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Kurds Battle ISIS; Shooting Witness Video; Robert Ford Discusses Threat of ISIS

Aired August 18, 2014 - 08:30   ET


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, let's bring in the five things you need to know for your new day. We start with number one, of course.

Missouri's governor sending in the National Guard after clashes intensify in Ferguson, Missouri. Anger overflowing. The family autopsy revealed that Michael Brown was shot at least six times.

In Iraq, the U.S. launching more than a dozen airstrikes against ISIS militants. The military is helping Kurdish fighters try to retake the Mosul Dam. President Obama says the military action is needed to protect U.S. personnel.

The clock is ticking for Israeli and Palestinian negotiators. A five- day cease-fire ends tonight. Indirect negotiations between the two sides continue in Cairo. Egyptian mediators are reportedly trying to get the deadline pushed once again.

Pope Francis wrapping up his first visit to Asia with a mass of reconciliation in Seoul. He challenged North and South Korea to work to find new ways to resolve their differences.

President Obama is back in Washington for the day. He left his vacation for briefings on Iraq and Ferguson, Missouri. He's scheduled to return to his vacation in Martha's Vineyard tomorrow.

We do update those five things to know, so be sure to visit for the very latest.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And now to that breaking news out of Iraq and the battle for a strategic dam that supplies power to millions and the water behind it could threaten the lives of millions. The U.S. launching more than a dozen air strikes against ISIS militants there, helping Kurdish fighters on the ground. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has made his way to that dam.

Nick, do we know who is in control of it now?

NIC PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, what I'm seeing here and behind me is the best view, really, we've had so far of water and the dam itself. Now, I'll step out of the shot here so that our cameraman can zoom in a little closer. You can see that plume of black smoke. That's been here since we got here about an hour ago. It's joined occasionally by other plumes of black smoke, suggesting the impact of heavy weapons being used here.

Now I should add pretty much all this morning, as we've gone around this area, gone around Christian villages, talking to people who have been fleeing once to a monastery in one case simply for their lives. We've heard the roar of jets in the sky. Clearly U.S. firepower being brought in. We're not sure if they're being used near this dam because, obviously, it's a very fragile piece of infrastructure, but clearly in evidence throughout the area to heavy weapons being used here.

Now, in terms of what people are saying to us, Jim, this dam, to the left of that piece of black smoke you're seeing, that is pretty much where the Kurdish forces, the Peshmerga, fighting ISIS militants here, have advanced to. To the right of it, that is pretty much still held by ISIS. These front lines changing, of course, and we don't got complete clarity of how successful this battle has been so far. But the key worry is this, you know, idea it would have taken simply a matter of hours. Now we're talking about days. A lot of firepower being used and you can see here hundreds of thousands of metric tons of water being held back by this piece of infrastructure.


SCIUTTO: Thanks very much to Nick Paton Walsh on the ground in northern Iraq. It looks, Kate, very much like that fight is still going on, possibly U.S. airstrikes still going on.



BOLDUAN: I mean a dozen airstrikes or so. It was a half dozen airstrikes or so that the president has already authorized in that area. We'll see exactly what happens coming up on that.

Also coming up next on NEW DAY, exclusive new video from the scene where Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer. You're seeing it right there. An eyewitness provided the video only to CNN. You're also going to hear her reaction to what she saw play out before her eyes, next.


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

We're watching our breaking news overnight. The National Guard now being deployed to try and keep the peace in Ferguson, Missouri. This after another night of intense protests over the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. Early this morning, I had the opportunity to speak with Piaget Crenshaw. She was an eyewitness to the shooting. She provided exclusive video of the immediate aftermath to us here at CNN. She joined me here with her attorney and described what she saw.


PEREIRA: Piaget, I am so glad to speak to you. You were there that night. You can tell us from a very different perspective what went on because you witnessed it all. You waited until now to release this video. Why is that?

PIAGET CRENSHAW, EYEWITNESS TO MICHAEL BROWN SHOOTING: Well, because, more importantly concerned with my safety, of course, and because the media didn't release the name until several days after it happened. So I wanted to kind of --

PEREIRA: The name of the officer.

CRENSHAW: Yes, Darren Wilson. We want to kind of put this name with the face and I think this is relative information to most people.

PEREIRA: You mentioned that you were concerned about your safety. Do you have reason to - did you have reason to fear?

CRENSHAW: Well, I didn't, but just, you know, thoughts from my attorney maybe I should just, you know, hold back.

PEREIRA: Be careful.


PEREIRA: What is going through your mind as this all is happening? Take me back to the moment. Why did you feel a need to record what was going on outside the window?

CRENSHAW: OK, from - from it all initially happening, I knew this was not right. I knew -- I knew the police shouldn't have even been chasing this young boy and firing at the same time. And the fact that he got shot in his face, it was something that clicked in me, like, no, somebody else needs to see this. This isn't right. I've got to record.

PEREIRA: So you pulled out your cell phone camera and started rolling.


PEREIRA: How long after it all happened? You saw the whole scenario play out, right?

