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Fighting in Ukraine; ISIS Propaganda; Potential Unrest in Ferguson; Michael Brown's Parents Testify at U.N.; Hagel Reveals Plan for Troubled Vietnam Vets

Aired November 11, 2014 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now: cease-fire collapsing, some of the fiercest fighting in weeks under way right now in Eastern Ukraine, with Russia sending more weapons, heavy weapons to the rebels. Will the thousands of Russian troops massed on the border join the fight?

Shot down. A new ISIS propaganda film shows terrorists apparently downing an Iraqi helicopter with a shoulder-fired missile. But has ISIS just suffered a major defeat at the hands of Iraqi forces?

Bracing for the worst. Missouri's governor says he is ready to order the National Guard to Ferguson. Will violence erupt after the grand jury releases its report on the police shooting death of Michael Brown?

And family murdered. Exclusive interviews about a shocking crime, including with the man suspected of killing a family of four and the father of one of the victims.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're following breaking news, the collapsing cease-fire between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists in the eastern part of the country. There is now new fear this long-simmering battle may be about to explode do a deadly new level.

We're also following the new ISIS threat and the terrorists' slick new propaganda video containing scenes of horrific violence and troubling battlefield images. We're covering these stories and much more this hour with our correspondents and our guests around the world.

Our chief national security force Jim Sciutto begins our coverage with more on the crisis in Ukraine.

Jim, what's the latest?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the crisis in Ukraine is increasingly resonating far beyond Eastern Europe to a degree that many Americans now aware.

On the map here, we're showing the number incidents where Russian forces have come into close contact with U.S. forces or NATO forces. Let's start around North America here. Just last month, a Russian aircraft came within 50 miles of the coast of California. It's the closest flight to California since the Cold War.

Up here, by Alaska and Canada, there have been animal numerous encounters here. Russian bombers testing the limits of American airspace with increasing frequency. Let go to Europe as well, NATO allies here, remember. You have had a number of incidents. There was one where a Russian military aircraft, because it was not flying with a transponder, came dangerously close to a commercial aircraft. It had to swerve at the last minute. A near miss. Could have been a disaster.

You had a case here where Russian forces came across the border into Estonia, a reminder, a NATO ally, captured a soldier there, took him back. He is still in Russian custody. Another one that captured the imagination, sounds like right out of a Tom Clancy novel. But the Swedish navy searching for weeks for what they believed to be a hidden Russian sub in their waters.

All of this happening, all of these encounters happening as the situation on the ground in Ukraine getting even worse.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): This is the sound of a cease-fire crumbling, pro-Western Ukrainian forces locked in battle with Russia-backed separatists inside Ukraine.

The fireworks weren't as loud as President Obama met Russian President Putin in Beijing, but their shorten encounters, totally just 20 minutes in all, seem to signal that U.S. and Russia still sharply divided over Ukraine. NATO's supreme allied commander was more direct, calling out Moscow for violating the norms of Western civilization.

GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE, NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: That nations will respect international borders. Nations will respect the sovereignty of their neighbors. And so the cease-fire is in name only at this point.

SCIUTTO: Today, Pentagon officials tell CNN that Russia has massed some 8,000 troops on the Ukrainian border and has stepped up shipments of heavy weapons to separatists in recent days.

And Moscow has again sent in a convoy it claims is humanitarian, but U.S. and Ukrainian officials complained went through no independent inspection. Now even the Obama administration is admitting that, so far, the U.S.-led sanctions are not deterring Russia.

BEN RHODES, U.S. DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: On Ukraine, we continue to be deeply troubled by Russia's activities.

SCIUTTO: One sign of the lack of progress is the still lingering crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Today, rescue workers removed more human remains, nearly four months after the jet crashed, shot down, U.S. officials believe, by separatist missiles supplied by Russia.


SCIUTTO: This is the map of Ukraine showing the areas now under either Russian control or Russian-backed separatist control.

You will remember over here, this is Crimea taken over by Russians several months ago. But then when we look to Eastern Ukraine, just zooming in on this area here along the Russian border, this is how much of Eastern Ukraine now controlled by pro-Russian separatists. And this border here with independent Ukraine basically a battle line right now, where you have open battles.

