Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Obama on ISIS: We Don't Have A Strategy Yet; Ukraine: "Full- Scale Invasion" by Russia; Second American Killed Fighting in Syria; No Strategy on ISIS Yet; Interview with Representative Adam Smith; New Video of U.S. Suicide Bomber; Hillary Clinton on Michael Brown Shooting
Aired August 28, 2014 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, breaking news, crisis meeting.
President Obama huddles with his national security team and speaks out, as major world trouble spots explode in fresh violence.
New ISIS horrors -- even after a mass slaughter of prisoners in Syria, the president says he does not yet have a strategy for dealing with the terror group.
And full scale invasion -- the U.S. backs Ukraine's claim that Russian troops and tanks are now fighting inside its territory.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
President Obama has just addressed dangerous escalations in two major world crises. Even as the president meets with his top national security team this hour about possible new airstrikes, he admits there is no strategy yet for dealing with ISIS. That comes as the terror group boasts about new atrocities it's committed in Syria, showing the mass execution of prisoners.
Plus, as Ukraine accuses Russia of a full scale invasion, President Obama points to evidence that Russian forces are now involved in the fighting.
Our reporters and our guests are standing by with full coverage.
Let's begin with senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. He's got the very latest -- Jim.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT:
Wolf, you heard the president just a few minutes ago wrap up a fairly lengthy news conference here at the White House about these very pressing issues of the day, whether or not he'll take military action against ISIS targets in Syria, and, of course, Russia's military operation, that appears to be underway in Ukraine.
But getting to the situation with ISIS and Syria, Wolf, I just want to talk about something that the president just said in the Briefing Room within the last hour.
He said, I don't want to put the cart before horse, we don't have a strategy yet. He was talking about the situation with respect to this question of whether or not he will strike ISIS targets in Syria.
I've been told by a White House official in just the last couple of minutes, Wolf, and I literally got on the phone with a White House official, a senior White House official, as soon as the president finished his remarks, because when he used those words, we don't have a strategy, it caught me by surprise, as well.
And according to a senior White House official, in just the last several minutes, the president, when he made that remark, was talking about a military plan for ISIS in Syria. He was not talking about the overall ISIS plan.
White House officials contend the president does have a strategy for dealing with ISIS in Iraq. It is limited in scope. It is dealing with protecting American personnel in Baghdad and in Erbil and dealing with that humanitarian situation around Mount Sinjar.
Now, they are looking at perhaps expanding that operation in Iraq. They're looking at humanitarian situations that are occurring up in the northern part of Iraq, besides Mount Sinjar.
But again, I want to stress that I talked to a senior White House official in the last several minutes who said the president was just talking about ISIS in Syria and a military plan for ISIS in Syria, Wolf.
Of course, the president, you know, he went on to say later on in that briefing that one reason why he doesn't have that strategy at this point is because he wants to the continue consultations with Congress. But more so, Wolf, I thought it was very interesting when the president was talking about the region. He almost chastised what he described as state actors in the region who have sort of an ambivalent attitude, is the way he described it, when it comes to dealing with ISIS. And he said that is a challenge that has to be dealt with and that's why he's dispatching secretary of State, John Kerry, to the region.
And so it is also, obviously, something that's going to be talked about a great deal at next week's NATO summit -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, the president kept saying he wants Sunni Arab leaders to get involved and help in this process.
Let me play the clip, because it's causing a lot of buzz out there...
BLITZER: -- when the president says we don't have a strategy yet.
Here's precisely what the president said, Jim.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will continue to consult with Congress. And I do think that it will be important for Congress to weigh in and -- or that our consultations with Congress continue to develop so that the American people are part of the debate.
But I don't want to put the cart before the horse. We don't have a strategy yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, so there's the precise clip.
BLITZER: And I want to make sure that what the president said then and what his aides are now telling you, that we're very precise.
So go ahead and explain, because it's pretty awkward to hear the president say, in dealing with ISIS, supposedly, the United States does not have a strategy yet.
