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THE SITUATION ROOM
Iran Won't Cooperate with U.S. on ISIS; Is Accused Killer an Anti-U.S. Jihadist?; American Sentenced to Six Years Hard Labor in North Korea
Aired September 15, 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 CORRESPONDENT: Jake, thanks very much.
Happening now, war against ISIS. As a third western hostage is beheaded, dozens of nations joining U.S.-led coalition. But will the U.S. team up with some of its most bitter foes to fight this terror group?
Act of terror? After a series of murders in Washington state and New Jersey, some worry the alleged killer had jihadist motives.
And four hours in the street. New details of why police left Michael Brown's body lying where he was gunned down all afternoon.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ISIS calls it a message to America's allies. The beheading of a third western hostage, the British aid worker David Haines.
Today, some two dozen American allies and other nations gathered in Paris to discuss how to respond to the ISIS threat. About 40 countries have now joined in the coalition to confront the terror group. France today began flying reconnaissance missions over Iraq. Australia now has been sending warplanes to the region. But it's not at all clear how many partners will play substantial roles in what the Obama administration somewhat reluctantly now calls a war against ISIS.
Our correspondents and analysts are standing by with full coverage. Let's begin with our White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski -- Michelle.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
The White House keeps talking about this fight, this war now against ISIS being all about building this international coalition. What will that look like exactly? What countries will do what militarily? Today the administration is holding its cards close. Even though there is mixed messaging out there on who has made offers, on whom the U.S. will work with and whom it will not.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The nation is grateful. And your commander in chief could not be prouder.
KOSINSKI (voice-over): While President Obama today honored military heroes of the past with a medal of honor, the current military strategy against ISIS is shaping up is front and center (AUDIO GAP)
KOSINSKI: So the White House today wouldn't answer specific questions about what exactly the coalition is going to do country by country. They said that they're working on organizing the message. First they need to figure out what will be needed from whom and when.
Secretary of State Kerry, though, traveling through the region and Europe, said that -- you know, he acknowledged there are real offers on the table out there. Some of them are coming from Arab countries, offers of not only air strikes but also troops on the ground. And other countries like Iraq, for example, said that France offered air strikes.
What the U.S. has said is that there are entities that it will not work with, one being Iran. However, the White House today said, well, there have been back-channel conversations on that subject.
And today Tehran said it rejected an offer to work with the U.S. on this. So if there hasn't been coordination, then where did that offer, that so-called offer to Iran come from? The White House wouldn't comment on it.
But, remember, earlier this month, the Iraqi president told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that Iranian militias worked with the U.S. inside of Iraq to help save these ethnic minorities who were trapped in a particular town.
So again, there's a little bit of mixed messaging out there, depending on whom you hear from, whom you talk to.
And tonight we also know that the U.S. will wage a sort of battle within the U.S. against ISIS, with the attorney general just announcing this new initiative to try to target radicalization and extremist recruitment within American communities -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And I know, Michelle, and I'm sorry for that technical problem we had with your report there, but on Wednesday, the president pointedly is going to go to the U.S. military Central Command in Tampa, Florida. They're in charge of this region. Presumably, they're working up the war plans, right?
KOSINSKI: Right. That, and also tomorrow he'll meet with the general who's going to head up the international coalition, an effort there. He's going to get an update, the White House says, on how those efforts have been going.
It's been interesting, because the White House really won't give any detail on specifics. But then it depends on what other country you talk to. You do start to hear the detail, at least the preliminaries of who's starting to offer what activities, whether that looks like now what it will ultimately look like is what we're waiting to see, Wolf.
BLITZER: That's going to be an important meeting with the general who used to be in charge of U.S. troops in Afghanistan on Wednesday when the president goes to CentComm in Tampa, Florida.
Michelle, thanks very much.
So a bunch of countries are signing up, at least verbally, to confront ISIS. One of the biggest players in the region says it wants nothing to do, though, with the U.S.-led effort.
Let's talk about Iran a little bit. Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto.
