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Interview With State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf; NATO Summit; Joan Rivers Dies; ISIS Videos: Brutal and Sophisticated

Aired September 4, 2014 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And our breaking news, the death of the legendary comedian Joan Rivers a week after suffering cardiac arrest during a routine medical procedure. Our correspondents and our guests, they are all standing by for full coverage this hour.

Let's begin with our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. He's with the president at the critical NATO summit in Wales.

Jim, what is the very latest?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, President Obama has been busy at this summit trying to line up an international coalition to go after ISIS in both Iraq and in Syria, and tonight top White House officials are confident he will get that support.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Holding what may be its most critical summit yet, NATO appears to be gearing up for a new battle that would take the fight to is terrorist in Iraq and Syria.

(on camera): The president will have a coalition?

BEN RHODES, U.S. DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We will have a coalition absolutely to go after ISIS.


ACOSTA: That's happening?

RHODES: That's happening. That's happening in Iraq today.

ACOSTA (voice-over): U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said NATO leaders are signaling they will join a military coalition President Obama is cobbling together to defeat the terror group. Rhodes cited the allies participating in U.S.-led airdrops of hurt supplies to ISIS victims as an early first step.

RHODES: Intelligence, law enforcement, lots of ways for nations to step up to the plate and be a part of this coalition.

ACOSTA: President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron set the tone for the summit with an op-ed in "The Times of London" that says: "If terrorists think we will weaken in the face of their threats, they could not be more wrong."

One key question is whether this decades-old alliance is ready.

DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We must reinvigorate and refocus this alliance to tackle new threats and to ensure it's continues to foster stability around the world.

ACOSTA: NATO's secretary-general said it has to be.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL: The international community as a whole has an obligation to stop the Islamic State from advancing further.

ACOSTA: But first comes diplomacy, a delicate art that sometimes involves passing notes from one top administration official to the next. Aides say the president hurried from one crisis meeting to another.

Talking ISIS with Jordan's King Abdullah, Mr. Obama was running late to a session with Ukraine's president on finding peace with Russia, a deal with Moscow the Ukrainian leader thinks is in the works.

PETRO POROSHENKO, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: The only thing we need now is peace and stability.

ACOSTA: If Russia doesn't change its tune, U.S. and NATO leaders warn more sanctions against Moscow are on the way.

RHODES: Russia has to bear a cost for what they have done.

ACOSTA (on camera): Sanctions are coming?

RHODES: Yes, we are preparing those sanctions and so are the Europeans.


ACOSTA: Now, as for ISIS, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes cautions the president has not made a decision on using airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria. So don't expect an announcement on that tomorrow.

Instead, NATO will be unveiling some new measures aimed at helping Ukraine deal with Russia. And, Wolf, Ben Rhodes says there will be some significant announcements on that front tomorrow.

BLITZER: We will hear what they have to say. Jim Acosta traveling with the president in Wales.

The U.S. strategy, as the president puts it, is to degrade and destroy ISIS. That strategy may be taking some shape.

Let's get details from CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

What are you learning, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as the administration begins to put that military coalition together one of the key questions now, must it take the ultimate step and move to kill the leader of ISIS?


STARR (voice-over): Iraqi government troops and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters use machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades trying to drive ISIS out of one more town in Northern Iraq. It's a ground war President Obama says U.S. troops will not be part of.

But U.S. officials say the strategy to degrade and destroy ISIS working with other nations is taking shape.

TONY BLINKEN, U.S. DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: There's a division of labor that needs to happen, including focusing on the fighting capacity of ISIL, focusing on its support network, the foreign fighters, the financing, the propaganda, focusing on some of its local supporters.

STARR: A major goal, to get Sunnis in Northern and Western Iraq to cut their ties to ISIS and this time make it not look solely like a U.S. military operation.

BLINKEN: Even if we use our airpower, someone on the ground needs to be able to take and hold the territory that we freed up.

STARR: Could the next step be killing ISIS leader Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi with a targeted airstrike? Al-Baghdadi is believed to be inside Syria, so far outside the scope of U.S. military action. U.S. military and intelligence officials say for now there are no targeted kill missions. President Obama would have to approve them. Even so, killing al-Baghdadi won't end ISIS' grip.

LT. COL. DOUGLAS OLLIVANT (RET.), FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL STAFF: If we remove Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, there's probably someone who is going to immediately step up and take his place. And we don't know what that next-generation leader may be like.