ACOSTA: And I think, Wolf, the only way to explain this is to explain it in real time. They canceled the rest of the White House briefing. I went back into the White House booth. And on the phone was a senior White House official who wanted to say, listen, this is what the president said. He was talking about Syrian military options when it comes to ISIS, he was not talking about his overall ISIS strategy.
Now, as to why the president came out today and really talked about postponing or putting off a decision for taking military action against ISIS in Syria, Wolf, I was told by this same senior White House official that the president really wanted to get ahead and sort of tamp down what they feel like was sort of this rampant speculation that was fueled, in part, by the horror that was expressed to the beheading of the journalist, James Foley, that that really ginned up a lot of speculation that perhaps the president was going to order imminent airstrikes on ISIS targets in Syria.
And so the president, having viewed this speculation all week long, wanted to come out this afternoon and put that to rest, in addition to commenting on that very serious crisis in Ukraine right now. That was also the other reason.
But, Wolf, yes, media speculation about imminent military strikes in Syria, that was on the president's mind. And he wanted to make it clear to the American people he's just not there yet -- Wolf. BLITZER: Yes, he certainly walked back that, what a lot of
people were suggesting could be an imminent military operation in Syria, the president saying, you know, don't get carried away.
BLITZER: Don't move so quickly, there's still a lot of work to be done before any such military action, if it were to occur, would happen.
Jim Acosta, stand by.
We're going to go to Iraq in just a few moments.
But there was another urgent issue on the president's agenda. The United Nations Security Council now meeting, as Ukraine is accusing Russia of launching a full scale invasion.
The United States and its allies say there is evidence Russian troops and tanks are, indeed, fighting inside Ukraine.
Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is here.
He's looking at this part of the story -- Jim, so, first of all, what's happening on the ground in Ukraine?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, an alarming escalation on the
Ground in the second major foreign policy crisis that the president is dealing right now.
Two pieces of evidence today. One, NATO releasing satellite photos showing -- proving that Russian artillery units are operating inside Ukrainian territory, not just driving in, but firing -- shelling, firing from within Ukrainian territory to other targets inside Ukrainian territory. NATO has been saying for a number of days that they've seen this. Now they're releasing the satellite evidence to show it. And that's what we're seeing in the map there, those circles and those arrows pointing to those tank and those artillery units.
The second development in the last 24 hours is Russian forces opening up, in effect, a second front in Eastern Ukraine. To this point, those Russian forces have been coming across the central part of the Ukrainian border in the east. Another front opening in the southeast closer to Crimea, which, of course, you'll remember, several weeks ago, Russia annexed Crimea.
So now, down there, the intention, it appears, is to take some pressure off the pro-Russian forces who have been beaten back to a great deal by Ukrainian forces to the north of this second front. So now you have two fronts, in effect, buttressing this argument that you're hearing from Ukraine that a full scale invasion is underway.
The thing is the U.S. and its Western allies are not using the term invasion. The British prime minister, David Cameron, he used the expression today "full scale incursion." Incursion has been the favorite word from the State Department.
Of course, you heard the president, a short time ago, talk about violations of Ukrainian sovereignty. But he will not, as well, use the term invasion.
And the president also making the case, Wolf, that his strategy with regards to Ukraine is working, that it is raising the costs on Russia, that Russia is increasingly isolated.
But even in the midst of that, Russia continues to take further military moves, escalating the situation in Ukraine.
BLITZER: Yes. The president was very precise in his words, Jim, as you heard. He says Russia is encouraging training, arming, funding these pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine. And he says Russia is violating the sovereignty of Ukraine.
But you're absolutely right, he refused to say what the Ukrainian government is saying, that there is a full scale invasion by Russia now underway.
SCIUTTO: And it's interesting because, of course, using that term invasion would make the case, particularly among his critics, for more immediate action, a step up, if not in the economic sanctions, then other measures, to push back against Russian military activity.
