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Americans Held in North Korea Ask for Help; U.S. Continues Airstrikes on ISIS Targets

Aired September 1, 2014 - 18:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: How will they change policing in Ferguson, Missouri?

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.

You're about to see extremely rare interviews with three American men being held by one of the most secretive and brutal regimes in the world. North Korea let each of them speak to CNN in their only television interviews and each of them made a dramatic plea from help from the U.S. government.

We are following that along with major new developments in the battle against ISIS using CNN's global resources on those stories and more.

Correspondent Will Ripley begins our coverage from inside North Korea.



(voice-over): This is a moment we never expected. During a CNN trip to North Korea, officials take us to a secret location for a surprise interview with Kenneth Bae. The American missionary is serving 15 years hard labor for what North Korea calls a Christian plot to undermine the government.

(on camera): Can you tell me about the conditions at the labor camp?

KENNETH BAE, AMERICAN HELD IN NORTH KOREA: Condition at labor camp is I'm working eight hours a day, six days a week and working agriculture work to other hard labor that is required to do every day.

RIPLEY: Are you being treated humanely?

BAE: Yes.

RIPLEY: And your message to your family?

BAE: Well, I'm sure they are very worried about my health at this time, and even though right now, last -- last month-and-a-half, I have been -- or so -- not -- it's been failing. So, right now that I'm -- what I can say to my family and friends, that is to continue to pray for me and also ask them to continue an effort on getting me released here.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Bae's been in North Korea for almost two years.

Two other Americans were arrested separately in April.

(on camera): We were pulled off our regular schedule and brought here to a building in Pyongyang where we were told that we had precisely five minutes with each of the detainees.

(voice-over): They're held in separate rooms and have no contact with each other. American Matthew Miller admitted to tearing up his visa and seeking asylum in North Korea. Now he wants out.

(on camera): What's the bottom line about your situation here and your message that you want to put out?

MATTHEW MILLER, AMERICAN HELD CAPTIVE IN NORTH KOREA: That my situation is very urgent, that very soon I am 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.

JEFFREY FOWLE, AMERICAN HELD CAPTIVE IN NORTH KOREA: I would like to thank you guys for being here.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Jeffrey Fowle, a father from Ohio, confessed to leaving a Bible behind during a tourist trip, considered a covert act by the North Korean government. He was arrested on his daughter's birthday.

(on camera): And your message to your family?

FOWLE: The message is, I will come home as soon as I can. My family is the biggest thing on my mind right now. I have got a wife and three elementary age school kids that depend on me for support. And my mother-in-law is staying with us, too. So, there's six of us in our household.

And while I'm gone...

RIPLEY (voice-over): Right now Fowle's in a hotel, but that could quickly change if he's found guilty later this month.

FOWLE: I'm good for the time being, but I need to let people know that I'm getting desperate. I'm getting desperate for help.

RIPLEY: Each man says they're getting humane treatment. They're pleading for the United States to send a special envoy to secure their release, three Americans held in North Korea waiting and hoping that some day they will go home.

Will Ripley, CNN, Pyongyang.


KEILAR: All reporting from inside of North Korea, as you can imagine, is carefully controlled by officials there. Will Ripley is now on his way to Beijing, where he will be able to give more details about what he saw and we will bring them to you as soon as we get them.

Experts say that these interviews were no goodwill interviews by North Korea. So, what is the regime hoping to get out of them?

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is working that part of the story for us.

Barbara, what are you picking up?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, the question is why did the North Korean regime allow these interviews to happen? Do they want sanctions lifted so they can buy food for their people or do they have something else in mind?


STARR (voice-over): North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un has shown no sign of releasing the three Americans, but Kim clearly wanted to use the interviews to get a message out. Send him a U.S. envoy. Jeffrey Fowle was detained earlier this year.

FOWLE: This is an opportunity for maybe Bill Clinton to come back. He had -- secured the release of a couple of journalists a few years back. Maybe George Bush, it's his turn as an elder statesman to try his hand at that.

STARR: Kenneth Bae, held the longest, nearly two years, for hostile acts, he's serving a 15-year sentence at a labor camp.

BAE: I do believe that special envoy need to come in order to resolve the situation that I'm in right now.

STARR: Matthew Todd Miller made a plea.

MILLER: First, I will just say my message to my government. I have been requesting help for a long time and there has been no movement from my government.

