Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Riot Probe Targets Brown's Stepfather; Interview with Emanuel Cleaver; New Protests in Ferguson; Two Buses Involved in Fatal Collision; Members of ISIS Leader's Family Captured; FBI Warns ISIS May Target Troops in U.S.; Interview with John Kirby; Inside City Targeted by ISIS

Aired December 2, 2014 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now...

(VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: -- inciting a riot?

Michael Brown's stepfather is now under an investigation to determine if he stoked the violence in Ferguson.

Could he end up being charged by the same prosecutor from the grand jury probe?

BLITZER: Guarding Wilson -- members of the police union now providing around the clock security to the former police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown.

We're going to talk about all of this and more with Missouri congressman, Emanuel Cleaver.

War on ISIS -- heavy air strikes near the terrorists' headquarters, with plans underway for a major move by the Iraqi military. We'll talk about it with the Pentagon's press secretary, Rear Admiral John Kirby.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The National Guard is on the move tonight in Missouri, and there is now new post Ferguson fallout of protest by hundreds of high schoolers who walked out of area high schools. It's the latest demonstration against the grand jury decision not to charge the former police officer, Darren Wilson, in the death of Michael Brown.

And now we're learning off-duty police officers from the police union are volunteering to protect Wilson, who's been forced into hiding as he faces continuing threats.

Also now, Michael Brown's stepfather is under formal investigation. Police are probing his actions last Monday night and the rioting that devastated parts of Ferguson.

We're covering all angles of the story with our correspondents, our guests, including, Congressman Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri.

But let's begin in Ferguson with CNN's George Howell -- George, tell us the latest.

What's going on there?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, good day to you.

So the headline here in Ferguson really is the investigation.

What led up to all the damage and the destruction here in Ferguson?

Who's behind it?

Police are promising to look into all angles to find the parties behind it, including comments from Louis Head that were caught on tape.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LOUIS HEAD, MICHAEL BROWN'S STEPFATHER: Burn this bitch down! Burn it down!

HOWELL (voice-over): It was a moment of raw frustration and anger on the night the grand jury's decision was announced. Michael Brown's stepfather, Louis Head, overcome with emotion, shouting to the crowd.

Ferguson police Chief Tom Jackson says they are now investigating whether Brown's stepfather was trying to incite a riot. St. Louis County police say they are also investigating. No charges have been filed, but police plan to interview Mr. Head and have already interviewed people who know him.

Brown's family attorney condemned the outburst when it happened and again on CNN overnight.

BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL BROWN FAMILY: It is not appropriate in any way. We don't condone people acting on emotion, calling for people to do irresponsible things at all. And so we want his family, his mother and father's message to come across louder than anybody who might be associated with them or around them. They can't control what others do. They can control what they pray for.

HOWELL: The protests that night quickly turned destructive and violent, with cars and buildings torched and many businesses destroyed.

Meanwhile, the back and forth continues after five St. Louis Rams players put up their hands up in a show of solidarity with Ferguson protesters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As the Rams came out of the tunnel...

HOWELL: The police officers union quickly denounced the action. And then the Rams reached out to the officers, saying they, quote, "regretted any offense taken," and added, "The Rams will continue to build on what have always been strong and valued relationships with local law enforcement and the greater St. Louis community, as we come together to help heal our region."

But a Rams spokesman quickly followed up to say they did not apologize.

St. Louis police, in turn, took to Twitter to compare the definition of apology to the Rams' statement.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

HOWELL: A live picture here in Ferguson, Missouri. You're looking at the businesses there, many of them boarded up. The business owners here, quite frankly, struggling. You know, there's no business to be had on this street. Businesses are boarded up. The police plan to investigate all reports of property damage, Wolf, as they try to move forward in this case.

BLITZER: All right.

Thanks very much.

George Howell on the streets of Ferguson, joining us.

The Ferguson story is far from over, with ongoing protests and now two federal investigations.

Listen to the attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: While the grand jury proceeding in St. Louis County has concluded, I can report this evening that the Justice Department's investigation into the shooting death of Michael Brown, as well as our investigation into allegations of unconstitutional policing patterns or practices by the Ferguson Police Department, remain ongoing and remain active.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're also learning new details about those investigations.