And it is along here, very close to the Ukrainian border where you now have the 8,000 Russian troops, and going in now, heavy artillery pieces increasingly over the last several days, Pentagon officials saying -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, thanks very much for that report.

The escalating crisis comes as both President Obama and the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, are in Beijing right now for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is traveling with the president.

What's the latest over there in Beijing, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, President Obama came here to Beijing to meet with the Chinese President Xi and other economic leader in the region at this APEC summit.

But the president is finding that Russian President Vladimir Putin is becoming a big distraction because of the crisis in Ukraine. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes at a briefing with reporters here in the Chinese capital said so far, it appears that those sanctions are having an effect on the Russian economy. They are hurting the rubble ruble. But Ben Rhodes conceded during a briefing with reporters that they have yet to change Putin's behavior. Here's what he had to say.


RHODES: The sanctions have yet to sufficiently affect Russia's calculus as it relates to Ukraine. That's why we continue to impose them. That's why we continue to be very clear about where we need to see better Russian action.


ACOSTA: One other consequence of those sanctions by the U.S. and other world powers on Russia is that Vladimir Putin here in China has been seeking energy deals with Chinese President Xi. That appears to be one ramification of the tightening of the economic news on Moscow.

It basically is driving Putin's into China's arms over here. At the same time, Putin has shown his own knack for overreach, you might say. He tried to put a shawl over the shoulders of China's first lady here at an APEC dinner the other night. The first lady almost immediately removed that shawl and the incident created such an uproar, it was later removed from Chinese state media -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Amazing diplomatic protocol could have been violated on a sensitive issue like that.

But what are you hearing about the state of U.S.-China, the bilateral discussions that are under way where you are in Beijing right now?

ACOSTA: Wolf, White House aides are portraying those to be in good shape. The president and Chinese President Xi met for five hours last night, two hours longer than expected here in Beijing. They talked about a range of issues, the economy, security issues, climate and so on.

And get this, Wolf. This is something we have been looking for all week long, whether or not President Obama and President Xi would hold a joint news conference. The Chinese have been balking at that idea and the White House officials have been pushing for it.

And the White House just announced in the last hour that President Obama and President Xi will be taking questions from reporters. The White House says that is a major diplomatic coup if they can pull it off, Wolf.

BLITZER: What do you mean if they can pull it off? Is it not a done deal yet that there will be a joint news conference?

ACOSTA: Well, what I mean, by that, Wolf, is we just don't know how many questions they will take. Will it be one question for U.S. reporters and one question for the China state media or will we see more than that? Obviously, if we see more questions, then President Xi has a decent chance of being pressed on these human rights questions here in Beijing and that's something the White House would like to see, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim Acosta traveling with the president in Beijing. We will stand by for that news conference. Thank you.

Let's get some more on the breaking news.

Joining us, the U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Daniel Baer. He's joining us live from Vienna right now.

Ambassador, thanks very much for joining us.

Let's get right to the news of the day, the intense fighting that's going on between these pro-Russian rebels, the Ukrainian military. Has the level of fighting returned to that pre-cease-fire level?

DANIEL BAER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE ORGANIZATION FOR SECURITY AND COOPERATION IN EUROPE: I don't know if it is fair to say it has returned to the pre-cease-fire level we saw the end of August when we saw the insertion of Russian forces and really large-scale land battles.

But certainly it has intensified in the last few days and that is really worrying. It's very clear that the best framework for a peaceful de-escalation of the crisis remains the Minsk protocol, which Russia signed up to and Ukraine signed up to on September 5.

And that requires the Russians to get their weapon out, get their fighters out, to return the international border to Ukrainian control and to allow for the OSCE to monitor that border and release all the hostages that they have taken. There are hundreds of people who are being kept hostage literally in dungeons in the separatist-controlled territories and several of them who are being held in Moscow.

So the recipe is clear. All it takes is for people to implement it. That is the message that is being sent to the Russians. If they continue to flagrantly violate it, the costs will rise.

BLITZER: Are you concerned this could be the end of the cease-fire?

BAER: Well, obviously, the intensifying fighting is of deep concern.

At the same time, the framework that's laid out in Minsk does lay out 12 steps which remain the recipe for the de-escalation. It is not that we don't know what the answer is. It's that Russia needs to step up and do its part to implement what it agreed to just two months ago.

