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THE SITUATION ROOM
President to Lay Out ISIS Strategy; Kerry in Mideast Seeking Help Against ISIS; New Protest, Clashes Near Ferguson
Aired September 10, 2014 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Jake.
Happening now, a SITUATION ROOM special report: war against ISIS. President Obama addresses the nation tonight to lay out his strategy for destroying the brutal Islamist terror group. That could mean U.S. airstrikes in Syria. We'll get a full preview of his battle plan.
ISIS terror plan. A captured laptop may spell out a strategy for mass attacks, including biological warfare with a deadly germ that once killed millions of people.
And an insider's view. The former White House press secretary, Jay Carney, joins the CNN team, and he'll share his insight into how President Obama is handling this extraordinarily tough decision.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Just four hours from now, President Obama will make it clear to the American people that the United States once again is going to war. On this, the eve of the 9/11 anniversary, he'll outline a strategy to destroy ISIS, the terror group that's brutally seized vast stretches of territory in Iraq and Syria, slaughtering thousands of people and beheading two Americans.
Thirteen years after al Qaeda struck devastating blows on U.S. soil, the president is likely to make the case that ISIS poses a greater threat. It's bigger, better armed and more savage, with many hundreds of foreign fighters who can return to their home countries, including this country, on their own passports. We're going to give you a full preview of what he intends to do about all of that. Our correspondents and analysts and guests are all standing by with full coverage.
Let's begin with our White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski. She's standing by. What do we know about what the president, Michelle, will say tonight?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are about to hear from senior administration officials more detail on the speech tonight, but we have already seen much today leading up to it.
The president spent his day behind closed doors, meeting with his national security team, calling members of Congress. He had a call with the king of Saudi Arabia. There were more air strikes over Iraq. The secretary of state is in the Middle East. So some of that
you can see is part of that regional coalition building that the administration has been emphasizing is a big part of the plan.
But tonight, we know the president is prepared to expand those air strikes into Syria, just most likely not quite yet.
For the speech itself, we'll see the president lay out the scope of the problem. What threat is ISIS exactly to the U.S.? What's at stake? What are the risks? What are the priorities?
And from there, what everybody is hoping the president will make crystal clear is the strategy. Some of which we have heard from him and from the administration, but a big chunk of that has involved this regional and international coalition building. That's still ongoing. So it's the next steps, moving forward that we do expect to hear more detail from the president on, what exactly will happen in this next more offensive phase, Wolf.
BLITZER: Michelle, we also understand the president and vice president, they've been personally calling members of Congress today. What do we know about that?
KOSINSKI: Well, they want Congress to act. And this is interesting, because yesterday the White House said that the president has the authority he needs for the plan that he will lay out in the speech tonight.
But at the same time we now know that he is asking Congress for more authorization. First, in money: a half a billion dollars that he's hoping will be put into the government's spending bill that now will be taken up next week. Also the authority to have the U.S. military further train and equip elements of the moderate Syrian opposition.
So, you know, if he has the authority, but he's asking for more authority, it seems like maybe that part of the plan isn't quite ready to launch yet.
So in Congress, there is some bipartisan support for what the president upon wants them to do, but at the same time there's concerns over how much this is going to cost, what exactly are the details of the plan, how long will it last? So it seems what everyone is looking for tonight, Wolf, is more clarity.
BLITZER: Michelle Kosinski, stand by. Thanks very much.
So the president, as Michelle noted, is asking for help against ISIS. The secretary of state, John Kerry, he's in the Middle East right now. He's trying to drum up support from Muslim allies. His first stop was Baghdad, where he met with Iraq's new prime minister. He's now in Jordan.
We go live -- let's go live to our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott. She's traveling with the secretary. She's joining us now from Amman. So how did he do so far, Elise? ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, well today
in Iraq he really felt that this new government, this new Iraqi government is going to be what he called the engine that's going to drive this strategy for building the coalition.
