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Official: Army Sent Live Anthrax via FedEx; Time Running Out for Key Terror Tracking Program; Police Asked to Help Track ISIS Supporters. Aired 5-6:00p ET

Aired May 28, 2015 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, anthrax scare. Disturbing new revelations about shipments of live anthrax from a U.S. Army lab to nine states and to South Korea, all by FedEx. More than two dozen people are being treated for possible exposure. How could such a potentially deadly mistake happen?

Spying deadline. Time is running out quickly for one of the NSA's most critical terror-tracking programs, set to expire Sunday night, unless the U.S. Senate takes action. The White House is making dire warnings about national security. I'll talk live to the president's communications director.

Tracking ISIS. CNN has learned that federal officials are asking local police to step up surveillance of ISIS supporters in the United States as the FBI struggles to keep tabs on possible terror suspects. Is it enough to prevent another attack inside the United States?

North Korea nukes. Satellite images reveal major new construction at North Korea's main rocket launch site. Is Kim Jong-un's regime building mobile missile launchers capable of a nuclear attack?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

There are shocking new details tonight about the anthrax scare sparked by U.S. Army researchers who sent live anthrax samples to labs around the country and to South Korea, where 22 people were exposed.

And now this disturbing revelation. The potentially deadly shipments were sent by FedEx. We're covering that story. Much more this hour with our correspondents and our guests, including White House communications director Jen Psaki standing by live at the White House. But let's begin with our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, learning more about those military anthrax shipments.

Barbara, what are you finding out?

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I have to tell you, Wolf, there seems to be no other way to describe it than a major screw-up by the Pentagon. They can't even tell us right now that all of the 22 shipments over the last year were actually carried out by FedEx, though FedEx was the contractor for this project.

Now, where are we? Twenty-two shipments over the last year to nine states and the U.S. Air Force in South Korea. But it was not until May 22, just last week, that one lab that received the shipment discovered it was live anthrax agent. It was supposed to be irradiated, essentially rendered dead before it was shipped for research purposes.

One lab in Maryland reports on the 22nd of May that they got live anthrax.

But here's another question. It's not until five days later that the facility in South Korea realizes what it has, apparently, because it then puts 22 of its people on this preventative care antibiotics and vaccinations.

It's mystifying at this point. The Pentagon can't answer all the questions. For other workers, in the United States, also on preventative care, right now, Wolf, the Centers for Disease Control has taken charge of the investigation, talking to the Pentagon, talking to the Army, talking to these labs across the country, trying to figure out how 22 shipments, which began in March of 2014, how nobody noticed it was live anthrax -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And what about those civilians, military personnel, who actually handled the anthrax? First of all, has anyone been sickened? Have they all been put on Cipro, a major medication, at least preemptively, to deal with this? What's going on?

STARR: Wolf, at this point, the Pentagon is saying they have no reports that anyone is sick, and they do not believe it's a threat to public health. That's really important.

Of course, this is not a terrorist attack. This is not like in 2001 when letters full of loose anthrax went through the U.S. mail and killed five people. This is not that situation. They were shipped in approved containers, but those containers were supposed to be for dead anthrax. Not quite as stringent as the live anthrax that went into them.

Right now you have four people in the United States getting some protective treatment, and those 22 people over in South Korea. The anthrax that went to South Korea was for a training exercise, not for research. So they are taking that preventive step of giving them those vaccinations and those antibiotics, Wolf.

BLITZER: What a disturbing story this is. A major screw-up, as you reported. Thanks. We'll have more on this coming up. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

The Obama administration also urgently warning of dangerous interruptions of terrorist tracking if U.S. Congress doesn't extend a key provision of the Patriot Act by Sunday night. That's when authorization for major U.S. intelligence programs, including collection of bulk phone data, will expire.

[17:05:10] Let's go to our White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski. She has much more. What are you hearing over there, Michelle? MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: OK, Wolf. What we

see is the White House making this push for the Senate to act to keep these parts of the Patriot Act up and running and calling failing to do so national security Russian roulette. An unnecessary risk, legal limbo, and saying that the FBI's work will be severely impacted.


KOSINSKI (voice-over): The clock is ticking. Three days to the deadline. If the Senate again fails to approve at least an extension, the government will no longer be allowed to collect and save Americans' phone data, the NSA says precisely eight hours to deadline, at 3:59 p.m. Sunday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senate will come to order.

