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THE SITUATION ROOM
Ferguson Braces for Protests; Interview With Rear Admiral John Kirby; New Terror Threat?; Growing Fear of Attacks by Lone Terrorists
Aired November 7, 2014 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: The Pentagon's top spokesman joining us live.
Plus, the danger of hit-and-run attacks by lone wolf terrorists right here in the U.S. There's new evidence that officials in this country are worried about a deadly new trend.
And Ferguson, Missouri, is bracing for a grand jury decision that could ignite new violence. And now police departments across the nation apparently are ready in case the unrest spreads.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is on assignment. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
KEILAR: Our breaking news this hour: The Obama administration is facing new questions about mission creep in the war against ISIS.
The Pentagon just outlined a new deployment of up to 1,500 troops to advise, assist, and train Iraqi forces, and at the same time the cost to taxpayers is climbing.
President Obama and his war team now are asking Congress for nearly $6 billion more to support the anti-terror mission in Iraq and Syria.
In a moment, I will be talking to the Pentagon's top spokesman, Rear Admiral John Kirby. He's standing by for us, along with our correspondents and analysts. We're covering all the breaking news on the war against terror.
First, though, to our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.
Jim, give us the latest.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Brianna -- Brianna, this is a substantial increase in both the number and the footprint of U.S. forces now on the ground in Iraq.
Remember, it started back in June with 300 U.S. military advisers. Until today, the number had grown to 1,400, so about five times. And now with this additional 1,500 troops, you are going to have a total of nearly 3,000. That's 10 times the number of advisers when we started just four months ago.
But it's also an expansion in the footprint, because, until today, those U.S. military advisers had been confined to Baghdad here and Irbil in Kurdish-controlled areas in the north. We learned today that the U.S. is going to establish two new operation centers, one in Anbar province here, just to the west of Baghdad, another one north of Baghdad, though still in Baghdad province, and in addition to that, a number of other locations around the country where U.S. advisers will be with brigades, both Iraqi and Kurdish brigades.
Again, they will not be combat troops, but will they will arguably be closer to combat and closer to danger.
KEILAR: Jim Sciutto, thank you so much.
President Obama met with congressional leaders shortly before the new troop deployment was revealed publicly. It was his first face-to- face with top Republicans after their big midterm election sweep.
Let's bring in now our White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski.
Tell us, Michelle, was this -- the war against ISIS, was this a major topic of the conversation during the meeting?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, yes, it did come up.
And we know that the president needs Congress' approval for this additional $5.5 billion to fund this next phase in the war against ISIS. And we know that the details were discussed, this big meeting between President Obama and congressional leadership. Now, initially, at least, we are hearing some bipartisan support for it.
We heard that from the number two Democrat in the House. Also, House Speaker John Boehner said he welcomed this plan, but he said normally the commander in chief will draw up this authorization for the use of military force, send that to Capitol Hill, help drum up bipartisan support for it so that it gets passed. He says he urges the president do that.
The White House says it wants to do that. The authorization it's been operating under for this is more than a decade old. It pertains back to al Qaeda and defense of Iraq back then. The White House itself has said it wants to repeal and revise those authorizations, get something more tailored to this fight against ISIS, but because those authorizations are in place, it's been kind of legally convenient for the White House to act quickly against ISIS under those authorizations.
But they said a first order of business in working with this new makeup of Congress is to come up with a new plan. Now, unfortunately, they don't think that that's going to happen until after the lame-duck session and they want Congress to approve this new funding as soon as possible, Brianna, obviously.
KEILAR: Michelle Kosinski at the White House, thank you so much.
And joining us now to talk more about this, the top Pentagon spokesman, Rear Admiral John Kirby.
Thanks so much for being with us, Admiral. Really appreciate it.
And if you can speak at first to this concern of 1,500 more troops being on the ground, albeit not for combat, for training, there is concern that this is mission creep or just kind of a mission that continues to grow willy-nilly.
Can you speak to that concern?
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Sure, Brianna.
It's not mission creep at all. Mission creep is when the mission changes or morphs into something that it didn't originally start out to be.
This is very much in keeping with the missions that we've been performing in Iraq since June, which is security assistance for our people and our facilities, some advising, assisting capability for the Iraqi security forces, to help them get better in the battlefield and in the battle space and of course, supporting the humanitarian missions.
These advisers are going to be doing exactly the same thing that the advising teams on the ground are doing right now. It's just going to be -- they're going to be doing it in different places. Expeditionary geography is the way we would term it in Anbar and in north Baghdad province.
But it's the same exact job.