BLITZER: What are you hearing about the situation in Crimea that Russia basically annexed? Because CNN sources are saying the so- called Russification program in Crimea is taking place, that those who don't claim Russian citizenship are being told they are foreigners, they won't be privy to health care, to banking opportunities. What are you hearing about what's going on in Crimea?

BAER: What's going on in Crimea, what we are hearing is that it is a very dire situation. Human rights are being rolled back just as they are in Russia more broadly.

The Crimean Tatars,who are the indigenous Muslim people who live in Crimea, are being systematically repressed. These are a group of people who you may remember were deported by Stalin in the '40s, who had just returned at the fall of the Soviet Union. And now again they're seeing Soviet-style repression aimed at them. It is a dire situation.

There are, as you say, people who are being denied rights to property, fired from jobs because they refuse to take on forced Russian citizenship. It is a very, very serious situation and the world needs to stay focused on it.

BLITZER: You heard in the report from Jim Sciutto that now four months later after that Malaysian plane was shot down over Ukraine, they are still getting remains, they're finding remains of that crash at that crash scene. What's going on over there? Because this is beginning to sound, not only awful, but horrendous.

BAER: It is horrendous. Wolf, and you will remember that the OSCE special monitoring mission was able to get to the crash site fairly quickly after the plane was shot down and they had some access.

It was terrible at first. They were chased away with shots fired in the air by a bunch of drunken hordes. But they were able to get access in the early days. That has been not reliable over the recent months and investigators have not been able to do their work. And those seeking to recover human remains and the belongings of loved ones haven't been able to do their work. And so the pain that is felt by all those families, to whom our hearts go out, is a pain that endures as they don't get closure on this terrible, terrible event.

BLITZER: Very quickly, who is to blame for that?

BAER: I think all evidence that has come to light -- and there was another report that came out this week by a crowdsourced report that pieced together social media to show the overwhelming evidence that the BUK missile was transferred by Russia into Ukraine and that the missile was fired from separatist-controlled territory at the plane that is what brought the plane down.

BLITZER: All right, stand by, Ambassador. We have more to discuss, including this relationship, or sort of relationship now between the president of the United States and the president of Russia. What's going on?

More with Ambassador Baer right after this.


BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, the collapsing cease-fire in Eastern Ukraine, where fighting between government forces and pro- Russia separatists now escalating.

Pentagon officials telling CNN about 8,000 Russian troops are now massed along the Russian/Ukrainian border.

We're back with the U.S. ambassador for the Organization Security and Cooperation in Europe, Daniel Baer. He's joining us from Vienna, Austria.

Ambassador, we heard today from the White House that President Obama spent about 15, 20 minutes total with Russian President Putin. They talked about Iran, Syria, Ukraine. This relationship does not seem to be pretty good right now. And I wonder how you would describe Putin and his role in all of this from your perspective.

BAER: Well, obviously without commenting on the conversations between the president and President Putin, I can say, obviously, it is not so much the relationship as Russian behavior that is so difficult right now.

Russian actions have attempted to undermine the basic rule that has underwritten European security since World War II, which is that one country doesn't try to take another country's territory under force. And the Russian government's action, driven by the Kremlin, driven by President Putin over the last nine months has been a destructive course. What we have been doing, we have been reaching out frequently, often.

Obviously, we have been adding costs through form of sanctions that have been devised with our European partners, but we have also been consistently reaching out and saying there is another choice here. There is a path to de-escalation. We did that last spring in Geneva, laid out some steps that would meet the needs of de-escalating, which Russia agreed to and Russia failed to implement those.

And then more recently, there was this Minsk protocol that was agreed to on September 5, where Ukraine and Russia agreed to 12 steps, to implement 12 steps to de-escalate the crisis. It is terrible tragedy that this is something that is entirely manmade. We have enough problems in the world to deal with that just happen. This is a manmade tragedy and it is doubly tragic that Russia has so often chosen to take the wrong course and to choose not to de-escalate.

Secretary Kerry had a lengthy meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov also this week. Vice President Biden had a phone call yesterday with President Poroshenko. The message is clear. The best framework for a de-escalating this crisis, for a peaceful resolution is to implement the Minsk protocol which Russia agreed to just two months ago, to get Russian fighters out of Ukraine, get Russian weapons going the other way than the direction they have been going, going back into Russia, to release the hostages and to secure the international border with OSCE monitoring.