STARR: The head of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center said at this point there is no credible information ISIS plans to attack the U.S. homeland.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As formidable as ISIL is as a group, it's not invincible.

STARR: But 350 additional U.S. troops are going to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad out of concern ISIS could try to launch a suicide bomb attack there.


STARR: U.S. officials say there is no direct specific threat against the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad from ISIS. But, Wolf, this now puts well over 1,000 U.S. troops on the ground inside Iraq -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I suspect more will be on the way in the coming days and weeks. Thanks very much, Barbara, for that report.

After the beheadings of two Americans and the brutal slaughters carried out by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, President Obama is certainly under increasing pressure to step up the U.S. military response. He's getting support from the British prime minister, David Cameron, who spoke with CNN's Nic Robertson.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: President Barack Obama yesterday in Estonia saying that ISIS should be destroyed and he also went on to say that it should be shrunk to a manageable size.

What should it be, destroyed or shrunk?

DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Destroyed, squeezed out of existence is the way I would put it. But we should be clear what we're facing here is this Islamic extremist narrative, poisonous narrative. It isn't just in Iraq and Syria, we have also seen in it Somalia and Mali, of course, in Afghanistan when hosted by the Taliban. This is a generational struggle.


BLITZER: Joining us now, the State Department deputy spokesman, Marie Harf.

Marie, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: First of all, that U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, is there a specific threat? Because 350 American troops are now on the way there to protect hundreds of American diplomats, contractors, other military personnel. That's the biggest U.S. Embassy in the world, I believe. Is there a specific threat there from ISIS or any other terror group?

HARF: There is not, Wolf.

We constantly reevaluate our security needs at our facilities in Iraq because we want to have people on the ground to be doing this very critical work that they are doing. Some of the folks that had already deployed to help our embassy were really a rapid response force.

This is a more longer-term security strategy to help protect our people there. It's top priority for us.

BLITZER: We know two years, at the U.S. diplomatic consulate in Benghazi, there was a terror attack on the anniversary of 9/11. Looking ahead to 9/11's anniversary one week from today, have you

asked the State Department, have you asked the U.S. military, other law enforcement authority for beefed-up security at other U.S. diplomatic missions around the world?

HARF: We're constantly reevaluating our security, particularly around anniversaries, as you mentioned, like 9/11.

It's something we're constantly vigilant about. We always adjust our security posture and increase security on the ground, if we need to. We don't always outline specifically what that looks like for sort of obvious reasons. But it's something we're focused on and it's something we're constantly aware of.

BLITZER: Your boss, Secretary of State John Kerry, is heading to the region from the NATO summit. Which countries will he visit and what's his mission?

HARF: We haven't announced the full lineup yet. We will do that soon.

But he will be consulting with a number of partners in the region, particularly in the Gulf, as Lisa Monaco, who you just had on, will be as well, to talk about the various ways we can join together in a coalition, not just military, but financially, diplomatically, and a whole host of ways here to fight against ISIS.

They are already doing quite a bit, particularly in Iraq on the humanitarian side. But we can all do more, and that's the conversation we will be having.

BLITZER: For security reasons, you don't want to announce in advance what countries he will be visiting. Usually, if the secretary of state or other U.S. officials show up, for example, in Baghdad, we don't know about it until they actually show up in Baghdad.

HARF: We're still working out the schedule and I'm confident we will have more specifics to talk about soon.

But suffice to say the secretary has been on the phone and in contact with his partners from places like Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar. All these countries, he's been on the phone and he's been talking to these other foreign ministers and world leaders about what we can all do together and there are also conversations going on at NATO about what we can do with our European partners on ISIS.

BLITZER: Are you encouraged, for example, what Saudi Arabia has announced in recent days, what the UAE, the United Arab Emirates, has announced in recent days? Because they both seem willing to take on ISIS. I don't know how far they are willing to go but they seem to be saying from the U.S. perspective the right thing. Right?

HARF: Well, look, they know this is a threat to them as well.

And they're very clear about that publicly and privately. We have seen them come out and publicly say ISIS does not represent Islam, condemn what they have done, be very clear about that. That's an important step, but we have also seen them come out and say we can all can take additional steps. These are all good signs and we are bringing people together to fight this threat. That's the conversation the secretary will be having.

BLITZER: We know the Iranians, Iran doesn't like ISIS either and they have a lot of influence in Iraq right now.