KOSINSKI: That's one minute before the Senate even returns to deal with this. Officials will have to start shutting down servers, reconfiguring software, severing the data collection pipelines from your phone companies. If the Senate acts by 8 p.m., they can start it all back up without interruption.

The issue here, of course, security versus personal privacy. The White House says Congress is playing national security Russian roulette.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: These are programs that have provided valuable information in the past. These are critical tools that are used to keep the American people safe.

KOSINSKI: Yet, it is impossible for U.S. officials to point to even one case where these programs saved the day, thwarted terrorism. Senator Rand Paul, who held up the Senate in approving even a reformed version of accessing that data remains adamant. Today...

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of the most cherished rights to be left alone, and what they're doing now, I think, is unconstitutional and illegal.

KOSINSKI: But it's not only phone data collection set to expire. It's also collecting business, bank, hotel and other records on individuals. Officials say used around 200 times a year. There are other ways to get that info, though. Just more limited and less secret.

Also, roving wiretaps on people who keep switching cell phone. Used only less than 100 times a year, but the government says there is no other way to track these people as quickly or effectively. And wiretaps on so-called lone wolves not connected to any known terror group.

But, officials concede, that one has never even been used, and it only applies to people outside the U.S., not Americans. What we're left with is this big question still: is our national security going to be at risk? Remains pretty unclear. Depends on whom you ask. Looks like the biggest loss would be the roving wiretaps, especially

for potential ISIS types. But again, it's only used less than 100 times a year. And the White House and counterterrorism officials say new terrorism cases will be affected and why take any risk? Especially if the privacy concerns that can be addressed through a bipartisan bill that the House has already passed -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Michelle Kosinski at the White House. Thanks very much.

Let's get some more on what's going on. Joining us, the White House communications director, Jen Psaki.


BLITZER: Thanks very much for joining us.

PSAKI: Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: So what's Plan B if the Senate fails to act by Sunday night?

PSAKI: Well, Wolf, there isn't a Plan B. There's no magic bullet. There's no switch here. This is really an issue that the Senate needs to work through, and 338 Democrats and Republicans voted to move forward on the USA Freedom Act in the House. The question is why can't the Senate move forward? Can the Republicans work through their family feud to get to an agreement over the next couple of days? Wolf, we're all waiting and looking to see.

BLITZER: But let me just press you on that, Jen. If it's so important and the Senate fails to act by the deadline, don't you think there should be some sort of Plan B in place? A backup plan ready to kick in in case this authorization is not renewed?

PSAKI: Well, Wolf, the laws are in place for a reason, and Congress likes to have the authority to vote laws into place. We certainly support that. This is a case where these programs are authorized by Congress.

And it goes back to the question of -- the common sense question, I'll say, of why take tools off the table that our national security team is relying on?

We have a couple of days. Obviously, there are discussions happening, and we're really urging for Senate leaders to work through, Senate Republican leaders, to work through a resolution and get to an agreement where they can hopefully vote on the House package that's already passed.

BLITZER: If it's not extended, though, what will happen?

PSAKI: Well, the national security team and our intelligence community has laid out some of these pieces and kind of what will be wound down and the process of that. So we've already started to lay that out. That's obviously not our preference.

And, again, this is something that an -- I think the average American will look at this and say this is common sense. Why aren't we moving forward on a package that such a majority of the House, Democrats and Republicans, move forward on, something where we put reforms in place to protect people's security, to protect people's privacy but that also allows the tools that are necessary to protect our national security to remain in place.

[17:10:21] BLITZER: But you just heard Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky -- he's a Republican presidential candidate -- saying the whole program is basically illegal and unconstitutional. He's got supporters, clearly, in the U.S. Senate?

PSAKI: Well, I think that certainly he does or otherwise, it would have passed. But I think Mr. Paul also has presidential aspirations. That's no secret. So it's time, I think, for him to put those aside and for people to move forward with what's in the best national security interests of the United States.

BLITZER: Will Americans be more endangered if this authorization is not renewed?

PSAKI: Well, Wolf, I think no one, I think, wants to take tools off of the table of the national security. The people, the intelligence community, the people who keep our country safe every day, that they may need in the future. We don't want to ask that question. We don't want to test that proposition, and that's why it's so important they move forward in the next couple of days.

BLITZER: And quickly, I want to take a break and continue the conversation, but are you suggesting that Senator Rand Paul is doing this for political reasons? He really doesn't believe what he's proposing?

