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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
UK Threat Level Raised To Severe; Computer Found In ISIS Hideout In Syria; Misfired Messaging on ISIS?; Ezell Ford: Another Michael Brown?; Tony Stewart: Ward's Death Will Affect Me Forever
Aired August 29, 2014 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Ashleigh Banfield. Thanks for joining us and have a great weekend. "Ac 360" starts now.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, I'm Jake Tapper filling in for Anderson Cooper.
More signs tonight that the western world is sounding the alarm specter of the Islamic terrorism particularly as it is embodied by ISIS. The British government is sounding the alarm today raising its terror threat level almost to the top. We will have more on that in a moment.
As of now, the U.S. department of homeland security says it is not aware of any specific credible threat to the United States, but officials at all levels of government have been saying for weeks now that ISIS is not to be taken lightly.
CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins me now.
Barbara, the U.S. has chosen not to raise the U.S. terror threat level even though the UK raised their s. Is there a difference between the threat the UK faces versus the kind of threat the U.S. does?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well you know Jake, it appears it does right now. The British government sees a very direct threat to the safety of the British people. They say 500 or so Britain traveled to this conflict zone, may have come back there . If Britain sees it as much more direct Europe, much closer, transportation in and out of Europe, much closer to people with jihad intent can move around very easily. There are some restrictions in place, of course, but the worry is it's not enough, so they are taking these steps.
The U.S., officials will tell you they do not see a direct threat to the homeland at this point. They don't think. That's what is has on its mind. But they do have concerns that there is the lone Wolf scenario out there. There are about 100 Americans that traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight there with militant groups, maybe a dozen or so that joined up with is being tracked closely by U.S. law enforcement. A lot of concern they could return home. That they could conduct loan Wolf attacks here. Right now, no specific information, we're told.
TAPPER: That's right. And ISIS is an organization but Islamic extremism is an ideology. It doesn't really have to come from a different country. We're going into a huge travel weekend, of course, with the Labor day weekend, does that mean that do officials have more heightened concerns than they normally would?
STARR: Well, it's interesting. Labor day weekend and, of course, very rapidly this country comes up on the 9/11 anniversary. And this is a time of year when law enforcement and count terrorism official will tell you there is a heightened state of concern and alert because of these two events. So many Americans on the move traveling by air, by road across the country visiting family, visiting friends, going on the last summer vacation. So there is a lot of awareness. But as we stand here tonight, officials say again, they have no specific information about any plot for a homeland attack, Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Barbara Starr. Have a great weekend. Thank you so much.
TAPPER: CNN international correspondent Carl Penhaul joins me now live from London with more on the ramped up threat level there in the UK. Carl, good to see you. The UK threat level is raised to severe which is defined as quote "an attack is highly likely." Is there intelligence that there is a specific threat against the UK?
CARL PENHAUL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, this is the highest threat level there has been in Britain for more than three years now. When we talked to Prime Minister David Cameron, we asked that. But he said he had no specific intelligence to suggest any attack was imminent. He's basing raising the threat level with his security agencies on the basis that more than 500 Britains may now be fighting with ISIS and other jihadi groups in Syria and Iraq and any of those could return to Britain at any time to create havoc.
But that of course, isn't a new threat. We've long known of Britains in Syria, Iraq and before even before that that out in Afghanistan. And then when Mr. Cameron went on to describe how he would combat this what he called poisonous ideology, he said it could be a generational battle, a battle that could take years or decades, Jake.
TAPPER: That's curious then he chose this moment this raise the level. Cameron also stressed that people should quote "continue to go about our lives in the normal way. Did he give any details about what steps he plans to initiate to mitigate this threat?
PENHAUL: There are several things that he wants to do here on the home front in Britain. He says that he's considering withdrawing passports from Britains who have either tried to travel or coming back from conflict zones where they may have fought alongside jihad groups. He's saying he is considering travel to those who are trying to stop to try and go them before they get into trouble. That he says is going to put to parliament next week.
