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Manhunt Underway in Tampa After Unsolved Killings; What is the U.S. Military's Mission in Niger?; Would President Trump's Border Wall Stop Drug Smuggling?. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired October 24, 2017 - 06:30   ET


[06:31:48] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: There is a manhunt underway in Florida after three people were gunned down in a Tampa neighborhood in less than two weeks.

CNN's Kaylee Hartung is live in Tampa with all of the latest details.

What's going on there, Kaylee?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, a community scared and on high alert with many more questions than answers after three people have been gunned down over the course of 11 days within just a half mile of one another in the Seminole Heights neighborhood in the Tampa area.

Now, these three victims don't appear to be related in any way, except for the fact that they were alone at night and near bus stops when they were gunned down. So, buses in the area have been rerouted. Police are escorting children to their school bus stops now, as they blanket this neighborhood day and night.

And last night, officials met with more than 400 concerned citizens, as they expressed their fears and the police chief explained to people, he's not using the term "serial killer," because for one, they don't have enough information to determine that. But, two, there are labels that come with such stereotypes, and they don't want anyone's vision boxed in, as to who this killer could be. They want people's minds open, as they search for a lead, a motive, a suspect.

Now, they do have this video, police have been circulating. It was video captured the night of the first murder, October 9th, when Benjamin Mitchell was gunned down at a bus stop outside his home. People watching this video say the man you see there has a distinct walk and yet police haven't had anybody come forward with any information.

So, now, Chris, the police chief saying, everyone is a suspect. He told those folks last night, if you were outside and alone, you were a potential suspect or a potential victim.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And they are really asking that community to step up and help them, which shows the urgency and shows how early on they are in their understanding of this homicide spree.

Kaylee, thank you very much for the reporting. We'll stay on it, as well.

So, some lawmakers were caught off guard by the U.S. military presence in Niger, but they should not have been. So let's start with the facts. How many American troops were actually on the ground? What is their mission? Why is there this disconnect between our elected leaders and our military?

We're going to ask the former command of U.S. Special Ops Forces in Africa, next.



[06:38:04] GEN. JOSEPH DUNFORD, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Did the mission of U.S. forces change during the operation? Did our forces have adequate intelligence, equipment, and training? Was there a pre-mission assessment of the threat in the area accurate? Did U.S. force -- how did U.S. forces become separated during the engagement, specifically Sergeant Johnson, and why did it take time to find and recover Sergeant Johnson?


CUOMO: Now, the four men that were lost, you just saw their faces on your screen. Everybody saying that they support these families, they want them treated with respect. Is that really being done?

Here's why I ask that question. General Joe Dunford, you just saw him there, the head of the joint chiefs, he was revealing new details and said there are questions that we need to know. He also didn't say something that he should have, which is the idea that Congress was unaware of what was going on in Niger is not true.

Let's bring in retired Brigadier General Donald Bolduc. He was commander of U.S. Special Operation Forces in Africa until June of this year.

It's good to have you on the show, sir, and, of course, thank you for your service.

BRIG. GENERAL DONALD BOLDUC (RET.), FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR OPERATIONS, U.S. AFRICA COMMAND: Well, Chris, thank you very much, and please let me express my sincere condolences to the families of our lost heroes.

CUOMO: And let's show them some respect by telling the truth about this situation. The idea, to your ears, when you hear senator saying, had no idea, had no idea we had these kind of people in Niger. We need better information from the military.

Do you buy that Congress had no reason to know what was going on in Niger with these advise-and-assist missions?

BOLDUC: No, it would not be my opinion that they are unaware of the activities going on in Africa. The four years that I spent in AfriCom, two as the deputy J3, and another 26 as the SOC Africa Command, Special Operations Command Africa commander, we hosted numerous staff delegations from both the House and the Senate and they are kept very well-informed by the Africa Command.

[06:40:09] I can't speak to how the Pentagon does that, but having worked in the Pentagon four times, I can tell you that there is open communications and I would have to agree with General Dunford that it would be -- it would be not typical for the -- for the Congress not to be informed about what is going on in Africa.

CUOMO: In March, General Waldhauser went before the same committee, the Senate Armed Services Committee and gave them a preview of what was happening in Niger and what this was about. That was just back in March. So, the political reality is, they know, it's whether or not they want to own it and debate it.

Is that a fair statement?