BLITZER: Is it fair to say these sanctions against Russia that the U.S. and others have put together, as far as Putin is concerned, he is a pretty tough guy, obviously, don't seem to be making much of an impact?

BAER: I think it is fair to say that Russia's actions have not ceased their destabilizing, destructive course.

But the sanctions are having an impact. We have seen the ruble weakened dramatically just in the last few weeks. Obviously, the lower oil price is also having an effect on Russia. Russia's economy is not diversified. It is not a 21st century economy and it is feeling the pain and unfortunately that pain is going to be felt by the Russian people.

President Putin needs to do the right thing by the Russian people, which is to get out of Ukraine and to work on resolving the serious problems that he has at home, which include rampant corruption, an undiversified economy, and repression and human rights violations. That's the business that President Putin should be attending to.

BLITZER: Ambassador Baer, thanks very much for joining us.

BAER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: There's other breaking news we're following, this time in the war on is.

Iraqi security forces now claim they have retaken the city of Baiji in Iraq from the terrorists. It is home to the country's largest oil refinery and a major power plant. We're also getting a look at a new propaganda video by ISIS showing what the terrorists claim is the downing of an Iraqi helicopter.

Let get some more now with CNN counterterrorism analyst the former operative Phil Mudd, our global affairs analyst retired Lieutenant Colonel James Reese, and our CNN military analyst retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.

Guys, thanks very much for joining us.

General Hertling, what does this new video tell us about ISIS' capabilities?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Wolf, it is similar to so many videos that Jim and I have seen on several occasions, that it is the typical combination of mass slaughter, killings, violation of laws of war and it is interspersed with very high-tech video of high-speed equipment firing, and it is much better than anything we saw al Qaeda produce, that's for sure, because it is more high-tech.

But it is typical of the kinds of propaganda films that are geared toward raising the testosterone levels of would-be jihadists.

BLITZER: Do these videos, Colonel Reese, give us any insight, indication about whether the U.S.-led military strategy is having a direct impact? Supposedly, the goal is to degrade and destroy ISIS.

JAMES REESE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, Wolf, as you noticed, when we started this thing almost two months ago, the propaganda was flying.

And now that we have done some degradation out there on the battlefield, I think this is how ISIS counters some of the coalition's successes, is try to push more of that propaganda out there to show what their abilities are. They're showing this piece with the Kurdish soldiers they have captured.

Nothing down in Iraq, though, which is very interesting for us and as we look at it from an analytical perspective. More back on the Syrian side, which shows me is what we're doing in Iraq is pushing them back and keeping them at a stalemate.

BLITZER: Here's something that's worrisome, Phil, and I want you to weigh in. Now there are reports that ISIS is in some sort of merger talks with the al-Nusra Front in Syria, that Khorasan al Qaeda spinoff, they're brokering these talks. If all these groups were to get together and work as one, that would represent a major new threat.

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think we have to divide this war into two parts. The first is the war on the ground in Iraq and Syria. You could call it a counterinsurgency.

We have worried about Khorasan though because of these to the United States, which the president has talked about. What I would look at in this case is sort of two plus two, Wolf. That is, what's the strength of Khorasan? Focus on the United States, operatives who have experience going after the United States. What's the strength of ISIS?

Access to thousands of Europeans and maybe 100, 200 North Americans. I'm afraid those two come together, that is, the action Khorasan to operational experience against the United States and the access ISIS has to people who may have good paper, passports, for example, to get back to Western Europe or North America.

BLITZER: That represents a huge, huge new development.

Colonel Reese, I spoke in the last hour with Peter King. He's on the House Homeland Security Committee and on the Intelligence Committee. I had heard earlier there is now a greater concern that what ISIS wants to do is start killing American soldiers, American troops in Iraq to get them to come home in body bags. They think that would have a terrific impact for their organization's morale, their propaganda, their recruitment.

This represents a serious threat, especially as now some of those U.S. troops are going into Anbar, which is a really dangerous area.

REESE: Well, Wolf, you know, the bottom line is the American troops are very, very good. They're the best in the world.