As you know, Iraq didn't have a lot of good relations with its neighbors because of the government of Nuri al-Maliki and the way it treated its Sunni Arabs. But now Secretary Kerry is meeting with leaders from Jordan. He met with King Abdullah tonight. Tomorrow he'll be meeting with leaders from Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, all these countries that are in the region of where either ISIS is in Syria or Iraq, bordering one of those countries and facing the threat.
And senior officials are saying they really think that this is a wake-up call for the region, this lightning advance of ISIS. And they think that they're going to have pretty some good support as they build this international coalition -- Wolf.
BLITZER: So tomorrow the secretary continues this mission. He's got more meetings in Saudi Arabia, as you point, out with other gulf states. Anybody else on the agenda?
LABOTT: Well, he's going to be meeting with all of the gulf states, and then you have Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, all these countries.
And they're going to be asking various things, Wolf. Some of them, they're going to be looking for overflight rights and support with military strikes. But there's also an economic component. They want Turkey, for instance, to cut off the illicit oil exports that are really giving ISIS its cash, as it makes the lightning advance and helping it in that way. And it wants all these gulf countries to dry up the financing and also the foreign fighters that are really the lifeblood of this group.
There's also an important messaging aspect. He really wants countries like Saudi Arabia and its religious leaders and also the Arab networks, for instance -- Qatar runs al Jazeera and in the UAE has Al Arabiya -- to start using their religious leaders to put them out, sending out the message, Wolf, that ISIS is the enemy.
And they feel that this diplomatic, economic and messaging component is really all of the spokes of the wheel that will help make a dent with ISIS, starting with this new Iraqi government that they want the Sunni Arabs to support, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Elise Labott, traveling with the secretary tonight in Amman, Jordan, thank you.
Let's get an insider's view now into how the president is handling this very tough decision to essentially lead the United States into another war.
Joining us, the former White House press secretary and now CNN's newest political commentator, Jay Carney. Jay, first of all, welcome to CNN. Thanks very much for joining
JAY CARNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Wolf, thanks for having me. I'm glad to be part of the CNN team.
BLITZER: All right. And we're glad to have you. Let's talk about this right now. Is it fair to say the president is now launching a new war not only against ISIS in Iraq, but also against ISIS in Syria?
CARNEY: Well, we don't know yet what he will say about taking action in Syria.
What we do know, and I think it's borne out by the actions he's taken in the past, is that he has always been willing to strike at terrorists or others who threaten U.S. interests, wherever they are, if there's a clear-cut strategy for getting the job done.
And I think we've seen that as recently as last week in Somalia. We've seen that in the approach he took to going after Osama bin Laden and others in core al Qaeda. And we've seen that in recent days and weeks as the U.S. has taken action against ISIS or ISIL.
So I think that, as I think was reported earlier just before I came on, that it's likely that he'll make it clear that he's willing to do that. I'm not sure that we'll hear yet that he's going to do it. And I think that, while the overall message will be around making the case to the American people about why we have to take this action, why even though ISIL and ISIS is not a direct threat to the United States at this moment, it poses a potential threat that's enormous to the United States and our western allies because of the fighters with western passports and it also might morph into an organization like al Qaeda which begins to consider direct attacks on the United States and the west.
So, you know, it's a tough challenge, because we are a war-weary nation; but I think the case is compelling for why we have to take this action.
BLITZER: But if the president -- all these expectations have now been raised. We will hear a clear-cut strategy for action from the president tonight. If he doesn't deliver, there's going to be a lot of disappointment and probably a lot of criticism, you as someone who worked with the president for a long time appreciate that.
CARNEY: Oh, I do. And I think there is no question criticism will come, as it has in the past. That's part of the job. It's something, when you're this many years into the job, the president is well aware of and understands.
And even a strategy and one that's well-laid-out in the speech is not the same as successfully executing on the strategy. So no matter how good he is tonight there will still be a lot of questions about whether we can achieve what he lays out. I'm sure that he'll talk about how this is a long-term proposition, and that can be difficult and frustrating for Americans who, again, have seen the U.S. engage itself in a lot of military actions over the past dozen years.