And, you know, it's interesting, the president saying there that he didn't have a strategy, at least in terms of military options regarding ISIS in Syria. There are questions from even European allies, particularly those European allies that are closest to Ukraine, about what exactly the U.S. strategy is to put back Russia. There's a lot of dissatisfaction there, as well.
BLITZER: And the president heading to the NATO summit next week in Wales. Before that, he'll go to Estonia, one of the former Soviet republics, one of the Baltic states, to show his support for these NATO allies.
Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.
As President Obama weighs whether to order strikes against ISIS targets in Syria, the jihadist group is boasting that it has executed hundreds of captured Syrian troops, showing graphic images of half naked prisoners being marched into the desert and slaughtered.
At the same time, the United States may step up airstrikes in Iraq, where a minority town is now surrounded by ISIS forces.
CNN's Anna Coren is joining us from Erbil in Northern Iraq with more on what's going on.
This looks really ominous -- Anna. Update our viewers.
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, there's a lot to talk about, Wolf.
Let's start with this chilling, sickening video that really demonstrates what ISIS is capable in Syria. They show hundreds of soldiers, captured soldiers from Tabqa, a military base, marching in the desert, stripped to their underwear, many of them with their hands behind their head. The next shot that we see is a pile of bloody bodies. And then the camera turns and you just see body after body after body.
ISIS claims that they have killed -- executed -- 250 Syrian soldiers in the desert. It is just horrific video. And to see that long line of soldiers, faces in the dirt, really just strikes home what this terrorist organization is all about.
Well, shortly after that video was released, Wolf, there was another video that came onto YouTube from ISIS showing the Peshmerga forces that they have captured. They claim they've captured at least 15 in this particular video that was shown.
These Kurdish forces appealing to their president, President Barzani, to stop cooperating with the United States and allowing them to conduct these airstrikes. At the very end of that video, Wolf, we see one of the soldiers in an orange jump suit kneeling before a mosque in Mosul. This is Iraq's second largest city, that was seized by ISIS back in June. And shortly after that, he is beheaded.
This is a grotesque, barbaric act which has really come to define what ISIS is all about -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. The fact that ISIS is in control of Mosul, as you point out, the second largest city in Iraq, a city of nearly two million people, a city that used to have a lot of Iraqi military personnel there, a lot of U.S. weapons there. I was in Mosul back in 2000. It's hard to believe that ISIS controls not only Mosul, but huge chunks of Iraq now, as well as Syria.
Anna Coren on the scene for us.
Be careful over there.
Thanks very, very much.
Up next, we're going to have new details about a second American apparently killed while fighting alongside ISIS in Syria.
And I'll speak with the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Congressman Mike Rogers. He's standing by live. We'll talk about the ISIS threat, its American fighters and ways to deal with the brutal terror group.
BLITZER: Even as the United States gathers intelligence on possible ISIS targets in Syria, we're learning new details about a second American apparently killed there while fighting for the jihadist group. Brian Todd is taking a closer look at what's going on.
What are you learning, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, U.S. officials are checking on the name of this man, Abdirahmaan Muhumed, to determine if he was killed last weekend in Syria. Officials believe the reports of his death are credible, but they're checking. A respected leader in this man's hometown has also told CNN he was killed.
TODD (voice-over): A Somali community leader in Minneapolis says a man named Abdirahmaan Muhumed is the second American killed while fighting with ISIS in Syria. Omar Jamal says he's close with Muhumed's family.
OMAR JAMAL, FRIEND OF THE FAMILY: He's married. He had nine kids and a wife. He was a family person.
TODD: A U.S. official says Omar Muhumed is a name they're checking to determine if he was killed in the fighting last weekend, along with American Douglas McCain. A 29-year-old man with the same name was profiled on Minnesota public radio in June. That man told the radio station in Facebook messages that he was fighting with ISIS in Syria.