And also something your average Britain will notice is from tomorrow that the police have said that they are going to step up patrols at airports to railway stations and also on the streets we might see armed police patrolling with guns. We're not really used to that on the streets of Britain, Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Carl Penhaul in London. Thank you so much.
Joining me, our CNN national security analyst and former CIA officer, Bob Baer and former U.S. ambassador at large, Daniel Benjamin, director for John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding, at Dartmouth College.
So Daniel, what is it that has prime minister so fearful, is the is fighter on the James Foley beheading video who has a British accent? Is it something more specific?
DANIEL BENJAMIN, DIRECTOR FOR JOHN SLOAN DICKEY CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL UNDERSTANDING, AT DARTMOUTH COLLEGE: One thing they are worried about. I think, foreign fighters that have come back. Another thing they are worried about is sympathizers within the UK who might want to act up because there is so much in the press right now about ISIS and they may want to show they can act, too, and that they are getting off their fences and really taking charge. And then finally, you know, it's just the fact that this is really a consuming issue at the moment. And they are probably worried that all that focus on the Foley executioner has caused a lot of stir among people with radical sympathies.
TAPPER: Bob, something like 500 British citizens have fought in Syria, many of them for ISIS. Do you think the threat is greater with the UK or is it equally as concerning here in the U.S. even though there no even is no apparent plan to bump up the United States level?
ROBERT BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's much worse in Britain because you do have a large South Asian community. They are alienated much more. They are a class system in Britain which excludes them and, you know, they are forced into ghettos, the worse set of ghettos around Nottingham or east London, east. So they are more likely to respond because they are not integrated with the British society. And I think if there is an attack, we will see something of it in London.
TAPPER: Daniel, how worried should Americans be about an is attack in the homeland, in the United States itself? Does that seem to be the primary goal along the lines of how it was for Al Qaeda?
BENJAMIN: No, I don't think so, Jake. And I think there is a certain amount of hyper ventilation at the moment. You know, the long-term threat is serious. When you have a safe haven as big as the one that has been created n Syria and Iraq, you have a real problem that has to be dealt with over the long term. But this is a group that has no track record of plotting terrorist attacks outside of its own area. Now, we may again see sympathizers here in the U.S. who want to act up and carry out an attack and there may also be a returning foreign fighter, although, we have pretty good intelligence on travelers and I think that that's a threat that we can manage pretty well.
TAPPER: Let's talk about how good our intelligence is when it comes to travelers. Bob, when you think about the American jihadi from Florida, he actually flew back to the U.S. four times from Syria. He fought with the al-Nusra front. He was in Florida. Then he returned to the battle field and then he died in a suicide bombing. Why are people like him or at least why did he, why was he able to go undetected?
BAER: Well, it depends whether on social, you know, on social networking. They will come up, they will flagged at the FBI. Let's don't forget the Boston bombing. We were told by the Russians that these two Chechens were a problem and they in turn fell through the cracks. This could happen again. The FBI is not a political police. They can't catch everything and yes, they can track people leaving the country and when they come back but you can't track them when they cross the border into Iraq or Syria, can't do it. Some could go to turkey for six months. If you stay off social networking, you could probably fly under the radar and get away with this. You know, it's a chance lone wolf, coming out of nowhere, a chance of someone going to Syria and getting combat trained and never come up on the FBI's radar, absolutely.
TAPPER: Bob Baer and Daniel Benjamin, stay with us, because next, I want to get your take on this, it's being called the laptop of doom. Journalists get their hands on secret files from an is laptop, documents basically a manual on how to destroy the world. How journalists got it and what they found coming up next.
TAPPER: Welcome back. It's an ominous indication of what ISIS may be planning. A computer that was found in an ISIS hideout in Syria. It's called the terror laptop of doom and with good reason. On it was a treasure trove of documents, tens of thousands of hidden files detailing everything from how to make bombs and rockets to how to weaponize the bubonic plague.
Joining me is foreign policy reporter, Harald Doornbos.
