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Obama Statement at 12:30 P.M.; Pentagon Proposes 100 Special Forces to Iraq; Two Terror Suspects Arrested in Texas; Texas Beefing Up Security at Mexican Border; Jozy Altidore Will Not Play for U.S.; Redskins to Appeal Patent Office Decision

Aired June 19, 2014 - 11:00   ET


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Hi there, I'm Michaela Pereira.


It's 11:00 a.m. in the East. It is 8:00 a.m. out West. And we do have some news we just got in here to CNN.

The president of the United States will be making a statement at 12:30 p.m. at the White House on the issue of Iraq.

Let's go straight away to Michelle Kosinski at the White House. Michelle, what can you tell us about what the president plans to say?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right now he's going to be meeting with top members of his national security team. We saw Defense Secretary Hagel arrive. We know that Chief National Security Adviser Susan Rice will be there.

After that meeting, he will then address the public in the Briefing Room here about the situation in Iraq.

And, you know, for days now, we've been hearing one thing from this administration, that options are being discussed. We know last night the president met with top congressional leaders to discuss that.

What they said came out of that meeting was basically an assessment. It wasn't, as some speculated, an opportunity for the president to lay all of those options out on the table, to pick apart each one, and then make a decision. It was merely an update and agreement to work with Congress throughout the process.

So now it seems like we're about to get an announcement of something changing, something happening, possibly a decision made that would come quickly, given some of the guidance we were hearing yesterday.

But for some, of course, many critics out there, this is not coming quickly at all. In fact, some have been waiting for this for weeks.

BERMAN: All right, Michele Kosinski at the White House, thank you so much.

As you say, perhaps a development here because from our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, we are now hearing the Pentagon has made a proposal to send as many as 100 special forces to serve as advisers to the Iraqi military inside Iraq.

PEREIRA: Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. So give us an idea, Barbara, the president, has he signed off on this plan? We understand he's been made aware of it.


What we are hearing from our sources is the Pentagon is prepared now to very quickly send 100 or so military advisers to Iraq, to the ground in Iraq, as soon and if the president signs off on this option.

We have every reason to believe that is what is being discussed this afternoon, and that is what the Pentagon at least believes is in front of him, and they are prepared to execute that option very quickly.

So what are we talking about? We're talking about a hundred special forces, Green Berets, Army Rangers, Navy SEALs, going to Iraq and basically going to locations around the country, Iraqi brigade headquarters, and advising the Iraqi troops, but also very much collecting intelligence, we are told, about ISIS, about these Sunni militant fighters, where they are, who they are, where they're located, where their weapons are, how they're moving around.

One of the reasons we're not seeing the air strikes is because the U.S. still lacks real clarity on the intelligence picture for the ISIS fighters. It's been very difficult to track them. They move around a lot. You know, the videos show it's guys on the ground with, you know, pick-up trucks and AK-47s and machine guns.

This is a very difficult thing to target, so the U.S. wants to get more intelligence. These military advisors will do some of that we are told.

Already, U.S. military aircraft are flying over Iraq, manned aircraft, off the deck of the carrier George H.W. Bush They are collecting intelligence, purely a reconnaissance mission.

But I think the big question is going to be, if this is what the president is about to announce, it puts troops back on the ground in Iraq, perhaps not in combat directly, but as one army official said to me a short time ago, if somebody is shooting at you, it's combat.

PEREIRA: Very good point, Barbara. We appreciate that.

We want to turn to our military analyst, retired Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, former military liaison officer to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

So, we heard you actually mouth and say the words out loud, "If they shoot at you you're in combat." Sounds like boots on the ground to many people. Do you agree or not?

RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It is boots on the ground. I think they're parsing the words. They're not combat forces; they're advisers. It's a meaningless --

PEREIRA: It's not a combat mission.

FRANCONA: -- meaningless designation.

These are Army -- most of them are going to be Army special forces who trained for this mission. They're going to go out and advise Iraqi units.

Unfortunately this is the first step, and this is how you get drawn into these situations, so they have to make it clear what the mission actually is.

They'll also be in a great position if they're going to be out with the Iraqi units to call in any air strikes that are there. As we talked the other day, it's always best to have a U.S. person with -- American eyeballs on the ground to see what we're actually trying to shoot at.