BOLDUC: That's a fair statement. You know, General Waldhauser gave a very good, excellent detailed rundown on the activities in Africa and what his command is doing. And then, of course, what Special Operations Command Africa is doing to support that. So, I think that's a fair statement.

CUOMO: The American people have largely bought on to these missions, because they're called advise and assist. And, you know, the deadly reality is what we just saw in Niger, you can call it whatever you want, but we're going to have men and women in harm's way, wherever they're on the ground.

What can you tell us about how many of our men and women are in different areas in Africa and how many different missions they are and what the nature is?

BOLDUC: Well, basically what I can tell you is, what's going on in Africa right now is part of a larger campaign plan that has been approved by AfriCom and by the Pentagon at all levels, and informed both to the National Security Council staff and to Congress. So, there's no secret as to the campaign plan. And this is a Department of State-led campaign, the military is in support.

There's also operational plans that are put in place by the individual components. Special Operations Command Africa has an operational plan to support this. Niger sits right in the middle of two key operational areas. One, Lake Chad basin, in which Boko Haram and ISIS West Africa, is actively, is actively fighting in Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger.

And then Niger, with ISIS al Qaeda and other affiliates in Mali, Burkina Faso, all connected to Libya and Algeria. And so, this is a hugely volatile, uncertain and complex and ambiguous and area, but what Special Forces are doing is appropriate special operation force missions. And the reason why you would --

(CROSSTALK) CUOMO: What does that mean, General? What does that mean? What kinds of missions? How many are there? What kind of manpower is on the ground?

BOLDUC: Well, as General Dunford indicated, there's about 800 and the reason there's 800 is you're confronted the security issues that ISIS and Boko Haram and al Qaeda cause for Nigeria. So, there's a larger concentration there than you would find in other countries in Africa. They're doing civil military operations, they're helping our partners understand how to operate in and among the populist. They are accompanying them when appropriate, and I think General Dunford laid those criteria out very accurately and succinct yesterday, on patrols to develop information, to support our partners and enable our partners to be able to conduct operations against ISIS.

This is African-led. It is not U.S.-led. Our African partners are at war here. Not the U.S. government, which creates a -- you know, a political and a policy challenge.

So, there is a wide variety of missions that you would find special operations forces doing, and it runs the gamut, from civil military operations, supporting international organizations, supporting NGOs, supporting USAID, to, you know, the combat operations that our partners do in advising and assisting them, not doing the fighting, but advising and assisting, and enabling and supporting. And also working very closely with our other international partners with, the French and the U.K. and others in this area.

CUOMO: Well, as we just saw, though, the reality is you can call the mission whatever you want. If you're on the ground there, you come into contact with these ISIS affiliates, you could wind up like these service members, dead. And that's why our Congress has to own their responsibility of debating this, and talking about it, and letting the American people know that they put their stamp on it and they haven't done that to date.

[06:45:03] General Bolduc, thank you so much for your perspective on this. Very helpful, because we're largely in the dark about this.

BOLDUC: Well, you're welcome, Chris. And thank you very much and God bless you, and I just want to say one more time, God bless the men and women serving in Africa. They are doing God's work in a very volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment. Thank you.

CUOMO: Thank you, sir.


CAMEROTA: OK. So, can President Trump's border wall stop the flow of drugs coming in from Mexico? Dr. Sanjay Gupta went to the border and he tells us what he found, next.


[06:50:03] CAMEROTA: President Trump is expected to officially declare a national emergency over opioid -- over the opioid epidemic some time this week.

But up until now, the cornerstone of the president's drug policy has been building his signature wall across the Mexican border. Would a wall work to stop drugs?

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta traveled to the U.S./Mexico border to find out and he joins us live now.

Sanjay, what did you see?


Well, the war on drugs is a totally different war than I think people really think about or what they imagine. The drugs are different. The potency of these things are different. And the way to try to stop these drugs coming across is totally different.

So, whether or not a wall would make a difference -- well, take a look and decide.


GUPTA: What is the first thing that sort of flags this?

SCOTT BROWN, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, HOMELAND SECURITY INVESTIGATIONS: Sometimes it's just the driver's behavior, they're unnaturally nervous for crossing the border. Sometimes the car hasn't crossed the border a lot, or sometimes the car's crossed the border too often.

GUPTA (voice-over): What you're witnessing here are efforts in stopping drugs from coming through the U.S./Mexican border.