STARR: Why would the violent and unpredictable leader of North Korea now maybe be ready to deal?

BILL RICHARDSON (D), FORMER NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR: They're sending a message saying, we're ready to bargain for the three hostages. They're bargaining chips. The United States, you need to start talking to us.

STARR: The State Department only saying, "We continue to work actively to secure these three U.S. citizens' release," but there may be a long way to go. Kim wants food for his starving people, but there are no signs he's willing to stop developing nuclear weapons, a crucial demand by the U.S.

Recent commercial satellite imagery in fact shows continued activity at the Yongbyon nuclear site, where a reactor may be able to make plutonium for nuclear warheads, and the regime continues developing ballistic missiles and mobile launchers, a trifecta of the ultimate threat.

A nuclear-tipped missile moving around North Korea, impossible for U.S. satellites to track. The behind-the-scenes weapons development, a crown jewel for leader Kim, who intelligence analysts believe continues to consolidate his grip on power, even killing an uncle who may have grown too powerful.

It's all a contrast to the public face the regime wants the world to see, events like welcoming American wrestlers and hosting Dennis Rodman for basketball with the Harlem Globetrotters.


STARR: Some of the video that Will Ripley's crew shot in North Korea really is just fascinating, Brianna. If you look at some of it in the background, even in the reflections in the mirrors in that hotel room, you see other people, security personnel, other North Koreans who are there watching.

Clearly, the regime knows that the U.S. intelligence community is going to be watching every frame of this CNN broadcast for any clues that the U.S. can get what is really going on there -- Brianna.

KEILAR: It's so closely orchestrated. Very good point there. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you.

We want to hear more from today's interviews from U.S. detainees. Here is Matthew Todd Miller. He is 24 years of age.


RIPLEY: Can you tell me about the charges that you're facing here in North Korea?

MILLER: I will not find out until I go to trial, but 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 am not here to discuss...

RIPLEY: Tell me about your conditions here. How are you being treated?

MILLER: I'm with good health and I have received medical checks and provided with humanitarian treatment.

RIPLEY: And what is your message to your family?

MILLER: First I will just say my message to my government. I have been asking help for a long time and there has 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 is still no movement. I have 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's your message to your family?

MILLER: I have had the opportunity to phone call them, so I have 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 if 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.


KEILAR: We are listening to parts of today's extraordinary interviews with Americans detained in North Korea. This is Jeffrey Fowle. He is an American tourist accused of leaving a Bible in a hotel where he was staying.


RIPLEY: Sit down.


RIPLEY: All right.

Give me -- give me a cue when we're ready to start.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are rolling. Start now.

RIPLEY: Start now.

FOWLE: I would like to thank you guys being here. I appreciate you guys taking your time to come and see me and get my message out to the world.

RIPLEY: Yes. Good to see you.

First of all, can you tell us about the charges that you're facing as you have been told?

FOWLE: The charges are violation much DPRK law, which stem from trying to leave a Bible at the Seamen's Club in Chongjin around (INAUDIBLE) of the DPRK. It was a covert act and a violation of the tourist purpose as well.

And I have admitted my guilt to the government and have signed a statement to that effect and I have also put in a request for forgiveness to the people and the government of the DPRK.

And the legal process is ongoing right now. It's in the final stages of the preliminary investigation. The prosecutor's office and they say that the trial will be forthcoming soon. And so time is getting urgent. I should say, within a month, I should be facing trial and sentencing will be right after that.

So I have you guys to convey my desperate situation, which -- let me -- I'm 56. I'm from the Dayton, Ohio, area.

RIPLEY: We know your background, sir. We know your family background.


RIPLEY: I will ask you, how are you being treated here?

FOWLE: Very -- reasonably well. I have no complaints. The food has been good. I have got a daily walk with the guides. Even medical care has been furnished a couple of times. And quarters good. I got a hotel suite type of room.

So, I have no complaint about -- the treatment has been very good so far. I hope and pray that it continues whether I'm here two more days or two more decades, whatever the case is.

RIPLEY: And your message to your family?

FOWLE: The message is, I will come home as soon as I can. My family is the biggest thing on my mind right now. I have got a wife and three elementary age school kids that depend on me for support. And my mother-in-law is staying with us, too. So, there's six of us in our household.