So is Iran really out of the picture? What's going on here, Jim? Because it gets sort of confusing.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think in the simplest term, there's no cooperation or coordination of military strikes against ISIS.
But, yes, on communication, as Michelle said, Secretary of State John Kerry saying today that back-channel communications with Iran possible, something that could be valuable. And interestingly enough, even possibly with Syria. Again, not coordination or cooperation. But Secretary Kerry saying the possibility of communication there, in his words, to avoid bad things happening in the simplest terms, shooting at each other, that kind of communication possible. But they're not going to be coordinating with Syrian forces against ISIS on the ground.
BLITZER: The coalition, as it's being put together so far, a lot of rhetoric, a lot of positive talk. But as far as substance, what do we know?
SCIUTTO: Well, so far, from western countries you have very public, very specific commitments. If you look at Australia, for instance, they're sending eight FA-18 combat aircraft, 200 military advisors. You have the French agreeing not only to surveillance fights over Iraq but also air strikes on targets in Iraq. Not Syria but in Iraq.
You have the Canadians also sending 50 military advisers. From Arab nations, and always it's going to be more sensitive for them to advertise their support publicly, but I'm told by a senior U.S. military official today that more than one Arab country is willing to take part in what are called kinetic strikes. That means air strikes against ISIS targets.
But it's really this comment that attracted the most attention from Secretary of State John Kerry this weekend about ground troops. Listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: We're not looking to put troops on the ground. There are some who have offered to do so, but we are not looking for that at this moment anyway.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: So what are those offers? I'm told by both State Department officials and U.S. military officials that there is no western country or Arab country -- no foreign country offering to put boots on the ground in Syria or Iraq.
In fact, what we're talking about are so-called indigenous forces. We're talking about trained Syrian rebels, Iraqi forces, Kurdish forces, possibly Sunni tribes in the northern part of Iraq. So those would be the boots on the ground. You're not going to have a foreign offer of that sort of help, certainly not from the west but also from Arab nations nearby.
BLITZER: We know, Jim, when the U.S. launched those Tomahawk cruise missile strikes against Gadhafi in Libya, the U.S. was getting airpower support from the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, their Air Forces were involved.
I believe the UAE is ready to join in in air strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq right now. I assume you've heard the same thing. What about Qatar?
SCIUTTO: Well, I've spoken to Arab diplomats who said nothing is in writing yet. These commitments have not been specified yet, whether we're talking about UAE, Qatar, et cetera. But I think based, as you mentioned, on past practice, UAE not only in Libya but also in Afghanistan, of the Arab countries, that is very much a possibility. Qatar also on that list. But again, I'm told none of this has been agreed to yet.
BLITZER: Well, let's see what Saudi Arabia does. They have a huge Air Force, a lot of U.S.-supplied fighter jets, F-15s, F-16s, sophisticated aircraft. We'll see what the Saudis decide to do on that front, as well. That will be significant.
Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.
Let's dig a little bit deeper right now. I'm joined by the president's former national security adviser, Tom Donilon.
Tom, thanks very much for joining us. First of all, how much of a threat does ISIS pose to the United States?
TOM DONILON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: The threat is on a number of dimensions. It clearly posed a threat to the government and state of Iraq, where the United States first came in here to stop ISIS in this traction and to not allow a march on Baghdad, if you will, or to threaten the stability of the Iraqi government. It poses a regional threat. It poses a threat to Jordan. It poses a threat to Lebanon. It can upend, if you will, the current state-led order in the Middle East. That's the first level of threat directly.
Second, though, we have learned over the years in terms of our counterterrorism efforts, that when you allow an organization like this to have operational space where they're not pressured, and they're allowed to plot, plan, raise money, it could become a danger to the United States and to the west.
BLITZER: We learned that in Afghanistan before 9/11, al Qaeda operated, Taliban let them operate, and they plotted the 9/11 attacks. But in this particular case, the Iraqi government supposedly hates ISIS. The Kurds hate ISIS. Can't they control ISIS in Iraq itself after the enormous U.S. investment over the past decade?