The report described him as having nine children and more than one wife. A law enforcement official says a handful of young Somali- Americans from the Minneapolis area, less than a dozen, have gone to Syria to fight with jihadists there. Sources tell CNN there's been a recent increase in recruiting for ISIS, which easily lures new jihadis with promises of cash.
DAVEED GARTENSTEIN-ROSS, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: We would expect that when we get the contours of this network, people will have their travel paid for as they will go to Turkey and then transit from Turkey into Syria.
TODD: Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, who monitors radicalization of young people, believes they likely get money to travel from the United States through Europe into Turkey. Then he's observed some travel over land to the Turkish city of Gaziantep, then into Syria.
In recent years, Somali-Americans from Minneapolis have been recruited to fight in Somalia with the brutal al Qaeda-linked group Al-Shabob. This recruiting video from Al-Shabab features Troy Kastigar, a young man from Minneapolis killed in Somalia in 2009.
TROY KASTIGAR, KILLED IN SOMALIA: If you guys only knew how much fun we have over here. This is the real Disneyland.
TODD: Now, Troy Kastigar's mother has told CNN her son was a close friend of Douglas McCain, the young American just killed in Syria fighting with ISIS. She said they both attended the same high school in New Hope, Minnesota.
Now, Kastigar's mother described her son and Douglas McCain as young men who are searching, wanting to have a purpose and be valuable human beings -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, why has it been seemingly so much easier for officials to identify Douglas McCain than it has been to identify this other young man?
TODD: Well, one official, Wolf, says McCain was easier to verify because of the photos showing his neck tattoo. That was a pretty clear identifying mark right there.
Now, we also know that McCain had a passport recovered from his body. We're not sure if any documentation has been recovered from Abdirahmaan Muhumed's body.
BLITZER: President Obama reporting for us. Thanks very much.
President Obama raised some eyebrows just a little while ago when he said there's no strategy yet for dealing with ISIS in Syria. A day later clarifying the president was speaking specifically about how to deal with ISIS in Syria.
Joining us now is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan.
Congressman, when you heard the president say there's no strategy yet, his aides later clarifying meaning ISIS in Syria. Are you OK with that?
REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, I'm not OK with it. It just confirmed what we've been talking about, really, for almost two years. There has been no real strategy. And he said something else I found very curious he had been working or talking to the Iraqi government about this growing problem of extremists in Iraq for over a year. None of that fits.
So after they took Mosul, you would think that they would have sat down for as long as it took to develop a strategy. And everybody knows, including the Department of Defense, you cannot stop ISIS in Iraq without their safe haven operation, their logistic operation in what many believe is supposed to be their headquarters or their capital of their caliphate in eastern Syria.
I mean, this just tells you how far we have to go. And I'm just not sure that the severity of the problem has really sunk in to the administration just yet. Clearly, that's what that told me today.
BLITZER: He is also saying that he's asking the Defense Department, secretary of defense, the chairman of the joint chiefs for options, military options to deal with ISIS in Syria. Isn't that prudent, to get a range of options before you go ahead and you nail down a specific strategy?
ROGERS: Absolutely. But we are so far along into this. This is not like this happened last week or a few days ago. They went across that berm in full force around June of this year.
And we knew it was a problem before June. Even the president said he was talking about this to Iraqi officials over a year ago.
This is so frustrating that, with all of this going on, with certainly all the intelligence showing us the problems that are there, the president says, "I want a strategy how to deal with this by the end of the week."
It just tells you that what apparently we're not taking this seriously for some length of time. This should already be done. They should be talking about a panoply of issues they can work through and how they can get to a certain place with our Arab League partners.
By the way, they were initiating these conversations about what to do there almost a year and a half ago, almost two years ago now. And that's what's, I think, frustrating for those of us who deal with these national security issues every single day. It was an odd press conference at the very best, but to say -- to have a press conference to say, "We don't have a strategy" was really shocking, given the severity of the threat. That's what's so concerning to me.
BLITZER: You're briefed all the time by the U.S. intelligence community. Do you think the U.S. intelligence community has a good handle on what's going on with ISIS in Iraq and in Syria?
