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THE SITUATION ROOM
U.S. Bases and Embassies On High Alert; Chokehold Protest Forming Near White House; Militarization of Police Questioned; New Protest Planned in Brooklyn; Live Pictures of D.C. Protests
Aired December 8, 2014 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, MSNBC HOST: Happening now, breaking news.
On alert -- American embassies and military bases around the world, they are now being warned to brace for possible violence and thousands of U.S. Marines are now standing by to help, as a controversial report on alleged CIA torture is about to be released.
What bombshell revelations will it contain?
Major protests -- demonstrators are gathering right now in major American cities, fresh marches against excessive police force now getting underway.
Will they disrupt plans for Prince William and his wife as they visit New York City?
Near collision -- a passenger jet and a drone come within feet of each other, narrowly avoiding what could have been a very deadly disaster.
As the drone danger grows, what's being done to protect everyone who flies?
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news -- new protests against excessive police force against minorities. Major demonstrations are getting underway right now here in Washington, DC, as well as in New York. Teachers -- marchers, I should say, they are targeting the Barclays Center. They're planning what they call a Royal Shut Down, hoping to disrupt the plans of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who are scheduled to attend an NBA game just a couple of hours or so from now.
Also, U.S. military bases and embassies around the world, they are on high alert amid growing fear they may be targeted, as the U.S. Senate releases a controversial report on the CIA's alleged use of torture. The deputy State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, she's standing by here in THE SITUATION ROOM, along with our correspondents, our guests. They're covering all angles of the breaking news. Our CNN global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, begins our coverage this hour.
What's the latest, Elise, on this global alert?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the State Department has been preparing for weeks for this rollout of the report, afraid U.S. embassies and consulates could be the target of revenge attacks. But now security is being tightened further, after warnings by the intelligence community the release of this report could trigger violence and death.
LABOTT (voice-over): U.S. diplomatic posts and military bases around the world on high alert, as the Obama administration braces for an explosive report on the Bush administration's use of torture. Thousands of Marines at the ready after a dire classified intelligence assessment warning of a violent backlash. And a last ditch effort by Secretary of State John Kerry to persuade the Senate Intel chair to delay the report's release.
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The release of the report may have an impact on the security situation at U.S. facilities around the world. And that's why this administration has been working for months to plan for this day and to ensure that the prudent steps are taken to protect American personnel and American facilities around the globe.
LABOTT: The report is expected to accuse the CIA of lying about the use of torture after 9/11 and claim the waterboarding of three terrorists, including Khalil Sheikh Muhammad, failed to produce results. Now, fears the report could subject American hostages to the same acts of torture and invite violent anti-American protests at U.S. embassies.
The head of the House Intel Committee called the report's release "a terrible idea" in an interview with CNN's Candy Crowley.
REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Foreign leaders have approached the government and said you do this, this will will cause violence and deaths. Our own intelligence community has assessed that this will cause violence and deaths.
LABOTT: And there are worries the report's release could deter allies in the global coalition against ISIS, fearing terrorist reprisals, a prediction echoed by the former CIA director.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "FACE THE NATION")
GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: There are countries out there who have cooperated with us in the war on terror at some political risk, who are relying on American discretion. I can't imagine anyone out there going forward in the future who would be willing to do anything with us that even smacks of political danger.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
LABOTT: And officials do acknowledge there is a debate within the administration about the release of the report. Both the CIA and the State Department have been arguing against the publication because of the reasons we just discussed, Wolf, the threats to U.S. personnel and the facilities abroad and the damage it could do to U.S. relationships with key allies.
But both the White House. And the Justice Department say a delay in releasing the report only prolongs the inevitable. And the administration is losing a battle in the courts over trying to block the release and figure it's better to get it over with sooner rather than later -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Elise, thanks very much.
Lots of sensitive issues. More than 6,000 Marines, they're also on a heightened alert status right now. They're standing by to deploy, if needed, to protect American lives and property.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is working this part of the breaking news for us.