If this goes beyond the end of September, then I'm in grave danger of losing my job. That's when my vacation benefits run out. And I will be out of job, out of income. I'm good for the time being, but I need to let people know that I'm getting desperate. I'm getting desperate.

RIPLEY: Did you tear up your visa and seek asylum? Is that report accurate?

FOWLE: In the previous interview, that is what I said, so I'm not here to discuss -- and I am -- while I'm gone, my wife's trying to operate the household by herself. And it's a chore to do with two people, let alone one. She's depending on my salary, almost a single- salary household. My wife has got a small part-time job as a hairstylist. And she doesn't bring in that much money. And she only works part-time. So, money is going to be tight.

And my -- if this goes beyond the end of September, then I'm in grave danger of losing my job. That's when my vacation benefits run out. And I will be out of job, out of income. My kids might be out on the street. Our house is paid for, but there's all kinds of expenses going on with operating a little minifarm, which is what we have got.

Chores and stuff. Kids are helping up the best they can. But jobs are piling up. I need to get back to doing what I do around the house there, getting back to work. Hopefully, that job will be open when I get back soon.

Today's the 1st. In three more days, my oldest is going to be turning -- having a birthday. I missed my middle kid's birthday back in June. And the day I found out that I was in deep trouble, I was -- it was my daughter's birthday. So, I have missed a lot of birthdays since I have been in detention since the 7th of May.


KEILAR: Jeffrey Fowle there, one of three American men being detained by the North Korean government.

I want to dig a little deeper on this with Victor Cha. He is a former top Bush adviser on North Korea. He's a senior adviser and Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and he's also the author of the book "The Impossible State: North Korea Past and Future."

So, Victor, thanks for being with us. Also, you listened. You're hearing from Kenneth Bae and you hear from Jeffrey Fowle and they both bring up this idea of having a U.S. special envoy come. In fact, Fowle actually says that maybe Bill Clinton who we have seen go before for female American journalists or George Bush.

Do you think this is a possibility and would it be effective if it's not someone as high-profile as a former president? VICTOR CHA, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBER: Well, I

think they were probably fed those lines, first of all, because a lot of that -- a lot of their interview looked like it had been doctored in some format.

The history of this has been that some envoy, not necessarily former presidents, that's the most recent case, but there have been envoys that have gone over to bring back these Americans that have been detained.

So I'm sure in that sense they see that as the proper precedents, but, again, in perspective, Brianna, these are just average Americans and they're taken and held as though they're subversive spies or terrorists. This is ridiculous behavior.

KEILAR: When you say their interviews are doctored, do you mean very prompted and orchestrated?

CHA: I think they were briefed very carefully on what they should and should not say in the five minutes that they had.

And so I guess for many of them, they wanted to get out their story, be able to say something to their families and then to try to offer a solution of some sort to get them out of there. So I think that's what they were basically limited to saying and that's what they tried to do.

KEILAR: We just listened to the speech or the interview of Matthew Miller and it sort of struck me that given an opportunity to talk to his family, he essentially declined. He didn't want to talk about the charges against him, even though we have heard from Will Ripley that that actually was within bounds.

Was there anything in particular about this interview with this youngest man here, the 24-year-old, that really stood out to you?

CHA: I think he's very scared, very clearly. I don't think they really do have a good sense of what the charges are against them until they face trial, and that's not a fair trial by any means, as we saw with Kenneth Bae.

I think they're -- all of them are in the way over their heads. And in the meantime, Kenneth Bae sits there for almost two years now without any chance of getting out of the country.

KEILAR: What role does Kenneth Bae's health play in this? We have heard from other experts and they have said, that's why there's medical help there. The North Koreans will make sure that he's remains healthy. He's obviously lost some weight being he's been doing hard labor. But is that a consideration for the North Koreans? Do they become more alarmed as perhaps his health suffers?

CHA: Sure.

In all their Machinations, the worst-case scenario for them is to take an American and for that American to die in their hands. So I think that is something that's a concern for them. That's why the doctor is there. It also gives them a way out if the United States government is sent for humanitarian reasons. If for medical reasons, he needs to be released, that's as good a way as any for the North Koreans to get rid of this guy and still save some face.

KEILAR: So what then are -- we look at the U.S. response to this and they single out Kenneth Bae. For health reasons, he should be reunited with his family.