DONILON: Two things, No. 1, I think they can. It's going to take additional help from the United States and help from the coalition that Secretary Kerry and General John Allen are trying to build.
With respect to the first question on the trend, we did learn that lesson, the lesson there is operational space unpressured with a group like this will ultimately result in their being able to plot and plan attacks.
The other thing that's going on, of course, is that ISIS has become the central gathering point for foreign fighters coming to fight jihad.
BLITZER: More than al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, more than al Shabaab, more than al Qaeda in the Maghreb? Or core al Qaeda, for that matter.
DONILON: I'd like to separate those out, right? With respect to being a recruiting focus, some 12,000, maybe 15,000 foreign fighters have come in to the Syrian/Iraq region there to fight with ISIS. They have passports back to Europe, maybe a couple thousand there, passports back to the United States and elsewhere in the world when they return. That presents a threat, and that's what the attorney general was talking about today that we need to deal with.
With respect to the really serious threats, though, if you want to rank them, I still would say al Qaeda, Central and AQAP, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, present the most direct threat today to the United States.
BLITZER: And that's led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No. 2, now the No. 1 since bin Laden was killed. Why is he still at large, 13 year? He's roaming around, someplace presumably in Pakistan or Afghanistan. We don't know. But why is he still at large, this guy who was, some argue, the real brains behind the 9/11 attack?
The leader of al Qaeda is not there. And we continue our efforts against al Qaeda...
So long to catch this guy?
It's taken a long time. But ultimately the United States achieves its goals in this area. With respect to al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula, this poses a threat to the United States. Because this is an organization that has indicated an intent and is actually undertaking operations against the United States and the west.
BLITZER: Why the U.S. launches air strikes and drones and others in Yemen, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
DONILON: We've got a multidimensional set of challenges here, right? Al Qaeda has become more diffused and more complex with respect to challenges...
BLITZER: And you don't have a problem calling this a war?
DONILON: I don't have a problem calling this a war against these groups, no. But we know how to do this. That's the important point about the ISIS or ISIL effort in Iraq and Syria. We have learned a lot of lessons about how to do this. We know how to go against these groups, know how to go against their leadership. We know how to develop the intelligence on the ground, which is absolutely essential. And that's why we're going to be working so closely with the Iraqis.
BLITZER: Tom, I want you to stand by. I've got a lot more questions specifically on Iran: Should there be any cooperation? Iran hates ISIS, as well. Should the U.S. and Iran be working together? What about Syria? Is the U.S. indirectly providing some assistance to Syria, which sees ISIS as a main threat -- a major threat, as well? Tom Donilon, much more coming up right after this.
BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story. The United States now trying to put together a broad coalition of allies against ISIS. But what about its traditional foes in the region? Will they help out?
We're back with Tom Donilon, the former national security advisor to President Obama. Let's talk about some of the reports out there. There's one report in the Syrian newspaper, "Al Watan" (ph), that the U.S., the Obama administration, is indirectly providing some information about ISIS in Syria through a third party to the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. I don't know if you've seen that report. Does it make any sense?
DONILON: I haven't seen that report. It doesn't make much sense to me. I doubt those were direct.
BLITZER: There are some U.S. allies that do still have a direct relationship with Bashar al-Assad. One of these reports said maybe Germany or some other country has an interest, a powerful interest in destroying ISIS.
BLITZER; They're even willing to say maybe Bashar al-Assad could help target certain locations, provide pinpoint locations of where ISIS may be basing itself in Syria.
DONILON: I doubt if there's any direct conversations going on with the Syrians at this point. I did see some comments about deconfliction and things like that.
BLITZER: What does that mean, deconfliction? DONILON: Deconfliction would mean that you would alert the host
countries, sovereign country, that you are about to fly a mission over their -- over their territory, in order to avoid them taking a shot at your airplane.
With respect to Syria, though, I think they would be foolish -- they don't need to be formally told to de-conflict. They would be foolish to take on any activity by the United States Air Force in the air over their country.
BLITZER: The president now wants $500 million from Congress to help train and equip moderate Syrian rebels, the Free Syrian Army, among others.