As we go through this, the chances go higher and higher that we're going to lose an American soldier in this type of combat operation that they're in, in an advise-and-assist role. That's going to happen. That's the reality.

But ISIS is looking at it as, hey, they use that as propaganda, what makes the U.S. populace now after the elections start pushing back. I don't see it. I think that would even make us more determined from the U.S. side and more determined to get the Iraqis going, get the coalition. Again, as General Austin said many times, it will even keep us more going, to get the political aspects going with the Arab countries and getting them focused on it.

BLITZER: General Hertling, they may be defined as advisers, but there will be 3,000 now and maybe that number will go up. I suspect it will, 3,000 U.S. military advisers and not combat troops, but they potentially are in danger, aren't they?

HERTLING: Soldiers are always in danger when they enter a combat zone.

Wolf, but in this case, I think the majority of those soldiers that are going to be going on -- and we see the soldiers that are going into Al Asad Air Base now are setting up a pre-deployment site survey. They're looking to establish training ground for the new idea of the Iraqi national guard in the various provinces.

So I think you will see the great majority of the military personnel going in being trainers, with some element of those being advisers at the brigade and the division level. Certainly, they're all going to be subjected to potential dangers. But I think, as Jim said, we will be in relatively good shape and soldiers are prepared for those kinds of dangers.


BLITZER: Very quickly, Phil, your thought?

MUDD: Look, we are going to have a soldier taken. My concern is not that we will have a soldier killed on the field of battle. My concern is that ISIS is going to capture somebody and conduct the same kind of hostage videos we have seen with civilians. The American people after 13 years of war, I'm not sure they're ready for that.

BLITZER: Yes. That's a really worrisome development.

Thanks very much, guys, for all of that. We will stay on top of this story.

Just ahead, we will shift gears. There are new details now, plans to keep the peace in Ferguson, Missouri, when the grand jury report on the Michael Brown shooting is released. How far is the governor of Missouri willing to go to prevent new violence?

Plus, an exclusive interview with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. He reveals his plan to help thousands of troubled Vietnam veterans.


BLITZER: Missouri's governor says he's ready to order the National Guard into Ferguson when the grand jury reported the Michael Brown shooting is released. Officials are bracing for a possibly violent reaction if the grand jury decides not to indict Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot the unarmed teenager.

And in a shocking twist, Brown's parents are halfway around the world right now. They're in Switzerland, where they testified before the United Nations committee against torture, saying they want the world to know what's going on in Ferguson.

CNN's Erin McLaughlin is joining us from Geneva, Switzerland, right now.

Erin, I know you had a chance to speak with Michael Brown's parents. What did they tell you?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it was an incredibly emotional day. Michael Brown's mother actually broke down during her testimony before the U.N. committee. I interviewed the parents following that, and they reminded me that last Sunday marked three months since the death of their son. And they explained to me why it's so important for them to be here in Geneva.


LESLEY MCSPADDEN, MICHAEL BROWN'S MOTHER: We need the world to know what's going on in Ferguson. And we need justice. We need answers and we need actions. And we have to bring it to the U.N. so that they can expose it to the rest of the world, what's going on in small-town Ferguson.


MCLAUGHLIN: They told -- they also told me that they hope that the grand jury will indict Darren Wilson, the police officer responsible for the shooting death of their son. If that does not happen, Michael Brown Senior saying that he plans to take to the streets to protest, albeit peacefully.

And that really is in part what this is about. A team of legal experts has submitted a brief to their behalf to the United Nations, outlining a range of issues, from police brutality to racial profiling. It looks at the circumstances surrounding Michael Brown's death as well as the police response to the protests that followed it. And the parents telling me, the goal here is to take this tragedy and create change -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Erin McLaughlin in Geneva, Switzerland, for us. Erin, thank you.

Let's get some more now. The community activist, John Gaskin; our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin; and CNN anchor Don Lemon, who has covered the violence in Ferguson.

John, let's start with you. The governor of your state, Governor Jay Nixon, he said earlier today, in his words, violence will not be tolerated in the wake of the grand jury announcement, whether or not they indict the officer, Darren Wilson. What was your reaction to what the governor had to say today?