Are the Iranians who are in Iraq, including Iranian military personnel, playing a helpful or hurtful role?

HARF: What we have said, particularly when it comes to the Iranians, but anyone who has influence in Iraq really needs to use that to bolster the government as they go through government formation, to not encourage sectarian divides and to help the security forces of the government really grow stronger, that militias aren't the answer here.

Obviously, there's a history here with Iran, but that we really all need to be focused in Iraq particularly on helping the central government and its security forces and the Kurdish forces grow in capacity to really fight ISIS on their own on the ground.

BLITZER: The new Iraqi prime minister, he still has a lot of work to do to try to show that he can represent all of the Iraqis, not only the Shiites, but the Sunnis and the Kurds and all the other groups there, including -- there are still a lot of Christians, many of whom have fled, but there are still some Christians left inside Iraq.

HARF: Absolutely. He said a lot of the right things that it's encouraging to hear from him and I think which Iraqis should find encouraging across the board about he wants to govern inclusively. He still has some time left to form his government.

He's working towards that and we're on track for that and that is really what needs to happen as the next step here.

BLITZER: What is the timeline for when the president of the United States, based on everything you know, will describe in detail to Congress and to the American people the strategy to degrade and destroy ISIS?

HARF: Well, the president and the secretary and the whole national security team have been talking about this for many, many days now and numerous times to the American people, but they are having an ongoing conversation about what options we have, what options we need to develop and how we will really more aggressively take this fight to ISIS.

I think you will see coming out of the NATO summit where we will have had a number of conversations, particularly with the United Kingdom, who faces a threat from this as well. Then after the onward travel that the secretary will have, more robust discussions about this in the public, and it's an important topic for all of us to discuss and debate, because again the American people I think see the same things we see, the videos and the photos and they're concerned about it. And so we want to have that conversation.

BLITZER: Does the United States government know the executioner, the person who killed those two Americans, James Foley and Steven Sotloff?

HARF: We're still working to confirm that, Wolf.

There's obviously a lot that goes into this. We have videos, of course, and any nugget of information we're poring over them to see if we can determine that from this video and also determine where and when exactly they were filmed. This is something that we are very committed to doing.

But I think you have seen us throughout this administration, no matter how long it takes, we will find those responsible and we will hold them accountable.

BLITZER: Have you confirmed that the person who killed these two persons, these two Americans is the same person?

HARF: Not yet. That's still something the intelligence community is working on. There's a lot of information we have, but it's a difficult and tedious process that's ongoing.

BLITZER: You heard Ben Rhodes, the president's deputy national security adviser, tell Jim Acosta, our reporter who is there on the scene at the summit, that the U.S. and the Europeans, they are about to increase sanctions, economic sanctions against Russia. So far, it doesn't have a whole lot of effect on the Russians, has it?

HARF: There's been a short-term impact. And the Russian economy has suffered quite a bit.

BLITZER: I know, but the Russian government is still doing what they were doing a month ago or two months ago.

HARF: So, in the short term, it's had an impact on their people.

I can't imagine they're not hearing from those people in Russia who are suffering because of them. But we're really playing the long game here, Wolf. This is a long-term strategy to squeeze Russia to eventually try to get them to change their behavior, but if they don't, to impose costs on them, to isolate them.

I mean, look, we talk a lot about NATO right now. They're looking back to a time, you know, before the founding of NATO, when we were in some Cold War era, quite frankly, that we have moved way beyond and we think President Putin in Russia should, too. That's not the relationship we want. That's not the kind of situation the Russian people want.

They have a choice to make. He has a choice to make for his people. If he continues down this path, we will continue increasing the pressure and they will be isolated. Their economy will suffer and they will have to deal with those consequences.

BLITZER: When will the new sanctions be announced?


HARF: I think you will see some announcements maybe as early as tomorrow, coming out of Wales. But I think we're always looking at additional options and additional pressure.

And the Russians should know there is an off-ramp diplomatically here, if they take it. But if they don't, we will continue increasing the pressure. We're in this for the long haul. We will make sure they pay the consequences.

BLITZER: Very quickly, the status of the cease-fire between -- in Ukraine?

HARF: Well, President Poroshenko met today with the president, with Secretary Kerry talking about this. We think the Ukrainians and the Russians have to together agree on this. But the situation is very fluid in Eastern Ukraine. While we are hopeful they can get a cease-fire and a peace process and plan in place, we're realistic about the fact that the separatists continue the violence in Eastern Ukraine, very challenging situation.