What are the logical outcomes here and do you see them being different for the different men because we know that Fowle and Miller have not yet gone to trial?

CHA: I mean, I don't know what's going on behind the scenes right now in terms of the diplomacy. My guess is the fact that all three of them were put on tape for an American audience on Labor Day is a signal from the North Koreans that they're looking for some sort of package deal to try to get them all out.

Whether they're trying to connect this to the long-stalled nuclear negotiations is anybody's guess. I know from a U.S. perspective they don't want these two things to be linked because this is a humanitarian issue and the nuclear issue, as we know, for two decades has been a very difficult negotiation.

If the North Koreans are trying gain leverage through this, I don't think it will work. This is largely a humanitarian issue. I think the U.S. government needs to keep those two things separate.

KEILAR: We will see if they will able to. Victor Cha, thank you so much for your insight. Really appreciate it.

Still ahead, new details of U.S. airstrikes on ISIS forces in Iraq. American commanders reveal which terror targets were hit.

Also a new statement from the family of Joan Rivers. Plus, one of the critically ill comedian's closest friends talks about her with CNN.


KEILAR: Fresh American attacks on ISIS terrorists in Iraq. U.S. Central Command is reporting that three new airstrikes damaged and destroyed ISIS vehicles near a major dam that the group is fighting to control. U.S. forces have now conducted a total of 123 airstrikes on ISIS and they do appear to be making a difference.

CNN's Anna Coren is in Irbil in the Kurdish-controlled region of Iraq.

What are you picking up there, Anna?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, certainly, as you say, the U.S. airstrikes are making a difference out at Mosul dam.

This has been the focus of a massive operation, not just by the United States but also the Kurdish forces on the ground. Those airstrikes providing that much needed cover to obviously reclaim Mosul dam which is what they did last week, but also the surrounding towns and villages. The problem, however, is that ISIS is digging in.

We were there over the weekend and we were surprised, Brianna, to see that the militants are really claiming these villages and these townships. They're like these farming hamlets out on these open plains. We also got confirmation from Kurdish forces that they sustained some terrible fatalities yesterday when ISIS militants fueled up a truck with explosives and drove it in to the front line of Peshmergas, blowing it up killing many of those soldiers.

Obviously a huge blow to morale, because, of course, the Peshmerga are the ones taking the fight to ISIS on the ground, but it also just shows the risks that these soldiers are up against when they face ISIS militants.

KEILAR: Certainly does, Anna. Tell us a little bit about -- however, there's been a big victory for Iraqi forces. They broke the ISIS siege on a town. What can you tell us about this?

COREN: Yes, the township of Amirli, about 100 miles north of Baghdad.

This was a township under siege for more than two months, which is hard to believe. The militants cut off food, water and power to this township of less than 20,000 Shia, Turkmen considered infidels by the ISIS. The United Nations warning of a potential massacre unless there was international involvement.

We did see the U.S. get involved over the weekend with those U.S. airstrikes providing the cover to allow the humanitarian aid drops by the U.S., the U.K., as well as France and Australia, but also the ground offensive that then was led by the Iraqi military and also the Shiite militia. These are the militia backed by Iran who fought against the Americans on the ground.

When you enemies coming together to unite against ISIS, it really just shows how desperate the situation is on the ground here, Brianna.

KEILAR: Anna Coren in Irbil, thank you so much.

I want to get more now with Oubai Shahbandar. He's the senior adviser to the Syrian Opposition Coalition, which of course is fighting Bashar al-Assad's troops, as well as ISIS in Syria.

You certainly want to see President Obama order airstrikes in Syria, right?

OUBAI SHAHBANDAR, SYRIAN OPPOSITION COALITION: Absolutely. We believe that it is both in American national security interests and in the interest of the Syrian people who are actively fighting ISIS for the U.S. government, for the White House to actively make a decision to immediately begin airstrikes against ISIS positions and their headquarters in Syria.

KEILAR: How can the U.S. do that without as a side effect really improve the situation for the Assad regime?

SHAHBANDAR: Well, it's going to take a parallel policy by this White House. On one hand, the U.S. needs to work with partners on the ground that are already fighting ISIS. You have got the Free Syrian Army fighting ISIS in northern Aleppo province.