You know, a lot of people in the Obama administration, Hillary Clinton among them, wanted to do that, what, a couple of years or so ago. The president rejected that advice. You were still in the White House. Where did you stand on that?
DONILON: I don't want to get into that. I wouldn't -- I haven't done that and won't do that. But I can say this. That's part of the plan that the president's put forward here. The comprehensive, persistent long-term plan to take on ISIS and to take it down.
BLITZER: By bolstering the moderate Syrian army, if you will, the rebels?
DONILON: Yes, well in a number of dimensions. It means bolstering up the Iraqi armed forces that fared very poorly in their initial encounter with ISIS. And we have already started to work with them and will work with them very deeply. We'll also build out other forces in Iraq of the so-called National Guard, the Sunni operations...
BLITZER: Or Sunni militias?
DONILON: Sunni militias, right. Basically, they'll be the descendants, if you will, of the Arab awakening. The Peshmerga...
BLITZER: The last time the U.S. did that with the Sunni militias, they paid them a lot of money, and they came along. Is that what the U.S. is going to do right now? These militia tribesmen, just pay them to fight ISIS?
DONILON: Well, I think they'll build up -- they'll build up a rationale for the campaign, right? That, in fact, no one really wants to live under an ISIS-controlled proto-state taking part in Syria and Iraq that they have built out now. We're working to build it out. Hopefully, a unity government in Baghdad to which the Sunnis can feel more comfortable -- with which they can feel more comfortable working, unlike the Maliki government, which essentially, Wolf, as you know, developed such animosity with the Sunnis in western Iraq that it provided a clear path for the ISIS group to come in and move across western Iraq.
BLITZER: ... Haider al-Abadi, this new prime minister, is not going to be much better than Nuri al-Maliki. Let's hope he is.
DONILON: It will require that, though, because the ground...
BLITZER: If not, this is going to be a disaster all around.
DONILON: The ground force -- the ground forces will be principally Iraqi and Kurdish and Sunni militia forces on the ground. And with respect to the Syrians, yes, the administration is seeking $500 million to really expand the training of those groups.
BLITZER: Should it have been done two years ago?
DONILON: Well, the administration has been working it. We've been working on this project to try to find moderate elements and to try to find groups to work with inside Syria. We now have a threat here.
We now -- today, of course, in Paris, you had 26 countries. There are now 40 countries in this coalition.
This is really important, Wolf, also I wanted to get to. It's -- it needs -- it's not just the United States versus this Islamic group. But in fact, it's the United States, a global group, including a number of Arab groups, against this group. And that's an important part...
BLITZER: One final question. Iran.
BLITZER: The Iranians have rejected U.S. repeated offers to be cooperative in this war against ISIS. The U.S. is reaching out to Iran. But Iran is saying, no. What do you make of that?
DONILON: Well, I don't know. I don't know any details with respect to a reach-out by the United States to the Iranians.
BLITZER: Well, the Iranians keep saying -- Wendy Sherman, the secretary of state, all these other U.S. officials have reached out and said, "Let's work together." The ayatollah says, "No way."
DONILON: Let's go through this, right? No. 1, there's deep distrust between Iran and the United States, right? We're trying to work through some of that in the nuclear negotiations. I would not want to have the nuclear negotiations infected or given any leverage by anything Iran might do or not do with respect to ISIS, No. 1.
No. 2, you couldn't have had this meeting today with a broad base of Arab and Muslim support for the anti-ISIS coalition if the Iranians were there.
BLITZER: They wouldn't come. They wouldn't come; they hate the Iranians?
DONILON: They were not going to show up.
And third, the Iranians have been terrible players in Syria and throughout the region. So that doesn't surprise me, frankly.
BLITZER: Tom Donilon, thanks for coming in.
DONILON: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Appreciate it very much.
Coming up, disturbing questions about an accused killer's inspiration. Is he also a jihadist-inspired man, committed to hatred of the United States?