What are you picking up -- Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this has been ramping up since late last week, when an order went out from the Pentagon to commanders worldwide to take a look at their force protection measures, their security measures, knowing this report was coming.
The two key areas of concern, no surprise, the Middle East and Africa. So the contingency forces, the emergency response forces that would be on tap if a crisis, if violence were to break out, would, in fact, be United States Marines in both of those regions.
Let's walk through what's really been put on a heightened alert status here so everybody can see it.
It starts with about 2,000 Marines that make up a contingency force ready to move into Africa if there was to be a threat there, if violence was to break out against U.S. facilities there.
Another 2,000 Marines stationed in the Middle East as a response force for that region. About 2,200 Marines on board ships in the North Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden. They could be moved into the region very quickly.
And there are three teams, 50 Marines each, that are specially trained to respond in the event an embassy were to come under attack or under threat.
Add to that, Wolf, of course you have Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S. troops there already in a war zone, already on the front line, quite ready, at the ready, if violence were to break out there. Pakistan another area of concern. Officials are telling us right this minute they're not sure there's any specific intelligence, but they don't want to be surprised. So all these Marines are at the ready, ready to go faster than their normal status if it comes to that -- Wolf.
BLITZER: If it comes to that.
All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.
Thanks very much.
Let's talk about this and more. Joining us, the State Department deputy spokeswoman, Marie Harf.
Marie, thanks very much for coming in.
MARIE HARF, DEPUTY STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: Happy to be here.
BLITZER: All right, let's talk about this. The report, I take it, as far as you know, it definitely will be released tomorrow by the Senate Intelligence Committee?
HARF: That's certainly our understanding. Yes.
BLITZER: Because over the weekend, we know your boss, the secretary of State, John Kerry, phoned the chair of the Intelligence Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein, raising concerns, wanting to make sure that they know the foreign policy implications into the timing of this release.
It sounds like he's pretty concerned there could be some negative foreign policy implications for the United States and potentially some threat, some danger for U.S. civilians and military personnel.
HARF: Wolf, to be clear, a couple of things are both true here.
The first is that the secretary and the State Department and the whole administration support the release of this report. We have always said that. We support the transparency that comes along with that release.
But the Secretary, and, indeed, all of us, have a responsibility, if there are indications that our people, our facilities overseas could come under increased security overseas, we have a responsibility to take steps to mitigate against that risk, to take steps to mitigate against the possible range of reactions that could occur overseas. We don't know what the reactions could be. But there are indications our people could be at increased risk.
BLITZER: Because you say the State Department wants this report to be released. The White House clearly made that same point earlier today. But you are concerned about the timing.
Do you want it to be released tomorrow or would you prefer a year from now, six months from now, 30 years from now? HARF: Well, the Secretary also made clear that if Senator Feinstein's decision, one this is really given -- she is the chair of the committee that did the report. He was talking to her as a former colleague to tell her the things he was hearing overseas when he talked about to his counterparts just to make sure he had passed that along to her.
But, again, we support the release of it. It's our indication it's coming tomorrow. And it's our responsibility to take steps to mitigate against any possible risk.
BLITZER: Because it sounds to me, when we, you know, Jen Psaki, State Department spokeswoman, says that he phoned her over the weekend, the chair of the Intelligence Committee, because there's concerns about the timing, it sounds like he was strongly advising her delay release.
HARF: Well, I think Jen also addressed that in today's briefing. He called her on Friday, again, to pass along some of what he was hearing overseas. And I want to keep going back to a few points here.
The first is that he supports the release of this report, particularly coming from the Senate. He knows how important this kind of oversight is. He has made that very clear. He wanted to pass along thoughts to her.
But also, a key point here, Wolf, is that this administration, in our first week in office, ended this program. So this is a good debate to have. It's a historical one, though, at this point. We ended this program because we did not believe it's in line with American values.
BLITZER: So I just want to be precise, did the secretary ask Dianne Feinstein to hold off on releasing it this week?
HARF: He had a conversation with her about what she should be thinking about in terms of timing, but made very clear whenever she wanted to release it, that decision was up to her.