PSAKI: Well, he's obviously spoken out quite fervently on that. I think, though, we're at a point in time here, Wolf, where -- where we're a couple days away here. We need to find resolution, need to find compromise, and clearly, there should be a way to get there.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by, Jen Psaki, the White House communications director. We have more questions on this, on ISIS, what's going on right now. Stay with us.


BLITZER: We're back with the White House communications director, Jen Psaki. She's joining us live from the White House.

Jen, let's talk about Iraq a little bit. Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard told me yesterday right here in THE SITUATION ROOM it's time to abandon this notion of one Iraq, except what she calls a three-state solution. A Sunni state, a Shia state, a Kurdish state. What's your response to that?

PSAKI: Well, our view, the United States government's view is that a united Iraq is a stronger Iraq. Obviously, there is quite a history here, Wolf, that you've covered extensively over the last couple of years, in terms of division and divisiveness among fighting forces, among political factions.

And when Prime Minister Abadi came in last summer, this is something that he really focused on and continued to focus on pulling together. What we're working on right now is bringing together all of these forces, bringing together the Sunni and the Shia fighting against the enemy here, which is ISIL. So we respectively disagree with that and believe a united Iraq is the strongest Iraq moving forward.

BLITZER: You believe that's still realistic, given the hatred that we've seen, at least over these years?

PSAKI: Well, as you mentioned, there is a long history here. And obviously, it takes time to rebuild trust, to coordinate among different factions, different political factions, to unite political forces and military forces. And that's something the Iraqi leadership and the Iraqi government is working hard on at this time.

BLITZER: We seem to be getting some conflicting messages, seemingly conflicting messages, I should say, from some top officials in the Obama administration. ISIS, as you know, takes over Ramadi in the Anbar province. Your former boss, the secretary of state, John Kerry, says in a few days that will be resolved; not necessarily to worry so much.

Meanwhile, the defense secretary, Ash Carter, says the Iraqi army basically showed no will to fight at all. Are these two secretaries -- the secretary of state, the secretary of defense -- on the same page?

PSAKI: They certainly are, and they have a great relationship. I know that from my time working for Secretary Kerry.

The fact is the Iraqi military, the Iraqi government themselves acknowledged over the past week that there were some command issues, some command-and-control issues on the ground with these forces over the last couple of days.

These are also a group of forces that have been fighting bravely and proudly for the last 18 months but haven't benefitted from the training that the Department of Defense and the United States government has been implementing in other parts of Iraq.

And we've also seen, which is I think what Secretary Kerry was referencing, the Iraqi government come out and say they want to take aggressive actions to take back Ramadi.

I remind you that just a month ago with the backing of the United States, with coalition forces, they took back Tikrit. They've had some successes. They've taken back about 25 percent of populated areas. Obviously, Ramadi was a setback, but they are -- they are committed to fighting and committed to taking back land from ISIS.

BLITZER: You heard our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, report that the U.S. military inadvertently shipped anthrax to, what, nine states as well to a base in South Korea. Has the president been informed about what's going on and how this could possibly happen? PSAKI: Well, obviously, the president stays in close touch with all

of his national security team and leaders. I don't have an update for you today. This is something, as your reporter, Barbara Starr, reported, that the Pentagon and the Department of Defense is tracking closely and working on. So they're obviously in the lead.

But it's the responsibility of any commander in chief to remain up to speed on events going on around the country and around the world.

[17:20:06] BLITZER: Yes, it's pretty disturbing, obviously, a major blunder. Hopefully, they'll figure what exactly happened so it doesn't happen again.

A final question about what's going on in the Korean Peninsula right now. As you know, U.S. officials, South Korea officials, Japanese officials, they're all meeting in South Korea now to try to deal with North Korea's nuclear program.

Would it be wise to bring the North Koreans in, to engage in direct negotiations with Pyongyang right now? Similar to the direct negotiations the U.S. and other members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany have been engaged in with Iran?

PSAKI: Well, they're simply different scenarios, Wolf. I think the United States and the international community and certainly the group of Asian countries that are in the region and impacted directly by the threatening rhetoric and accesses of North Korea have long said that the ball is in their court.

If they are serious, if they are willing to take actions to abide by the 2005 joint statement to show the international community that they are -- they are eager to make changes, then that's a different conversation. We haven't seen any indication that they're willing to do that.