You have got Arab tribes that are fighting ISIS in Eastern Syria, in the crucial strategic area that allows ISIS to move from Syria into Iraq. The planning effort is required here so that the U.S. sits down with the Free Syrian Army and establishes a strategy to not only launch airstrikes against these positions that ISIS has in Syria, but to enable and to arm and significantly increase the capacity of the Free Syrian Army to take over ISIS positions.

Now, many believe that American airstrikes against ISIS would help the Assad regime. The reality is -- and you speak to Syrians on the ground and field commanders from the Syrian revolutionary forces on the ground, they don't believe that. They believe that airstrikes, American airstrikes against ISIS will ultimately help the Syrian people and the Syrian opposition forces better defend the Syrian people against both the atrocities of the extremists and from the atrocities of the Assad regime.

KEILAR: But what do you think is different? President Obama showed a year ago that he was loathe to do airstrikes in Syria against the Assad regime after chemical weapons were used. Why do you think this will be any different, especially with Americans being so weary of involvement?

SHAHBANDAR: I think we have seen a remarkable shift from last year to this year in terms of the popular mood when it comes to U.S. military action in Syria because of ISIS.

Recent polls actually indicate that 60 percent of the American public would support airstrikes against ISIS positions in Syria. Now, no one is asking for boots on the ground. That's off the table. No one is asking for an American invasion like what we saw in Iraq.

We're seeing many senior members in Congress saying for the first time that ISIS is an existential threat, that Assad, the Assad regime is part of that problem, that the Assad regime enabled ISIS to grow and that it is time for the U.S. to seriously take a look at military intervention and military power in Syria against ISIS and in support of the Free Syrian Army.

KEILAR: I want to have you take a look at some video that we have. This is video of Bashar al-Assad, his forces bombing civilians. Should President Obama pursue airstrikes against ISIS, should he also pursue them against the Assad regime?

SHAHBANDAR: Well, interestingly enough, we saw the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, just the other day state that Assad regime is dropping 260 barrel bombs a month on civilians.

This is an Assad regime that's dropping barrel bombs on civilians and not fighting ISIS. I think that any military action against ISIS needs to take into consideration the Assad regime is doing this type of thing and these type of attacks, these indiscriminate attacks against civilians, against apartment buildings, against bakeries, against schools only fuel the chaos and will only enable ISIS to grow in power. So any military action really needs to be comprehensive in scope.

KEILAR: Aside from airstrikes, what do you want to see the U.S. do to help the Syrian rebels?

SHAHBANDAR: The U.S. can significantly increase military aid, both in quantity and quality.

Now, we have seen some success stories on that front. The TOW missiles, which are originally from U.S. stocks, they're anti-tank guided missiles. They have helped the moderate Syrian revolutionary forces, the freedom fighters on the ground in defending the civilian populace from Assad.

The U.S. needs to take a serious look at that policy and expand the scope of not only the type of military equipment, but the quantity, very similar to what the U.S. did in Northern Iraq with the Kurdish security forces. When it came time to come to their support, the Kurdish security forces received emergency American military aid. And that's exactly what we need in Syria today for the Free Syrian Army to fight ISIS.

KEILAR: Oubai Shahbandar, thank you so much for being with us. Advisor to the Free Syrian Army. Really appreciate it.

And just ahead, Britain's prime minister calls for dramatic action to combat the ISIS terror threat. Is President Obama being too cautious?

Plus a huge change for an embattled police department. Officers in Ferguson, Missouri, are about to start wearing body cams.


KEILAR: President Obama is facing bipartisan criticism over his response to the ISIS terrorist threat. Now Britain's prime minister is calling for sweeping anti-terror legislation to prevent militants from entering the U.K.

CNN's senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta has details. What's the latest there, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, President Obama has authorized an expansion of U.S. airstrikes on ISIS targets in Iraq. He did that over the weekend. Despite all of that second guessing coming from political parties of the president's policy for dealing with ISIS.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Under growing pressure to escalate the U.S. battle against ISIS, President Obama tried to make a Labor Day pivot to mid-term election politics.

OBAMA: Milwaukee brats are delicious, and Republicans in Congress love to say no. Those are just facts. The facts of life.

ACOSTA: But in Britain there was yet another plea from Prime Minister David Cameron to get tough on ISIS.

DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH TIME MINISTER: We will in the end defeat this extremism, and we will secure our way of life for generations to come.