JOHN GASKIN, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: Well, it appears that he learned from the first go-around what the unrest in Ferguson and his, I guess, lack of action from his office along with the other elected officials in the area.

He obviously is trying to be proactive and get on things early and make a stance early regarding the protest, the violence and what he is doing, along with local law enforcement to try to de-escalate violence before it starts.

Many believe that he sent a statement. Others feel as though this is the beginning of trying to really embrace the community for what's ahead. It is quite obvious they're taking this very serious, obviously, by bringing the National Guard in again for this.

BLITZER: Has the relationship between law enforcement in Ferguson and the community as a whole actually improved since August?

GASKIN: Well, that's a very good question. Really, in the last, really, the last three weeks, law enforcement, John Belmar, the chief of police for St. Louis County, and Captain Ron Johnson of St. Louis's Police Department, police chief; and Sam Dotson have all been meeting with various groups, with community leaders to try to kind of share with them some of the things that they're going to be doing to try to keep the peace, allow protesters to protest lawfully and allow their voices to be heard and their grievances to be heard. I think that obviously is a step in the right direction, to bridge

that gap between the void of communication, taken with leadership and the community. But you still have this high level of distrust between the protesters, people within the community, especially people of color, and law enforcement. The...

BLITZER: But it is better?

GASKIN: It is better.

BLITZER: Go ahead. Go ahead, Don.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. I spent time in Ferguson. Not as much as I did initially. But I spent an entire day with Captain Ron Johnson. I spent a lot of time with Chief Belmar, as well, taking about the issues there. And I also spent time on the streets.

Wolf, as I've been saying in your show, I was there for two days, and we looked for protestors, and we didn't see any.

Listen, things aren't perfect in Ferguson. I think John is right, that there's a lot of mistrust. But the simple answer to your question, are things better? Yes. They're starting to get better. And so it's not going to be perfect. The momentum, though, I believe, is moving in the right direction.

BLITZER: Don, what did you think of Governor Nixon's suggestion that he would call in the National Guard in Missouri if the protests grow too large or unruly, saying he's not going to tolerate -- he's not going to tolerate violence at all?

LEMON: Yes. I saw that as I was getting ready for work. And I had to sit on the bed and watch it. And I applaud him for doing that. It would have been great if he had done that in the beginning. Because the violence that initially happened cannot happen again. The rights of the protesters to protest, that cannot be violated again.

So I think he's moving. Again, he is moving in the right direction. He's saying the right things.

As I spoke to Captain Johnson when I was there, they spent millions of dollars on overtime for officers over the last couple of months to train those officers, to have them out on the streets, to have them going into the community. And so that's what they're doing now.

So we should all, as I have been saying, be calm and try to figure out, you know, sit here and figure out what to do once the announcement has happened. Instead of trying to get ahead of ourselves, to figure out, oh, you know, are there going to be protests or what have you? Let's see what happens first. But I think they're moving in the right direction.

BLITZER: All right. Jeffrey, Michael Brown's parents told CNN -- they're in Geneva, as we just saw, today -- that they have not been in touch with authorities there in Ferguson. They don't believe they will get any advance word on what the grand jury is going to announce. Is there any protocol when a grand jury is going to indict or not indict, that they give a heads up, if you will, to the parents of the victim?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: According to the letter of the law, they have no legal right to any advance information. Many police departments, many prosecutors try to go out of their way, though, to be solicitous, to be accommodating, to just give the victim's family a sense of what's happening.

Certainly, they would not be entitled and they should not get advance word of what the grand jury is going to do. That would be a real violation of grand jury secrecy. But a general sympathetic ear. And...

BLITZER: What does that mean, a general sympathetic ear? There's going to be an indictment or there's not going to be?

TOOBIN: Well, that -- they're not going to tell them that in advance. But there -- many prosecutors' office have people whose whole job is to be victim' advocates. To coordinate with them about where are you going to be on the night that this is decided? There are many ways you can coordinate, you can work with victims' families without giving them specific heads up about the results of the grand jury.

BLITZER: All right, Don. Listen to this. I want to play something that Captain Ron Johnson -- he's the captain of the Missouri State Highway Patrol -- that he said today. I want you to listen to this.