Our justice reporter, Evan Perez, is talking to his sources -- Evan, what are you hearing?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, the attorney general was just repeating what he has said before about these investigations. I'm told that they expect that this investigation into the shooting by the Justice Department's civil rights division is going to wrap up probably by the end of Attorney General Holder's tenure, which is sometime in February.

Look, you know, the issue is that all along, the best chances for any charges against Darren Wilson was always with the state investigation. I'm told that this remains a very long shot with the civil rights case that the Justice Department is doing -- Wolf. BLITZER: Are they concerned they're raising, though, expectations out there?

HOWELL: Well, you know, Wolf, I think, what the attorney general is just trying to do is trying to make sure people understand that there is a process that he's trying to oversee. And I think you're right, there might be a danger in that. You know, he did an interview and he told -- he told me a few weeks ago that people should not necessarily interpret what he's saying to mean that there's going to be an indictment.

What he's saying is, you know, if, in the end, what you get is reform of this police department, that perhaps that's the legacy from the Michael Brown case.

BLITZER: And the Justice Department investigation, part two, shall we call it, of the entire Ferguson Police Department, what's that all about?

HOWELL: Well, that's an investigation of whether or not the department has this history of pattern and practice of discriminatory policing, Wolf. And I'm told that, you know, that process is a little bit more difficult. It's a little bit more, frankly, a little more complicated, because it's a much smaller police department than the Justice Department is used to investigating. Usually, it's much bigger police departments have this issue.

This is a tiny police department with about 54 officers, uniformed officers. And so they don't have the number of incidents to investigate.

So what's going to end up happening is they're going to look at some of the things, including the Chief Jackson, the head of the police department, and whether or not his leadership has led to some of the issues there.

BLITZER: Evan Perez, thanks very much for that update.

We're also learning that police union volunteers, off-duty police officers, are protecting Darren Wilson as he faces new threats to his life.

CNN's Brian Todd is working this part of the story for us.

He's joining us now with more.

What are you finding out -- Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, we've learned that these off-duty police officers from the St. Louis County area are not only protecting Darren Wilson now, they've been protecting him since just after the Michael Brown soothing in August.

I spoke with the head of the national Fraternal Order of Police, Jim Pasco, who told me about this protective detail. He said the officers are not being paid by Wilson or anyone else to protect him. I pressed Pasco on the nature of the protection.

Is it a phalanx of officers surrounding Wilson 24/7?

Are there police cars parked in front of wherever he is staying at the moment?

Are they moving Darren Wilson around?

Pasco would not give those details.

And we've learned that Wilson has gotten threats over the phone, in e- mails, on social media, that there are apparently bounties on his head. And these are threats not only to him, but to his his family, as well.

Jim Pasco says the protection will go on as long as necessary.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM PASCO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE: All Americans deserve to be protected. We stand for due process rights, not just for police officers, but for all Americans, who, by the way, our members spend every day on the job and in their off-duty hours endeavoring to protect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Now, community activists in Ferguson say there will be likely be people in the area who will be upset that Wilson is getting this protection. But Jim Pasco there, of the Fraternal Order of Police, says when anyone from the community is quote, "inundated with threats," as he says Wilson is, it's the official duty of the police to protect them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And this official from the Fraternal Order of Police, he is critical of the Ferguson Police Department, right?

TODD: He was surprisingly critical, Wolf.

Jim Pasco says the reason the Fraternal Order of Police protected Darren Wilson from the get go was because the Ferguson police, in his words, was, quote, "unwilling or unable to provide security for Wilson."

He says the Ferguson police never protected Darren Wilson, as he says they were supposed to do.

We've tried several times to get response to that from the Ferguson police. When we heard back from them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, brain.

I know you're still working the story.

TODD: Yes. BLITZER: We'll check back with you later.

Let's talk about all of this and more with Democratic Congressman Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

Do you think it's reasonable that there's now a formal investigation underway into the possibility that Michael Brown's stepfather, Louis Head, incited riots immediately following that grand jury announcement?

REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D), MISSOURI: Well, what Mr. Head said was unfortunate. And I think that certainly he has to be held responsible for what he said.

But look, there's a larger issue here. And it is race relations in this country. I don't think that now trying to prosecute the stepfather of Michael Brown is going to be helpful. And I don't think his words incited the riot.

In fact, I continue to hear people say the demonstrators began the riot. That is not true.

I've been in Ferguson with the demonstrators. Many of them have gone through nonviolent training. There were hoodlums who came and did all of the destruction and many of the people who had gone through the training were actually out there trying to stop them. And many of those people lived in other cities.

There were -- on one occasion, the police department arrested the same person from Los Angeles two consecutive nights.

So we've got a situation that I think is far bigger than Ferguson, far bigger than Mr. Head or Officer Wilson.

This is a dramatic revelation that we have not moved as far as we thought in terms of race relations. And these are the best of times and the worst of times, to quote the opening lines of "A Tale of Two Cities." And we've got to do something about it that exceeds just focusing on Ferguson.

BLITZER: Wouldn't it be helpful, though, if Mr. Head, the stepfather, apologized, expressed some remorse, said he was simply acting out of his frustration, his anger, he really didn't mean what came out of his mouth?

CLEAVER: It was my understanding that he has already done that, that he's already apologized.

And I think that, what is the purpose of now trying to indict this man?

I mean there is no socio-benefit, no political benefit. And all it's going to do is create a whole new level of friction, racial friction, not just in Ferguson, but around the country. And it would seem to me that at a time like this, people of goodwill in this country will say, look, we thought we were further along, but we're not. So -- so let's work on that. Let's deal with those issues instead of focusing on the things that can separate us and divide us racially.

We have made monumental progress in race relations. But I've got to tell you that right now, race relations -- the movement of race relations in a better spot has stalled. We're not moving right now.

BLITZER: As you know, four members of the Congressional Black Caucus -- I think you're the immediate past chair of the Congressional Black Caucus -- they held up their hands symbolically during remarks on the floor of the House of Representatives earlier today, a clear reference to the ongoing Michael Brown protests.

And you were on the floor when it happened. I don't think you were one of the four who did so.

What did you think of those actions?

CLEAVER: Well, I've spoken to all four of the individuals who, they were really trying to make a statement about the fact that there is some problem -- there are problems with black relations with police departments. They were not saying that they saw Michael Brown's hands in the air or anything else.

This has become a symbol -- raising your hands has become a symbol in many African-American communities, and, frankly, white communities, as well, around the country, for people who believe that there needs to be some kind of new look at and reform of police relations with communities of color.

That's all it was. And I think, you know, some people on the right are trying to make that into some kind of Black Panther statement. And it was not. It was a symbol of their belief that something has to be done. And, frankly, you're going to see a lot of that all around the country, the same thing with the Rams. They were not saying Michael Brown was angelic. They were saying, look, there's a problem here and we need to have it addressed.

BLITZER: But you didn't raise your hands, right?

CLEAVER: I did not raise my hands. But, you know, the issue is far more significant than the raising of hands or not raising of the hands. And, no, I did not do that.

But I do believe that there are African-Americans who are saying, look, you may not agree with us, but try to feel the pain. It's called empathy in theology. You know, feel the pain. I mean we're hurting.

We have -- there are many young African-American men that are being shot and some of them are African-American men that were doing wrong. I mean they were in

That we can't justify.

But there were a number of them unarmed and they're saying all around the country that needs to stop. We need to figure out how to stop those senseless killings.

BLITZER: Congressman, I want you to stand by. I have more questions to ask you. We'll take a quick break.

Much more with Congressman Emanuel Cleaver from Missouri when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're following the new protests in the Ferguson, Missouri, area. There's been a massive student walkout more than a week after riots rocked the city following the grand jury decision not to charge the former police officer, Darren Wilson, in the death of Michael Brown.

We're back with Democratic Congressman Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri.