PEREIRA: (Inaudible) but won't that sort of become apparent to you once you're there and do have eyes on the ground?

FRANCONA: Right, yeah, and what we have to guard against is what we call mission creep. OK, we're going to start advising, ten we're going to start calling in air strikes, and then, when the air strikes aren't enough, are we going to bring in additional U.S. support.

So this is a very tricky situation that we're getting into right now.

BERMAN: Look, there's a military issue as you say, what will they be doing and where will they be doing it. There's a political issue as well, because the president has said, all options are on the table, except boots on the ground.

And in 90 minutes at the White House he could be announcing that there will be boots on the ground.

FRANCONA: Right. And once the air strikes start, then we get into what is the unintended consequences of that.

Because now we're going to start bombing the ISIS people, but no doubt, we'll be taking on some of these Sunni tribes that have allied with ISIS. Now we're going to be killing Iraqi Sunnis.

BERMAN: Just to be clear from a military tactical standpoint, why would you do this before any air strikes? There is some use to this.

FRANCONA: Oh, if they can get out there and get the Iraqi forces to stand up and fight, we may not need the air strikes. I suspect we will.

But the Iraqis need to stand up and fight, and right now they are just having an abysmal time out there in the field.

PEREIRA: Another portion of this is the leadership in Iraq, and we've talked about this. We know that many voices in Washington are saying Maliki has got to go.

In fact, we just heard from Secretary of State John Kerry, address the question. Let's listen to the sound and then I want you to give us your reaction.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Nothing that the president decides to do is going to be focused specifically on Prime Minister Maliki. It is focused on the people of Iraq --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But it may benefit Maliki.

KERRY: -- Shia, Sunni, Kurd -- well that's up to the people of Iraq to decide, but the United States is deeply concerned about the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL, as we know it, that has moved in.

They represent a threat to every country in the region, they're more extreme even than al-Qaeda, and they are threatening the United States and Western interests.


PEREIRA: So is Secretary Kerry correct there in saying that the U.S. can't force a regime change, that it has to come from within.

FRANCONA: Of course it has to come from within, and of course other people have called for Maliki to step aside, just in the best interests of Iraq.

We've got -- this is a two-layered problem. First of all, we've got to stop ISIS. We've got to fix the tactical situation on the ground. This is the imminent problem.

And removing Maliki is not going to fix that. Removing Maliki, that's something we need to look at down the road to get Iraq back and get Iraq's house back in order.

But right now we've got to address the initial threat to Baghdad, the initial threat to that regime, and we've got to contain ISIS.

BERMAN: And if that's what the president is going to announce, that the U.S. is sending a hundred-odd special forces to Iraq, it does seem like he will not wait for regime change or Maliki to step aside before the U.S. does take some action.

Let me ask you, Colonel, have you ever served as a military adviser to troops overseas, other troops in other countries.

FRANCONA: I have, in Jordan.

BERMAN: And how close are you to potential danger then?

FRANCONA: Well, it depends on what you're doing, but these guys are going to be in danger. They're going to be out there in the field, advising these guys. And that's what you want, because there's nothing better than a U.S. Army officer telling these guys what to do.

BERMAN: All right, Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, thanks so much for being with us. Stick around because we have some more questions for you on different issues.

Just a reminder again, the president will be making a statement at 12:30 p.m. We will cover that for you live. It's very important. Obviously going to be some kind of policy pronouncement on what the U.S. intends to do about Iraq.

PEREIRA: Take a short break here.

Ahead @THISHOUR, terrorists among us. Two alleged, would-be jihadists arrested in Texas in two separate cases, we'll take a look.

BERMAN: Plus, crisis at the border, Texas saying it cannot afford to wait for Washington, taking its border security into its own hands.


PEREIRA: Terror suspects captured right here at home. Two young men are under arrest in Texas, both of them 23-years-old. Both allegedly wanted to travel overseas to wage violent jihad. Both are from the Austin, Texas, area.

BERMAN: So you would assume that these guys were somehow connected, but apparently they're not.

Our Ed Lavandera joins us now from Dallas with details about the suspects, the evidence, the cases.

And authorities say these are two separate cases. That seems hard to believe. What do we know?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is kind of fascinating when you think about that. These are both men similar in age. There's two different cases here. We'll kind of break them down, individually.