CAPTAIN RON JOHNSON, MISSOURI STATE HIGHWAY PATROL: August 9, Ferguson, Missouri, was known -- unknown to most of the world. But the challenges faced were known to communities like Ferguson throughout our nation. Ninety-four days later, it has become a conversation throughout the world.


BLITZER: All right. So regardless of what the grand jury decides, we should expect that the conversation about the events that transpired there will continue, I suspect, for a long time. Right?

LEMON: Absolutely. It will continue. And this is something that we all need to talk about. But again, I keep reiterating, we all need to have cooler heads. Due process has not played out for the officer.

And when we know that there's going to be an indictment or not an indictment, then we can dissect what happens and where this conversation goes next. But until then, you know, again we should just be calm and see what happens.

And I think the captain is absolutely right. This conversation started not only in Ferguson, not only in America but around the world, as you see the family of Michael Brown across the world talking about issues that have to do with violence and brutality. BLITZER: We don't know yet -- we don't know, John, yet when that

announcement is going to be made. Pure speculation. John Gaskin, give me a final thought before I end this.

GASKIN: I think it's going to come after the 15th, around that time. The prosecutor said mid to late November. If I were a betting man, I'd say the 15th or near that date, for sure. Probably following it. For sure.

BLITZER: All right, John Gaskin, thanks very much.

Don Lemon, thanks to you.

And Jeffrey Toobin, of course, always appreciate having you IN THE SITUATION ROOM, as well.

Just ahead, an exclusive interview with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel as we reveal his plan to help thousands of his fellow Vietnam War veterans. Plus, on this Veterans Day here in the United States, honoring all the men and women who have served.


BLITZER: On this Veterans Day, there's new hope now for some of the thousands of troubled Vietnam War veterans. Fellow vet now Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has a plan that could dramatically change their lives. He spoke about it in the exclusive interview with our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

Barbara is joining us.

Barbara, what did the defense secretary tell you?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, not surprisingly, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will tell you Veterans Day is a day to honor those who served. Vietnam veteran Chuck Hagel is taking a very personal step to help some of his brothers in arms.


STARR (voice-over): On the streets of L.A., more than 6,000 homeless veterans. Nobody knows how many are Vietnam veterans, holding tough memories of a long ago war. For Vietnam vet Chuck Hagel, that war is always with him.

(on camera): This obviously is something that means a lot to you. It's in your office and you see it every day when you come in.


STARR: Tell me about this.

HAGEL: It came in the mail out of nowhere.

STARR (voice-over): A photo sent to him by a soldier with Hagel's unit during the 1968 Tet Offensive. HAGEL: We were going in to a Long Binh ammo depot. At that time, it

was the largest in the world. As we were approaching it, these explosions started going off because the V.C. had gotten in there the night before. The reason that that picture has struck me always is because it represents, I think, in one picture, the awesome power of war.

STARR: Now, the secretary of defense is using the power of his office to help some of the most troubled veterans from the war he fought in. Hagel has ordered that Vietnam veterans with less than honorable discharges may now have post-traumatic stress from that war be considered a contributing factor in their discharge. That could open the door to Vietnam veterans who never qualified for disability pay because of their discharge status, finally getting compensated.

STEVE PECK, U.S. VETERANS INITIATIVE: In our generation, there was the term, the "Crazy Vietnam Vet". Everyone knew that term. Guys shooting up gas stations and robbing stores.

STARR: Steve Peck, a former marine, has worked with homeless veterans since he came home from Vietnam.

PECK: We have been recognizing that more and more of the veterans who are still homeless, who are really cut out of society, have other than honorable discharges. And we want to get them off the street. Why would we leave them out there?

STARR: Joe Hunt was drafted and sent to Vietnam at the age of 19.

JOEL HUNT, VIETNAM VETERAN: I had nightmares when I came home, and pretty much blocked it out of my mind.

STARR: He is glad the government is trying to do more.

HUNT: I think it's great. We were drafted. We were forced to go.

STARR: For Hagel, it's about doing the right thing by Vietnam veterans who came home with little recognition of their struggles.

HAGEL: There was no reflection of experiences and what a veteran of a war carries with him or her. They deserve another chance. It is the right thing to do and I am so privileged that I have an opportunity to be part of that.