Congressman, I think you're with the president as far as military- style equipment from the Pentagon being provided to local law enforcement. But you don't like the heavy military equipment, but we're told that only about 4 percent of that equipment is really military grade, which the Pentagon provides and the Pentagon -- and the president made clear yesterday will continue to be delivered. Is this really a big problem?

CLEAVER: It is. Congressman Lacy Clay and I flew back from Ferguson -- from St. Louis, actually, with the attorney general and went immediately to the Pentagon to meet with Secretary Hagel. And we talked -- we spoke with him about the use of military equipment in what's called the 1033 program and told him that it -- that what -- they made Ferguson look like Fallujah. And Americans, black and white, were all alarmed when you see the MRAPs moving down the street and people sitting on top of military-style vehicles with machine guns.

I think that we need to allow surplus military equipment to go to New York, to Boston and Philadelphia, and cities that should -- that very well might be targeted by terrorists. We need to make that they can have everything they can possibly use to combat terrorism.

But, you know, bringing that kind of equipment into Waxahachie, Texas, where I was born, or Ferguson, it makes no sense. And so I think we've got to redesign that program to make sure that communities that receive the equipment are able to finance the training on that equipment. To just tell people to get up and use that equipment, I think, is foolish, and it's not, I think, in the -- in harmony with the will of the American public.

BLITZER: As you know, and we've been reporting, Darren Wilson, the police officer, is -- ex-police officer, I should say, he's now resigned from the Ferguson Police Force. He is receiving security protection from St. Louis area police officers who are volunteering their off-duty time to provide security for him. Is that OK with you?

CLEAVER: Absolutely. And anybody who is caught, if they can trace anything back to any individuals who's threatening that man's life, they need to be jailed. And if they will allow me, I'll lock him or her up for doing that. That is just not to be tolerated in this country.

And I think that every decent American believes the same thing. You don't threaten people. You don't decide that you're going to take things into your own hands and mete out justice as you see it.

So I think the police are doing the right thing. I was mayor of Kansas City. I had police protection. And I trusted the police with my life and the life of my wife and my children. And so I think that it's -- it's foolish to even believe that the police forces around the country, that they are evil somehow. That's not the case.

And we have some people who I think may be psychologically in a spot where they may not be good police officers, but to condemn the police departments around the country, I think is foolish.

BLITZER: Should the president visit Ferguson?

CLEAVER: No, absolutely not. The president was elected to be the leader of the free world. He was not elected to be the head of the NAACP or the Southern Christian Leadership Conference or the Urban League. There are people who get up every morning with the job of dealing with civil rights matters.

And then if a person goes to Ferguson, we've created a whole other controversy. And we have enough; we're trading new controversy every day. For every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction. Newton's third law of physics.

And so we need to stop this action/reaction, because I think it's doing enormous damage, maybe irreparable damage to our ability to live together in this country at a very sensitive time when we have enemies abroad who would like to do damage to us.

BLITZER: Emanuel Cleaver is the Democratic congressman from Missouri. Thanks very much, Congressman, for joining us.

CLEAVER: Good to be with you.

BLITZER: Coming up, family members of the ISIS leader reportedly arrested. Could they lead the U.S. and its allies to the terror commander? I'll ask the Pentagon press secretary, Rear Admiral John Kirby. He's standing by to join us live.

Plus, a CNN exclusive: our Nick Paton Walsh on one of his most dangerous assaults. He takes us inside a city under assault by ISIS.

And coming into THE SITUATION ROOM, also, we're getting new pictures from a deadly school bus crash. We're going to have details of this and all the day's important news. All that coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Take a look at this. It's just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM, video and details of a crash involving two school buses. Truly a terrible development.

We're now being told by our affiliate WTLV that there are, unfortunately, fatalities. Also, at least 19 children already have been taken to local hospitals. This is at the Knoxville, Tennessee, area and the Knox County School District. You see one of the buses over there flipped over on its side.

We're standing by for more information. We'll stay on top of this horrible story for you and get more information. Look at those two school buses right there. Let's hope for the best.