But you know, it comes with the territory, Wolf. You know, you've been covering presidents for quite some time. You don't -- you don't get to choose the cards that you play. You know, you get dealt your hand. And right now this is a pressing issue that has to be addressed.
BLITZER: But the president has to tell us, I think, whether or not he supports, will launch, air strikes against these ISIS targets, not only in Iraq, which the U.S. has been doing over the last few weeks but also in Syria and if he's wishy-washy on that that will be frustrating.
CARNEY: I don't know we'll know as precisely when he'll say on that issue. I think it is likely, in my view, that he will make clear that he's willing to do that, but I don't think he's going to -- I think it's unlikely that he'll announce that we're striking targets in Syria tonight or tomorrow, because there has to be a very carefully thought out plan around, tactical plan around how you do that because of how the dynamics of the civil war in Syria.
But I think the case, as I understand it, that he'll make is one that would encompass both action in Iraq and Syria under the general premise that this organization is a threat to the stability of the region, to a number of allies in the region, and to the broader world, including the United States; and therefore going after that threat, including leaders of this organization wherever they are, is necessary.
BLITZER: How much of a mistake was it when the president said a week or so ago he didn't really have a strategy for dealing with ISIS in Syria?
CARNEY: You know, Wolf, when I heard that, you know, I'm sure folks who back -- that I left behind when I left the White House grimaced a little bit, because you know, what he was saying, quite clearly, is that that strategy was being developed.
And, you know, what you get with Barack Obama is, you know, somebody who was not, you know, a national politician even ten years ago, and then he bolted onto the stage. And it's been part of his appeal. So you know, he's not always going to -- when he's speaking honestly, going to say it the way communicators who advise him would have him say it.
And I'm sure, you know that's the first instance where he wished he had said it differently, because that became a sideshow to the more substantive issues here, which is what are we going to do? Can we rally Congress to support us? Can we rally a coalition both in Europe and in the region to support this action because this is a long-term, challenging proposition. It's going to cost money. It's going to put American, men and women at risk and that's the substantive issue.
And I know that the frustration comes when, inadvertently, the White House or the president or anyone else in the administration says or does something that, you know, takes the focus away from the substantive issues, and it becomes an issue of optics, as was the case with going golfing on Martha's Vineyard; or with how you say, you know, what is an obvious truth, which is that the specific strategy is still being developed.
BLITZER: Because in our new CNN/ORC poll, we asked does President Obama have a clear plan for dealing with ISIS? Thirty percent said yes, but look at this: 67 percent of the American public according to this poll, Jay, think the president does not have a clear plan for dealing with ISIS, and that's a huge problem right now.
CARNEY: Well, it's a problem, no question, but it's why the president's speaking to the nation tonight. It's why any president in this situation would use that chit and request time in prime time to speak to the nation. It's not an opportunity you get very often as president, you know. With the exception of the State of the Union address, there just aren't that many opportunities in a year and that many chances that you have to ask for that time. And you only do it when you can make a compelling case that you need to do it.
And I think that that poll reflects why it's important for the president to make clear tonight to the country why we need to do this, what the plan is, what the coalition looks like, you know, where we will be, not just after we expand the number of strikes and even the zone and the area where we are striking, but what the broader plan is that involves some of the things that Elise was talking about in terms of an economic strategy and working with our allies to choke off support for the Islamic state because absent that, the strikes alone isn't going to do the job.
BLITZER: Jay Carney, our newest CNN contributor. Thanks very much for joining us and once again, welcome to CNN.
CARNEY: Wolf, thank you for having me.
BLITZER: Up next, more of the breaking news. Protesters marching outside Ferguson, Missouri. We've seen some of them throwing bottles at police. We'll go there live.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news stories right now. The president getting ready to deliver a major speech, in effect going ahead and announcing the U.S. will not only launch these war strikes, these air strikes against ISIS in Iraq, but may also start doing so in Syria, as well. We'll get right back to that in just a moment.
But there's another breaking news story we're following near Ferguson, Missouri. Protesters are throwing bottles at police in a new showdown stemming from the August shooting death of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown. It began with a rowdy city council meeting last night, spread today to a highway outside of town.
