
And they don't have the resources to follow everybody who's gone. You know, we had the FBI director James Comey tell "60 Minutes" that only a dozen Americans have joined this militant group from Syria. That's a much smaller number, particularly given the fact that we're a much bigger country than the U.K.
BLITZER: I want all of you to stand by. I've got the secretary of homeland security, Jeh Johnson, who's joining us now from the White House. Mr. Secretary -- actually, we're going to take a quick break. We'll have the secretary of homeland security. We'll discuss what's going on. He's just emerging from a major meeting with the president of the United States. Much more of the breaking news right after this.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news out of Texas right now. Officials there, they're investigating a second potential -- potential -- Ebola case. We're just learning the name of the sheriff's deputy who was involved, Michael Monahan. Again, he's receiving treatment right now for what potentially could be Ebola after he made contact with the relatives of at least Thomas Eric Duncan. He's the Liberian man who had Ebola and unfortunately passed away this morning.
Let's get some more now from the secretary of homeland security, Jeh Johnson. He's joining us from the Pentagon.
Mr. Secretary, thanks very much for joining us. I know you've been involved in high-level meetings with the Pentagon, with the president of the United States on two subjects -- ISIS as well as Ebola. Let's start with Ebola right now. How concerned should we be that this second individual may have contracted Ebola in Texas?
JEH JOHNSON, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Well, there have been several cases of what I'll refer to as false positives, where there was a potential for Ebola, but then upon further examination, further investigation, that proved not to be the case. For example, we had one of those in Newark, New Jersey, on Saturday. So I want to wait and assess the facts carefully, assess the situation carefully.
Wolf, as you probably know, today we're putting in place more enhanced screening at arrival airports around the country for passengers coming from the three affected countries. We want to erect as many checkpoints as possible on journeys coming from West Africa into the United States. From my homeland security perspective, that is very important.
Plus, we have the best health care in the world. We have highly skilled doctors. And so the Ebola disease, the Ebola virus is treatable. That's important to remember. We've had one diagnosed confirmed case of Ebola that arose in this country. That was Mr. Duncan, who unfortunately passed away today.
And so we're going to keep at this, and we're continually evaluating whether more is necessary. But we've decided to go to a more active screening at the five airports that are bringing the overwhelming majority of people from West Africa into the country, which is only about an average of 150 a day.
BLITZER: We're talking about John F. Kennedy Airport in New York; Newark; Washington; Dulles here; Chicago's O'Hare and Atlanta, the Hartsfield Airport.
But most of the people who come in from those three West Africa countries, the so-called hot zone, they go to Europe first or someplace else first. And then they connect to come into those airports. Will you have their point of origin? Is that information available to TSA personnel?
BLITZER: And customs personnel? Do they know where these people are originally coming from, as opposed to London or Brussels or Paris?
JOHNSON: When somebody travels from one of those three West African countries, even through a transit point, we know where they're coming from. So we're able to track this. And we know that on average it's about 150 passengers a day to places coming into this country, around the country. And so we're able to track that. And I'd like to say that the countries where these transit points exist have the same incentives to try to track this situation.
BLITZER: So let's see at those five airports, somebody comes in from Liberia and shows that this individual has a fever or temperature or vomiting or whatever? How worried should the personnel be there, whether the customs personnel, the TSA personnel, that if they get into direct contact with this individual, they could get Ebola? What precautions, in other words, are you taking?
JOHNSON: The protocol is, first of all, our customs personnel are very skilled at examining people, assessing people for a variety of reasons. And we're asking passengers to fill out a declaration about what symptoms do you have? Are you feeling ill? Where have you been for the last 21 days and where will you be for the next few days?
And, through a non-contact thermometer, we're going to be taking the temperatures of every passenger that comes from one of the three affected countries.
If you answer positive or you test for a high fever, the passenger is immediately...
BLITZER: What if they lie, Mr. Secretary? What if they lie?