ACOSTA: Targeting jihadis traveling back and forth from the west to ISIS battlefields, Cameron is seeking new police powers to seize passports of suspected British terrorists and is ramping up airline no-fly restrictions to keep militants out of the skies.

Back in the U.S., some lawmakers worry the ISIS threat will make the jump across the Atlantic.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: I believe strongly that ISIS does plan on attacking the United States.

ACOSTA: Over the weekend the president ordered an expansion of the U.S. mission in Iraq with new airstrikes aimed at halting another humanitarian crisis. This time ISIS militants attacking ethnic Turkmen around the city of Amirli.

In a letter to Congress the president said the new strikes will be limited in their scope and duration. The critics want Mr. Obama to hit ISIS harder. His comments on targeting the group in Syria...

OBAMA: We don't have a strategy yet.

ACOSTA: ... are now dividing Democrats.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: I think I've learned one thing about this president, and that is he's very cautious. Maybe in this instance too cautious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not just the United States. We can't be sheriff of the whole world.

ACOSTA: Republicans, including some who are looking ahead to 2016, accuse the president of showing weakness.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: ISIS says they want to go back and reject modernity. Well, I think we should help them. We ought to bomb them back to the stone age.


ACOSTA: And President Obama's heading to a NATO summit later this week. That was supposed to be nearly all about Ukraine and Russia, but that is changing fast as the president will be looking for allies for what the White House considers to be a long fight against ISIS -- Brianna. KEILAR: Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you.

And let's get more now with CNN's chief political analyst Gloria Borger; CNN political commentator Peter Beinart, contributing editor for "The Atlantic" and "The National Journal"; as well as CNN military analyst, retired lieutenant General Mark Hertling. He is former commander of the U.S. Army Europe. And he was also -- he also served as director for war plans on the joint staff during the 9/11 terror attacks.

Peter, to you first. You heard Dianne Feinstein. "Maybe too cautious," she said of President Obama. Do you agree with that?

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I don't. I think before we launch attacks in Syria -- which is far different than doing it in Iraq, because we have a hostile government, and our allies on the ground are much weaker and harder to discern -- we have to be able to answer the question, if we bomb ISIS from the air, who's going to take the territory on the ground? Can we be sure it won't be Bashar Assad's forces? Can we be sure it won't be other jihadist forces? After all, Al Qaeda has another affiliate in Syria. That's the al- Nusra front. We've been told by the Obama administration for quite a few years now that the moderate rebels are very weak.

If someone can make a good case that our bombing will empower the people we want it to empower, that's great. But I actually haven't heard very many people making that case compellingly yet.

KEILAR: What you do I think, General Hertling?

GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I don't think indiscriminate bombing is a good idea in any event, but I think there's -- there's a belief that we can just drop bombs and things will get better. The question is what are the targets? We know we would like to destroy or defeat ISIS, but where are they? Would we like to go after the town of al Raqe (ph)? If we do, we have to remind ourselves that's a city of 250,000 people, the majority of which do not believe in what ISIS is doing also.

So it's very difficult, and I think the simplistic approach to this of just dropping bombs is very wrong-sided.

KEILAR: And there you have it, Gloria. Peter and the general laying out a lot of what President Obama is getting counsel on. And you see him not really wanting to put a decision out there yet.

GLORIA BORGER, CHIEF CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, he's got a cabinet that's clearly conflicted about this. He personally is clearly conflicted about this.

KEILAR: Definitely.

BORGER: We see that play out. And then you have an American public that's also conflicted about it. You know, more than half of the American public, Brianna, says that this president is not a strong leader when it comes to foreign policy. On the other hand, more than half of the American public does not

want to get involved in any kind of a situation with Iraq. So, you know, the American public is conflicted too.

So it's a very difficult decision for the president. I think now in the NATO meeting, he's going to have to take a leadership role, not only on Ukraine but also on ISIS. We've heard David Cameron talking about ISIS now. And I think the president, David Cameron, ought to have a meeting of the minds here about just what they're willing to do in terms of airstrikes as well as the NATO allies.

KEILAR: What do you think, General Hertling? The president will be speaking to NATO leaders. How important is it for him to come out of that summit with some sort of commitment from his allies?