Harald, there s a lot of debate here in the U.S. whether ISIS is a threat specifically to the U.S. homeland. But the that bubonic plague is possibly in the arsenal is stunning. And according to files on the laptop, I would like to know how would they create and launch such a weapon?
HARALD DOORNBOS, JOURNALIST: Very difficult to say, but they have a manual for it. And we found it on the laptop. What I think is very important and what is kind of worries them are three elements. We have basically a Tunisian national, a chemistry student who traveled to Syria, joined ISIS and who carries this manual of biological weapons on his laptop who has an interest in trying to develop it.
These three factors make it very worrisome, how far they are? We don't know. Maybe the guy, the laptop owner, is dead. We don't know. But we know that there is a certain interest among is people with a science background into developing these kind of terrible diseases.
TAPPER: The laptop includes Fatwa, or an Islamic ruling from a radical Saudi justifying the use of the plague or weapons. What more can you tell us about that? DOORNBOS: Basically, this Fatwa explains that if you cannot beat the
unbelievers in some kind of way, you eventually can use weapons of mass destruction against them. Have they developed it? I don't know. Are they currently developing it inside Syria, in caliphate? I don't know.
TAPPER: How specifically can you come into possession of such a treasure trove of files on ISIS from this laptop?
DOORNBOS: We found it through a rebel commander who commands moderate Syrian rebels. They fight against the Assad regime but they also fight at the same time against with Islamic radicals of ISIS. They attacked an ISIS safe house. And they found his laptop there. Eventually, we convinced the commander to give the laptop to us or better he allowed us to make a copy of it on an external hard drive and we got 146 gigabyte of material and a thousands of documents, 35 thousand documents and, you know, some were really worrisome.
TAPPER: Is there more you have yet to read or have, at this point, have you gone through all of the documents pretty much?
DOORNBOS: We've gone through more or less all of the documents. There are other documents in like how to steal cars. They are all kind of related to jihad. So it's like how to steal cars, how to make rockets, how to make bombs, basically how to destroy the world in short. Also, we found documents of how to get fake passports, how to travel from one jihad hot spot to another without being called by the authorities. So yes, for sure very interesting laptop that we got.
TAPPER: How to destroy the world, a chilling summery.
Harald Doornbos, thank you so much for your time.
DOORNBOS: You're welcome.
TAPPER: And back with me now our CNN national security analyst and former CIA officer Bob Bear and former U.S. ambassador at large Daniel Benjamin.
So Bob, let me start with you, this is fighter, a trained chemist and physicist, he is looking how to prepare a biological weapon. How concerned are you by this news?
BAER: Well Jake, today when I heard the news, bubonic plague sounded a bit strange to me and I called up an expert that works for the Pentagon and he said forget bubonic plague. The vectors is fleas, you know, spreading this in the western European capital in the United States, it is very remote. It is not a very particular danger
But what they are looking at today is Ebola, you know. You simply put somebody, a victim in a center fugue, get the liquid, you atomize it and, you know, spread it around in a transportation system. That's what has them scared. And it's very easy to do and it is something they are aware of. It's extremely alarming and it's very unlikely to happen but it's a possibility. TAPPER: Dan, it's one thing to research this kind of thing, Al Qaeda
has been trying to stage an attack like this for 20 years but quite another to actually put a plan into action and succeed, right?
BENJAMIN: It really is. There are a lot of different points at which a plot like this can break down. And also, you know, the terrorists groups, I think understand after all these years of experimentation that to do this right is going to require a great deal of investment, resources, and management by senior leaders. And I think that that was something that discouraged Al Qaeda after its many failures in the '90s and the early part of the last decade. And so ISIS has really to think about how much it wants to dedicate to this effort when again, it's really been very much focused on the insurgency.
Now, there is no question that the high-end threat, the biological weapons, a radiological device, chemical weapons, these are what worry people in Washington the most and that's what they are most visual in about. But it is not easy to do. And thus far, the track record has really been quite poorer. Remember, you know, the one major chemical attack was carried out by (INAUDIBLE) in Tokyo in the '90s, and they devoted an enormous amount of money to getting that right, money that really would even be hard for is to scrape together.