Let's go live to CNN's Ted Rowlands. He's near Ferguson with the latest.
What is the latest, Ted? TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're right along
I-70, and the latest is that things have just within the last few minutes calmed down a little bit, but this has been very intense. You mentioned the bottles we saw, rocks being thrown at police. And you can see the huge police presence still here.
The goal of the protesters was to shut down I-70 just outside of Ferguson. They were not able to do that. And within the last five minutes or so, the core of the protest started to move out. And they are headed now to downtown Ferguson to the police department.
But we saw a lot of anxiety and a lot of emotion. People very upset about Mike Brown now one month later, and it showed again here today.
What's your name, sir?
CHARLES MAYOR (PH), PROTESTOR: My name is Charles Mayor (ph). We actually came out to protest our civil rights of civil disobedience. We were, I would say distracted, detained. We didn't get to perform our civil rights protest.
ROWLANDS: Several arrests, bottles were thrown. I saw a huge rock thrown. Is that your civil rights?
MAYOR (ph): No, that had nothing to do with the protest that we were with. Those are professional agitators. So don't equate that with the protesters. The bottle thrown had nothing to do with the protest. You have a bunch of professional agitators among the people, so that's not the protesters.
ROWLANDS: How has that hurt your cause? Not only today we're seeing it but throughout this entire process since a month ago?
MAYOR (ph): It didn't hurt our cause, because we're still fighting for justice. We can't be responsible for every unlawful act that happens. So just make no mistake about it, I'm here to broker peace between the police and my people. So every time something happen negative don't put it on the protesters.
ROWLANDS: You say your people. Is there...
MAYOR (ph): I say "people." We're not talking about a skin tone. When I say "my people," we're talking about the human race that came, a body of people to participate in a civil disobedience act. So it's not my people; it's all the people.
ROWLANDS: What is it you want now? There is -- there is an investigation going on. There's a grand jury hearing. You want a special prosecutor assigned? Is that the goal?
MAYOR (ph): We want -- we want -- we want to start from the bottom up. It doesn't matter how it happens. We want the chief of police to step down. We want for the mayor to resign. We want a microwave arrest of Darren Wilson. If this happened to any other citizen that -- that -- that
unlawfully assassinated another citizen, we wouldn't have to beg for an indictment. An arrest would come first. Then the circuit attorney would give an indictment. So we're not begging for anything. We're asking to do what's right. We want to arrest.
Then, after that, we're asking for the prosecutor to step down. We don't think that we're going to get a fair shake.
ROWLANDS: You're asking for an arrest. Don't you want a fair investigation? Is there any possibility that this could end without an arrest that would be fair if it was an open process and you saw what went into the investigation? Or is it an arrest or nothing in terms of your satisfaction?
MAYOR (ph): Well, I didn't pass the bar, but I know a little bit about the law. I know if any other homicide happened, we wouldn't be right here waiting one month to find out the facts about a man getting murdered.
We've had plenty murders just last week. Well, guess what? People have been booked. They have been arraigned. They have been given bond without -- without proper cause. So -- so, let's not make it like all the facts are not there. Here's the facts: a man is dead, no weapon. Let's get that out there.
ROWLANDS: All right. Appreciate it.
MAYOR (ph): OK.
ROWLANDS: And this protest, Wolf, is moving on to downtown Ferguson. It could be just the beginning of a long night ahead.
You see most of the police presence here is still here. They have cordoned off a very large area above I-70. They've cut off all four on and off ramps at this exit. So far no one's gotten off onto the highway, and it doesn't look like anybody is going to, because just take a look behind us. A huge police presence and, again, there's some violence. There's some rocks. We saw rocks and bottles being thrown at these officers, probably two to three dozen arrests.
BLITZER: All right. So that interstate is shut down, at least for now, and those protesters were taken, you say, to the police station in Ferguson. What is the fear? This could get ugly, is that what you're saying, Ted?