HERTLING: There are going to be some interesting discussions at the NATO summit, Brianna. There's going to be the discussions of Ukraine and Russia. There's going to be the question of eastern versus western Europe. There's going to be the discussions of rebels coming through the rat lines back into Europe, the things that the U.K. is most concerned about. This is going to probably be the most intense and interesting NATO summit in the last 20 years.

KEILAR: And -- and it's pretty fascinating, Peter. Because before the president goes to the NATO summit, he goes to Estonia. And so this will be his place to, in a sense, speak to neighbors of Ukraine who are looking at Ukraine, worrying that they may be next. What does his message need to be on that first leg of the trip?

BEINART: I think his message there is the message to Russia, which is "Don't even think about it. Don't even think about trying to subvert the territorial integrity of countries that are already part of NATO."

And this is absolutely very necessary for the United States. The United States -- we have to make it absolutely clear that we will defend those members of NATO, because if we leave any ambiguity, and Russia tests us, then Obama has to go to the people of the United States and, you know, "Guess what? We're on the hook to defend the border between Estonia and Russia."

At which point, most Americans will say, "Where the heck is the border between Estonia and Russia, and how did we get on the hook to defend it?" Which is precisely why, I think, they have to do a really good job of deterrence beforehand, so that we don't see happening in NATO countries what we've seen in Ukraine.

KEILAR: The president has been stumbling recently on foreign policy, and he has just so many issues to deal with right now.

When you look, Gloria, at this week ahead, how important is this for him to try to get his foreign policy back on track?

BORGER: You know, he can't get his messaging back on track until he has a strategy that he can talk to the American people about, as Peter was -- as Peter was saying. So before, you know, he has to figure out what he wants to do.

Tell the American people why it is important for our own national security interests, and then he's got to do it. And hopefully, he'll have some allies with him along the way.

Because he's made it very clear, Brianna, as you know from listening to him, he's not going to do something alone.

KEILAR: Yes. And we'll see him really fighting to win some people over, and then we'll see if he's actually able to this week.

Gloria, thank you so much. General Hertling, appreciate you being with us. Peter Beinart, as well, thank you.

BEINART: Thank you.

KEILAR: And just ahead, Ferguson police begin wearing body cameras while they're out on patrol. Will that change things in a town devastated by a deadly shooting? We have a panel standing by to discuss that.

And comedian Joan Rivers is in serious condition. Her daughter Melissa keeping her fingers crossed, she says. We'll get an update.


KEILAR: Two companies have donated about 50 body cameras to the police department in Ferguson, Missouri, still reeling from the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.

Let's get more now from law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes. Also, he is a former FBI assistant director, and as well Democratic Missouri State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal. And also, let's bring in CNN political commentator Marc Lamont Hill.

Tom, just first -- give us a sense of how these body cameras work and how common these are.

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, they're not really common, Brianna, but they're becoming so. And I think it's very similar to the dashboard cameras in police cars and originally when these devices were being proposed for law enforcement, a lot of uniformed police officers thought we don't want this. We don't want people watching every move we make, misconstruing it and all of that.

And now, they're starting to realize, I think, gradually that there's been a tipping point to where they want people to see what they go through and that they would like their communities to know that it is just about an impossible job. It's not just the minority communities or African-Americans or Hispanic or Asian. A uniformed officer, a cop, I did it 6 1/2 years before I was in the bureau, you just can't believe how big of a jerk -- you know, family audience here -- some people can be.

And I don't care if they're a CEO of a "Fortune" 500 company, or if they're from a lower economic group. When they're on the street and when they're drunk, and high, or whatever it might be, they can be almost impossible to reason with. They can violent for no reason, all these bad things.

And these dash cams have started to show what the officer dealt with at the time, at the point of arrest on the street, because court date 60 days later, that person's there in their shiny new beautiful suit and tie, the pillar of the community, and, you know, everything else. And the officer says, I want you to see what we went through or I went through on the street. It's a different story and the camera can help prove it.

KEILAR: I bet it can. I wonder, Maria, if you also think it helps with accountability? It's not just the perspective of the police officer but it may be the perspective of the person in, say, Ferguson, Missouri, who is dealing with the police officer.

MARIA CHAPPELLE-NADAL (D), MISSOURI STATE SENATE: Well, absolutely what I would have to tell you is my constituents want to have full transparency. We do not want to be part of a guessing game.