First, you have Michael Todd Wolfe. This is interesting. He was arrested just as he and his family were about to board a flight to Europe, and according to the criminal complaint that's been filed against him, he was trying to travel through Europe and Turkey to get into Syria.

And then you also have the case of Rahatul Khan who, according to the criminal complaint filed against him, he was in chat rooms trying to recruit like-minded individuals and in the process of perhaps trying to support or get himself to Somalia as well.

So, two different cases, two different destinations, but highlighting a common concern now, which is U.S. citizens being recruited and doing recruiting to get involved in jihadist movements with radical Islamists overseas. PEREIRA: We have to wonder, how does this happen that these young men

get radicalized? A couple guys in Austin, Texas, what happened? Do we have any inkling?

LAVANDERA: You know it doesn't come out and say exactly how this happened, but it's interesting. In reading through these criminal complaints that are several dozen pages long, one of the things that I've noticed that kind of stands out between both of these cases is the use of the Internet.

For example, Rahatul Khan spent, according to these criminal complaints, a great deal of time in chat rooms, speaking in coded language, and that's how the government informants were able to communicate with him and build his trust.

On the other case, you have Michael Todd Wolfe who apparently, in the criminal complaint, watched a lot of propaganda videos about fighters in Syria and that sort of thing.

So this online world where a lot of this communication takes place seems to be a common link and a common theme between both of these cases.

PEREIRA: Worrisome, to say the least. Glad to know these two men are going to be questioned, figure out what happened here, and we'll get more information and pass it along to those at home.

Ed Lavandera, always a pleasure to have you with us.

BERMAN: Yeah, curious to see, when they pull on those threads, just how far they go.

PEREIRA: Absolutely.

BERMAN: Ahead for us @THISHOUR, Texas going alone, what it calls against a "surge" against people crossing the border illegally.

So why now, will it work, and is this a wake-up call for Washington?

PEREIRA: Also, a gold-medalist swimmer, you may recall the story of her being paralyzed in an ATV accident. She is now talking about how she feels, and I've got to tell you, this attitude she has, it is positive and it is absolutely inspiring.


BERMAN: Texas beefing up security at the Mexican border to deal with the flood of undocumented immigrants coming into the United States. State officials plan to invest more than a million dollars per week in an operation they are calling a surge. Governor Rick Perry says the people coming into the U.S. illegally are a threat to his state and he cannot wait on Washington to do something about it.

PEREIRA: So Texas will apparently handle the crisis itself. We want to speak with former New Mexico Governor and U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson about this. He joins us on the phone. Governor thanks so much for joining us @THISHOUR.

BILL RICHARDSON, FMR. GOVERNOR OF NEW MEXICO: Thank you. Nice to be with you.

PEREIRA: Well, look, we want to talk about this situation that we see going on in Texas. Essentially Governor Rick Perry taking things into his own hands saying that the feds aren't moving fast enough for him. He's got to stem the flow of immigrants coming across the boarder. Is this a good solution?

RICHARDSON: Well, it's a temporary solution because the federal government, the Congress, has not passed an immigration bill that brings more funds for border security, some kind of a legalization plan, and I have to admit, while I was governor of New Mexico in 2005, I had a similar situation with a lot of violent cartels on my border and I declared a state emergency so I could get some funds to hire more law enforcement personnel. So I can't criticize Governor Perry. I do think it's a wake-up call to the Congress, to the administration, to try to get an immigration bill passed. Otherwise, we're going to have these immense problems at the border, central Americans coming in, because of loopholes and lack of any kind of technology and more security at the border.

BERMAN: We're not going to have these problems, governor. In fact, we already do. And as a governor, a former governor of a border state, you've had to deal with this firsthand. How do you separate the plight of these children, these thousands of children now, being kept in these warehouses in some cases, detention center, how do you keep their plight separate from the issue of border security and can it be kept separate?

RICHARDSON: Well, you can't separate it because states have limited funds. They're already strained at the border with taking care of a lot of undocumented workers, especially children, that are already coming through. And when you get this huge surge, you have conditions, as I saw a picture in Nogales, Arizona, where these kids are sleeping in a gym without any shelter, in very, very poor conditions. So this is when the state has to take a role, a humanitarian role, but also in the case of Texas and in my case, a law enforcement role. You can't separate. We are a humane country. We care about human rights. But it's important that it be a message to Washington that we need more border security, we need rules of the road for a path to citizenship for the 12 million that are here illegally, but most importantly, with the human rights conditions of these young women and these men that are victimized by cartels, by shady operators, taking advantage of the situation.