CRENSHAW: Yes, ma'am. But I waited a good 30 seconds, I had to run in my house, get my phone, hurry up. It's kind of cracked up. I had to put it on the camera and just start recording what I saw. So about --

PEREIRA: So, walk me through that.

CRENSHAW: Thirty seconds. So what we're looking at is Officer Darren Wilson to the right. He's just looking over the body, just looking baffled and bewildered of sorts, like, trying to explain to the officer what had I just done. And then we get this picture of him pacing back and forth just, like, in disbelief. So, like, it's like he - it's like he understands that he just shot this boy in the face and that this boy was unarmed. And to me this video just seems relative for this time period, especially including the fact that Chief Jackson said that the reason that this video wasn't even on the media at the time when it should have been was because he wanted to get all the information out at the same time, you know, under the Freedom of Information Act, but they could have easily given these videos as well because they confiscated my phone.

PEREIRA: So let's - let's go back to that in a second. So they -- so take me back to the moment when you see a tussle at the police cruiser.


PEREIRA: What was going on? What happened?

CRENSHAW: OK. Well, from my point of view, I could not tell exactly what was going on, but it just looked as if he was trying to pull him almost into the car.

PEREIRA: Pull who? Who pulled -- the officer pulled Michael into the car?

CRENSHAW: I'm sorry. Michael Brown. It just looked like he was trying to do such. And, you know, Brown being a bigger fellow, he -- that didn't seem to be working. So, of course, he got away. And it just seemed to have upset the officer.

PEREIRA: And then what happened?

CRENSHAW: Got out his -- and just started chasing after the boy. Shots being -- I'm hearing shots fired. Clearly none of them hit him, but one, I think, did graze him, as they said in the autopsy report. And at the end, he just turned around after I'm guessing he felt the bullet graze his arm, he turned around and then was shot multiple times and --

PEREIRA: The autopsy is now showing that he was shot from the front, not the back.

CRENSHAW: Exactly.

PEREIRA: does that square with what you saw?

CRENSHAW: Definitely. Because he was running away. So when he turned towards the cop is when he let off the most shots.

PEREIRA: So now let's go to the point where I hear your voice. You sound really upset.

CRENSHAW: I haven't even lived there a month. I had just moved there, out of my parents' home. And to see something like this outside of my window as I'm trying to go to work is just - it's traumatizing.

PEREIRA: What have you made of the Ferguson Police Department? Have you ever seen them on the streets, interacting with any of the officers before, prior to this incident?

CRENSHAW: Yes, and at first I did feel comfortable living in my apartment because there was a police presence around constantly. There were police driving up and down the streets of, you know, the crime is a little more over there. But now it just - it doesn't seem that you could trust them.

PEREIRA: So then the police take your cell phone from you, take the video.


PEREIRA: How did that all happen?

CRENSHAW: OK. Well, from my point of view, as soon as they started putting the yellow tape around, the family starts coming up just screaming and asking what happened and nobody's giving them answers. And so me and my boss, we were like, no, we saw everything. We were standing on top of my balcony and we were like, no, we saw everything. And, of course, I guess the police were standing there too, so they brought us all down for questioning, which then my cell phone was confiscated for the video record.

PEREIRA: How long did it take to get the phone back?

CRENSHAW: Well, they -- it happened Saturday and they told me I'd get it back on Monday, but I didn't get it back until later on Tuesday.

PEREIRA: Piaget, you just moved to this area a month ago. You had all of this happen. You witnessed the death of the young man. I know this has been a really traumatizing time for you. I appreciate you coming out to speak to us.

CRENSHAW: No problem.

PEREIRA: And a big thank you to your attorney for coming along to provide some support to you. We wish you well, OK?


PEREIRA: Thank you so much for speaking to us and giving us this video to help tell the story of what happened to Michael Brown that night.

CRENSHAW: No problem. He needs justice.

PEREIRA: All right.


PEREIRA: And you - and she -- you just barely caught that. Piaget says she wants justice for Michael Brown. It's interesting, I talked to her in the green room afterwards and she mentioned that it felt as though a really big storm cloud had descended over her city and she's really hoping it can clear so that they can take a look at what happened, investigate it and, again, find justice for Michael Brown.

You know, she just moved there. I was saying this to you guys as we were watching that, she just moved out of her parents' home, first month on her own, and this happens.


BOLDUAN: Unbelievable (ph).

SCIUTTO: She's a teenager. She's 19, she's 18.


SCIUTTO: These are kids, right? I mean, yes.


BOLDUAN: Caught up in something they shouldn't have.

PEREIRA: Incredible poise considering what she's been through.

BOLDUAN: That's absolutely right.

PEREIRA: We're going to take a short break here on NEW DAY.

New suggestions that the White House may have ignored early warnings about ISIS spreading from Syria to Iraq. We are going to discuss all of this and so much more with the former U.S. ambassador to Syria.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY.