Now, what is a little bit new here is that we are going to put trainers in certain sites around Iraq and we're still figuring out where those sites are going to be. They're going to be training up to 12 Iraqi brigades, 9 Iraqi security force brigades and three Peshmerga brigades. That's more hands-on training. We haven't done that yet.
So that's new, but it's completely in keeping with the mission that we've been assigned inside Iraq.
KEILAR: But do you hear how there could be concern if it's up to 1,500 troops and you don't know exactly where you are putting them?
KIRBY: Well, we have a good sense, Brianna. It's not that we don't have any idea. We're doing site surveys right now. We're being a little bit careful about naming the exact sites right now because the site surveys are ongoing and we are worried about -- we need to be concerned about force protection as well.
And a good chunk, I might add, of the personnel that are going to support the trainers and the advisers are force protection personnel. We're going to mitigate that risk to them just as much as we can.
KEILAR: Admiral, are we going to see the number increase again?
KIRBY: Well, right now, I don't foresee any particular plans to do that. There's not been a cap or a ceiling put on this. The mission has not changed. But we have grown in size over time. And as Jim accurately reported, this would nearly double the number that we have inside Iraq. It's not out of the question that the number could go higher over time, but we don't anticipate any changes in the near future.
KEILAR: OK. But that -- isn't that what was said the last time when it was hundreds of troops that were being sent for training?
KIRBY: What we said was that we're going to continue to evaluate our execution of the strategy and if the numbers need to change, they will. In fact, I know specifically we talked about that the last time we ordered another truncheon, that we're always going to evaluate how we're doing against the strategy and whether we need more help to do that.
I would also add that several other coalition member nations have agreed to contribute trainers, hundreds of trainers, to the same exact mission. So it's not just going to be American troops doing the training. We're going to be supported by our coalition partners as well.
KEILAR: You just heard Michelle Kosinski's report for us from the White House. She was talking about how the White House is saying that they want to have the input of Congress and yet we're hearing from top Republicans that the first time they heard about this was from reporters.
What does that say to this effort to really get some of their input?
That doesn't necessarily seem genuine then.
KIRBY: Well, I can tell you that Secretary Hagel intends to keep a close consultation with members of Congress throughout this process. I can't speak to how individual members may have found out about it.
But I can tell you, here at the Pentagon, we know how important the oversight role of Congress is and the secretary is absolutely committed to making sure that we're available to answer any questions that members of Congress might have about this. We know we can't do this without their support, both in terms of the authorization and of course in terms of the funding.
KEILAR: But you have some Republicans who are in the president's corner on this, where they want to see more involvement. I mean, I can speak to how they were informed. They're saying that they weren't.
So why not?
KIRBY: Well, again, I can't speak -- I just -- I can't answer the question on how some of them may have been informed or not. I can tell you that we are committed to making sure that we're consulting with them as closely as possible throughout this process. We understand the oversight role the Congress has here and the importance of their authorization for this going forward.
KEILAR: What is the timetable here? This is very important. Certainly I think a lot of Americans are very concerned about ISIS. They're also very concerned about not being pulled into some sort of protracted conflict and for the role of these troops to become for combat.
What's the timetable for training Iraqi forces?
KIRBY: I think you're going to start to see some of these trainers arrive in the next month or so and then it will take a little while for all of them to get there. I want to stress that the -- it's up to 1,500. That doesn't necessarily mean it's going to go to 1,500.
Once we get the sites -- finish the survey, once we get the facilities in place, then we've got the regimen, it's going to take about two months to get the sites ready and prepared. Then it's going to take another six to seven months to actually conduct the training of those 12 brigades so it's about an 8- to 10-month process is what we're probably looking at here.
KEILAR: I think a lot of Americans listen to this and they say American troops have trained Iraqi forces before.
Why is this different?
KIRBY: Well, in many ways the training that we'll be doing for Iraqi security forces, those brigades, is not all that different from what we had done before.
But what is different, Brianna, is that when we left in 2011, we left an Iraqi security force that was competent and capable to the threat at the time. When the Maliki government took over, they squandered the opportunity that had been given to their -- for their security forces. They weren't properly led, they weren't properly resourced, they weren't properly trained.
And so when ISIL moved in, in June, we saw four to five Iraqi divisions simply fold and melt away. We weren't prepared for that. Again, when we left, they were competent and capable to the threat. But we weren't responsible for what happened after we left. That was the Maliki government's fault completely in terms of what they did to make sure their army was ready.
So we're going to go back in and at the request of the Iraqi government and that's not a small point, we're going to start to do some more training again. We are very good at this. Not just we but our coalition partners, the ones that are signing up to help us, they are very good at this. And we believe and we're confident that the resources we're asking for are enough to get this training up and running.