BLITZER: So it's her decision. But you're worried about American diplomats, their families, military personnel around the world. The Marines, you just heard Barbara Starr say they're going on a higher state of alert right now because you fear there could be retaliation against Americans.
HARF: There are a range of responses that could come after this report is released. And our job is to mitigate against those. So we've asked our posts around the world to come back to us if they have any specific information, if they need additional security. That's our job, quite frankly, to be prepared here, again, supporting the release of the report, supporting this kind of transparency, that's one of the great things about our democracy, this kind of transparency.
BLITZER: Because Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence committee, told Candy Crowley -- we just heard it yesterday -- Mike Rogers made it clear there will be violence and there will be deaths as a result of the release of this report. So what you're saying is the secretary of State is ready to accept that threat?
HARF: Well, again, this is a decision that, timing-wise, that the Committee has undertaken. I think it's going to be released tomorrow. That's all the indications we have.
And this administration supports the release of this report. We keep going back to a few key points here, Wolf, that we ended this program for very good reason, that it's not in line with our values. And we have taken steps to mitigate against a range of responses.
We, quite frankly, do not know what the response might look like in different places around the world.
BLITZER: Did the United States torture prisoners?
HARF: The president has spoken to that. I don't have anything to add to what he has already said.
BLITZER: Do you believe the United States tortured prisoners?
HARF: I don't...
BLITZER: Because that's a specific word, torture.
HARF: It is...
BLITZER: -- it's an international legal term. If the United States is confirming that it tortured prisoners, it could potentially be brought before the International Criminal Court for war crimes.
HARF: Well, President Obama has been on the record speaking directly to that issue and I am certainly not going to expound on what he has said in any way.
But, again, what we as an administration are focused on is the fact that there is space for this debate, but it's not the debate we're having. We ended it in the first week in office.
BLITZER: Because when you say the president has spoken, he has called it torture.
HARF: He has.
BLITZER: And so that's a -- that's a very, very legalistic, specific term, which he accepts these -- the people who implemented this policy say it was enhanced interrogation techniques. They declined to say it was torture.
HARF: Regardless of what you want to call it, regardless of what anyone wants to call it, this administration, in one of our first acts in office, banned the use of these techniques, closed this program, because we believe it is not in line with American values. So regardless of what you want to call it, that's what we're focused on as an administration. We don't do this anymore. BLITZER: All right, stand by, Marie.
We have a lot more to discuss.
Other major issues coming up, as well. U.S. troops, they're getting ready to leave Afghanistan.
What happens next?
Our own Jim Sciutto is traveling with the secretary of Defense.
Stand by. Lots of breaking news happening today right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. U.S. embassies, military bases around the world, they are on a higher state of alert right now for possible violence, as the U.S. Senate prepares to release its report on the CIA's alleged use of torture. The State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf, she's back with us. We're going to get more from her in just a moment.
But first, let's bring in our CNN chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto. He was just in Afghanistan. He's traveling with the outgoing defense secretary, Chuck Hagel. They're now joining us. He's now joining us, I should say, from Kuwait City.
Jim, tell our viewers about your exclusive interview with the defense secretary.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I'll tell you, in Afghanistan, it was something of a farewell tour for Chuck Hagel, his last visit to Afghanistan as defense secretary, but also the beginning of a long farewell for U.S. troops there as they draw down.
But we learned this weekend that that drawdown will happen more slowly than original planned. A thousand more U.S. troops staying in Afghanistan into 2015, leaving the number at about 11,000 as opposed to 10,000, as originally planned. And Chuck Hagel made very clear to us they will face clear danger there.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): This is Chuck Hagel's fourth trip to Afghanistan but his last as secretary of defense.
(on camera): Did you feel at all treated unfairly by the White House?
CHUCK HAGEL, OUTGOING DEFENSE SECRETARY: You build records. You build, hopefully, something you can leave behind and strengthen your institution with a lot of people, a lot of teamwork. And that's the experience I'll take away from this job.