We're also following dramatic new developments in the war against ISIS, including the capture of some of the terror group leader's immediate family. Let's get some details. Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is standing by -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it may be an obvious question, but now perhaps members of Baghdadi's family have been captured, will they have the intelligence the U.S. needs about where the ISIS leader is hiding?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): Pressure now rising on ISIS's reclusive leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. This woman, seen in a video shot earlier this year, is believed to be Baghdadi's wife or ex-wife. She and her child arrested by Lebanese authorities when they tried to enter the country from Syria.

Secretary of State John Kerry ruling out any swap for hostages held by ISIS.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: We don't negotiate, and I think people know that.

STARR: Inside Syria, heavy airstrikes continue near Raqqah, ISIS's declared headquarters. Coalition aircraft struck an ISIS electronic warfare garrison in Raqqah, a building the U.S. says contained equipment to detect and potentially target U.S. and coalition aircraft.

Near Aleppo, the U.S. struck yet again at al Qaeda operatives known as the Khorasan group.

In Iraq, Iran now flying F-4 Phantom jets in eastern Iraq. The U.S. military watching closely. But a U.S. official tells CNN so far the Iranians are not flying near coalition jets. The next major move by Iraq: U.S. officials tell CNN that Iraqi units plan to start moving north to Mosul, hoping to push out ISIS, which seized the city in June.

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: We all know when we said that Mosul will be and must be, by design, a decisive campaign objective, we know that the Iraqi security forces working in concert with Kurdish forces are planning toward that end.

STARR: The U.S. is now setting up unprecedented vetting standards for selecting modern Syrian rebels to train. The fighters will under psychological evaluation and be constantly reviewed throughout the U.S. training.

All of this as the U.S. is also looking to arm Sunni tribes in Anbar province, west of Baghdad, hoping they will revolt against ISIS.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: But look, all of this is going to be very tough, potentially very slow going. U.S. officials say they don't really know when the Iraqi forces will be able to stand up on their own and when those Syrian rebels will really be able to move against ISIS -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thank you.

Let's dig deeper on the current state of this war against ISIS. Joining us right now is the Rear Admiral John Kirby. He's the Pentagon press secretary.

John, thanks very much for joining us. What can you tell us about these reports that Baghdadi's wife, or ex-wife, and a child have actually arrived in Lebanon? Has all that been confirmed by the Department of Defense?

KIRBY: We're still working our way through those reports, Wolf. Everything we've seen indicates that that's accurate; those reports are accurate, that they did detain this woman and a child, as well.

And it's the belief here in the Pentagon that this individual was at least a former wife of al Baghdadi. But this was a Yemeni military operation, and we don't have a whole lot more detail beyond that.

BLITZER: A Yemeni military operation?

KIRBY: I'm sorry. I'm sorry, the Lebanese. I'm sorry.

BLITZER: A Lebanese military operation. But we're told there was some coordination with friendly forces, including some intelligence assistance from the United States. Is that right?

KIRBY: Well, again, this was -- this was a military operation conducted by Lebanon. We don't have a whole lot more detail to talk about beyond that.

BLITZER: Is she the wife or the ex-wife? Do we know that?

KIRBY: We believe this is a former wife of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

BLITZER: Do we think she has information, significant information that potentially could assist the U.S. in this war against ISIS, for example, knowing where this guy, al-Baghdadi, might be located? KIRBY: Well, it's possible. It's absolutely possible. Again, this

individual is in the hands of Lebanese forces. I'm sure that they are talking to her, but I don't have much visibility in terms of what she might be saying or what information she might have. It's certainly possible, though, that she might have useful information that we could use.

BLITZER: Is she in the hands of friendly Lebanese forces to the United States? There's the Lebanese government, as you know. There's also Hezbollah, which controls big chunks of Lebanon; not so friendly to the United States, basically aligned with Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria.

KIRBY: It's our understanding that she is being detained by the Lebanese military. The official Lebanese military.

BLITZER: Which is friendly to the United States, right?

KIRBY: That's right.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by, Rear Admiral John Kirby. We have more questions on what's going on. We'll take a quick break. Much more with the Pentagon press secretary right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're back with Pentagon secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby.