BLITZER: Marie Harf, the State Department deputy spokeswoman, thanks very much for joining us.

HARF: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Still ahead, the breaking news we're following here.

The comedian Joan Rivers has sadly passed away a week after suffering cardiac arrest during what was supposed to be a routine medical procedure. Now serious questions are being asked about her treatment.

And we will take a closer work at the life and the work of the legendary comedian and the fashion critic.


BLITZER: Looking at live pictures of the Hollywood Walk of Fame and bouquets of flowers people are already leaving at the star for the comedian Joan Rivers.

She died this afternoon, a week after suffering cardiac arrest during what was supposed to be a routine medical procedure. For decades, she made people laugh and cringe very often with her scathing stand-up routines and she turned the fashion world upside down very often with her red carpet reviews and her TV shows.

Let's go live to CNN Miguel Marquez and he's outside Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York.

Has the hospital released any specific information on what precisely happened, Miguel?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The hospital has not released information yet there, Wolf.

But we do know that Melissa has just arrived back home at their 67th and Fifth Avenue home here with her son in tow. She was, she was dressed with a coat. She had sunglasses on, clearly a very, very tough time that this family is going through. The family saying that they are leaving open the possibility of a lawsuit or some sort of legal action against Yorkville Endoscopy.

This is the place that eight days ago Ms. Rivers was at getting what should have been just an outpatient procedure of some sort. Some concern possibly for her larynx. An endoscopy, where they're putting a camera down her throat basically, under sedation but it wasn't something that would have been that invasive where she suffered cardiac arrest and then stopped breathing and then was brought here several blocks away to Mt. Sinai Hospital.

Her daughter announcing today with great sadness that Ms. Rivers passed away at 1:17 p.m. surrounded by her friends and family here at Mt. Sinai on the Upper East Side in New York -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I take it New York State or is it New York City, they have launched an investigation into what happened, is that right?

MARQUEZ: Yes. More than one investigation. New York State Health Department says it has now launched an investigation into Yorkville Endoscopy. The accrediting agency that accredits these sort of organizations, or these sort of facilities says it's also launching its own investigation into Yorkville.

And the New York City medical examiner says the cause and manner of death of Ms. Rivers death will be made, the determination will be made soon. So, clearly, they will do -- they will investigate exactly what happened to her and they will have that ruling and it looks like this will probably be a long and difficult legal struggle as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A funeral, there will be a memorial at Temple Emanu-El in New York on Sunday, is that right?

MARQUEZ: There will. Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan. It's not clear exactly what time, whether or not it will be public or not.

All bets are it will be a very private event, invitation only and that she will be laid to rest then. In New York, you know, looking at Facebook and Twitter, some people saying thank God Joan Rivers died in New York. She would have been very unhappy to have died in Los Angeles -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Miguel Marquez, very sad story. Thanks very much for joining us.

Let's look now at the groundbreaking career of Joan Rivers. Our entertainment correspondent, Nischelle Turner, is standing by. She really did an amazing job paving the way for a lot of other women, especially in comedy.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Oh, thought by many, Wolf, as the mother of reinvention because she had a career that spanned five decades.

You know, earlier, you were speaking with Kelly Ripa and she said Joan Rivers persevered. She said when someone told her no, she simply found a way to do it. At one point, I heard Joan Rivers say she was simply smart enough to walk through any door that was open.



NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINER CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joan Rivers could always talk.

RIVERS: Do you know what it's like to go in the morning to take off a facial mask and realize you're not wearing one? Oh, you don't know.


TURNER: With sometimes outrageous jokes, nothing was ever off- limits.

RIVERS: I hate old people. Oh. if you are (EXPLETIVE DELETED) old, get up and get out of here right, right now.


TURNER: Born in 1933, Rivers says even as she was growing up in the New York suburbs, she wanted to be an actress.

RIVERS: I never had a choice. I always say, it's like a nun's calling.

TURNER: She joined the iconic Second City comedy theater in 1961. As her comedy career was taking off, she married producer Edgar Rosenberg in 1964, who would manage her career and become the focus of so many of his wife's jokes. The pair had one daughter together, Melissa.

In 1965, Rivers saw her career get a huge boost when she appeared on "The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson" for the first time.