What we're doing here... SCIUTTO (voice-over): We traveled with him to Tactical Base Gamberi (ph) in eastern Afghanistan, where he met with troops, sharing his own experience as the first enlisted combat veteran to serve as defense secretary.
(on camera): Do you think there will be a loss for the defense secretary position to have someone who didn't have that experience in the role?
HAGEL: That's not for me to decide. Everybody brings to their positions their own set of experiences and their own strengths. And I -- I believe my set of experiences suited me very well. But that's Chuck Hagel. I don't ever judge anybody else.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): At the end of this month, U.S. forces will give up their combat role for training, advising and assisting Afghan forces, a new mission as the U.S. prepares for a complete withdrawal in two years.
(on camera): The U.S. made similar investment, blood and treasure, training, advising, assisting Iraqi forces. We saw how they dissolved with the advance of ISIS. Why are you confident that Afghan forces will perform better?
HAGEL: They want us here. They want -- they want us to help them assist, advise, train. How we left Iraq was totally different. The Iraqi government did not want us there. The Iraqi people didn't want us there.
SCIUTTO: It is train, advise and assist. But U.S. forces will still be able to do force protection if there's a threat to U.S. forces, go out and neutralize that threat. And in addition, you mentioned combat enabling. It speaks to close air support. How much danger will U.S. troops be in, even if they transition out of an official combat role?
HAGEL: This is totally different from where we've been the last 13 years, where we have for the next three years. But I think the bottom line is we've got to realize, this is still a war zone. This is still a war. And so you put men and women in a war zone, they're still in a war zone.
SCIUTTO: Of course, the other war zone just across the border here in Iraq. And we were able to meet today with Lieutenant General James Terry. He's commander of all operations against ISIS.
Some positive news to report. He says that it's his view that ISIS is now operationally on the defensive in Iraq. Also good news, he said that America's coalition partners in the fight against ISIS are going to send 1,500 troops matching in effect the 1,500 additional troops the president has authorized.
But when I asked him how long it will be before Iraqi security forces are able to go on the offensive, take back territory significantly, he said it's going to be months, Wolf. BLITZER: Some people believe it could be years before the Iraqi
military, in the best case, could get that -- get that operation going, really take charge. Because as you know, over the last several months, they simply collapsed in the face of this ISIS move from Syria into Iraq.
SCIUTTO: That's right, Wolf. Although he did say that, on the positive side, in recent weeks, there have been 15 offensive operations by Iraqi forces. For instance, taking back the Mosul Dam, the Hadifa Dam, the Baiji oil refinery. But yes, you make a very good point. When I asked him, his first answer was, it's difficult to say years or months but that he could reasonably conclude that it's months that they'll be able to start some more significant offensive operations.
BLITZER: All right. We'll see what they can do. Thanks very much, Jim Sciutto, traveling with the secretary of defense.
Let's bring back the State Department deputy spokeswoman, Marie Harf. How concerned is the State Department about the safety of American diplomats in Kabul?
HARF: Well, we're concerned about the safety of American diplomats all around the world. And obviously, Kabul is still, as my former boss, Secretary Hagel said, in a war zone. So we take a number of security precautions there. But we do many places around the world.
BLITZER: There's a lot of U.S. diplomats in Afghanistan, right?
HARF: There are.
BLITZER: They're pretty vulnerable, especially if the U.S. pulls out. Well, I don't think it will be surprising to tell you that our security in Kabul is incredibly tight. We have many security assets and resources there. Clearly, we know it's something we need to be focused on.
BLITZER: All right. It's shocking to me, though, after all of these years, a United States secretary of defense can't even fly to Afghanistan, go to Kabul with word in advance that he's coming because of security concerns all these years after 9/11 and the billions and billions of dollars the U.S. has spent to try to bolster security in that country.
But let's move on, talk about Yemen right now, the failed hostage rescue operation. Did the U.S. know that some group in South Africa was on the verge of potentially getting the South African hostage, a man by the name of Pierre Korkie, out in exchange for about $200,000 in ransom money; and they thought they were on the verge of getting Pierre Korkie out, even as the U.S. was sending these Navy SEALs in?