John, as you know, CNN has been reporting about this FBI bulletin, warning members of the United States military to be careful out there, because ISIS wants to attack them. Here's the first question. Are these credible and specific threats against the U.S. military that generated this FBI bulletin this morning?

KIRBY: Well, without speaking for the FBI, what I can tell you is we're not aware of any specific individual credible threats against individual service members with respect to this warning. That this was really more of a broad, general warning. Similar, in fact, to the ones that our own generals and admirals have been issuing to their troops since we've been in Baghdad in Iraq. We know that this group is adept at social media. We know that they monitor it. We know they pay attention to it, and we want to make sure that our troops are being as careful as possible.

BLITZER: So what advice do you have for U.S. men and women in the United States military about posts that they might want to do on social media, whether on Twitter, or Facebook or Instagram, whatever? What is the best advice to protect themselves and their families?

KIRBY: Our best advice is the same advice we give them when they sign up and join and go to boot camp, which is to be very careful about the kind of operational information that you take for granted on a day-to- day basis and posting that out there on social media sites around the Internet in -- at large.

For instance, you don't want to talk about the movement of your command or your unit, deployment dates, whether you're coming or going and where you're coming and going, where you're going to. If you're going to be separated from your family for any length of time, even if it's not for a deployment, for a training exercise or over the holidays, I don't want think you want to put as much of that information out there as much as possible because, again, it alerts people who may wish you and your family harm, whether they're terrorists or not, that you guys are separated, that you're not together.

So I think you want to just try to limit as much information as you can out there about your movements and about the movements of your command in your unit.

BLITZER: There's a little confusion about whether the troops should be wearing the uniforms walking around the United States off duty, shall we say.

KIRBY: There's no prohibition in the United States right now to the wear of uniforms off base or off installation other than whatever is prescribed locally by your local commander.

Now, there's been some changes overseas. A European commander not long ago issued some directives about uniform use in Europe, again, tied to this overarching threat here that ISIL poses. So we want commanders at all locations around the world to be prudent, to be practical, and to issue those kinds of orders and the guidance that they believe they need to protect their troops and their families. But there's no prohibition against uniform use here in the United States.

BLITZER: Let's talk about Iran for a moment. Barbara Starr, you heard her report. They're using what, those old F-4 Phantom jets. They're launching airstrikes against targets inside Iraq right now, ISIS targets. Is there any coordination, direct or indirect, going on between the U.S. and the Iranians?

KIRBY: No, Wolf. There's no coordination militarily between the United States and our troops, our military operations there and those of Tehran or the Iranians inside Iraq. There's no coordination at all. The de-confliction of air zones is being done by the Iraqi government.

BLITZER: There's no coordination even through the Iraqi government? Because if you have Iranian jets flying over areas, U.S. jets flying over areas, there could be a problem.

KIRBY: Absolutely. And, look, it's sovereign Iraqi air space, and the Iraqi governments de-conflicts that air space as is their responsibility.

BLITZER: What does that mean, de-conflict their air space?

KIRBY: It's their -- it's their air space, and they're responsible for -- for coordinating the use of that air space by both their aircraft and the aircraft of nations that may be flying missions over their country. We are not coordinating directly with the Iranians at all.

BLITZER: Is the U.S. OK with these Iranian air strikes inside Iraq against ISIS targets?

KIRBY: We're not taking a position on that one way or the other, Wolf. We certainly do have the indications that they have thrown these missions in recent days, these air strikes in eastern Iraq. But that's not something we're going to take a position on.

What we have said and we'll continue to say is that any nation involved in anti-ISIL -- ISIL operations inside Iraq, we ask that they do those things in keeping with an idea that we don't further inflame sectarian tensions inside Iraq.

BLITZER: But the Iraqi government is OK with Iranian airstrikes against ISIS targets, right?

KIRBY: Well, I won't speak for the Iraqi government. I know that they have communications with Tehran about Tehran's interests in Iraq and the military activities that they are or are not supporting. Again, I won't speak to that or what their position is.