KEILAR: You have confidence in the new Iraqi government to undo the damage of former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and to ensure that these Iraqi troops are competent once U.S. troops leave?
KIRBY: Prime Minister Abadi is moving the government in a very healthy direction. There's a long way to go. We're all clear about the challenges that he faces. That said, he's made some important initial decisions. He has revamped the leadership of the Iraqi security forces and he continues to do that.
He has assigned their first Iraqi defense minister in five years and that defense minister has already been out visiting the troops and he's pledged two goals, one to go on the offense against ISIL.
And the second one is to reform the Iraqi army. So they're moving in the right direction. But it's just beginning and we understand at. But the signs are all going the right way and I think we are confident that, if we can get the authorization, the funding and the resources to do this, that this will be a significant enhancement to Iraqi security forces and their ability to go against this enemy.
I also want to stress that they already are going on the offense. It's not like it's a completely dilapidated army. Some divisions need more help than others. No question about that. It's not a homogeneous group. But they are fighting against ISIL in Anbar. There are fighting north of Baghdad. The Pesh are fighting up in the north and they're having some success.
It's slow, it's unsteady, but they are having some success.
KEILAR: All right, Admiral Kirby, stand by for just a moment, because we're getting some breaking news in right now.
We have some new information just in to THE SITUATION ROOM. The White House just confirmed what our Evan Perez first reported this morning, Brooklyn prosecutor Loretta Lynch is President Obama's choice to replace Attorney Eric Holder. The official announcement will be made tomorrow.
And we will have more after a quick break with Admiral Kirby in just a moment.
KEILAR: Now back to our interview with the Pentagon press secretary, Rear Admiral John Kirby, and also our breaking news, that up to 1,500 more U.S. troops are being deployed in the war against ISIS.
And, Admiral Kirby, this is separate from training Syrian rebels, who are supposed to take on ISIS.
When will they be vetted and trained?
KIRBY: The vetting process hasn't begun, Brianna. We are working on site surveys as well for that. We've got a team working with the Saudis, who've agreed to host the training there, as well as the Turks. So we're still working out the sites and the facilities at this
time. The vetting hasn't started.
Once it does start, that will be about a three- to five-month process and then it's about 8-9 months of training after that. So we still got a ways to go on this effort as well.
But it is very important. We talk about the need for indigenous ground forces and improving the Iraqi security forces in Iraq. We need those good, strong indigenous ground forces in Syria to take the fight against ISIL as well.
KEILAR: Are you confident they'll fight ISIL and not Assad?
KIRBY: Yes, I think we are, absolutely. Look, there's three things we want to get them ready for through this program.
One is to go back and defend their own citizens, their villages, their communities, their towns.
Number two, we want them to go on the offense against ISIL and many of the opposition groups have committed to doing that.
But absolutely there is a component to this with respect to the Assad regime and we want them to be able to also work towards a political settlement inside Syria as well.
KEILAR: Can you shed some light on this?
The U.S. is believed to have struck and killed Khorasan bomb maker David Drugeon.
Is this true? Do we believe this is true?
KIRBY: We still don't know the full assessment of the effectiveness of those strikes. We know we hit the targets we were aiming at, which included several ISIL facilities as well as at least one vehicle.
We also know that there were Khorasan group casualties as a result of these strikes, but we aren't ready right now to say exactly how many or who. We are still working our way through that assessment.
KEILAR: What about the possibility of maybe some kind of friendly fire here? Nick Paton Walsh is reporting that the strike also hit a building that was housing Syrian rebels.
Did the U.S. also kill moderate rebels in the strike?
KIRBY: We don't have any indication of that right now, Brianna. Again, we're working through the assessment just as fast as we can. Certainly that was not the goal, is not to cause any casualties among opposition groups, but, again, we have no operational reporting right now that would substantiate that.
KEILAR: So you said the vetting for Syrian rebels and then the training obviously still TBD, if the vetting is still in progress.
What is the timetable for this entire mission?
When will these moderate rebels be operational?
KIRBY: I think, given the fact that the vetting hasn't begun -- and it will take three to five months all by itself in addition to the training -- and the training right now is being set up for about 5,500 fighters.
Now that could go up, the more sites we get, the more capacity we might get. But I think you're probably talking between nine months and 12, once we get the vetting started, between then and when we can see fighters actually going back into Syria.
It's going to take a little bit of while. And we've been very honest about the fact that this mission, both in Iraq and in Syria, is going to be a lengthy one.