HARF: We did not, Wolf. And we did not even know that he was the other hostage there on the ground with Mr. Somers. We assessed there was a second hostage, but we did not know who it was, did not know it was him. And we were not aware of these -- these activities that were being undertaken separately. BLITZER: Would there have been coordination with the South Africans
if the U.S. had known a South African was also being held hostage there?
HARF: Well, we talked to a number of our other countries we work with around the world. If there are hostages somewhere where our hostages are located. But again, in this case, we just did not know that he was the other hostage there. I think this just underscores that we will go to any lengths to get Americans home when they are held hostage overseas. Unfortunately, this ended tragically, as we all know.
BLITZER: And the U.S. did not notify the family of the American hostage in advance that Navy SEALs were about to be deployed, right?
HARF: Well, we constantly talk to the family and provide any assistance we need to. We don't typically outline the details of those for the sake of the family's privacy.
BLITZER: You don't -- but also, you don't want to jeopardize the operation. You don't want to tell people about a classified mission that could potentially undermine that entire mission?
HARF: Well, there are certainly those concerns. But again, we talk to the family quite regularly. We provide any assistance we can, but we just don't outline those concerns.
BLITZER: And the U.S. policy is no ransom, no money in exchange for the freedom of Americans being held right now?
HARF: Absolutely. That hasn't changed. We believe that only encourages more Americans to be taken hostage, that it puts us at greater risk. We also don't want American dollars going to fund terrorist organizations and terrorist activities. So that's our policy. We're undertaking a review across the board of how we deal with hostage cases. But the ransom issue is not a part of that review.
BLITZER: Marie Harf, thanks very much for coming in.
HARF: Thank you.
BLITZER: Marie Harf is the deputy spokeswoman at the State Department.
We're also following major breaking news across the United States. New protests are expected over the New York chokehold and Ferguson, Missouri, police shooting cases. We're about to go live to a demonstration that's forming right near the White House.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. New demonstrations against heavy-handed police tactics and a New York grand jury's decision not to indict a white police officer in the chokehold death of an African-American man. Right now, CNN's Athena Jones is watching a protest that's forming right near the White House. Athena, tell us what's going on.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, we've actually left the front of the White House. The police closed down Lafayette Park, which is the park right in front of the White House.
The plan had been to meet at the White House and to march to DuPont Circle, about a mile north of the White House and shut that down. It's a major interchange, a circle, a traffic circle in northwest Washington. And so the group has kind of changed their plan on the fly now that the police shut down Lafayette Park. And you can see now this group is marching up 16th Street, straight up the street from the White House, beginning to chant, "Black lives matter." But it's a small group at this point. It doesn't look like it's enough to really block down the streets successfully.
And so you have a little bit of a dangerous situation here. But their plan is to shut down traffic just as they've been doing the last several night since last Wednesday's decision not to indict the policemen in the Eric Garner chokehold death in New York.
And so we're going to be observing them all night, watching as they march through the city and try to shut it down, of course, trying to make the point that black lives matter and that they want to see an end to police brutality -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Athena, we'll stay in constant touch with you. Thanks very much.
Critics of police tactics point to growing use of military equipment on the streets of American cities, including Ferguson, Missouri. Brian Todd is joining us now. He's got new details about the federal program that makes so much of this possible -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, new details on how the pipeline of military equipment to the police has not slowed down. Even after Ferguson, when the sight of police in tactical vehicles, wielding assault rifles, drew outrage.
We've learned the Obama team is working through sine new rules for all of this. But the so-called militarization of police is still very much in play.
TODD (voice-over): In Oakland, protesters throw explosives and bottles at police.
In Berkeley, stores are damaged and looted.
Police so far have been restrained in their response, unlike Ferguson where at first police used tactical armored vehicles and were outfitted in camouflage, wielding automatic rifles. Back in August, the president said he would review whether local police departments should be getting so much military-style gear.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement, and we don't want those lines blurred.