ROGERS: Well, remember, that when they pulled out land forces, it pulled out our ability to have the kind of intelligence you would want in a circumstance like this, Certainly in Iraq. And the same with Syria.
So the configuration of our ability to collect intelligence has certainly hindered the ability to get the kinds of intelligence that you would want for a circumstance just like we're facing.
And so for those of us who believed for some time, "Hey, we need to configure ourselves a little differently if you're going to address this growing threat," unfortunately, that didn't happen. Now we're finding there was no strategy going forward and we're going to have one hopefully by the end of the week. Again, that's something that we're going to have to work through in short order.
BLITZER: Well, the president made it clear that it's going to take days, if not longer, to come up with that strategy, dealing with ISIS in Syria. But would you be one to advise the president, and would you be smart to launch air strikes whether from drones or manned aircraft or Tomahawk cruise missiles against the ISIS command and control facilities, most of which are in Syria, not in Iraq?
ROGERS: Well, you have an interesting problem. This is a terrorist organization that has an army. And so they have -- matter of fact, they just recently appointed an oil minister. They're in this for the long haul. They're trying to structure themselves in a way that they can hold and expand their holdings.
So when a terrorist organization acts like an army, they present military targets the way any other army would do. So I think there are some disruptive actions that the president can take on very short order that would start to degrade and disrupt the momentum of this very dangerous organization.
And that's been the problem all along, that there has been no disruption in their activities in a sustained way that would impact their logistics flow and their command and control. I think there is a whole bunch of targets they could use even in the short term to do that.
BLITZER: So you support air strikes in the short term right away against some of these targets in Syria? Because we know the U.S. is launching air strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq.
ROGERS: They are around to protect the dam. I think the president needs to expand the mission. We need to come right out and identify what the problem is. It's not that ISIS was approaching the dam. That's only one part of a very large problem.
The problem is you have a terrorist organization who believes it's creating the caliphate and will rape and murder to get that done, who has also expressed an interest to conduct attacks against the United States and Europe and now has the availability, as you're seeing in the newscast with putting a face on who these individuals are. These are Americans with western passports. So they have all the elements.
BLITZER: Just to be precise -- Congressman, just to be precise, do you support U.S. air strikes against ISIS targets in Syria?
ROGERS: I would support disruptive activities that could include air strikes in Syria and Iraq to disrupt what is a terrorist group with an army. And I think we have to understand how serious that really is.
BLITZER: Does the president need Congressional authorization to launch those air strikes in Syria?
ROGERS: I do believe, because of the threat coming out of there, that he would at least do a War Powers notification. He does need to sit down with Congress. There is a huge gap between the average member of Congress, what the problem is and where the president's position is. And that's not a relationship he has nurtured, nor endeavored to fix even in the last couple of years. He needs to get that piece right in order to do it.
I think bringing Congress in would be a helpful thing. I think America needs to see a unified United States Congress against what is a unified terrorist group with an army so that they understand we will not tolerate any attempts for invading their neighbors and or coming to the United States and causing...
BLITZER: About the Americans who are fighting alongside ISIS, we've been told that Douglas McCain was on a watch list. The U.S. knew about him. BLITZER: What about this other guy, Abdirahmaan Muhumed, the
second American that reportedly was killed fighting for ISIS? Was he on a similar watch list?
ROGERS: I have seen no confirmation of that. And again the fact that they're having some difficulty identifying him exactly being there and tells you there may be an issue there.
And you have to remember, I think on this, Wolf, it's so important for the average American to understand, as well.
Some will have that level of identity through good intelligence work or liaison work with other intelligence services. We don't know who all of them are. Some of them have traveled surreptitiously. So they go to Europe and travel to other countries, second and third order countries, and then get in to Syria. Those you wouldn't necessarily know. They're not going to have the proper stampings and other things so that you would know exactly where they are. So without that good intelligence piece identifying them from the United States in Syria, you wouldn't know that.