KEILAR: All right. Thank you so much, Rear Admiral Kirby. Really appreciate you being with us.
KIRBY: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
KEILAR: I want to bring in Douglas Ollivant. He's a former adviser on Iraq to Presidents Obama and also President George W. Bush, as well as James Jeffrey. He's the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq.
To you first, Doug.
So you heard Rear Admiral Kirby saying this isn't mission creep, but I think a lot of Americans may say OK, maybe it doesn't meet the standard definition of a mission changing, but the troop number is metastasizing.
LT. COL. DOUGLAS OLLIVANT (RET.), FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL STAFF: That's right.
KEILAR: So, explain that people who have a concern that it's mission creep.
OLLIVANT: Well, I think Admiral Kirby actually explained that fairly well.
It's the same mission. And they have determined that they need more people to carry out the mission they have been entrusted to do.
KEILAR: Is it semantics, though, that people -- oh, don't worry? It's still something of concern to people when you're talking about doubling the number of troops there.
OLLIVANT: It would certainly help if someone were to get out and explain to the American people, this is what's happening, this is what we need to do.
To release a new number of 1,500 on a Friday afternoon does give the impression that we're trying to sneak something under the table here. I don't think that's what is happening, but it certainly gives that impression.
KEILAR: Does the administration need to be better at explaining this?
JAMES JEFFREY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: Absolutely.
This is a very good and important step in the right direction. They shouldn't be defensive and too cautious about this, as Admiral Kirby had to do because he's following the line that is put out. The president's given the mission not to train as if we were doing something in South America, as was laid out just now.
He's given the military the mission of destroying ISIS. It is a very dangerous and serious threat to the entire region, and we have been engaged in over 600 airstrikes over the past three months. This is part of the operation. We should be very, very up front and proud of what these people are doing at risk to their lives.
KEILAR: How does he now -- it's sort of tricky, you have to admit, when you look at what President Obama is doing. Americans want to -- they're worried about ISIS. They have fatigue when it comes to a war in Iraq.
So these are kind of two things that the president has to walk between. You can see that it's difficult. How do you think he does that? You're saying he needs to explain this more, he can't be apologetic or defensive. But how does he navigate those sort of tricky issues?
JEFFREY: By being clear on what the American people shouldn't want and can't have, and that is hundreds of thousands of American troops on the ground for the better part of a decade to do essentially armed social engineering in the Middle East. That won't work. That's why the American people are sick and tired.
But fighting ISIS, including some boots on the ground, including advisers, including forward air controllers to make these operations more efficient, I think they would accept that, including casualties. And I think that we need to move in that direction.
KEILAR: Do you think that Americans would accept that and casualties?
OLLIVANT: I'm going to differ with my old boss here.
I think that we should be looking very hard to keep Americans out of the direct combat in Iraq, if at all possible. I think we need to give the Iraqi forces, both the Iraqi security forces and the Peshmerga, the opportunity to take the fight to ISIS without U.S. forward air controllers with them.
That means that U.S. airpower will be less effective in helping them. That's just a natural tradeoff that we're going to have. We need to give that a chance to work. American casualties in Iraq will be so toxic in our body politic that I think it would put the entire mission at risk. So I would like to see us give the Iraqis a chance to solve this themselves with U.S. airpower, with U.S. intelligence, U.S. training, U.S. advising, U.S. coordination, U.S. planning, lots of backroom help, lots of back office support.
KEILAR: Can the U.S. be successful in this mission without being a part of the combat operation?
JEFFREY: We already are part of the combat operation.
KEILAR: In a way that puts American troops in more danger, I guess, or maybe you feel that they already are.
JEFFREY: They are already in some danger to some degree.
If you put them out in the field with Iraqi units, they are in danger from several sides, to be frank. But, nonetheless, if you want to maximize the efficiency of air operations -- the president has ruled out an American led ground forces-led operation, and I understand that. But he needs to make this as efficient and effective as possible. It's is a step today in the right direction.
KEILAR: Ambassador Jeffrey, Mr. Ollivant, thank you so much to both of you for breaking that down for us. Appreciate it.
OLLIVANT: Thank you, Brianna.
KEILAR: Just ahead, a series of vehicle attacks on pedestrians is raising new concern about lone terrorists striking in the U.S.
Plus, fear of violence far beyond Ferguson, Missouri, when a grand jury decision is revealed in the shooting death of Michael Brown.
KEILAR: There is a disturbing new twist in the ongoing terror threat that has law enforcement officials around the world increasingly concerned.
CNN's Brian Todd is working on this story for us.