Also, new outrage and new questions in Ferguson, Missouri, after a newspaper reveals why Michael Brown's body stayed on the streets of Ferguson for four hours after he was killed.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Homeland security officials worry the constant recruiting and propaganda from ISIS will inspire potential terrorists inside the United States, which makes a series of recent killings especially disturbing.
Even if they aren't directly related to ISIS, the accused killer's own statements are raising serious questions about whether he could be a self-radicalized jihadist.
Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, is working the story for us. What are you finding out, Pamela?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, authorities say the defendant in this case was on a mission to exact vengeance against the U.S. by killing four Americans in two states, raising concerns of terrorism on U.S. soil.
BROWN (voice-over): Police say the man seen here in handcuffs is 29- year-old Ali Muhammad Brown, the prime suspect in a killing spree stretching from New Jersey to Washington state, one allegedly motivated by Brown's hatred of U.S. foreign policy. Brown's alleged victims, all adult males with no known connection to him.
Police say between April and June this year, Brown killed three people in Washington state, shooting them late at night in quiet locations, execution-style. A few weeks later in New Jersey, 19-year-old college student Brendan Tevlin was found dead inside his SUV from multiple gunshot wounds.
REV. BRIAN NEEDLES, CHURCH OF ST. PHILOMENA: When you bury somebody like that, 19 years old, we don't have any answers.
BROWN: Police say they traced the gun used in all of the killings to Brown. In court documents, investigators say Muhammad even confessed to the killings, citing an unusual motive. Court documents obtained by CNN say Brown told investigators he
strictly follows the Muslim faith and had become angry with the, quote, "evil the government was allowing to take place in the U.S."
Brown allegedly telling police, "My mission is vengeance for the lives, millions of lives lost every day. Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, all these places where innocent lives with being taken every single day. So a life for a life."
Sources say Brown is a U.S. citizen and has family living in New Jersey.
Brown was convicted of bank fraud in 2004 and served time in jail. At the time, reports say, the FBI tried unsuccessfully to link the case to fundraising for terrorists in Africa.
According to authorities, one of Brown's co-defendants later fled to Somalia to fight with the terrorist group al Shabaab.
And while authorities aren't labeling Muhammad a terrorist or charging him under federal terrorism statutes, there are allegations of Brown's bloody crusade to kill Americans are now raising questions.
AMY JEFFRESS, FORMER PROSECUTOR: In order to meet the definition of a terrorism offense, it needs to be demonstrated that the crime was committed in order to influence government policy by intimidating or coercing -- through acts of intimidation or coercion.
Based on the statements he's made, I believe you could prove that this was a terrorism offense. But that doesn't necessarily determine whether it should be prosecuted in federal court or state court.
BROWN: And right now, Brown faces state murder charges, which carries a possible life sentence. And in Washington state he faces capital punishment. Authorities could also bring additional charges.
And in his initial court appearance in New Jersey, Brown pleaded not guilty. We did reach out to his attorney and are still awaiting a comment. It's worth noting, Wolf, that authorities aren't saying that Brown was motivated by a specific terrorist group, and these alleged killings happened before the bombing campaign on ISIS -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Pamela, thanks very much.
Let's continue the conversation. Joining us right now, senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. He's a former federal prosecutor, and our law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes. He's a former FBI assistant director.
Why wouldn't they charge him, potentially, with terrorism if, in fact, he himself, allegedly, is telling authorities he did this to seek vengeance for the U.S. operations going on in various Muslim countries?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You're asking me, Wolf?
BLITZER: Yes, Jeffrey.
TOOBIN: The -- their -- the point of a prosecution is to get this man off the streets and convict him as easily as possible. Terrorism requires proof of motive, which might be difficult in these circumstances, especially because it seems like he's a pretty irrational character.
If the government, the New Jersey authorities, the Washington state authorities, can prove that this was premeditated murder, he is at least going to serve a life sentence and perhaps even get the death penalty in Washington. So it just doesn't seem necessary to add to the complexity of the case by bringing federal charges when the point is he's going to be off the streets, presumably, forever.