ROWLANDS: It could. The people that were here ten minutes ago literally who said, "Let's go downtown and let's go to the police station" were very angry. And they saw a lot of their friends get arrested, and they are moving this protest. And the reason one of them said is because "There are so many police here, let's go downtown."
We're going to go downtown right now, and we'll follow it to see what happens. Hopefully, it won't be ugly, but absolutely, the emotion is there where it very well could be. BLITZER: All right. We'll get back to you, Ted. Thanks very
Let's go to state -- Missouri State Senator Maria Chappelle- Nadal. She's joining us on the phone right now.
What do you make of what's going on, Senator?
MARIA CHAPPELLE-NADAL, MISSOURI STATE SENATOR (via phone): I have been getting some pictures of protesters and officers, and I'm trying to stay in tune as much as possible. We are currently in our veto session. And I am a little bit concerned about the numbers that I've been hearing on your show and broadcasts. So I am going to stay very close to this as much as I can from our state capital.
But I do hope that everyone is safe, but I want to ensure that we still have our First Amendment rights. Of course, I do not condone any violence on behalf of anyone who is protesting or those who don't like the protesters.
And what I have found out is that there are several people who are members of some extremist groups that have been wanting this protest to happen so that they themselves can demonstrate violence against peaceful Ferguson protesters.
BLITZER: So you want the police to arrest those violent protesters, those who are breaking the law, not engaging in peaceful protests?
CHAPPELLE-NADAL: Well, I think it concerns us in the wrong way when we ourselves are violent.
Now, I will say that we want justice. We want transparency, and we want the truth. But I mean, having any kind of negative behavior is just not going to help us get what we need to get, which is justice and transparency.
BLITZER: Senator, do you support shutting down this major interstate as an act of protest?
CHAPPELLE-NADAL: Here's what I have stated prior to this. I don't know how it's beneficial, but what I do support is people -- are people who are demonstrating and exercising their First Amendment rights.
Over the course of the last 30 days we have been tear gassed, and several other things have happened to us, because no one wants us to demonstrate. And we have a right to do that; it's the First Amendment guarantee.
BLITZER: Demonstrate in terms of what the police believe would be an illegal act, shutting down an interstate.
CHAPPELLE-NADAL: The police officers have known about this shutdown for two weeks. They have been in communication with the protesters who have organized this. So they can either lay blame on the protesters or they can accept accountability, too. This is a two- way street. It's not just the protesters. The police officers have some accountability, as well.
BLITZER: So, well, I'm still a little unclear. Do you support what, in effect, is breaking the law by going out there and shutting down the interstate?
CHAPPELLE-NADAL: That is not what I would do. That is not the behavior that I would be involved in, because I was protesting at West Florissant, and that's the police station. That's what I've done. I've opened up an office, and I'm trying to work out all of the kinks when it comes to our human rights violations that we're going to send to the U.N. pretty soon. And that's what I'm working on, so that we can have effectiveness. Policy that is going to make a change in the community.
So I would not personally be on a highway, but if people want to demonstrate, and they've been in communication with officers and different police departments, then they know how to conduct themselves.
And again, it's a two-way street. The police officers can't say that they have not been in communication with the organizers of this. They know what to do, and they've been trying to abide by this -- this law.
BLITZER: Missouri State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal. Senator, we'll stay in touch with you. Thanks very much.
CHAPPELLE-NADAL: Thank you so much. Have a good day.
BLITZER: And we'll see what happens as the protesters now begin the march towards the police station in Ferguson. More on this story coming up later.
Also coming up, a captured ISIS laptop may spell out a strategy for mass attacks, including biological warfare with a deadly germ that once killed millions of people.
And I'll speak live about the president's ISIS plan with someone who knows the Middle East very, very well and also knows the risks of U.S. military involvement, retired General Anthony Zinni. He's here with me in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: So we're monitoring those ongoing protests in Ferguson, Missouri. We'll get back on that shortly, see what's happening.
But there's obviously another major story we're following. The president of the United States getting ready to address the nation, indeed the world, letting the American people know that, for all intents and purposes, the U.S. is heading into a new war with the brutal and powerful ISIS terror group.