BLITZER: How's the vetting of the Syrian rebels going? I know that a lot of them, about 5,000, I think, are about to be sent to Saudi Arabia for training. Are you using psychological evaluations, biometrics? What's going on? When will they be actually ready to start training?

KIRBY: The vetting actually hasn't started yet, Wolf. What we've done is we've set some vetting criteria, so we know how we're going to get that done and some of the processes that we're going to use to do that, to include potential biometrics.

And we've got some site surveys going on in three countries within the region that have agreed to host these training sites. And we're working with those countries to get the sites ready to take trainees. But there have been no -- no trainees exactly recruited or vetted yet, and none have showed up for training. It's going to take -- once the vetting starts, we think it's going to take three to five months to get that complete and then it's going to take another eight to 10 months to actually conduct the training.

BLITZER: Who are the other two countries if Saudi Arabia is one of the countries for the training? What are the other two countries?

KIRBY: The Turkish government, as you know, has volunteered to host some of these training and so has the Qatari government.

BLITZER: Qatari government. All right. Not Jordan, necessarily?

KIRBY: Well, again, those are the three countries that we're predominantly working with right now. We are talking to other countries in the region about their willingness to help in many different ways, but I'm really not at liberty to go into those discussions right now.

BLITZER: Everybody all set for a new secretary of defense over there?

KIRBY: Secretary Hagel, his focus is on doing the job. He is the secretary of defense and it's a big job. His focus is on making sure that our men and women all around the world in harm's way right now in Iraq and Afghanistan get the support and the resources that they need. And that's our focus right now.

BLITZER: You've seen all the reports that Ash Carter is about to become the nominee, right?

KIRBY: Well, we've certainly seen the reports out there in the media today. But again this is a decision that only the president can make and only the president can announce.

BLITZER: All right. We'll see if he announces it tomorrow. And I'm sure we'll be anxious to know if in fact that happens.

Hey, the press secretary for the Pentagon, John Kirby, thanks as usual for joining us.

KIRBY: Thanks for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by. We have some exclusive pictures just coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM from a city right at the heart of the fight against ISIS.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh walks a very, very dangerous street of Kobani. Stand by. Nick has risked his life to bring us this report.

Also ahead, new details about the threats against the former police officer Darren Wilson and what police in Ferguson, Missouri, are doing to try to protect him.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: All right. This just in, in THE SITUATION ROOM. An exclusive visit to the front lines of the fight against ISIS.

For weeks, ISIS fighters have been trying to capture Kobani, that's a city near the Syrian-Turkish border. Kurdish fighters have been holding on thanks to U.S. airstrikes.

CNN's senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh and his crew just made the dangerous trip across the border and into Kobani.

Here's his exclusive report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We've been taken down this street towards the eastern front line behind those curtains they put up to protect them from snipers by about a feet and media who are two of the female YPG fighters escorting us down there.

And this is near the eastern front where there's been much more intense fighting in the past three or four days. While we get differing figures from whoever you speak to here about quite how much of the city is controlled and you see here, quite remarkable devastation caused by the explosives used. What's quite clear is that ISIS are far from giving up on this fight. In fact trying to take ground every day.

They move towards the official border crossing three or four days ago. That was a substantial advance. They tried. They were beaten back by each night. Particularly last night we had very intense clashes further down this street towards the eastern front here.

You can hear -- you can see the absolute devastation here as we get closer towards ISIS' position here, to the northeast of the city. Some of this is caused by airstrikes but some of this from the daily constant, sometimes every five minutes thump of mortars, some homemade by ISIS. They've been pounding into Kobani a few months now.

We can see Turkey literally just behind us. But here they're edging through this wreckage closer and closer to the places where ISIS are trying to push towards.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Amazing reporting. Nick and his crew fortunately they are safely back in Turkey right now but they saw a whole lot more during this trip to the front lines of this war on ISIS.

We're going to have much more of his exclusive reporting from inside Syria. That's coming up in the coming days.

Amazing work, risking his life. The crew risking their life. To bring this kind of news to our viewers.

Also coming up, under threat and now underguard by off-duty police. We're learning new details of the security surrounding the former Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson.

And don't forget, this Sunday, "CNN HEROES."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)