BLITZER: An Iranian opposition group put out a report, alleging that a North Korean nuclear delegation is now visiting Tehran. Do you know anything about that? Is that true?

PSAKI: I don't have any details on that, Wolf. I would encourage you to ask the North Koreans or the Iranians if you can get them on -- on your program about that.

BLITZER: Let's see if we can. Maybe that's possible. Wouldn't be the first time. We'll see.

PSAKI: It wouldn't be. You're pretty good, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jen Psaki. Thanks very much for that.

Coming up, the FBI asks for help as it struggles to keep tabs on ISIS supporters inside the United States. Can local police help prevent another terror attack inside the homeland?

Plus, dramatic new video of a flood disaster. New storm warnings are now out for some of the hardest-hit areas. There's breaking news. That's coming up.


[17:26:43] BLITZER: The FBI is asking for help right now amid growing fear of terror attacks inside the United States by ISIS supporters, sympathizers. Sources are telling CNN the FBI is reaching out to local police all across the country, asking them to step up surveillance of possible terror suspects.

Our justice reporter, Evan Perez, is working the story for us.

Evan, what's the latest you're hearing?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, all of this is really the result of a heightened threat that law enforcement across the country feels with regard to ISIS.

Now, the FBI says that they have enough resources to handle what they're handling. What they're simply asking is for the police departments around the country to keep an eye out for ISIS supporters who may be trying to plot things, attacks here in the homeland, and so that's what this is all about.

We have that the -- we've been told by sources that the NYPD, LAPD, are dedicating more resources to surveillance and to simply keeping an eye on communities where they feel they might be -- there might be problems that could crop up. We had the FBI director, Jim Comey, in New York yesterday talking about this issue. He said simply that one of the things that he's worried about is he cannot stop what he cannot see.

We have more ISIS supporters in this country trying to use peer to peer communications and encrypted communications. And that is what is unnerving law enforcement, Wolf.

FBI director James Comey does he have confidence the FBI can handle this? Because it's obviously a huge undertaking?

PEREZ: Well, you know, he does. And here the issue is we saw in Garland, Texas, earlier this year -- earlier this month, Wolf, where we had two ISIS supporters who tried to attack a -- a Mohammed -- a Prophet Mohammed drawing contest.

What they are concerned about is that, you know, they don't know when people are going to go from simply talking online to actually carrying out an attack. And so the problem for the FBI is simply one of trying to make sure that they know where people are -- when they know someone is planning an attack, they have plenty of resources to dedicate it towards that. What they don't know is simply, you know, what they can't see, and that's what's at issue here, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Evan. Thank you.

Evan Perez reporting for us. Let's get some more on this, and more. Joining us, the former CIA counterterrorism official Philip Mudd. He's our CNN counterterrorism analyst. Also joining us, the former CIA operative, our CNN intelligence and security analyst, Robert Baer.

Our CNN national security analyst, Fran Townsend. She was former President Bush's White House homeland security advisor. And the former FBI assistant director, our CNN law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes.

Tom, at what point when you were in the FBI you were running surveillance operations to track criminals. Does the FBI have the capability right now to do what it's going to need to do to monitor these ISIS sympathizers or supporters in the United States? There could be hundreds if not thousands?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: No, they don't. I don't care what they say. I know that it would take a squad of 30 people -- and I had a team of that in Chicago that I ran -- to follow one gangster 24/7. Took about 30 people. That's a whole squad.

So you have to prioritize between who you think might be the threat, who might do something. And they still have organized crime cases, along with the terrorism cases and national security cases requiring extensive physical surveillance.

And it's just, they have to try to pick the right people to follow at the right time and hope they're correct. In the case of the two in Garland, they weren't in a position to watch them 24/7.


Next thing you know, they're out of pocket and they're on their way to Texas.


BLITZER: Outside of Dallas, where they had that Prophet Muhammad incident. Both of them were killed by a law enforcement officer who was there on the scene, but it could have obviously been a whole lot worse.

Fran, why is it so hard to track potential domestic threats?

FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it's just as Tom Fuentes was explaining, Wolf. What is they get overwhelming amounts of lead information. You can remember the FBI director Jim Comey is saying that they've gotten investigations in every of the 50 states. Well, I was talking to a terrorism investigator just yesterday who was explaining what they have to do is then take this vast amount of information and intelligence that they're getting, including about foreign fighters, those who are on social media accounts, sort of encouraging violent acts inside the United States, they have to watch them.