We're back with retired U.S. General Anthony Zinni. He led U.S. forces in the Middle East, a former U.S. Middle East envoy, as well.
How important is it important for the president, General Zinni, tonight, to be precise in laying out the strategy, not leaving it sort of wishy-washy?
GEN. ANTHONY ZINNI (RET.), U.S. ARMY: I think it's critically important. He's going to have three audiences tonight. One is the American people. The other is our allies and potential coalition partners. And the third is ISIS.
I think he's got to make a very strong statement about what we're going to do and how far we're going to take this. He also has to make the case strong enough that our allies are willing to sign onto whatever strategy that the Secretary Kerry and others are out in the region now explaining to our potential allies. And, of course, the American people want to know where we're going on this and how far it's going to take and what it's going to take for us to get this done.
BLITZER: And a fourth audience is the U.S. military. They want clarity from the commander in chief, and I believe -- correct me if I'm wrong -- they also want an exit strategy. They want to know what is the mission? How do you achieve that mission? How long will it take?
ZINNI: Absolutely. They need to know what the end state is. You know, we have to take the political objective, then translate that into military action. When you don't have clear, political objectives, then your military action is -- kind of drifts. Then we get into mission creep and all of the other problems that we've seen in the past.
BLITZER: Is it fair to say that this is going to be tonight, from now on, this war against ISIS, President Obama's war?
ZINNI: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I think this is different than the others. This wasn't exactly inherited, although I think its roots go back to our incursion into Iraq, but he's got to be the leader in this, very clearly.
BLITZER: He's the commander in chief. So he's got an enormous -- I'm a little surprised, though, that he's doing the speech tonight even while the secretary of state, John Kerry, is in the region with the Saudis, the Jordanians, the emirates, the other countries. He's trying to put a coalition together. That's still a work in progress.
ZINNI: It is. And I assume that Secretary Kerry has the strategy, and he's explaining what we would like to get out of these coalition partners, what their contribution would be.
I have one concern. I look at what the ground component of this is. We have the Kurds and the Peshmerga. We have the Iraqi military, and we have the free Syria movement, the moderates in there. That's a very tricky ground component in all of this to put together. That may be the weak link in a military sense in all this.
BLITZER: Well, the -- that weak link could be strengthened if the U.S. were to commit combat troops.
ZINNI: Yes. And I think that could be necessary. You know, ISIS has been in there for three months now.
BLITZER: In Iraq.
ZINNI: In Iraq, for three months, and so they've established themselves pretty well in there, and they've got to be rooted out. Air attacks alone won't do that.
BLITZER: It's not just a bunch of terrorists, either. They have an army, the ISIS forces. They control an army of former Saddam Hussein generals and colonels and majors who know what they're doing, because they hate the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.
ZINNI: Absolutely. They've come to the doorstep of Baghdad, and obviously, some bombs have blown up inside Baghdad. I think they really wanted to get in and cause chaos.
So this ground war is going to be significant. Now certainly, air power will be a big difference in this. We need to make sure we can control it. These forces that we have on the ground are not used to combined arms in the way American units are. So again, that's going to be the tricky part of the military piece to this.
BLITZER: Potentially, the ISIS army as it's now -- it controls this huge chunk of land in Syria and in Iraq. They could be rather formidable, given all the U.S. equipment that they have.
ZINNI: I don't think it's going to be easy or it's going to be short-term. We've got to make sure that the will to fight down there on the ground is there. I have confidence in the Peshmerga; uncertain about the Iraqis. I don't know how much the Syrian free movement is obviously still engaged with Assad's forces can help in this or do in this.
So this is going to be a tricky piece.
BLITZER: Indeed. We'll see how specific the president is tonight.
General, thanks very much for coming in. Anthony Zinni, the former Centcom commander. He's also the author, by the way, of a brand-new very important book -- there you see it up there -- "Before the First Shots Are Fired," a book that I recommended highly.
We're hearing details of a frightening plot by ISIS terrorists. Up next, their plans to use biological weapons, including -- get this -- the bubonic plague for a terror attack.