BLITZER: What do you make of that? Because a lot of people are still upset that Major Nidal Hasan in Texas, he was not formerly charged with terrorism, even though he went on a killing spree and was clearly, according to all the court documents, inspired by al Qaeda?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: In the Hasan case, yes, you have e-mail traffic between him and Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen at the time. The support for each other. And so there's a much better case to be made in the Hasan case.
In this one, we don't know what the authorities have discovered. Obviously, he makes this statement when he was in custody...
BLITZER: Isn't that enough? He says to the authorities himself, "I did this because I hate the United States. I want to seek revenge for what the U.S. is doing, so I randomly" -- allegedly he says -- "killed four young men in Washington state, then another young man in New Jersey"?
FUENTES: Well, the federal government doesn't want to overwork the statute and stretch it to something of just a verbal blurt-out during a police interrogation. They're going to want to see, did he have e- mail traffic?
Now, if he was raising money for al-Shabaab and these other indications, then that supports later if they want to put the charge of terrorism on him. But they're not going to -- you know, really when somebody just makes comments and blurts out loud that they believe in a certain thing, it doesn't necessarily mean they're going to prosecute just for that.
BLITZER: Well, we don't have a lot of the information, Jeffrey, about what he may have been doing online, if he was inspired by any of these Websites, these pro-al Qaeda Websites, if you will. If that information were to surface, then you could clearly not only charge him with murder but you could charge him with terrorism -- these terrorism charges as well.
TOOBIN: You could, depending, of course, on what the evidence showed. But the trouble with these cases and the danger to the community is, even if he had no other contact, it could be a situation like the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston who, at least as the evidence now appears, were not in direct contact with anti-American terrorists abroad but simply decided to work out their anti-American anger as lone wolves.
That's a great danger to the community, even though it is not part of an international terrorist network. And that's the question of, is Brown a similar actor?
BLITZER: All right. Jeffrey and Tom, I'm going to need you on some other subjects we're dealing with later here in THE SITUATION ROOM, as well. But in the meantime, thanks very much.
I want to get to some politics. A new CNN poll shows yet another Senate Democrat in trouble. Look at this: in New Hampshire, Senator Jean Shaheen and Republican Scott Brown, they are tied at 48 percent among likely voters. Democrats desperately need Shaheen to hold her seat in New Hampshire to retain a Senate majority. Brown is a former U.S. senator from neighboring Massachusetts. Forty eight, 48 percent.
Up next, new details about the crucial hours after Michael Brown was shot by Ferguson, Missouri, police. Why did authorities let four hours go by before removing his body from the street?
Also ahead, North Korea sentences another American to years of hard labor.
BLITZER: A new investigation sheds light on why Michael Brown's body lay in a Ferguson, Missouri, street for four hours after a policeman killed him. Records obtained by "The St. Louis Post-Dispatch" newspaper show Brown was shot about two minutes past noon on August 9. County detectives were called at about 12:30, but by chance, they were 30 miles away, investigating a robbery.
The first detective didn't arrive until an hour and a half after the shooting. But an angry crowd had been gathering all along.
A hearse came to pick up the body at 2:30. But by then, it was too dangerous. After a SWAT team came in at 3:20, Brown's body was finally removed around 4 p.m.
A spokesman for the St. Louis County Police tells CNN the paper's time line is, in fact, accurate.
Joining us now, the NAACP board member John Gaskin; the Missouri state senator, Maria Chappelle-Nadal; and our law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes is still with us, former assistant director of the FBI.
So John, what do you make of this? I know the NAACP is very upset about this four hours in which that body was allowed to remain on that street.
JOHN GASKIN, NAACP BOARD MEMBER: Well, Mr. Blitzer, literally hours after the shooting, we spoke with St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, and we were very concerned because we -- from what we understand, the body did lay there for a number of hours. We were told that, in this type of situation, you only have one chance to comb that area and to get all the evidence that you need that the grand jury will potentially need. And we understand that.
But here's the other side of this that we want to take a look at. You're looking at an unarmed teenager, a black man who was killed in an African-American area by a Caucasian cop. You've got an area that was very upset. This is already a very sensitive situation where you have people that are getting -- that got very angry about this.