TAPPER: Let's talk about ISIS and its resources.
Bob, the one thing that so many policy makers here in Washington find truly concerning is that ISIS does have serious money and that they are spread out across the world and cities, they are not isolated in remote areas like Afghanistan and Pakistan. Is this do you think why so many counterterrorism officials and people like defense secretary Hagel seems so alarmed and so concerned?
BAER: Well, they are alarmed on a couple levels. One ISIS is much bigger than the 10,000 to 15,000 people we keep hearing. They are supported by the tribes and eastern Syria by the tribes in Anbar province, not all of them, by some of them and by the Sunni middle class. And his, we're seeing a Sunni uprising. And they may not share the ideology with ISIS, but are going to use them until they don't need them anymore.
And additionally, they have seized gold. They have got the old fields around (INAUDIBLE). They have got wheat production. They are in control the large part of a Tigris river. Electricity generation, refineries that I can go on and on. So they are self-sustaining. So, if we think that ISIS is going to go away in six months all by itself, I think we're badly mistaken. And the question is if we have to go in and destroy them, which is possible, our military can do it, will they take revenge against the United States and I think it's almost certain, although they don't have a track record so far of international terrorism.
TAPPER: Daniel Benjamin, Bob Baer, thank you so much.
Just ahead, did President Obama misfire with his messages when he said he doesn't have a strategy for going after ISIS in Syria. The White House still trying to set the record straight today putting the blame on reporters.
TAPPER: Britain's decision to raise a terror threat level because of the growing threat from ISIS comes less than 24 hours after President Obama told the world that he doesn't yet have a strategy for going after ISIS in Syria. Here is what he said exactly in case you missed it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll continue to consult with Congress and I do think it will be important for Congress to weigh in and that our consultations with Congress continue to develop so that the American people are part of the debate, but I don't want to put the cart before the horse. We don't have a strategy yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now, shortly after President Obama said that, the White House made it a point that clarified his choice of words saying that he wasn't talking about his overall strategy for responding to ISIS, just the part of the equation dealing with going after is targets in Syria. Still, to a lot of people, that hasty clarification suggests that the commander in chief may have misfired with his messaging.
Today when White House spokesman Josh Earnest revisited the issue, senior White House correspondent for CNN Jim Acosta pressed him on the point.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: He was asked a specific question whether or not the president would seek congressional authorization before ordering military action in Syria. And the point the president made is that's putting the cart before the horse. The president hasn't yet laid out a specific plan for military action in Syria. And the reason for that is simply that the Pentagon is still developing the plan and he's still reviewing them.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I don't mean to belabor it, but the fact you came out so quickly and tried to explain what the president had to say suggests that what he said was not what he intended to say, or are you saying that just the rest of us took it the wrong way?
EARNEST: The reaction that we had at the White House yesterday was not in response to the president's comments, it is in response to the way it was being reported.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: They didn't like the way it was being reported. Earlier this at a Democratic national committee fundraiser, President Obama mentioned the threat of ISIS and the crisis in the Ukraine and the Middle East. And according to (INAUDIBLE) reporter who then said quote "if you watch the nightly news, it feels like the world is falling apart. But the world has always been messy, we're just noticing now in part because of social media."
Joining me now is CNN political analyst David Gergen and CNN political analyst Gloria Borger.
Gloria, let me ask you that quote from a fundraiser. The White House is basically still doing damage control on the comments from yesterday and the president now saying look, it's not as bad as it looks, it's just social media makes us see this up close.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. So, it's twitter's fault or cable's fault or it is the network's fault for hyping or exaggerating. Of course, that's the world in which we live, Jake. That's the world in which the White House lives, by the way, because when it serves their interest to tweet out thing, to blog about things or the president going to the podium as he did yesterday to spread the word, then they will say it's OK. In this particular instance, he's saying calm down. It is not as bad as it look. I would say it's not the medium, it's the message or it is a lack of a message.