We're also getting some insight into disrupting terror plots. I'll ask Israel's intelligence minister, who's now here in Washington, what Israel knows about ISIS.
BLITZER: We're still monitoring those protests emerging outside Ferguson, Missouri. We'll get back to that as they develop.
But we're also getting new details about the threat posed by ISIS. Information from a seized ISIS computer now reveals the group's ambition to stage a terror attack using some kind of biological weapon.
CNN's Brian Todd has been looking into these alarming details. What are you finding out, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight new information about a desire by ISIS to carry out an attack using biological agents. At least one ISIS militant is connected to a plan to inflict mass casualties, a scheme which could lend more urgency to the president's plan to eliminate the ISIS threat.
TODD (voice-over): After killing thousands of Iraqis and Syrians and beheading two Americans, could ISIS be planning something bigger?
A U.S. intelligence official tells CNN they're aware of specific details on a laptop captured from an ISIS hideout in northern Syria. According to "Foreign Policy Magazine," which accessed the laptop and first reported on it, the computer has documents on how to carry out a mass attack. Among those documents: how to make biological weapons, even how to weaponize the bubonic plague.
(on camera): If they got the agent, got the dispersal method right, can it wipe out whole city blocks?
AMY SMITHSON, CENTER FOR NON-PROLIFERATION STUDIES: It could wipe out entire cities if they're using a contagious agent that is microencapsulated and the right particle size, yes.
TODD (voice-over): According to "Foreign Policy," one of the documents on biological weapons says, quote, "use small grenades with the virus and throw them in closed areas like metros, soccer stadiums or entertainment centers."
In another file, a video showing how to make ricin.
The laptop was the property of a jihadist labeled Mohammed S. who joined ISIS after studying at two universities in Tunisia.
JENAN MOUSSA, "FOREIGN POLICY" CONTRIBUTOR: They confirmed that the guy studies in physics and chemistry and that he left in 2011, and they don't know where he went.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: What is interesting about this case is this guy had a science background. I mean, he was -- you know, he wasn't just any old schmoe looking into this. Because what you're really concerned about is a scientist, really, kind of adopting these jihadi ideals.
TODD: But a U.S. intelligence official says nothing about these documents raises concerns about ISIS' actual capability to make biological weapons. Weapons expert Amy Smithson says the technological hurdles are huge. Getting lethal strains, converting them to droplets that people would breathe in, eat or drink and getting them through sprayers or other delivery systems without killing the organisms could well be beyond the reach of ISIS.
AMY SMITHSON, CENTER FOR NON-PROLIFERATION STUDIES: For each type of biological warfare agent, whether it's anthrax, Botulinum toxin, smallpox, whatever, each one of these agents behaves differently in a fomenter, differently going through a sprayer, different things you're going to need to do to micro and capsule item. So this is not like shake and bake cooking.
TODD: As difficult as it may be to go from an idea hatched on a document on a laptop to making an actual biological weapon, the concern now is that ISIS has captured some major cities like Mosul and Raqqah. Cities with universities and that the group may now have access to some sophisticated labs, but still, Wolf, getting access to a lab and actually weaponizing a plague, two different things.
BLITZER: But they do already have one sophisticated facility that they've captured, right?
TODD: They have captured a huge chemical weapons facility, a place called Al Muthanna, northwest of Baghdad. That is Saddam Hussein's former chemical weapons program, the home of the chemical weapons program that he had. Amy Smithson says there were a couple of bunkers left over there that had some excess stockpiles. It's not clear what ISIS may have done with them.
U.S. officials have said, however, that there were no intact chemical weapons there and it would be difficult to use some of that stuff on the battlefield but it did have material like sarin stored there.
BLITZER: Still very, very worrisome indeed.
All right, Brian, thanks very much.
Up next, Israel's intelligence minister, he's here in Washington, he'll be joining me in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll ask him about the threat ISIS poses to Israel.
And in our next hour, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, he's standing by. I'll ask him about his plan to have Americans who fight for ISIS stripped of their U.S. citizenship and about his call to bomb ISIS, in his words, back to the Stone Age.