You would think that local law enforcement would be as sensitive as possible, would get that body covered up, get the information that they need and to try to get his body up off of the street to treat him with the respect and the dignity that he deserved.
BLITZER: Maria Chappelle-Nadal, what do you make of this time line?
MARIA CHAPPELLE-NADAL, MISSOURI STATE SENATOR: Well, I have to tell you, I read the same article as you did, Wolf. And I have to tell you that I do concur with John. The community was outraged by looking at this body all day long. There is video streamed that I saw from young people's cell phones. And the psychological impact of looking at the body and the blood around the body for hours long is very disturbing to this community.
And this is a community that has a lot of young people, and they saw themselves as Mike Brown on this day. So I am concerned.
The second part of that article that we are referring to right now also discussed what other officers throughout the nation felt. And there are some legitimate concerns that everyone has at this point.
BLITZER: What do you make, Tom? Because you've been involved in law enforcement your whole public -- professional career. Are there legitimate reasons why law enforcement would leave that body on the street for four hours?
FUENTES: Yes, there absolutely are, Wolf. You know, if you recall back to the shootings at Sandy Hook and Aurora, Colorado, the movie theater, some bodies were left almost 24 hours as police did their work. So the difference was the public couldn't see them, the family members couldn't see them to get even more emotionally involved.
In this case, yes, you have the body laying [SIC] in the street. It's a shame that the police were not in a position to somehow put a screen around it. But you have a pretty large crime scene. You have from the car, the police car, the pursuit of Michael Brown down the street, the place of the shooting, the bullet casings that would be ejecting from the officer's gun. So you have a pretty large area that really can't be easily concealed.
And, you know, the difficulty of covering the body is that hairs and fibers matter. It's going to matter what they can take off of Michael Brown's body and clothing to prove or disprove what occurred at the police car. Does he have -- does he have the officer's DNA, skin, hair, fiber from his uniform on him? And if you start tampering with the body, that can really disrupt the
crime scene. So it looks terrible, and it's very -- in a way, it is totally insensitive that that -- Michael Brown's body had to lay there. But on the other hand, to do a thorough investigation, it almost couldn't have been different.
BLITZER: The argument the police make, John and Maria, is that you don't want to tamper, potentially, with evidence if, in fact, a crime had been committed. John, what's your reaction to that?
GASKIN: Well, and I can understand completely where you're coming from, from a law enforcement standpoint. We want to do everyone a positive service and get justice for the Brown family. Obviously, we understand that.
But if you read the article, you hear that a lot of people were very angry. We were even receiving video messages, as Maria just alluded to.
One thing, I think, that really is a bigger problem in this situation is communication. That could have easily been communicated to the young people that were standing around this crime scene: "Hey, we want to help you all out. We want to get all the information, all of the evidence necessary to bring justice to the situation. Could you all please back away. Let's let us do our job, and we're going to, you know, try to expedite this as much as possible."
But from what I understand and what I read in that article, none of that was ever communicated. I know that, at one point, Mr. McSpadden went out there to try to get people calm and to get them, you know, to move away and try to back away from what was going on, but that could have easily been communicated to those young people that had just witnessed such a traumatic experience.
BLITZER: It looked insensitive, even as Tom Fuentes points out, there are often legitimate law enforcement reasons to not tamper with an area of a potential crime scene like that. But very strong article in the "St. Louis Post-Dispatch". Guys, thanks very much. John Gaskin, Maria Chappelle-Nadal, Tom Fuentes.
Up next, six years of hard labor, an American is convicted and sentenced in North Korea. But what was his alleged crime?
And coming up, dozens of countries signing up to help America confront ISIS. But how many of them are really prepared to fight? I'll ask the state Department Deputy Spokeswoman, Marie Harf. She's standing by live.