They tier them, right? They make priorities out of -- who do they think is most likely to go operational? But it's a little bit of a game of Russian roulette because of course they're rolling the dice. They're making qualitative judgments about who and who they do not have the resources to adequately cover. And any time when you make one of those choices you may be wrong like Garland, Texas.

And so there's no way they have the resources at the federal and -- even this person said to me, with state resources, to cover all of the potential leads and so they've got to make some very sort of serious choices here.

BLITZER: Bob Baer, what are officials looking at besides social media traffic, for example, as far as these threats are concerned? Because it's possible with a more aggressive stance, if you will, the FBI could target some innocent Americans in the process as well? Somebody who's just trolling along some of the Twitter, Facebook, or social media sites, not necessarily having any desire to do anything bad towards the United States.

ROBERT BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Wolf, as Fran just said, we're overwhelmed with leads. There's a lot of people on social media complaining about our policy in Syria and Iraq. You know, the defense of the Sunnis and the rest of it, and implicating they would become involved in violence, but what they have to do is take an overt act before the FBI can move against them. The problem, as law enforcement tells me is that once they catch on that if you go on social media sites, you're going to be flagged.

And if you don't, and can obtain a weapon, you can probably get away with a crime, but it's locating those people that we're going to need all of our police and you're going to need a lot more data bases that the police and the FBI just simply have to get into at the risk of our privacy, but there's not much of a choice.

BLITZER: Phil, you just heard the White House communications director, Jen Psaki, say there really is no plan B. If the Senate doesn't extend the authorization for the Patriot Act, this bulk collection from the phone companies, if you will. There is no plan B. They're going to have to do something. But you think they need to extend it, that's it's vital, right?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Sure. This is a pretty simple case here and I think every American can understand it. In the morning we have FBI briefings. I went through a thousand of them, I forgot how many. Simple proposition. Somebody walks in, an analyst at 7:15, it says John Doe in Atlanta or Chicago just cropped up on the radar. Maybe because they just started communicating with an ISIS recruiter.

Your first question as an analyst for an investigators is pretty simple. What's the circle of the potential conspiracy? And that is, who gave him money? Where did he get travel documents and most simply who's he communicating with? By phone, for example, by e-mail, by Twitter? There's only way to do that -- one way to do that especially if you want to look at a history of activity in that individual's life. And that's to have a database of information that you can draw on. And this ain't that complicated.

BLITZER: Fran, should there be a plan B, though, if the Senate doesn't act? TOWNSEND: Yes. Wolf, I actually find it a little bit surprising that

Jen Psaki was saying that there's no plan B. It may be a little bit of a game of chicken that the White House is playing with Congress, but there's no doubt in my mind, when you talk to intelligence and signals intelligence folks, plan B is initially to shut down system- wide the capability, and then figure out what they have the legal authority or not to turn back on, but I will tell you in this environment, intelligence officials are going to be very, very cautious and stay inside the line not getting anywhere close if they don't believe they have the legal authorities to act.

BLITZER: Tom Fuentes, you agree?

FUENTES: Yes. Absolutely.

BLITZER: You think this program is vital?

FUENTES: Yes, I do. It also is vital --


BLITZER: Disagree with Rand Paul who says it's unconstitutional?

FUENTES: No, I disagree with him. And the other thing you're doing is basically it's requiring -- the meta data part of this is requiring the storage of old phone bills and so two or three years back, you can look at somebody and say, OK. At that time this number called that number. This number texted that number. No one is listening to conversations, no analysts are looking at who's calling who, there's enough. There's 50 million call a day in this country.

[17:35:01] They want the ability to go back because the phone companies don't want to keep the records, and, you know, some of these congressmen that have talked about well, just subpoena all the phone company. There's over 3,000 voice-over Internet protocol companies. You couldn't issue 3,000 subpoenas. That's why they're storing the data to be able to go back and look at, who did this guy call then? Who are other potential co-conspirators. So it's more than just whether you interrupt the present day plot, it's also the ability that if you can track back to previous associations that will help you for the future.

BLITZER: All right, guys. Stand by. Because we're going to continue our reporting on what's going on. But there's other breaking news we're following right now in Texas and Oklahoma. New storm warnings are right now in effect.

We're going to show you where they're expecting yet a new round of flooding tonight and tomorrow. And a report of new construction at a North Korean launching pad for long-range rockets.