TAPPER: David, as far as his comments yesterday on Syria, forgetting even, if you want, the question about the strategy, the comments he made about the strategy, I think a lot of people wondered why did he go out there and speak when ultimately whether or not the strategy comment was a gaffe, there really wasn't any sort of no plan that he was announcing whether it came to ISIS or Ukraine.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Not clear. What is clear over the last two days including those comments from tonight, the report, Jake, is the president seems to be off his game. And I think the White House seems to be a little rattled. Any time White House aides rush to the phones and I've been there and done it, I've participated in this, you call out to reporters, here is what the president meant to say. You realized you made a mistake, it's not a big deal.
What the really big deal is the we don't have a strategy. And that we don't know what are ultimate goals are. And that's what we ought to be ultimately talking about because there seems to be a disagreement within the president's team (ph) about, what is the ultimate goal here? Is it to roll back ISIS? Is it to contain ISIS or as John Kerry said, is it to destroy ISIS? There seems to be conflicting views within the administration on that very question.
TAPPER: Let's stay with me, David, because we heard Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel say, ISIS is an imminent threat and the comment from John Kerry about they must be destroyed. And I can go on and on about all the many high-level figures, but then President Obama said that right now all they are doing is trying to keep their folks.
Keep the United States personnel out of harm's way in Northern Iraq and that is the very focused goal and I don't know if it's a reflection of people in the cabinet who are trying to encourage President Obama to do more, or just some bad wording by President Obama, but it seems like people see the threat very differently, David?
GERGEN: I think that's absolutely right. There is one group that seems to be very hawkish and wants to destroy ISIS, clearly secretary of state is in that camp.
Samantha Powers is in that camp and another group much more cautious, the president seems to lean more to their view and that is the roll here of the United States is to keep Iraq from falling through ISIS, but not to get too involved in Syria.
That's an understandable goal. He hasn't articulated and it's causing lots of confusion and then in the midst of this confusion, nine days after Secretary Hagel said ISIS beyond anything we've seen.
The president said look, the world is tough, but it's all about social media being inventive and inventing the sense of threat. I don't get that and I'm sure a lot of other people don't either.
TAPPER: Gloria, there is some breaking news and I want to ask you about the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. He is in the middle of a tough re-election campaign. His campaign manager, Jessie Benton announced he was resigning.
This has to do with an investigation into whether or not the Ron Paul campaign and others paid for an endorsement in Iowa in 2012. Do you see this effecting McConnell's re-election campaign in any way? His campaign manager resigning with this cloud over his head?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: That's because the campaign manager worked for Ron Paul. Look, I think what we've seen tonight in this breaking news is that the McConnell campaign has run away from this as fast as they could.
Benton resigned. McConnell accepted his resignation and refused to comment any further on this saying of course, they had nothing to do with the Iowa caucuses back in the 2012 campaign so they didn't know more about it.
Mitch McConnell is a pro. He is going to try and move away from this as quickly as he can. But you can be sure that it's going to -- it's going to become an issue for him. And also by the way, he now needs someone to run his campaign.
TAPPER: That's right. Gloria Borger, David Gergen, thank you so much. Have a great weekend to both of you.
Just ahead coming up, outrage and calls for justice after an unarmed Los Angeles man is shot dead by police, just two days after Michael Brown, the names of the officers who killed him were kept secret for more than two weeks, but we have some new details coming up.
TAPPER: Crime and punishment now. New developments in the shooting death of Easel Ford, a Los Angeles man killed by police just two days after Michael Brown was shot dead in Missouri. Like Brown, Ford was African-American and unarmed and just like in Ferguson witness and police accounts of Ford's shooting are dramatically different. It has taken more than two weeks, but the Los Angeles Police Department has finally released the names of the officers who shot Ford. Stephanie Elam has more.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Ferguson, Missouri continues to grapple with the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer, another family and community is mourning a similar loss of yet another unarmed young black man.
EARL OFARI HUTCHINSON, LOS ANGELES URBAN POLICY ROUND TABLE: We had our own Michael Brown, Ezell Ford gunned down right here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My son was a good kid.