JOHNSON: Well, that's why we want to erect as many checkpoints as possible along the journey, so there is outbound screening, as you know, and then there will be screening upon arrival. And the airlines themselves have been given additional information about the disease so they know what to look for on the flight. And we're taking the temperatures of every passenger. And thermometers don't tend to lie.
BLITZER: But one concern that I have heard, Mr. Secretary, is that, if a passenger takes Tylenol or aspirin just before coming down, landing in the United States, maybe the temperature will go down. It might show a normal temperature, even though that person might have symptoms. You've heard that concern.
JOHNSON: Well, like I said, we want to erect as many checkpoints as possible, which includes the non-contact thermometer, which I'm told -- and I'm not a doctor -- but I'm told it is 90 percent effective, the types of devices that we're putting on line for this situation.
BLITZER: A lot of us are concerned, Mr. Secretary, about the mistakes that were made in Dallas. When Mr. Duncan was initially brought in, he was basically -- he told them he just came from Liberia, but they sent him home. They said, "Take some antibiotics, some pain medication." But for two days he was mingling with people he loved and with others.
What lessons have we learned from the blunders that occurred in Dallas?
JOHNSON: Well, we continually evaluate what more is necessary. So I think there are lessons learned from the Dallas situation. But from my homeland security perspective, I'm also interested in staying ahead of the next potential situation where somebody may try to come into the country with the Ebola virus.
And so I want to stay one step ahead of this, which is why we're erecting these enhanced screening measures at arrival airports.
BLITZER: One final question on Ebola: Should we be concerned about an Ebola outbreak in the United States?
JOHNSON: We have the best health care in the world. And the thing about Ebola is that it is treatable. And every outbreak -- every known outbreak of Ebola that has occurred has been defeated and ended. And so with proper healthcare and with proper screening, it is manageable. It is treatable, particularly in this country.
BLITZER: Let's hope that is the case and it stays like that. Mr. Secretary, I want you to stand by. We have a lot more to talk about, including growing fears that ISIS terrorists may be plotting some sort of attack here in the United States. Much more with the secretary of homeland security right after this.
BLITZER: Back to the breaking news. We're just learning that the FBI is following up on what is being described as hundreds of tips from the American public as it hunts for an English-speaking, possibly an American masked ISIS killer and other terrorists that may be infiltrating the United States and Europe.
Still with us, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson.
Mr. Secretary, once again, thanks very much.
What do you know about this individual, this North American- accented ISIS terrorist in this video that came out, how close is the U.S. to identify thing person?
JEH JOHNSON, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Well, it's safe to say that our intelligence community, our law enforcement community, and our homeland security community is actively involved in identifying individuals of suspicion, potential terrorist threats, individuals, and our national security community does an excellent job of identifying people in ways that I think the American public would truly appreciate.
BLITZER: So, in other words, are you getting closer to identifying this person?
JOHNSON: I'll leave that to others in law enforcement and national security. For my homeland security perspective, I have a lot of confidence in our intelligence community and law enforcement community.
BLITZER: This 19-year-old who was arrested at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport over the weekend, Mohammed Hamzah Khan, suspected of being involved with ISIS in some sort of way, do we -- I assumed you've been following the money trail. You know where he got $4,000 -- this is a 19-year-old -- to fly to Turkey?
JOHNSON: Well, there's a law enforcement case right now, and within the Homeland Security Department, and law enforcement, the FBI, we've developed pretty sophisticated ways for identifying somebody at very early stages who might be considering traveling to Syria to take up the fight there, to potentially join ISIL. So, we have a number of ways of identifying individuals, particularly those who are interested in committing the criminal act of material support to terrorism. And that's the offense. And we're working closely on doing that.
You know, this foreign fighter potential threat, those who go into Syria and may come out after having hooked up with some extremist is a relatively new phenomenon. We didn't have this going on in 2001 during the 9/11 attack. But we've developed sophisticated means for tracking these individuals and arresting them before they attempt to leave the country.
BLITZER: Duncan Hunter, the congressman, he's suggesting that, at least in his words, ten ISIS fighters have been caught coming across the Mexico border into Texas. Is that true?