What are you finding out, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, tonight, new indications that some recent attacks, especially those in Israel, may be tied to the war on ISIS. Those incidents came just weeks after one ISIS leader called for lone wolf attacks, including a suggestion to use vehicles.
TODD (voice-over): A van slams into pedestrians at a rail station in Jerusalem, a deadly attack praised by Hamas -- it's one of three recent vehicle attacks in Israel.
At the Canadian Parliament, a gunman wielding a long rifle kills a guard, exchanges fire inside the chambers.
TODD: And a radicalized Muslim convert wounds two New York police officers with an ax. The threat of lone wolf attacks appears to be growing, and it's now a top concern of police officials from L.A. to London to New York.
COMMISSIONER WILLIAM BRATTON, NEW YORK CITY POLICE: The threats are growing. They are real, and we are going to have to redouble our efforts, so it's sure that the worst of times do not occur with such frequency that they create an undue fear.
TODD: But the fear is out there, because it's almost impossible to stop someone planning an attack, where the blueprints are only in their mind.
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: If they don't put it out there publicly that that's their intent, there's really going to be no way to know until they do it.
TODD: Another concern: these are attacks that often don't require a lot of surveillance or specialized training beforehand.
FUENTES: An individual can become a jihadist without learning how to shoot a gun or make a bomb or do anything along those lines. They can drive their car and kill civilians walking down the sidewalk or eating at an outdoor restaurant.
TODD: U.S. intelligence officials tell CNN the war on ISIS has been a driving force for lone wolves, increasing the likelihood that ISIS sympathizers could launch self-directed attacks with no warning. A danger heightened not long before the recent terror strikes, when an ISIS spokesman told followers to kill nonbelievers by whatever means possible: a knife, rock, poison or, quote, "run him over with your car."
How can law enforcement and counterterror officials prevent those attacks? Experts say they have to keep tabs on people showing changes in behavior, especially online and in social media, and try to get to those closest to them.
DAVEED GARTENSTEIN-ROSS, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: Often, one of the resources police have is looking to family members and trying to talk to them. Sometimes tips have even come from people who are very close to an individual who is radicalized.
TODD: Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, an expert on radicalization, says with ISIS losing momentum on the battlefields of Iraq and Syria, we may see fewer people inside North America and Europe inspired by ISIS to launch lone wolf attacks.
His concern now is that westerners currently fighting with ISIS on those battlefields may abandon ISIS and return to the west to launch those attacks here -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Very concerning. Brian Todd, thank you so much.
I want to talk more about this now. We're joined by CNN security analyst Bob Baer, CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd and CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen with us in the studio.
Phil, tell us -- I mean, what's going on here? You see these different things happening, and there is, of course, this feeling that there's some kind of trend in lone-wolf terrorist attacks. Is that -- is that how you're seeing it?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think there's a couple trends going on here. The first goes back to the initial al Qaeda attacks. You have a group, al Qaeda, that controlled the entire 911 operation. What they really wanted to do, though, was to inspire people who never touched or met an al Qaeda member to conduct the kinds of attacks we're seeing today. So, in essence, we're seeing what some people call leaderless jihad, this sort of metastasized threat.
The second and final thing, Brianna, is I've not seen anything like the magnet of Iraq. We've seen terrorist groups in places like Yemen and Somalia, where you see maybe a few dozen Americans show up. In Iraq, we're seeing thousands of Europeans and a few hundred North Americans show up. That volume, I think, might increase the number, potentially, down the road of home-growns we get.
KEILAR: Bob, is that what you think we're seeing, leaderless jihad here?
BOB BAER, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: I absolutely agree with Phil. This war has turned into a cause for a lot of people that I never thought would join a jihad, and it is impossible for the FBI to get inside their heads. I mean, they can't arrest these people. They don't have the time for it. So this is going to come out of nowhere.
And using cars, for instance, these people are going to be looking at the Palestinians and the Israelis, and they're going to think it's a good idea, and it's going to come out of nowhere -- and they're going to end up killing a lot of people. And why -- why have sophisticated bombs that could be, you know, interrupted and found out about? But with a car, what do you do about it?
KEILAR: We're looking, Peter. You've got the hatchet attack in Queens. You had the shooting at the Canadian Parliament. The last couple of weeks you've had these car attacks in Jerusalem. You're seeing a common thread here.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, I am. There's some good news in here. Because, you know, the attacks, of course, are bad news and are tragedies, but there's a natural ceiling with what a lone wolf can do. I mean, they're killing one person; they're wounding one person. They're not killing thousands of people on a Tuesday morning as al Qaeda did on September 11. So the bad news is, they're very hard to stop, because by
definition, a lone wolf is not in contact with a foreign terrorism message.