PEREIRA: Well, and that's the thing. We've had several people come on and talk about how the situation for these children, specifically, is certainly their treatment is un-American and we certainly know that a lot more needs to be done in terms of policy with those countries that are essentially sending the children here. We want to say a big thank you to Governor Bill Richardson. Really appreciate you joining us on the phone today making time for us. Obviously it's a conversation we're going to continue on CNN.

BERMAN: He lived it when he was governor of New Mexico.

PEREIRA: And he realizes what a delicate situation it is. There is not an easy fix as we said before. Ahead @THISHOUR, the debate over the R word. The feds run a play against the Washington Redskins. Could it be effective if a player came out against the team. We're having a conversation next.

BERMAN: A great question.


PEREIRA: Good to have you back with us. Just a reminder, we're being made aware of the fact that the president will be addressing -- will be making a statement rather on the situation in Iraq in the briefing room around 12:30 eastern today from the White House. We've been getting word that the Pentagon is prepping to quickly send some 100 special forces, as military advisors to Iraq. We expect the president will be making some sort of a comment or statement about this. Stick with CNN and we'll take that comment when it happens.

BERMAN: Meanwhile with some breaking news about the U.S. World Cup soccer team. Star striker Jozy Altidore will not play against Portugal. The hamstring injury he suffered in game on against Ghana too severe. He will not play in this game Sunday night. In case you were hoping to see Spain repeat at the World Cup.

PEREIRA: What's happening?

BERMAN: You won't be. They lost yesterday. Two losses, they will not move on to the next round.

PEREIRA: We have one injury. We know that Portugal has their injury with Ronaldo. He has got the knee thing we don't know if he will play or not. We will see.

Throngs of people have been traveling to Brazil for the World Cup competition there. This guy kind of caught our attention. Why? Because it took him two years on a horse. Yes. Filipe Masetti Leite, who is from Brazil rode more than 8,000 miles from Calgary, Canada, to Brazil. He left the Calgary camp grounds with two horses, Bruiser and Frenchy, picked up a third along the way in New Mexico, called it Dude, traveled through ten countries, encountered a grizzly bear, apparently, in Montana. This young man has a degree in journalism, has documented his trip. We're told he's about 1,000 kilometers away from Sao Paolo where he will be greeted by his family and friends. And probably some soccer fever.

BERMAN: He is impressive, I know you really think he is impressive. I'm impressed by the horses. They did all the work. Just saying.

PEREIRA: You sit in a saddle for two years, fella, and then we'll talk.

Also in some sports news, we know that this is a story we've been watching at this hour. It would appear the ball is in the Washington Redskins' court. The team plans to appeal the Patent Office. The Patent Office ruling that stripped away six federal trademarks because they're, quote, disparaging to native Americans.

BERMAN: Team owner Daniel Snyder has refused to change the name of the team, calling that name a badge of honor. The Redskins appealed a similar patent ruling in 2003, they won that one. We want to talk about this with a man who has an interest perspective. Sonny Sixkiller is a former college football star, he played in the pros and WFL, maybe the coolest part of all for some of you, you may know that he starred in the original longest yard movie in 1974. So Sonny, you are a football guy. It is great to have you with us. You are also a Native American. You have a unique perspective. Where do you stand on this?

ALEX L. "SONNY" SIXKILLER, FORMER PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL PLAYER: Well, I think it's about time that it goes away myself. I think it kind of reflects on the whole nation and things we've been reading lately. If you look at middle schools and high schools and colleges have gone away with that as a mascot name. I think it's about time the pros get it right and now is the time, perfect time, for them to do it.

PEREIRA: You know, it's interesting, because, you know, any time there's controversy and debate, one side says this, one side says that, we have heard that supporters of the name say that they have heard from Native American groups that are okay with the name. It does make you wonder, and I know this for a fact, within a group, there's not always consensus about issues, especially like this. Is there consensus among the native American community that you're in that you know of, that the name should go?

SIXKILLER: Well, I don't know. I get the sense of that in the northwest where I reside in Seattle.