BOLDUAN (voice-over): U.S. air strikes are helping Kurdish forces on the ground in Iraq as they try to regain control of a crucial dam in Mosul that supplies power to millions. President Obama is defending those strikes. How much of the events playing out today in Iraq is at least in part a result of poor decision-making in the White House earlier?


BOLDUAN (on camera): Well, in consideration of Syria. And is the American help too little too late now? Let's talk about it with the former U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford. Mr. Ambassador its great to have you. Thanks so much for coming in.


BOLDUAN: You made pretty clear to "The Daily Beast" Josh Rogan in a piece that the warnings of the ISIS surge were there. And were made pretty plain -- plainly made to the White House. Did you feel like you were ignored?

FORD: The State Department made clear to others in the United States government, in 2012, that there was an extremist element growing in Syria. It was drawing help from Iraq at the time. And that if there was a power vacuum, especially in Eastern Syria, we would have a huge problem. And, in fact, that's what we said in 2012 and that's what has happened today. That's a matter of history and the record. The bigger question, I think, now is going forward, given what has happened in Iraq, and what is going on in Syria, what can the administration do to contain the Islamic State, which is clearly a threat.

BOLDUAN: Well, what is your prescription, if you will? what do you think that the United States can and should do at this point to contain it? Do you think at this point they're in a position of too little, too late?

FORD: No, I do not think it is too little too late, far from it. They have had some success in Iraq over the past week, as you just mentioned. They seem to have blunted the Islamic State's advance in Northern Iraq. American air strikes combined with friendly fighters on the ground, Kurdish fighters, and also Iraqi Special Forces fighters and it is interesting that the Kurds and the Iraqi Special Forces are fighting together. I suspect that is being done with American coordination, and that's a good sign. There is some success in Iraq. Now, the real question then is, some success in Iraq, but the problem is also in Syria - -


FORD: - - and what do you do about Syria now?

BOLDUAN: Well, and I want to ask you about that because I need to get your take. Because the president's remarks in an interview with "The New York Times" has gotten a lot of attention. When he said that it has always been a fantasy that arming the rebels in Syria, the moderate opposition, would have made a difference. What do you make of that?

FORD: It is simply something -- it is a policy debate. But I think the record is clear that the Syrian uprising in 2012 was dominated, not by extremists, but by moderate people. They needed help because the extremist element that I mentioned, which was growing in 2012, had better funding coming up from friends and private circles in the Gulf. The moderates pleaded with us for money and for weapons to compete for recruits with the extremist groups. They did not get that help. And the extremists, not a surprise, with their money, were able to get recruits and were able to grow.

BOLDUAN: Well, you said to our Christiane Amanpour after you left your post, "I was no longer in a position where I felt I could defend the American policy." And you went on to say that we have been unable to address either the root causes of the conflict in terms of fighting on the ground, and on the balance on the ground. So in your mind, is there really even a policy debate about this question of is it a fantasy in terms of what the president thinks because you think you're right?

FORD: Well, there is a debate going on in Washington right now. But I think it is incumbent on those to say there is nothing we can do in Syria to then say how do you address the national security threat emanating from Syria in the form of the Islamic State and other al Qaeda linked extremists? You cannot ignore it given what we have had in our own history, dating back even to 9/11 and other threats to American national security since then. In Iraq, what we see is forces, friendly to us, with our help, have been able to blunt much of what the Islamic State has done. I think that same approach needs to be taken in Syria.

BOLDUAN: What is the hesitancy in your view, coming from you were on the inside, what is the hesitancy within the administration to do just that?

FORD: Well, I don't pretend to speak for the president and the senior leadership now, I've retired. I think the real question will be for them, a, identifying the right friendly forces, and there are certainly many on the ground, so there is going to be some analytical work that can be done, but that analytical work can be done. And then, second, mobilizing the resources of the United States government to channel the assistance, much as we have done in Iraq. It does not require American forces to put boots on the ground in Syria. Far, far from it.

BOLDUAN: One question has been all along how much of a threat is ISIS? ISIS is clearly a threat to the region. But from your perspective, how much of a threat to the United States is ISIS?

FORD: Well, I don't think the United States is the Islamic State's number 1 target now. The Islamic State's number 1 target right now is the Shia-led government in Baghdad and the moderate opposition, what is left of it, in Syria. So -- but over the medium term, the Islamic State has already publicly stated, look at their twitter feeds, for example, they're very open about the fact that they intend to bring Jihad at some point to Europe and to the United States itself. I take them at their word.

BOLDUAN: The fighting continues on the ground for a key dam to regain control of the key dam in Mosul that we're seeing it all play out in real time. Ambassador Robert Ford, thank you, Mr. Ambassador. Its great to have you here.

FORD: My pleasure.

BOLDUAN: Of course.

Alright, coming up next on NEW DAY, the very latest from Ferguson. The National Guard is on the way. Will more are policing help or hurt a community that is already in such turmoil? That's next.


BOLDUAN: Thanks for being with us today. We're going to hand you off to Carol Costello in the "NEWSROOM" now. Hey, Carol.