KEILAR: Isn't it kind of psychic terrorism in a way, too? Because whether or not it's -- you know, if you go to work in a tall building in New York or you wait for a subway at a subway stop or a tram stop, the idea that you could be going about the normal business of your day and something could happen, it's frightening.
BERGEN: Sure, but you know, New York is -- can be a dangerous place for all sorts of reasons. There's lots of whackos in New York who are not necessarily motivated by jihadists. And even this hatchet man, we're not really clear; you know, he was going on jihadi brothers, but he also may have had mental issues. And it's hard -- we don't really quite know yet what his actual motivation was.
So it is a problem, but it is not a problem which is going to cause us to kind of completely change our national security policy as we did after 9/11. It's just not that big a problem.
KEILAR: We've seen those two issues happen in other attacks, as well. Bob, these lone wolf attacks, you heard in that report the difficulty of trying to prevent these. It's out there. This is very tough for law enforcement. This is one of the biggest concerns of this White House. Have law enforcement made any progress in trying to prevent these?
BAER: Well, they've made tons of progress. They understand it. They get on phones. They live on algorithms. They can identify people. They get on social media, data analytics and the rest of it.
But what concerns me is this fear of ISIS terrorism in this country is driving us back into the battlefield in Iraq and Syria. And that possibly could make terrorism worse here if we truly get involved, especially on the side of the government in Baghdad, and in the middle of a civil war, there could be blowback from that.
But Americans are concerned. And I think in this election we even saw it there and I think you're going to see the Republicans are going to push for a more aggressive presence in Iraq and Syria. And you know, and we're going to be running additional risk.
KEILAR: What's the role, Phil, of social media in all of this?
MUDD: Pretty significant for a couple of reasons. First is an emotional reason. That is when you see images, when you see videos from places like Iraq or Afghanistan, those are the kinds of real-time images that really affect someone, as Peter said, who might be a bit mentally deranged.
The emotional content of this is often more significant than the sort of al Qaeda ideological content. It could really switch somebody on when they start thinking about and ISIS, and then they see, for example, a dead child. The second thing, I'd say, is an affinity. That is, they might
see other people out there who share their views, who share their sense that violence is acceptable. And that might accelerate an individual himself in contrast, again, to the sort of pre-Internet, pre-Facebook days to say, "Hey, what I'm thinking in terms on of a violent attack is actually appropriate, because there's other people out there who think the same thing."
KEILAR: Does social media, Peter, help authorities track down some of these lone wolves?
BERGEN: Sure. I mean, we've seen some of the Americans have gone to Syria and were very active on social media. And that's, of course, it's public. It's not illegal for the FBI or any police force to be looking at this. And it's a pretty good way to find out not only what somebody's views are but also what -- what people in their own network view as what's, you know, sort of a jihadist point of view.
KEILAR: Yes, some of these suspects, you very quickly see what they put on their Facebook page, and it's very illuminating. Peter Bergen, thank you so much. Phil Mudd and Bob Baer, as well. Thanks, guys.
Just ahead, an update on the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, and fears that protests could turn violent again when a critical grand jury decision is announced. That could happen very soon. And police hundreds of miles away from Ferguson are on alert.
KEILAR: A grand jury decision could come at any time on whether to indict the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who killed Michael Brown. Police in and around Ferguson are preparing for the possibility of renewed violence. Police in Atlanta and other cities reportedly are on alert, as well as, in case the decision triggers tensions across the country.
Joining us now, community activist John Gaskin; as well as CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin; and St. Louis County alderman Antonio French.
John, the concern here is that this indictment is going to come -- or that the grand jury decision will be announced. Are you hearing anything about when that could happen?
JOHN GASKIN, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: We have heard numerous things, but what we have heard has come -- much of what we've heard has come from the prosecuting attorney, Bob McCullough, who said this week that the grand jury is still hearing evidence, and that he expects their decision to be made and announced mid-November or possibly at the end of November.
And so we're expecting something, possibly, within the next couple of weeks. And so between now and then, local organizations have really been gearing up for that. Today, a couple of local organizations met with the St. Louis
County police chief as well as Captain Ron Johnson and a representative of the prosecutor's office, along with school superintendents so that they can share their frustrations and concerns, regarding the tensions that could potentially come and what they can do to protect students and what business leaders can also do to protect their businesses.
KEILAR: Jeffrey, one of those community groups in Ferguson, the Don't Stop -- or I should say the Don't Shoot Coalition, they're asking that protesters be told 48 hours in advance of when this grand jury decision comes down. Really so that they can get their ducks in a row and try to make sure that there isn't any violence. Do you think that's going to happen? That they'll get that notice?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I do think it's entirely possible. You know, there's a dilemma here, because grand jury proceedings are secret. And usually, they simply just decide when they're finished with deliberations.