TODD: But the Obama administration just announced new plans that regulate the use of weapons but stop short of cutting the flow of military equipment to local police. Civil liberties advocates say the rules should be much tighter.
KARA DANSKY, ACLU: We think that what we saw in Ferguson and what we've seen over the course of the last several decades, particularly in poorer communities and communities of color, is a pervasive culture of militarism.
TODD: Law enforcement agencies get hundreds of thousands of dollars a year worth of equipment free of charge from the Pentagon. Defenders of the program, like the police chief in Arlington, Virginia, say the equipment is crucial in responding to a siege or a terrorist attack.
CHIEF DOUGLAS SCOTT, ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA, POLICE: It gives us the ability, in a very serious violent situation, to go in and rescue a member of the public or one of our own officers. They're used for SWAT and barricade situations.
TODD: A case in point? The hunt for the suspects after the Boston Marathon bombing. One of the terrorists was on the loose in a residential neighborhood. Was federally funded equipment crucial to the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was caught hiding in a boat?
SEN. TOM COBURN (R-OK), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: Tsarnaev was found because a guy went out to check his boat, because he saw the end of it up. Didn't have anything to do with money that we spend.
TODD: But homeland security officials insist Tsarnaev was hiding under a tarp, and specialized cameras paid for by Washington helped police see what the suspect was doing and what kind of threat he posed.
BRIAN KAMOIE, FEMA, ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR: The state police indicate the infrared camera was instrumental in locating him.
TODD: The Defense Department now requires police departments to come up with plans on how they're going to use military equipment, and the Pentagon wants to make sure that a police department that gets that equipment is not under civil rights investigation.
But Kara Dansky says the ACLU believes that's not going to change the military culture of law enforcement. Police departments arguing more vociferously to get the equipment and acting more aggressively when they do get it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, you've also received some information on how some police change their behavior when they have this equipment, right?
TODD: It's extraordinary, Wolf. Yes, the ACLU says in its investigation into this, they found that police use training materials that encourage what one ACLU official called a warrior mindset. They say they've seen training materials that tell police to think of themselves as soldiers going into battle and of the people in the neighborhoods or in the protests as enemies. Pretty stark.
WOLF: Yes. All right. Brian Todd, thanks very much.
And we're also keeping a very close eye on the New York City borough of Brooklyn, where a chokehold protest is planned outside a basketball game that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are planning on attending later tonight.
With us now in THE SITUATION ROOM is the Brooklyn borough president, Eric Adams, who also served in the New York City Police Department for 22 years. He's got a unique perspective on what's going on.
Mr. Adams, thanks very much for joining us. We're watching for more protests tonight in Brooklyn. Protesters expected to gather outside the Barclays Center, where the duke and duchess, William and Kate, will be watching the Nets game. How are you preparing for all of this?
ERIC ADAMS, BOROUGH PRESIDENT, BROOKLYN: Well, I think that, really, we should commend the protesters, because there's nothing more American than having the right to voice your concern. We want them to be constructive and not destructive. What we saw in St. Louis we don't want in the borough of Brooklyn. We've had several days of protests, and people have did it in a very civil and a peaceful fashion.
BLITZER: Are you afraid, though, that fans who want to go watch the nets play at Barclays Center in Brooklyn tonight might not be able to get to the arena?
ADAMS: Yes, they will. We have one of the finest police departments in the country if not the globe. They understand how imperative it is to allow people to go on with their normal day, their normal activity without interference.
And at the same time, allowing as you see on the screen, people to do their die-ins and protests but don't get in the way of harming individuals. And I think that is the area where we see how good the police department is, and that's why we must move forward with good reform to make sure it's done across the board.
BLITZER: We're showing our viewers, Mr. Adams, right now live pictures -- I don't know if you can see them -- of what's going on here in Washington, D.C., not far from the White House, a few blocks away. People have just lied [SIC] down on the street. Obviously, there's no traffic that's going to be allowed to go through. This is what they call a die-in.
I assume you've seen some of these tactics in New York, including in Brooklyn. What do you do about this if protesters simply want to block traffic and lie down in these intersections?