ELAM: Neighbors say 25-year-old Ezell Ford was well-known in the South Los Angeles community.
ASHANTI HARRIS, WITNESS: Everybody in the neighborhood took care of Ezell Ford.
ELAM: An under (inaudible) police mistrust has boiled over here before. The L.A. riots in 1992. Some residents are again on edge.
HARRIS: They are in fear of the police department.
ELAM: It was just after 8:00 p.m. on August 11th when two officers from the Los Angeles Police Department confronted Ford as he was walking in his neighborhood. Police say Ford made, quote, "suspicious movements," end quote and looked like he was trying to conceal his hands before allegedly grabbing one of the officers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A violent altercation ensued where the suspect attempted to grab the officer's gun.
ELAM: Police say Ford and the officer fell to the ground in the struggle before both the officer and his partner fired their weapons at Ford. Ford would later die at the hospital.
But Ashanti Harris who allegedly witnessed the situation unfold from his apartment saw things differently.
HARRIS: The police jumped out on him with the guns drawn out. He put his hands up. They wrestled him down to the ground, one shot went off and then 2 seconds went by and another shot went off and I've seen the other officer told him to shoot him again and he shot him again in the back while he was on the ground. He couldn't fight back, two big cops are on top of him. They let Ezell die.
ELAM: Now more than two weeks after the shooting, the LAPD has named the officers, 12-year police veteran, Charleton Wampler and Antonio Viegas on the force for eight years. In the days since Ford's death, the community has organized marches to protest police brutality. HUTCHINSON: How do you explain when you have to level of deadly force against those not accused of committing a crime and not even armed?
ELAM: LAPD says the community should not rush to judgment as the investigation is ongoing.
ASSISTANT CHIEF EARL PAYSINGER, LAPD: It's important that we be transparent and open and we demonstrate as much as we can in terms of the viability of the investigation because the public's trust is at the forefront.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Justice. Justice for Ezell.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just want some kind of justice.
ELAM: Some kind of justice and answers.
ELAM: Several people in the neighborhood say Ford had a mental disability, but the lawyer for the family refuses to clarify if this is true. That lawyer who also represented Rodney King says he plans to file a federal wrongful death lawsuit against the LAPD on behalf of the Fords. Stephanie Elam, CNN, Los Angeles.
TAPPER: If a case is eventually presented against the officers involved in Mr. Ford's death and the officer involved in the death of Michael Brown for that matter, the outcomes of both cases could very well be decided by legal president set by another man's altercation with police.
This man. His name is Dethorn Gram. Back in 1984, Gram, a diabetic was in desperate need of some orange juice to raise his blood sugar. He entered a convenience store and quickly left because the line was too long and got back into his friend's car.
A police officer saw Gram exit the store and thinking a crime had possibly occurred, pulled over the car. The officer called for backup after erratic behavior from Gram. The responding officers believed he was drunk, not diabetic as he told them.
And in the process of restraining him, they broke his foot, bruised his forehead on the roof of the police car and cut his wrists with handcuffs. Gram survived.
He sued for excessive force and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court where it was ruled, believe it or not, that officers acted perfectly lawfully.
Let's bring in the legal panel to explain how that case affected everything from the Rodney King trial to possible court proceedings involving the death of Michael Brown.
Joining me is CNN legal analyst, Mark O'Mara. He defended George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin trial and also Neil Bruntrager, the general counsel for the St. Louis Police Officer's Association. Gentlemen, thank you both for being here.
Neil, let me start with you. In this Supreme Court case, Justice Ronquist (ph) wrote, quote, "The reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene rather than 20/20 vision of hindsight."
Do you think it's fair to say that this decision set the bar pretty low for police officers when it comes to proving fear of death or imminent bodily harm? They get a lot of leeway, yes?
NEIL BRUNTRAGER, ST. LOUIS POLICE OFFICERS ASSOCIATION: No, I don't think it's low. I think it's an appropriate bar. Again, what we have to do is we have to look at it in through the eyes of the police officer.