BROWN: Almost every car crossing is crossing for a legitimate reason. It's a very small percentage that comes in carrying contraband. But I think when the inspectors pick up on something, their success rate is pretty high.

When you saw the dogs sit down at the back of the car, that's how that particular dog alerts.

GUPTA: Special agent in charge, Scott Brown, oversees the Tucson field office for Homeland Security Investigations, and drugs are a big part of what he does.

(on camera): This is how it happens. I mean, what we're witnessing here is --

BROWN: Is what happens every day along the southwest border of the U.S. and the officers at the ports of entry are phenomenal, they're fantastic at identifying marks that shouldn't be there. So, a screw that would originally be turned there'd be no reason for it to be turned. They can pick up on that.

I mean, they are experts.

GUPTA: That's just human art and intelligence together.

BROWN: Yes, absolutely.

GUPTA (voice-over): What they find, about 24 kilos of hard drugs.

Minutes later, field testing reveals, cocaine.

(on camera): This is a win today, isn't it?

BROWN: This is definitely a win.

GUPTA (voice-over): In the midst of the country's opioid epidemic, President Trump has made building up the wall a cornerstone of his agenda.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The wall's going to get built folks, in case anyone has any questions. The walls are going to get built and the wall is going to stop drugs.

GUPTA: But I wanted to learn just effective the wall would be in accomplishing that.

(on camera): This is literally a physical wall between two countries that we're looking at here.

BROWN: The vast amount of hard narcotics don't come through at places like this. The vast amount of hard narcotics come through the ports of entry where we just were.

GUPTA (voice-over): And besides meth, cocaine, heroin or marijuana, it's fentanyl, which is 50 times stronger than heroine. It's the biggest challenge nowadays. The most recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control found that overdose deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl rose over 72 percent in just a year.

(on camera): In the past, cartels might try and smuggle 100 kilograms of drugs across the border, wasn't easy to do, they were likely to get caught. But here's part of the problem, nowadays, they can smuggle across something that looks like this. This was just a one kilogram bag of flour. But if it was street fentanyl, it will cost $8,000 to make, could be turned into a million pills, and then sold for $20 million to $30 million on the black market -- all of that from a small container that looks like this.

BROWN: The vast majority of fentanyl is produced in China. It comes into the U.S. two ways. It comes into Mexico, where these are pressed into pill form or combined with heroin. The other way it comes in is American consumers buying it direct, oftentimes from vendors out of China.

GUPTA: Then it gets mailed in?

BROWN: U.S. mail, which is the most common, a very small quantity of fentanyl. It's very hard to detect in the masses of letters that come into the U.S. everyday.

GUPTA: How effective is a wall at preventing drugs from getting into the United States?

BROWN: In terms of hard narcotics -- no, I don't know that we get immediately safer over hard narcotics. As of right now, the vast majority of hard narcotics come in through the ports of entry, in deep concealment, or come in through, you know, the mail or express consignments.


CAMEROTA: So, Sanjay, listen, about that bag you just showed us of fentanyl, ever since Prince's death, I, for one, have thought a lot more about fentanyl. I'm sure a lot of people have. Is that the most dangerous drug that you saw coming across?

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, fentanyl is 100 times stronger than morphine, 50 times stronger than heroin. I mean, we couldn't even imagine drugs of that own tenancy that long ago.

[06:55:00] And they could modify the fentanyl, Alisyn, to things like carfentanyl, you may have heard. People have described it as an elephant tranquilizer. That's the sort of stuff that's getting out there, as well. So, you've got that potency, totally different and then again the economics. $8,000 of the raw ingredients being turned into $30 million of product, people just trying over and over again. The back of a car, you know, some sort of deep concealment, because the incentives are just so strong, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. It's so scary, Sanjay, but it's so helpful to have you there and give us that sort of firsthand look at what's happening at the border. Thanks very much for all of your reporting.

GUPTA: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: So, America's top general revealing new information about the deadly Niger ambush, but many details, of course, remain unclear. So, we have all of the latest developments for you, next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why it took so long to get help? Why the body was left? These are all questions that need to be answered.

DUNFORD: The assessment by our leaders was that contact with the enemy was unlikely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Troops first requested air support a full hour after initial contact with approximately 50 ISIS affiliated fighters.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Americans should know what kind of operations we're engaged in.