BLITZER: After holding him for months, North Korea has now sentenced an American citizen to six years hard labor. North Korea says the 24- year-old arrived as a tourist back in April, ripped up his visa and declared he wanted asylum. The United States is seeking the release of Matthew Todd Miller and two other Americans who are being held in North Korea. CNN's Will Ripley spoke with Miller recently inside North Korea. Will
is joining us now from Tokyo. Will, this is a major development right now and you had a chance to meet with this young man.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and it's really not a development that certainly would be surprising to him, considering that during our tightly controlled government interview, he specifically talked about the fact that he was soon going to be going to trial and going to prison shortly after.
We had just five minutes. We had North Korean officials standing in the room, monitoring us as we had this conversation when I asked Miller about the charges that he was facing.
MATTHEW MILLER, AMERICAN HELD IN NORTH KOREA: I will say that I prepared to violate the law of the DPRK before coming here, and I deliberately committed my crime. I have already admitted my guilt and apologized to the government of the DPRK and I have been asking for forgiveness.
RIPLEY: Did you tear up your visa and seek asylum? Is that report accurate?
MILLER: The previous interview, that is what I said. So I'm not here to discuss.
RIPLEY: Tell me about your conditions here, how you're being treated.
MILLER: I'm with good health. I've received medical checks and provided with humanitarian treatment.
RIPLEY: And what is your message to your family?
MILLER: First off, I'LL say my message to my government -- I've been requesting help for a long time and there's been no movement from my government. The American government is known for having a strong policy of protecting its citizens, yet for my case, there's still no movement. I've also written a letter to my president with no reply.
RIPLEY: While you're in North Korea?
MILLER: Yes, about one month ago. So for this reason I am disappointed in my government. However, I want to believe that my government or someone is trying their best to help me and I would be very glad to meet the person that saves me.
RIPLEY: Why did you come here seeking asylum?
MILLER: During my investigation, I have discussed my motive and for the interview it is not necessary.
RIPLEY: What is your message to your family?
MILLER: I've had the opportunity to phone call them, so I've already spoken to them.
RIPLEY: What's the bottom line about your situation here and your message that you want to put out?
MILLER: That my situation is very urgent, that very soon I'm going to trial and I would directly be sent to prison. I think this is -- this interview is my final chance to push the American government into helping me.
RIPLEY: So it's your final chance. What do you want to tell them that you haven't already said?
MILLER: That I need help and they need to quickly make movement, because there's not much time.
RIPLEY: Were you aware of the possible consequences when you acted the way that you did, when you entered this country?
MILLER: Yes, I was expecting to be detained.
RIPLEY: Were you expecting to be detained as long as you have been?
RIPLEY: But you're now seeking the help of the American government to go home. Why do you not want to stay here any longer?
MILLER: No comment.
RIPLEY: Anything else that you would like to say about this?
MILLER: No, that is all. Thank you for meeting me.
RIPLEY: Matthew Miller speaking to CNN just a little over two weeks ago. And you notice he kept evading questions when I asked him about his motive entering into North Korea. That could very well be because, again, we had government officials standing in the room watching us the whole time. The two news agencies that were allowed to cover his judgment day where he was handed this six-year sentence, they said that Miller was accused of entering North Korea because he wanted to investigate the human rights conditions widely reported by the United Nations, concerned about the conditions where people were starving in prison camps, forced to eat rats, executed, tortured, that sort of thing.
The impression that we get from Kenneth Bae and quite possibly from Matthew Miller, those won't be the conditions that he faces in North Korea. Possibly eight-hour workdays at a labor camp doing agricultural work, Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Will Ripley, reporting for us. Good work when you were in North Korea. Will, thanks very, very much. Let's see what happens with this young man. Coming up, ISIS beheads another western hostage, this time a British aid worker. We're going to get reaction from his family and his community. Also, sources now say Britain knows the identity of the ISIS killer. Does the U.S. know? I'll ask the State Department Deputy Spokeswoman, Marie Harf.
BLITZER: Happening now. A new warning that there's no time to lose in the war against ISIS now that a third western hostage has been beheaded. Are U.S. allies balking about joining military action? I will ask a top State Department official about that.
And whether some of America's most dangerous adversaries might secretly help the fight against ISIS. We will discuss that as well.