And so because they're United States citizens, they have constitutional protections that your average al Qaeda fighters in Syria wouldn't enjoy or ISIS fighters wouldn't enjoy. So it complicates the problem. In some cases they're going to get it right. They'll be able to find and identify those individuals. In some cases we will not.
And that's why those of us who look at this every day are so concerned that somebody is going to slip through the cracks. They're either going to get into Europe or they're going to get into the United States.
Think of it. Canada has some estimates as high as 500 individuals. Well, you're just a drive away across -- across a bridge or across a land bridge. You're in the United States after you're into Canada. That's a huge problem for us. And we're going to have to change the way we're postured and change our understanding of how you defeat a group like this that's operating in such a vicious manner.
BLITZER: It's a huge, huge problem. Congressman, thanks very much. Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Appreciate it.
Coming up, a shocking new video left behind by an American who became a suicide bomber in Syria.
Also, even after all the latest atrocities in Syria, the president says there's no strategy yet for dealing with ISIS. I'm going to speak with a top Democrat in the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Adam Smith. There he is, joining us live.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. Just a little while ago, President Obama said he'll keep consulting with Congress about U.S. military action against ISIS and but in the president's words, and I'm quoting the president now, "We don't have a strategy yet." White house officials later clarified that the president meant a
military strategy for strikes on ISIS in Syria. White House officials say they do have a strategy for dealing with ISIS in Iraq.
With us now the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Representative Adam Smith, he's joining us from Seattle.
Congressman, thanks very much for joining us. Were you alarmed when you heard the president say we don't have a strategy yet?
REP. ADAM SMITH (D), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Well, I think what he was talking about was specifically Syria. I think the real issue there is finding a partner to work with. I mean what gave us a good strategy in Iraq was, where we had the Kurds to work with and then once Maliki was removed as prime minister and they brought in a new prime minister that could give the Sunnis in Iraq some hope of a power sharing arrangement, we had someone to work with.
U.S. military might alone is not going to contain ISIS. We are going to need partners locally and who is that partner in Syria right now? Do we really want to come in on Assad's side? I don't think we do. So we need to find partners that we can work with in Syria to help us contain ISIS. And I think that's what the president's point of view.
That's the vexing problem. ISIL is a grave, grave threat. But we certainly don't want to come in a way -- in a way that is supportive of the brutal and illegitimate Assad regime in Syria. So it is a difficult problem to figure out what the best strategy is.
I mean, I agree, they have safe haven there in parts of Syria and that will have to be part of the strategy for containing ISIL. It's just -- it's just not an easy problem to deal with.
BLITZER: So if the president does decide after consultations with his military advisors and others, members of Congress, to go ahead and launch airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria, would you support that?
SMITH: I can conceive of supporting that, yes, because I do agree with Congressman Rogers and others who have talked about the grave threat that ISIS presents. They are a rising terrorist organization. They have already, you know, as we know, killed one American brutally and savagely. They have threatened attacks on U.S. interests and European interests probably. They are a threat that needs to be contained. I mean, if part of containing that threat involves striking them in Syria, then that's something I think we would have to do.
But I'll tell you, most important thing here is, we need allies in the region to help us contain that threat. We cannot come in unilaterally and simply through U.S. military might stop this. We need moderates in that region to confront ISIS and we need to build the political support to do this. This is not going to be just a military solution. BLITZER: What about arming that so-called Free Syrian Amy, the
moderate rebel who oppose Bashar al-Assad's regime? Will you support that?
SMITH: Absolutely, yes. As you know, we've been working with them for some time. The president has now proposed a Department of Defense mission to -- you know, train and equip. I think we should be supporting the Free Syria Movement in any way we can. Because like I said, we need moderates, we need people we can work with and support wherever we can find them. I know some have said, well, gosh, you know, supporting the Free Syria Movement wouldn't necessarily be decisive.