We have to look at it through and look at the things that he or she would have seen at the time she took the action involved and that standard is important. When we look back in 20/20 vision, again, we have facts and we have information that the officer probably didn't have.
And we have the opportunity to analyze it and think about it and mull over it whereas an officer who is confronted with these situations often in a split second has to make that decision.
So no, I don't think the bar is low. I think the bar is a reasonable one because we have to give the officers that benefit of doubt. We're asking them to do a tough job.
TAPPER: But you would agree, it's lower than it would be for a non- police officer whether in his or her use of force?
BRUNTRAGER: Well, actually, in Missouri that's not the standard. The standard in Missouri is that you can do whatever is reasonably necessary to protect yourself from the use of force.
So again, that same standard would apply whether you're a police officer or not and that's across the board. So again, we'll look at it through the eyes of what you would know. Note, this is important, these are defenses that you can implement if you're actually charged in a criminal case.
So again, it becomes the duty of a defendant to actually inject this issue in the case. So you don't really want to be in a position where you have to raise the defense.
But what we hope is when the analysis is done, when people look at this after the fact that they are looking at it through the eyes of the police officer as they would have seen it at the time.
TAPPER: Mark, in another case, Tennessee versus Garner, the Supreme Court decided that an officer can, can shoot at a fleeing person that poses in the office's mind a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to others and this is the standard that's now applied to police. But it was interesting, I read the cnn.com op-ed that you wrote that suggested that we should -- as a society we should question whether this is the right standard. Explain what you meant.
MARK O'MARA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's a tough call because we told cops to do a difficult job and arrest people, particularly arrest felons because we consider felonies to be much more serious offenses.
So now, we look at it and many laws, half of the states have laws that say you can shoot a fleeing felon. It's the Garner case that came out and said no, you can't quite just shoot them. You have to have a fear of reasonable harm to you or others.
What I said was look, we're either going to give cops the responsibility to go out and do what they can and make those momentary decisions and act reasonably from the cop's perspective or we can say holster your weapons and let every felon go.
But the downside to that is felons will know all they have to do is outrun a cop and then commit whatever felonies they want. That's probably a worse situation than trusting the people we entrust to do things right and if they do it wrong, we hold them to task.
TAPPER: Right. I mean, people would know that they are not going to get shot if they run, so they might as well run. Neil, when it comes to the officer's state of mind or as Justice Ronquist referred to reasonableness, we're talking about decision making in a matter of as you noted a second or two.
Does changing the rules for police make it more difficult for the officer to determine when to shoot given that the rules have now changed and they have to adjust their minds?
BRUNTRAGER: Yes, the difficult part of this is we need a clear standard and we need to be able to say to these officers, look, this is what you have to do. This is how your behavior has to be directed.
If you don't have a clear standard, then that officer at the scene is going to hesitate and maybe, maybe that hesitation is going to cost him or her, her life.
So again, we want to make it clear and we want train to the standard. It's not just a standard, but then we train to it. Those things are really important and I read in Mark's op-ed and it was excellent and said we have to constantly review these standards and we do.
This is an assessment that we have to go through all the time. Every time we hear of a tragic loss of life, we ought to look and say are we doing everything we can do and the right way?
TAPPER: In fact, I think there is one thing that came out of the most recent tragedy with Michael Brown is people now know a little bit more about what police are allowed to do in terms of self-defense. Mark O'Mara, Neil Bruntrage, thank you so much.
Up next, for the first time, an emotional Tony Stewart talks about killing a fellow NASCAR driver during a recent sprint car race. Stay with us.
TAPPER: NASCAR driver, Tony Stewart, spoke publicly today for the first time about the incident three weeks ago when he struck and killed fellow driver, Kevin Ward Jr. Stewart was visibly shaken at the news conference in Atlanta where he'll be back behind the wheel this weekend. CNN's Andy Scholes reports.
ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS (voice-over): An emotional Tony Stewart showed remorse in his first public comment since this August 9th accident when his car struck and killed 20-year-old driver, Kevin Ward Jr., during a dirt track race.