ADAMS: Well, it's called civil disobedience. And I believe that we're looking at, Wolf, we're looking at the grandchildren of the civil rights era. And that's why I'm happy to see that this conversation has left the African-American and the Hispanic community and communities of color. Now you see a multicultural group of people of different ethnicity, of different background, different religious beliefs, that are voicing and raising their voice, that are stating, we need to have a police department that is going to be great at stopping crime and that's going to be careful in taking the life of innocent people that we're witnessing across the country.
BLITZER: But is it -- is it against the law to do what these protesters in Washington, for example, are doing right now? You're looking at live pictures. Simply go to a major intersection, downtown Washington, not far away from the White House, obviously during rush hour, simply lie down and block traffic? Is that against some sort of law? Would it be against the law in Brooklyn if people did that?
ADAMS: Yes, it is against the law. And that's why it's important to point to what is happening here, because this is a prime example of what I have articulating the last few days.
They are breaking the law. The police's first step is to tell them they're breaking the law and tell them they have to cease what they are doing. If they don't, then the police can take the next step of apprehending them, placing them under custody for disorderly conduct or whatever crime is important in that particular area.
What you're not seeing for this peaceful display, you're not seeing someone placed in a chokehold. You're not seeing someone being physically abused. That is at the core of what this issue is about.
We have to make sure that police use tactics that is appropriate for the crime or the violation that's being committed. I am saying that is being done in communities where affluent people live. It is not being done in communities of color or where there's economic -- economically challenging circumstances.
BLITZER: So if this were in Brooklyn, let's say -- and I don't know if it will be in Brooklyn or won't be in Brooklyn. But you spent 22 years in the NYPD, in the New York Police Department. What would you do if people simply went to a major intersection and lied down and prevented traffic from going through? Would you tell the police to arrest these people?
ADAMS: When I was a captain and even as a lieutenant and a sergeant, I responded to many locations where demonstrators were located. And they performed acts of civil disobedience. And they either sat down or they were attempting to voice their concern.
The police must respond to those incidents, give people a fair warning to tell them to cease what they're doing. And then, if it's appropriate, take the next step.
But you don't go from a civil disobedience like this and pull out a nightstick or pull out mace or pull out a stun gun to approach someone who's just passively resisting, and America allows the opportunity for someone to passively resist until they break the law. And then you take the necessary police action. BLITZER: So basically, what you're saying, you would give these folks
on opportunity, you'd go over to them. You'd tell them, "Look, this is against the law. You should get up. You should leave." If they continue to resist, at some point -- how long would you wait before the police officers came in and physically removed them and maybe even arrested them?
ADAMS: What you would do, particularly in an incident like this, a police captain or commander or whoever is in charge at the scene, they will go there with a microphone and state, "You're breaking the law. We're asking you to cease. We're asking you to move on." If they don't, you give them an appropriate amount of time. There's no fixed time. You look at the circumstances, and a trained law enforcement professional would know when should they move in?
You would speak with the organizer. You would speak with who's in charge of the group and state this is how we're going to move forward, as this young lady just stood up and moved forward. I would identify her as the organizer, and one of my officers would speak with her and talk how we're going to have this form of protest move forward.
BLITZER: All right. Eric Adams is the president of the borough of Brooklyn in New York City.
If you don't mind, I'd like you to stand by. I want to continue our conversation. We have many more good questions to ask you. I know you're getting ready for a major event over in Brooklyn tonight, the NBA game with the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. We'll watch what's going on there. We're watching what's going on here in Washington, D.C. Stand by. Much more with Eric Adams right after this.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news, new demonstrations in the streets of Washington, D.C., where marchers are on the move once again. They were blocking a major intersection not far from the White House. Let's go back to Athena Jones. She's on the streets. What's the latest, Athena?
JONES: Hi, Wolf. They're blocking the same intersection again. We're at Connecticut and L Street. If you're familiar with Washington, D.C., you know that Connecticut is a major thoroughfare connecting the White House to upper northwest Washington, D.C.