It wouldn't empower them to remove the Assad regime. But that's not the only goal. Part of the goal is we need friends in that region. We need reasonable people to work with. Certainly the Assad regime is not that. Certainly al-Nusra is not that and ISIS is not that. So the Free Syria Movement may be the only game in town for us finding those reasonable partners that we need to work with.
And we have to strengthen them not so much so that they can win but so that they can survive and maintain some territory to give us a partner to work with.
BLITZER: But you know there are widespread reports and there's confirmation even from elements of the Free Syrian Army that they are cooperating with al-Nusra, especially in the southern part of Iraq right now and that if U.S. arms go to the Free Syrian Army, the moderate element, there's no guarantee they won't wind up in the hands of al-Nusra.
How worried are you about that?
SMITH: That's true. There is no guarantee on that issue. But two pieces to that. First of all, al-Nusra and ISIS are very, very well-armed. They have found weapons all over the place. Second of all, we know that if we don't help the Free Syria Movement, they're going to have a difficult time surviving.
Now we have to try to be as careful as we can about who we support within that movement. We shouldn't be supporting ones who are collaborating with Nusra or ISIS. But if there are moderate elements in there that we can support and there have been, you know, some that we have supported we should seek them out and support them.
BLITZER: There certainly are moderate elements --
SMITH: There's no strategy here, Wolf.
BLITZER: There certainly are moderate elements. The only question is, are they strong enough to protect those weapons if the U.S. were to provide them with those weapons because you saw a lot of U.S. military hardware provided even to the Iraqi military several hundred thousand forces who simply abandoned all that weaponry in the face of some challenge from ISIS. And there's deep concern you arm the Free Syrian Army, those weapons are going to wind up in the hands of al-Nusra, a group the U.S. State Department regards as a terrorist organization.
SMITH: Well, there is no such thing, Wolf, as a no risk strategy in this region. There is no scenario you can put out there. No approach that we could take that doesn't contain risk. It's a matter of taking the right risk and balancing those risks to make the best choice. And if we're ever going to have any hope of dealing with Syria, we need to build some partnerships in Syria with somebody, have somebody that we can work with.
So, yes, there's risk contained in that strategy but we can't afford to have no friends at all in Syria if we hope to contain the threat that's coming out of ISIS.
BLITZER: Congressman Adam Smith is member of the House Armed Services Committee, the Ranking Member, I should say.
Thanks very much, Congressman, for joining us.
SMITH: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Up next, a fascinating new video. You're going to hear an American explain why he joined with the Syrian terrorists. He eventually became a suicide bomber.
Also Hillary Clinton is now weighing in on the troubles in Ferguson, Missouri, and the larger question of what they mean for the entire nation.
BLITZER: A terrorist group has released more of an interview with an American who blew himself up during a suicide attack in Syria.
CNN's Tom Foreman listened to what the man had to say. Tom is joining us now live.
Tom, tell our viewers what you heard.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Watching this 22- minute video I was struck by how this young man from Florida set out truly with a wing and a prayer boarding a plane to Istanbul with no money -- virtually no money, no contacts, just the idea that he wanted to join radical Islamists fighting the Syrian government.
MONER MOHAMMAD ABU-SALHA, AMERICAN JIHADIST: I pray every night, Allah. I pray every night. Allah, please take me to Syria.
FOREMAN (voice-over): One thing is clear in the new video of Abu-Salha, the young American, believed on every step of his fatal journey to join Islamist fighters, the Mujahideen, he was guided by Allah. ABU-SALHA: When I went back to Florida, I was being watched by
the FBI. So I realized I was being watched by them. So I had to flee. I say Allah, please, please, please, Allah, help me. Please, Allah, bring somebody to me. Please help me. Please bring somebody, a Mujahed, please bring him to me. Help me, help me, Allah. Please grab me some of my hair in my forehead and take me to Mujahideen.
We are coming for you, mark my words.