TONY STEWART, THREE-TIME NASCAR SERIES CHAMPION: This is been one of the toughest tragedies I ever had to deal with professionally and personally and this is something that will definitely affect my life forever. This is a sadness and a pain that I hope no one has to experience.
SCHOLES: Stewart, a three-time NASCAR champion has spent the time since the incident in seclusion. No charges have been filed against him, but New York authorities say the investigation will continues for at least another two weeks. NASCAR says Stewart has received all the necessary clearances to return to racing.
MIKE HELTON, NASCAR PRESIDENT: Once Tony decided to come back, we then had to go through the policies and procedures and the steps that we've historically built over time to make the absolute most correct decision we could make.
STEWART: I've taken the last couple weeks off out of respect for Kevin and his family and also to cope with the accident in my own way. I want Kevin's father, Kevin Senior and his mother, Pam, and his sisters, Christi and Kayla and Caitlyn to know that every day I'm thinking about them and praying for them.
SCHOLES: Since Ward's death, NASCAR has implemented a new rule requiring all drivers to remain in their cars following an accident until safety crews arrive unless they are in immediate danger. Steward says his return to the track is part of his healing process.
STEWART: I miss being back in the race car and I think being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time. I'm here to race this weekend. And I appreciate your respect and there will be a day I can sit here and answer the questions.
SCHOLES: Stewart has two races remaining to qualify for NASCAR's version of the play-offs. Andy Scholes, CNN, Atlanta.
TAPPER: Just ahead, helping kids with cancer feel better by keeping them connected with their friends. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Finally from us tonight in tonight's "American Journey," September is childhood cancer awareness month. Tonight we bring you the story of a father and son who made it their mission to treat a side effect that doesn't really get a lot of attention, social isolation. Randi Kaye reports.
RANDI KAYE, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In 2002, when Matt Forkas was just 9 years old, he was diagnosed with cancer, acute lymphatic leukemia. He was too ill to go to school.
LEN FORKAS, FOUNDER, HOPECAM: Nine-year-old kids need their friends and it was lonely. It was depressing.
KAYE: So Matt's father, Len Forkas came up with an idea to combat his son's loneliness. He reconnected his son to his classroom using web cameras. Remember this was 2002, long before Skype.
(on camera): Do you remember what it was like before you first connected with your class?
MATT FORKAS, HOPECAM'S FIRST CONNECTED CHILD: When I first connected, the internet connection was slow, but it flicked on and right when it flicked on, it was like an internal soul flicker.
KAYE (voice-over): Sharing ups and downs with classmates made treatment easier.
MATT FORKAS: I had steroids and my face got puffy and I look in the mirror like this isn't me, but when they saw me on the camera, they still saw me for what I was so it felt really, really good.
KAYE: The hope Matt felt was the inspiration for Hopecam, the charity his dad started a year after Matt's diagnosis. It cost about $1,200 to connect each child and they pay for everything. Hopecam has already connected over 400 children with cancer to their classrooms in 26 states.
Including Ava Buhr, in 2011 when she was just two and a half, Ava was diagnosed with leukemia. She needed chemotherapy and lots of rest, but Hopecame helped her stay in touch with her friends at preschool.
AVA BUHR, HOPECAM CONNECTING CHILD: We listen and learn. We dance and sing. I get to see my classmates and teachers.
KAYE: Today, Ava is in remission and starting kindergarten in the fall.
LEN FORKAS: No one thinks about the mental health of the child and that's what Hopecam does, it fills the empty void and social connection that is so often overlooked. KAYE: Len has raised over $300,000 for the charity by competing in Race Across America, a solo bike race that spans 3,000 miles. Last year, he and his son claimed more than 19,000 feet above sea level. Matt raised more $25,000 for Hopecam on that trip, and honored a different child each day.
MATT FORKAS: It's Hopecam for a reason. It gives them hope again. It's truly, truly amazing.
KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, Vienna, Virginia.