[17:40:27] BLITZER: There's breaking news. We're reporting on right now. Very disturbing news. Dennis Hastert, who was for eight years the Republican speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, he has now been indicted on federal banking charges. He's also been accused of lying to the FBI.

According to the indictment, which has just been released, Dennis Hastert evaded government rules when he withdrew nearly $1 million from a bank. The U.S. Attorney's Office says between 2010, 2014, Hastert withdrew nearly $2 million in banks in order to, quote, "compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against an unnamed individual."

Hastert, who's 73 years old, he was speaker of the House of Representatives from 1999 to 2007.

Let me read in part from this indictment that has just been released against John Dennis Hastert. This is the "United States of America v. John Dennis Hastert."

Quote, "He had been withdrawing cash from banks and providing the cash to individual A in amounts of $50,000 or $100,000 to satisfy the agreement he made with individual A to provide $3.5 million in order to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against individual A."

The indictment goes on to say this, quote, "Specifically, in response to the agent's question confirming whether the purpose of the withdrawals was to store cash because he did not feel safe with the banking system as he previously indicated, John Dennis Hastert stated, yes. I kept the cash. That's what I'm doing. Whereas in truth," the indictment says, "and in fact, as John Dennis Hastert then well knew, this statement was false."

Major breaking news. A formal indictment against the former speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert. We're going to have much more on this story coming up. But that's obviously a very, very disturbing development. We'll stay on top of it for you.

There's other breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now as well. New severe thunderstorm warnings and flash flood warnings, they're in effect in Texas and Oklahoma even as the death toll continues to rise on the devastating floods earlier in the week.

Our meteorologist Jennifer Gray is joining us. She's near Austin, one of the hardest-hit areas.

Jennifer, what are you seeing right now?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Wolf. In Wimberley we have been lucky throughout the day today because we haven't had those really strong storms. We had a couple of showers pass by, but nothing too major. You can still see the Blanco River behind me. Just looking at it is haunting knowing the stories that came out of here through the weekend. In fact, eight people still missing. Four fatalities. Three of those people have been identified.

There's one person still pending identification. Michelle Charba was found. She is the latest person to be identified. Unfortunately, though, the rest of her family is still missing including her husband, son and her parents. And then the story of Jonathan McComb, who we have heard so much about. He's recovering in a hospital, should make a full recovery. Unfortunately, the rest of his family, that was swept away, is still missing as well.

All of this and still getting new pictures in from what happened that weekend makes it even more scary.


GRAY (voice-over): Tonight, new video, capturing the moment river water burst into this home in Wimberley, Texas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was insane. We watched the water rush in, and we -- the power go off and then we smelled, you know, the fire. The electric was burning. So we -- it became very, very real and scary at that moment.

GRAY: As the region braces for more severe weather, which is forecasted for tonight and into the weekend.

And it's not just heavy rains and flash foods. This was a tornado that touched down in the Texas panhandle. Hitting a drilling rig.


GRAY: Meantime, the frantic search for the missing, their families desperate to find them.

BURKE: Right now we must focus on finding those who are still missing, and just as importantly, pray for the living whose hearts are broken.

GRAY: Rescuers were able to save this family who was trapped in the second story of their home outside of Houston.


GRAY: Today President Obama said the rebuilding process will take time.

OBAMA: I'm confident obviously that these communities will ultimately get back on their feet. It does remind us that it is never too early for disaster preparation.


BLITZER: And Jen, we just got some new video in showing the devastation in Wimberley where you are right now. Tell us about how hard this area you are in was actually hit.

GRAY: This is the worst flood that they've ever had in the history of this area. You know, that river rose so fast and so high, and they are still cleaning up and will be cleaning up for a very, very long time, and it's going to take a while. They are hoping, they do not get a lot of rain. We're only expecting about an inch or less throughout the rest of the week and the weekend, but at that press conference today, they did assure everyone that crews are going to be out and they are searching for the missing.

Those eight people still missing and they will not let up until they are found. There are some 40 and 50 crews out there as well as nine canine teams. They're searching by air, they're searching by water, they're searching on foot and they are not going to give up -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jennifer Gray reporting for us. All right, Jennifer, thank you.

Coming up, there's a new report that says satellites have spotted new construction in a launching pad North Korea could use for long-range rockets. So what is Kim Jong-Un up to right now?


[17:51:00] BLITZER: A new report says North Korea is building up a launching pad for long-range rockets. And it comes just as the U.S. and its partners are trying to pressure North Korean leader Kim Jong- Un into giving up his nuclear weapons.

Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd, he's here in THE SITUATION ROOM, working the story for us.

What are you learning, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, those new images of the rocket launch site are just the latest example of how Kim Jong-Un has been aggressive recently. He's expanded his nuclear arsenal, bragged that he could miniaturize a warhead and put one on a missile, claimed that he launched a ballistic missile from a submarine. He's threatening his neighbors, his internal rivals. Well, tonight, the U.S. and its allies are pushing back.


TODD (voice-over): North Korea's violent, erratic young dictator under a new round of pressure tonight from the world's top powers, diplomats from the U.S. South Korea and Japan discussed tightening sanctions on Kim Jong-Un putting the squeeze on his main sources of cash to pressure him to negotiate an end to his nuclear weapons program.

SUNG KIM, U.S. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR NORTH KOREA: We agreed on the importance of enhancing pressure and sanctions on North Korea even as we keep all diplomatic options on the table and open.

TODD: The U.S. envoy also talked about putting more pressure on Kim over his human rights abuses. U.S. officials tells CNN they're not tying human rights directly to possible nuclear talks, a move that could kill those discussions.

Why is America's top nuclear negotiator talking about human rights?

PATRICK CRONIN, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY: We're trying to essentially poke North Korea, Kim Jong-Un, and his family dynasty where it hurts most. That is, you're legitimate. You're abusing your people. You're oppressing your people, you're keeping them out of the global economy. And we're going to be talking about that as we try to pursue (INAUDIBLE) authorization.

TODD: But most analysts believe Kim Jong-Un will not give up his nuclear arsenal. They say right now he's moving in the opposite direction, building his stockpile at a dangerous rate.

DAVID ALBRIGHT, INSTITUTE FOR SCIENCE AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY: North Korea could have 10 to 15 nuclear weapons now, and it can grow that amount by several weapons per year.

TODD: Possibly to between 50 and 100 by the end of 2020. Satellite photos show new construction at North Korea's flagship rocket launching site just over the last two months. At the top a new building can be seen going up. And at the bottom new rails to the launch pad according to researchers with 38 North. Kim also seems to be unrelenting in the alleged abuse of his own people.

Human rights monitor Greg Scarlatou recently met with defectors and South Korean intelligence officials. He says Kim has been expanding his network of prison camps, has more aggressively cracked down on defectors, and since coming to power in 2011 has purged 70 senior officials including his own uncle and defense minister, often using gruesome methods.

GREG SCARLATOU, COMMITTEE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN NORTH KOREA: They're executed by 50 caliber ZBU4 anti-aircraft machine gun battery. The bodies are pulverized. There is nothing left behind.


TODD: CNN has not been able to independently confirm those methods of execution. Greg Scarlatou says when Kim's regime purges an official they often execute his entire family or send them to prison camps. Up to three generations of them. Kim's regime has consistently denied doing that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And there's still a lot of pressure to actually charge Kim Jong-Un human rights abuses that's going on right now.

TODD: That's right. They want to file formal charges. A scathing U.N. report last year detailed all the killings and all the abuses in the North Korean gulags, Wolf. And since then the U.N. General Assembly has passed a resolution recommending that Kim and his regime be referred to the International Criminal Court for criminal charges but that's going to take an act of U.N. Security Council to endorse that.

And Russia and China are probably going to block that. But there is a push in the U.N. to actually charge him with crimes.

BLITZER: All right. Brian Todd reporting for us. Thank you very much.

Coming up, live anthrax sent to labs across the United States and to Korea by the U.S. Army via FedEx. We're learning new details of a potentially deadly mistake.

Plus, the latest on the investigation into this fiery quadruple murder. One person now has been charged but were there accomplices?



BLITZER: Happening now, exposed to anthrax. We're learning who may have been in contact with the potentially deadly bacteria after a shocking mistake by the U.S. military that went on for over a year.

NSA deadline. The spy agency just hours away from pulling the plug in a controversial program that's been fought tooth and nail by Senator Rand Paul. Tonight Senator Paul's GOP presidential rivals are using that against him.

The former House speaker indicted. Stand by for new details on the charges against Dennis Hastert. The feds are accusing him of a cover- up and lying to the FBI.

[18:00:05] And person of interest. As police search for possible accomplices in the D.C. mansion murders. We're learning more about a key witness who's now under scrutiny.