FOREMAN: Unlike earlier videos in which the 22-year-old high school dropout issued threats and burned his passport, in this new one he is contemplative, talking about being inspired by Anwar al-Awlaki, an American born radical who was killed by a U.S. drone strike, about arriving in Turkey, clueless about what to do next.
ABU-SALHA: I'm at this point, I'm poor. I have no -- I have no money. I have no food. I'm hungry. I have no place to stay, no hotel, no nothing. I just have thin jacket, I'm coming from Florida. Florida is tropical in the Americas. Hot and beach. I have thin, thin clothes. Very cold and raining.
FOREMAN: Abu-Salha describes approaching men on the street whom he suspects might be tied to the fighting.
ABU-SALHA: And I asked them, I come from America. I want to go to Syria.
FOREMAN: One gives him a little money, none give him help until he encounters an old man.
ABU-SALHA: He understood Mujahed. He said come, come. So I follow him. And he's trying to speak to me on the bus and he doesn't know English, no Arabic, so it's very hard. But he's al Qaeda.
FOREMAN: Abu-Salha says that contact led him to an al Qaeda safe house, then into Syria where this video was apparently taped. And then the young man from Florida drove a truck full of explosives into Syrian soldiers and blew himself up.
FOREMAN: As misguided and ill-informed as this young man may seem, national security experts believe young men like this are very dangerous because of up to 100 Americans are suspected to have gone to join radical groups in that region. And if they return here, they know how to blend in, how to get around and possibly how to carry out a terrorist strike in their homeland -- Wolf.
BLITZER: As always, powerful, powerful report. Tom, thanks very, very much.
Right at the top of the hour, by the way, the White House press secretary Josh Earnest will be here in the SITUATION ROOM, to clarify what President Obama meant during the news conference over at the White House when he said we don't have a strategy yet when it comes to ISIS. But up next, Hillary Clinton's first public comments on the
trouble in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, after a police shot and killed Michael Brown.
BLITZER: This afternoon Hillary Clinton made her first public comments on Michael Brown shooting and the disturbances that followed in Ferguson, Missouri. She also told a conference sponsored by a software company called Nexenta she intends to get involved in the 2014 midterm elections right after Labor Day.
Let's bring in our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar. She's monitoring what's going on -- Brianna.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. Hillary Clinton finally commenting on the death of Michael Brown and also the protest that followed after ignoring questions on the issue this weekend.
She said that watching Brown's funeral on Monday, as a mother and as a human being, her heart broke for his family, and she said that she grieves for the community of Ferguson and many like it across the country, addressing the issue of race, saying that behind the violence in Ferguson, there are deep and long-lasting challenges.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Nobody wants to see to see our streets look like a war zone. Not in America. We are better than that. We cannot ignore the inequities that persist in our justice system. Inequities that undermine our most deeply held values of fairness and equality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: These comments as she wrapped up her prepared remark today during a paid speech for a technology firm in San Francisco, and she made these comments after days of criticism from some black, civic, and spiritual leaders, who were wondering why Clinton hadn't yet spoken out.
She's had opportunities to comment, even though she has been on vacation recently. She did multiple book signings to promote her new memoir where cameras were present. Most recently on Sunday, she was asked about Ferguson by two reporters at a book signing and she ignored their questions.
Wolf, I spoke today with a number of people, both Clinton's critics on this and also some in the African-American community, who even if not critical wanted to hear her reaction on this, they thought that her tone was right today, even if some, Wolf, thought that she should have spoken out sooner.
BLITZER: Brianna Keilar with the latest on Hillary Clinton, thanks very much for that. Coming up, Ukraine calls it a full-scale invasion. We're taking
a closer look at new evidence showing the Russian military move inside Ukraine.
And also this, we have new details about a second American apparently killed fighting for ISIS terrorists inside Syria.
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news, a blunt admission by President Obama about his battle plan against ISIS terrorists and the possibility of airstrikes in Syria.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Putting the cart before the horse, we don't have a strategy yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Plus, the president is blaming Russia for the escalating warfare in Ukraine.