But under unusual circumstances like this, I think it would certainly be appropriate for the grand jury, the prosecutor supervising it, to give advance notice of when a decision is going to come down. They're not going to say what it is, but they -- they could say the grand jury will complete its deliberations on such and such a day.
And I think that would give everyone a chance to prepare, make sure the community is safe, any protests are appropriate. So, I do think it's possible that there might be some advanced notice. It would seem to me to be a very good idea.
KEILAR: How important, Alderman French, is it that notice is given?
ANTONIO FRENCH, ST. LOUIS COUNTY ALDERMAN: I think it's very important. You're dealing with a situation right now that's not just a criminal investigation but a public safety concern. So, anything that the county prosecutor can do to work with community members and leaders to ensure people are safe in our community I think he should. He has a responsibility to.
In fact, the county prosecutor at this time is really the only person that has any degree of control over what's happening and the anxiety that our community is going through. And I think he should take every step possible to ease that anxiety and to help us all feel that the community is going to be safe once this announcement is made.
KEILAR: You've said all along, Alderman, that there needs to be a trial for Officer Darren Wilson.
KEILAR: If there isn't, how do you think the community is going to respond? FRENCH: Well, I think the county prosecutor has set up the worst
case scenario. This case is just too important to possibly be decided in secret behind closed doors. There's been enough witnesses that have come out and there's been some contradictory evidence.
So with such confusion, I think the only thing that's going to help ease the short term and long-term problems we have here in the city is a public trial where both sides have an opportunity to present their evidence. But to decide this in any way behind closed doors will make it very hard in the short term and in the long-term with the healing we have to do.
KEILAR: If, Jeffrey, the grand jury decides not to bring charges against Officer Wilson, what next? What resource do prosecutors have?
TOOBIN: Well, there is an entirely separate federal investigation. The Justice Department is doing both a criminal and civil investigation. It's a much more difficult criminal case if the federal government does it. There may not be the evidence for it.
So, it is possible that if there is no indictment, that maybe the last word and Officer Wilson is simply free to go. But, you know, let's not get ahead of ourselves and decide what's going to happen. We don't know what's going to happen, at least I certainly don't, and I don't think anyone does for sure, except those involved with the process.
KEILAR: No. And we will be watching. Gentlemen, thanks so much. We'll continue to be talking to you in the days to come. John Gaskin, Jeffrey Toobin, Alderman Antonio French, appreciate your input.
We have more news just ahead, but first, this "Impact Your World".
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These volunteers are preparing for a daunting task. Soon, they'll travel from the United States to West Africa to work on the front lines in the fight against Ebola.
DR. PATRICIA GRIFFIN, DIRECTOR, CDC TRAINING CAMP: We have a mock Ebola treatment unit. We're training clinicians, who are going to deploy to West Africa to treat patients there, how to protect themselves.
CUOMO: They learn skills like putting on and removing protective equipment, drawing blood and disposing of hazardous waste.
DR. PHUOC LE, VOLUNTEER: Every detail could mean a matter of life or death to you or the people that work around you.
CUOMO: Dr. Phuoc Le is planning to take the skills he learns on this training course in Alabama and help medical teams in Liberia improve their protocols and hopefully limit infection. LE: All of the infections of health care workers and the deaths
of health care workers, most of them were probably preventable if they had sufficient staffing, the equipment that we have here, space, supplies.
GRIFFIN: We're teaching them how the virus is transmitted so that they know how to protect themselves so that they feel safe taking care of patients.
CUOMO: The training helps, but the volunteers still face a formidable foe.
LE: Whoever tells you that they're not anxious about going to Liberia and working in an Ebola unit is delusional. It's just a sense of solidarity and wanting to, you know, be there for our non-profit partners who don't have a choice but to stay and work and contribute.
KEILAR: Recapping this hour's breaking news. The White House confirming our Evan Perez first reported this morning, Brooklyn Prosecutor Loretta Lynch is President Obama's choice to replace Attorney General Eric Holder. The official announcement will be made tomorrow.
Let's talk about that and more with CNN political commentator Ryan Lizza, Washington correspondent for "New Yorker". Also, our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and CNN political commentator and Republican strategist, Ana Navarro.
So, Jeff, you know Loretta Lynch. What do you think of this choice?