The plan originally was to start at the White House, which is only about four blocks away, walk about a mile, march about a mile, to Dupont Circle and shut that circle down for 4 1/2 hours. That would cause a major disruption. And that, of course, is the goal. You can see here behind me the leader, the protest organizer, has arrived and is now rallying his troops and they're trying once again to shut down this intersection. His goal, he says, is to disrupt every single day, to shut D.C. down every single day, until they see major changes.
I just asked him what specifically does he want to see, what does he want to happen. He said, he'd like to have the president, President Obama, meet with the people, not just with a few leaders in the White House, but to really hear the voice of the community. So I'm going to try to grab him a few more times tonight and hear more about what he wants to hear. But you can see right now, they're already causing a major disruption here in downtown D.C. in the middle of rush hour.
BLITZER: Athena, I want you to stand by. We're going to get back to you and see what's going on. We see police are now engaged. They're there on the scene. We'll follow what's going on. Athena, stand by. We're watching the breaking news. New demonstrations forming in major cities across the country.
In a minute, much more. From the Brooklyn borough president, Eric Adams, he's standing by.
BLITZER: We're covering the breaking news. Look at this, live pictures from Washington, D.C. There are new protests in several major U.S. cities over the grand jury's decision not to indict a white New York City police officer in the chokehold death of an African- American man. These are live pictures coming in from Washington, protesters trying to block a major downtown intersection only a few blocks away from the White House.
Another protest is planned right here tonight as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attend an NBA basketball game in Brooklyn. We're back now with the Brooklyn Borough president, Eric Adams. Mr. Adams, thanks very much. I just want to precise. You guys are ready in Brooklyn tonight for anything that might happen, right?
ADAMS: This is Brooklyn, what we call Brooklyn North. Brooklyn is broken into two different precinct boundaries. One is Brooklyn North, Brooklyn South. The Brooklyn North commander is in place.
And if I can, Wolf, if you could just look at the sign that's being held by the three individuals, "We can't breathe," that is the face of this movement. Young, interracial, various ethnic groups. These are young people who, just as we saw in Egypt with the Arab Spring, we're seeing American seeing its own spring right now. And these young people are using technologies to mobilize and get their message out, and that's why I believe we're going to see us changing policing in America.
BLITZER: What specific reforms -- and you spent more than 20 years in the NYPD -- what specific reforms do police not only in New York or Washington or Chicago, but all over the country, do they have to start thinking about right now that need to be done?
ADAMS: Right away, I think that our country has been inebriated with public safety policies that have failed in various communities. Need to really start taking a first step towards sobriety. And I think the man and police commissioners are doing that with the three level of training.
Here's the core of the issue, Wolf. Our police departments across the country, they have a toolbox with many tools to use when they're policing. However, when it goes to communities of color, they only use the hammer. Instead of all those other tools. We need to utilize the same methodologies we use to police on Park Avenue in Manhattan must be used in Park Slope -- our patience, our ability to conversate, to deescalate situations.
The goal is to correct the condition by protecting the life of the officer, the civilian population, and even the persons committing the act. And so we must use enforcement that's applicable to the crime that's been carried out. And, on Staten Island, you saw just the opposite. We had a minor infraction but we were using a high level of force.
BLITZER: Eric Adams is the president of the Borough of Brooklyn. And we're going to be staying in very close touch with you, Mr. Adams. Thanks very much for joining us.
ADAMS: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: Good luck tonight over at Barkley Center where the Nets are going to be playing and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are going to be there.
We're watching the breaking news. These are live pictures coming in from Washington, D.C . Protesters blocking a major intersection not far from the White House. Stay with us. Much more of breaking news coverage coming up.
BLITZER: Happening now: days of rage. Protesters are going to new lengths to grab the nation's attention after the NYPD chokehold death. We're monitoring new demonstrations from coast to coast.
Failed rescue. New details on the attempt to free an American hostage that ended in his death. Terrorists may have gotten a surprising tip- off.
And royal visit: Prince William chats with President Obama over at the White House and now he and Duchess Catherine, they're getting ready for an all-American experience.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.