So, as your last speaker said, it's good for the officers who are having to deal with individual who have some issues. But it's also good for the community that has complete unrest because they feel as though they have been many times either abused or harassed. And so, I think it's good for both parts to have this kind of video and audio on every single officer.

KEILAR: What's the mood like in Ferguson right now?

CHAPPELLE-NADAL: Well, I have to tell you, I've been on the streets today protesting and there was a wonderful person who came out to barbecue. And we're just planning for the future. I've brought two of my staff members from Jefferson City and we're about to do some really aggressive constituency services. There are a lot of issues that are coming to bear and we have to address those issues.

So, we are moving forward. We are trying to empower young people, which is the most important thing right now as we're trying to create a calm, and prepare ourselves for a grand jury.

KEILAR: And, Marc, you know, obviously, the farther away we get from the death of Michael Brown, you start to really look forward and think about not just Ferguson but other communities and what needs to be done to overcome this real disconnect that we're seeing.

I want to talk about over the weekend, we saw an op-ed from Nicholas Kristof. It highlighted really staggering figures about some of the economic disparities between whites and blacks in the country. He noted that the U.S. currently has a larger wealth gap by race than South Africa during apartheid.

What do you make of that? And can the events of Ferguson somehow help people kind of coalesce and try to deal with this?

MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, it's an interesting statistic. And there are other statistics we could draw between apartheid in South Africa and the United States, for example, mass incarceration numbers, as well per capita. And so, when you at these numbers, you realize that Ferguson is not just an isolated incident and not just a tragic shooting but it really is a window into urban America and the gross forms of social inequality we see everywhere when you talking about poor police community relationships, when you talk about lack of employment opportunities, when you talk about a gap in power, right, and imbalance of power and overrepresentation of one group over another in the mayoral and in the city council and so forth, poor schools, lack of access to housing, health care and education, all of those things are in Ferguson, but they're also around the country.

So, when people say I am Michael Brown, they're not just talking about being young, black and outside, which is but they're talking about the social circumstances that produced this. And so, moving forward, I'm excited to see dash board cameras -- for example, I'm excited to see body cameras, because it changes the relationships and holds police accountable in a different way.

But I also want to see voter registration drives, I also want to see cop watch programs, I wan to see employment possibilities. I want to see cities begin to reinvest in urban areas and not incentivize advice people to leave. Ferguson was an outgrowth of white flight. I'd like to see all that stuff. So, Ferguson is the site of possibility.

KEILAR: All right. It certainly is. And the beginning of a conversation that needs to happen.

Marc, thank you so much.

Maria, really appreciate you being with us.

Tom, thank you to you, as well.

HILL: A pleasure.

KEILAR: And just ahead, her daughter Melissa is keeping her fingers crossed. That's what she says. We'll get an update on the condition of comedienne Joan Rivers.


KEILAR: A long time friend and collaborator of Joan Rivers is speaking to CNN about the comedienne's health crisis. The 81-year-old rivers stopped breathing during throat surgery last week and she's been hospitalized ever since.

CNN's Alexandra Field is working the story in New York.

What can you tell us, Alexandra?


So many people have been hoping to hear news that Joan Rivers is beginning to recover. Right now, all we know is that her daughter Melissa Rivers has acknowledged that Joan's condition remains serious. She says her mom is getting the best care possible.

And now, she's speaking to fans around the world who have been offering their support to Joan.

Here's what Melissa says. She says, "Thank you for your continued love and support. We are keeping our fingers crossed." A hopeful message there.

Joan Rivers has been at Mount Sinai Hospital near in New York City since Thursday. She was taken there in critical condition after she went into cardiac and respiratory arrest during a throat procedure at an outpatient clinic near that hospital. Friends have been going to visit Joan. She's surrounded by close inner circle.

I spoke to Jay Reddick (ph), who's been friends with Joan Rivers for 40 years. They worked together on a number of projects. And he told me if Joan could hear him, he would just say that he loves her. He said he knows her comedy can be polarizing but that truly she is a great person. That's why so many people, fans and other celebrities have been sending out their support and their best wishes to Joan, Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes. And we sure are rooting for her to pull through this. Alexandra Field, thank you so much.

That is it for me. Thank you so much for watching. Really appreciate you being with us. I'm Brianna Keilar. This is THE SITUATION ROOM.