STARR: So, if you ask Chuck Hagel, did he come home from Vietnam with post-traumatic stress, he will tell very quietly answer and tell you what every veteran knows. War changes everybody -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I think we should all thank the defense secretary for doing this. It has taken a long time but someone like myself who grew up during that Vietnam War, this is something everyone certainly has to appreciate. I'm really glad the secretary of defense is taking this initiative for those Vietnam War vets right now. It may be late but it's not too late. At least in some of those cases, it's going to help these men and women for (INAUDIBLE) matter as well.

Thanks very much, Barbara, for that report. I really appreciate it.

And on this Veterans Day, we salute all the men and women who have served and are serving in the United States military.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every single generation of veterans throughout our history has been the best that this country has had to offer. It's as true today as it was 200 years ago, when a generation of warriors held the ramparts at Fort McHenry, as the dawn's early light broke following that battle, a young lawyer named Francis Scott Key looked toward the Fort's flag pole asking a question, does that star-spangled banner yet wave?

HAGEL: The war reminds us to honor those who defend our country, caring for those who return home with visible and invisible wounds of war, taking care of our people is the sacred responsibility that we must always honor.

BIDEN: Does that star-spangled banner yet wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave? The answer in generation after generation continue to be yes. American warriors never bend, never break and never, ever, ever yield.




BLITZER: We're awaiting major developments in a nearly five-year-old mystery. Tomorrow, a suspect will be arraigned in the deaths of Joseph McStay, his wife, and their two young sons. They disappeared from their home outside of San Diego in early February of 2010. Their remains were discovered a year ago today in the Mojave Desert. And now, authorities have charged Joseph McStay's friend and business partner Charles Chase Merritt with the killings.

CNN's Randi Kaye has been covering the case since the very beginning. She's joining us now to talk about her special tonight on CNN, "Buried Secrets: Who Murdered the McStay Family?"

Randi, you interviewed this suspect Chase Merritt. Where does he say he was the night the family disappeared that final day?

KAYE: Wolf, we spent two hours with him long before he was arrested back in January of this year. And he says that he was at home. He had seen Joseph McStay, he told us for lunch that day. They talked business.

He said it was a good meeting and that night he was at home when he was watching TV with his girlfriend when he actually says that Joseph McStay used his cell phone and called Chase Merritt on his cell phone. He said he didn't answer because he was too tired. The question is, though, authorities want to know, was he really at

home? Because they say one person did this. Could that one person have killed the whole family, buried them in the desert 100 miles away and then dropped the car where it was found, the family truck 250 miles south of the border.

BLITZER: Chase Merritt, as you know, he was also writing a book about the case. If he did do this, that seems a bit strange. What do you know about this part of the story?

KAYE: He told us he was writing a book. He was in the research phase when we spoke to him in January.

But what's interesting is that Patrick McStay, Joseph McStay's father, was also writing a book. And the two of them were in touch, Chase Merritt and Patrick McStay.

And Patrick had told us when Chase was working on the book he called Patrick and he wanted to know what Patrick would write in his book and suggest he read him some of the parts and looking back, Patrick McStay now thinks that Chase Merritt was maybe just looking to find out what Patrick McStay knew about the investigation and what had happened.

BLITZER: And, Randi, your documentary premiering tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN, features an exclusive interview with the father of Joseph McStay. What did he tell you?

KAYE: Well, we talked to Patrick McStay after he found out that Chase Merritt had been arrested, and he said regarding the motive, since authorities are still looking for one, he thinks that it had to do with money, because he said that his son Joseph McStay was working on a $9 million deal to make this waterfall, that's what he did for a living, and Chase Merritt was one of his welders and he said that Chase Merritt's work was getting slopping, according to his son, and his son may have been looking him to cut him out of the business and maybe cut him out of that $9 million deal. So, he thinks if Chase Merritt was involved, it did come down to money, Wolf.

BLITZER: Randi, thanks very much.

And to our viewers, be sure to watch later tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern for Randi's special report, "Buried Secrets: Who Murdered the McStay Family?"

And remember, you can always follow us on Twitter, just tweet me @wolfblitzer. You can always tweet the show @CNNSitroom.

Please be sure to join us once again tomorrow, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, every weekdays. You can certainly watch us live. You can always DVR the show you won't miss a moment. Go ahead, set that DVR. I think you'll be happy about that.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.