We're also following the breaking news outside Ferguson, Missouri. We've seen arrests already during a protest march, bottles thrown at police. We'll go back there. Stand by.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news outside Ferguson, Missouri, where we've seen arrests, bottle throwing during marches, protesting the Michael Brown shooting. We'll go back there shortly to get an update. But we're also talking about the threat from ISIS, as we await President Obama's major speech tonight on how the United States will respond.
Joining us now here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Israel's intelligence minister, Yuval Steinitz.
Minister, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome to Washington.
YUVAL STEINITZ, ISRAELI INTELLIGENCE MINISTER: My pleasure.
BLITZER: I know you're here on U.S.-Israeli strategic dialogue, meeting with top U.S. officials. Does ISIS represent a direct threat to Israel?
STEINITZ: I think it's a direct threat to the entire region, to the Middle East and beyond, of course also to Israel. And therefore, I think it's very important what the United States, what the president is trying to do, to establish a global coalition. America, Europe, a moderate Arab states against those jihadists --
BLITZER: Has the Obama administration asked Israel to do something specific in dealing with ISIS?
STEINITZ: I cannot elaborate about this. Of course, we are sharing all the intelligence and information with our American colleagues, also with regard to ISIS. But what I want to emphasize, it's not ISIS alone. You have several jihadist organizations that are popping up all over the Middle East, in Libya, in Nigeria, Boko Haram, they are not less brutal. In Gaza, Hamas took over. In Syria Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS in Iraq.
They all have the same ideologies, the same ultimate goal, establishing an Islamic state all over the Middle East and all over the world.
BLITZER: We know that Steven Sotloff, the American journalist who was beheaded, also had Israeli citizenship. So how does that play into Israel? What is Israel doing about that?
STEINITZ: Well, Israel is part of the global war on terror. You know --
BLITZER: But specifically, revenge, retaliation. Because we know that Israel has a history when an Israeli citizen is killed, taking revenge and doing something about that. Are you planning, plotting? You don't have to give me specifics. But do you see that as a possibility?
STEINITZ: Well, you know, we are defending ourselves. We have just now finished two months -- almost two months of war against similar organization, Hamas in Gaza. But fortunately enough, met some IDF soldiers, that couldn't have a massacre thousands and hundreds of thousands of Israelis, otherwise it would be exactly as I say.
But as I want to emphasize, there are plenty of jihadist terrorist organizations like ISIL. The only difference is that ISIL PR relations is more provocative. They are killing people in front of the cameras unlike Boko Haram or Hamas. But very similar ideology.
BLITZER: Well, let me ask you a quick question on that. Because we know Israel has an excellent intelligence service. Do you know, you don't have to tell us who it is, who killed Steven Sotloff?
STEINITZ: I don't think that we know more than the United States or Britain. But I would like, with your permission, to make another important point. Why it's so important to stop ISIS now. Because what they are trying to do is not just terrorism. They're trying to establish an Islamic republic, an Islamic state in Iraq and Syria. Exactly like the Iranians did several years ago, the Mullahs.
You don't want to have a second Iran in Iraq, this time Sunni in Iran. A second Iran. Therefore it's very important to prevent it. But not on the expense of preventing the first Islamic republic of Iran of getting nuclear weapons, of infusing its influence.
BLITZER: All right.
STEINITZ: Or the fact that you have terrible jihadist Sunni threats does not diminish the main threat of Iran getting nuclear weapons.
BLITZER: Minister --
STEINITZ: Because they have -- although they are Shiites, they have the same anti-Western ideology.
BLITZER: Minister, we --
STEINITZ: We have to defend ourselves -- I mean, the world against those threats.
BLITZER: We're up against the clock. But thanks very much for joining us.
BLITZER: Once again, welcome to Washington. We'll stay in touch with you. Appreciate it.
We're following a pair of breaking stories. Arrests, bottle throwing at a protest march outside Ferguson, Missouri. Now there are also some new questions about when NFL executives actually watched the video of Ray Rice hitting his fiancee.