TOOBIN: Well, you know, just let me be honest about this. I, just, on a personal level am thrilled. In January of 1990, a long time ago, we started practically the same time as assistant U.S. attorneys in Brooklyn working in the basement office doing the most basic introductory cases and I've watched her career soar over the past 24 years.
She is a work horse prosecutor. She is not very well known. She's not even very well-known in New York.
But she has been the U.S. attorney under Bill Clinton in Brooklyn. She's been the U.S. attorney under President Obama in the eastern district of New York, which is Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau and Suffolk, and there had never been any scandal, never been any questions about her competence, and I expect she will simply sail through for her confirmation hearing.
KEILAR: So, Ana, Jeffrey Toobin would confirm her. Do you think that Republicans will?
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know enough about her? I don't think most Republicans know enough about her. But what we do know about her is that she has got a very extensive professional record and professional career. She has gone through confirmation twice before by acclimation, not even by vote. So, I think the president is sending a good signal by nominating somebody that is a true professional, not somebody that's necessarily from his inner circle, that is necessarily political.
And frankly, Brianna, I think even with the little I know about her, I think most Republicans will like her better than they like Eric Holder. So, there is two things. We get her and we get rid of Eric Holder.
KEILAR: Yes, she's --
TOOBIN: That's a -- that is a pretty low bar.
NAVARRO: That is the understatement of the year.
KEILAR: That is a low bar.
Certainly, he has been controversial.
I want to talk a little bit about immigration now. You have both sides, Ryan, really digging in here. The president, he is saying, I'm planning to take executive action when it comes to relieving some of these restrictions on illegal immigrants. John Boehner is saying if he does that, he is, quote, "poisoning the well."
So, aren't they just sort of poking each other in the eye here?
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I've sort of changed my mind about it a little bit. I came on the other day and said he has to do this because he made a promise to do it.
But, gosh, I wonder if he's setting a bad precedent by using an executive order to basically change how the law enforcement treats a major, major part of the law. And think of what a creative Republican president could do if this sets a precedent.
So, I think the White House should move very, very cautiously, take a deep breath and rethink this. There is no doubt, whether I'm right about it or not, it is going to poison the well in Congress. A lot of people will say, well, nothing is going to get done, Boehner and the White House never had a chance to get anything done.
But it's going to start the Congress off on a very, very bad note. And, frankly, once you violate a norm like this, and once you push executive orders like this, the history shows the next party will do it and they'll push it further the next time.
KEILAR: That's fascinating. I want to ask Ana and Jeff about that.
Jeff, is that what you think would happen, that there would be -- he pushes a norm and it sort of changes the game on other issues?
TOOBIN: Well, we'll just have to see what he actually does.
LIZZA: True. That's true. There's --
TOOBIN: But remember, the issue is prosecutorial discretion. Would this order -- this order may say there are certain category of crimes, immigration, people whose young parents brought them, that the immigration service is simply not going to throw out of the country.
You know, that strikes me as something that is well within the president's discretion to do that. And I don't think there is anything constitutional or legally suspect about it.
Politically, it's controversial, but, you know, who is kidding whom? Congresses had years to pass immigration reform and they didn't do it with a Democratic Senate, they are certainly not going to do it with a Republican Senate. So, you know, this is why we have elections.
LIZZA: I don't know. To me, that is part of the argument of why you don't do it. The fact that our political system has not been able to come to an agreement on this issue and, look, that's the -- when Congress fails, then it pushes the executive and the Supreme Court to step in and do things. But the fact that Congress and the White House couldn't agree on this policy to me makes it less democratic -- small D democratic -- for the president to go forward with it.
KEILAR: Ana, what does this mean for Republicans?
NAVARRO: Let's put this in --
KEILAR: Go on.
NAVARRO: What it means for the immigration -- what it means for the immigration issue is that I think if we get executive action, we don't get an immigration bill. And I do see an opportunity. Anybody that has spoken to Mitch McConnell and John Boehner knows both of them want to do it. The pressure from people like the faith community, the business community, is very great. It has not gone away.
The problem is this -- the president has zero credibility with the Hispanic community because he has been making promises on immigration since he was candidate Barack Obama in 2007. The Republicans have even less credibility. So, they are in negative numbers when it comes to that.
What I think the president should do is write it down, show the community what he expects, what he is going to do, and then give them a deadline. Give the Republicans a deadline to get their act together.
KEILAR: All right. Guys, we'll have to leave it there. We'll see if that happens.
Ana Navarro, thank you so much. Jeffrey Toobin, Ryan Lizza, thanks to all of you.
Remember, you can follow us on Twitter. We are @CNNSitroom there.
Thanks so much for watching. I'm Brianna Keilar in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.