JOHNSON: Wolf, we have no credible specific intelligence to that effect. And I look at the intelligence reports from overseas, from our southern border, from our intelligence community virtually every day, numerous times a day, to be on the lookout for something of that nature.
So, what I would say to the American public is, we're vigilant in looking out for individuals of suspicion that may be crossing our border, and we have no specific intelligence that ISIL is planning to come into the U.S. through our southern border. But we are on the lookout and what I say to public officials is we need to be responsible in what we say, in passing on speculation, rumor, to not unduly cause fear and anxiety in the American
And so, as a homeland security official, I think I have a responsibility to inform the public, and not unnecessarily frighten the American public. And I would encourage other public officials to do the same thing.
BLITZER: So, in other words, you are basically saying that Congressman Duncan Hunter is being irresponsible. Is that what you're saying?
JOHNSON: What I'm saying is that we in Homeland Security are constantly vigilant to look for infiltrations on our southern border and northern border, and from aviation at airports, individuals of suspicion. We do a pretty good job at this.
And so, in this time when the American public is very focused on ISIL right now, focused on the Ebola virus, I would encourage all of us to be responsible in what we decide to share with the American public so that the public is informed, the public itself can be vigilant.
BLITZER: All right.
JOHNSON: And if you see something, say something. But let's not unduly create fear and anxiety in the American public by passing on speculation and rumor.
BLITZER: Good point, Mr. Secretary. Thanks very much for joining us. Jeh Johnson is the secretary of homeland security. We'll have
you back. Unfortunately, there's bad news --
JOHNSON: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: -- and we'll continue these conversations.
Just ahead, the CEO of General Motors, Mary Barra, tells CNN why she has now decided not to pull her company's ads from NFL games, despite the domestic violence scandal involving players.
But, first, though, a preview of an amazing story coming up here on CNN. It's a powerful journey of self discovery.
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ANNOUNCER: The story of how they came to be.
ANTHONY BOURDAIN: I had a great, great, great grandfather come to Paraguay around the 1850s.
WOLF BLITZER: My grandparents died here.
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BLITZER: The CEOs of three major NFL sponsors, all women, standing by the league amidst its domestic violence controversy.
CNN's Poppy Harlow spoke with one of them, the G.M. chief executive.
Poppy, what did she say?
POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, at this point, Mary Barra, the chief of General Motors, Wolf, is standing by the NFL, saying they think they're going to do the right thing, make the necessary changes. I mean, G.M. spent $40 million a year on advertising with the NFL. This is huge for them and the NFL needs to hang on to sponsors like her and these other women at the heads at Pepsi, Campbell Soup, et cetera.
So far, they have. But I took to Mary Barra about why. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Do you think that the NFL and Roger Goodell has taken the right steps responding to this domestic violence crisis?
MARY BARRA, CEO, GENERAL MOTORS: My personal opinion and across the company, it's just completely unacceptable. And so, when I look at the steps the NFL is taking, I think they have the opportunity to not only, you know, make very important changes that will set the tone for the NFL, but also to do something that has more far-reaching implications that I think would benefit and get to the issues that need to be resolved in this case so there can be, you know, behavior change and real change in this area of domestic violence. I believe that they have that opportunity and I believe they'll seize it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: All right. So, we will see -- it is a wait-and-see game. I also talked to her extensively about the 30 million cars they've recalled this year, Wolf, the 24 deaths tie to that ignition recall. She said, "Look, we're doing the right thing. We are compensating the victims and it will never happen again" -- a commitment she made. But it has been quite a year for General Motors. That is for sure.
BLITZER: It certainly has been, Poppy. Thanks very much.
And to our viewers, you can see much more of Poppy's interview on CNNMoney.com.
Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. You can tweet me @wolfblitzer, tweet the show @CNNSitroom. Please be sure to join us tomorrow in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can always watch us live or DVR the show so you won't miss a moment.
That's it for me. Thanks for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.