RIVERS: He gave all of us our starts. My life changed. I went on the show the first time, seven years of struggling, coming out of Second City. And on the air, he said, you're going to be a star. And the next day, my life was different.

TURNER: It was the start of a 21-year professional relationship with Carson and the show. She made regular appearances, eventually becoming the show's substitute host in 1983.

But Rivers' decision to launch her own show on the brand-new FOX network in the fall of 1986 ended her relationship with Carson and "The Tonight Show."

RIVERS: The minute I became competition, it became out to kill me, out to kill me. And that's what came down forever. Never spoke to me again.

TURNER: The show was canceled in 1987. Just a few months later, Rivers' husband, Edgar, committed suicide in a Philadelphia hotel room.

RIVERS: I was in the hospital, and some idiot called the house and they said, where's your mother? Somebody from Philadelphia. And Melissa said, she's not here. And they said, well, please tell her your father killed himself. How is that for a phone call?

TURNER: Rivers regrouped by doing what she always did, putting her life out in the open.

RIVERS: If you laugh at it, you can deal with it. I -- that's how I have lived my whole life. If I swear to you -- and I'm Jewish -- if I were in Auschwitz, I would have been doing jokes just to make it OK for us.

TURNER: Her career surged again when her withering take on red carpet fashion full of biting remarks and celebrity put-downs exposed her to a whole new group of fans.

RIVERS: I think I'm working the best I have ever worked now, because I -- it's all been done to me. What are they going to do? Are they going to fire me? I have been fired. Audiences are not going to like me? A lot of audiences have not like me. I have been bankrupt. My husband has committed suicide. I mean, it's OK. And I'm still here. So it's OK.


TURNER: And 2010 is when she came back to E! on "Fashion Police," and that show skyrocketed her into yet another stratosphere and gained a whole 'nother legion of fans for Joan.

When we're speaking about fashion, we are on the eve of Mercedes- Benz Fashion Week here in New York which was like Super Bowl for Joan Rivers. E! had actually brought their entire production here to New York. They were going to tape two "Fashion Police" shows here. A few days ago, they did decide to cancel those and they did release a statement to us just a little bit ago that said right now they're simply mourning Joan's death. But they will have more programming updates in the future.

And I have to tell you, on Joan's Twitter page, she was very active on social media, Wolf. Her profile simply says, a simple girl with a dream.

BLITZER: That was so amazing she had had so many fans, not only people in their 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, but young people in their 20s they loved her as well. A whole new generation, as you correctly pointed out. She was one, one amazing person. And we will miss her.

TURNER: Dynamic, yes.

BLITZER: Especially those of us who grew up watching her over all of these years. Our deepest, deepest condolences to Melissa, her daughter, to Cooper, her grandson and the entire family. I speak for all of our viewers here in the United States and around the world. Nischelle, Thanks very much.

Just ahead, we're getting back to our top story, a man from Boston who may be playing a key role in the ISIS propaganda machine. Could an American, yes, an American, be behind the camera in these videos, the videos like these?

The federal government opens a new investigation into what happened in Ferguson, Missouri. Will we learn any new details about what happened that day between Michael Brown and the Ferguson police?


BLITZER: We learned today the federal government is planning to investigate the police in Ferguson, Missouri. The attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, made the announcement almost one month after police shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. The police have been criticized heavily for the incident, and there again, for the forceful tactics against protesters in the days and weeks afterward.

Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, has been digging into all of this.

Pamela, what are you finding out?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Attorney General Eric Holder says he weighed several factors in making this decision: a history of mistrust to police in Ferguson, a review of documented allegations and his own personal visit to Ferguson recently.

Holder defended the timing of this investigation, saying it's entirely separate from the Michael Brown shooting investigation.


BROWN (voice-over): As tensions continue to simmer in Ferguson, Missouri...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is expressing our outrage.

BROWN: ... the Justice Department announces its civil rights division will now investigate the Ferguson Police Department from top to bottom.

HOLDER: Our investigation will assess the police department's use of force, including deadly force. It will analyze stops, searches and arrests. And it will examine the treatment of individuals detained at Ferguson's city jail, in addition to other potentially discriminatory policing tactics and techniques that have been brought to light.

BROWN: In the nearly four weeks since Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed Michael Brown, federal investigators will now begin looking at the department's officer training programs and review its operational procedures and practices to find out if they violate any federal laws or the Constitution.

HOLDER: This investigation will be conducted both rigorously and in a timely manner. So, we can move forward as expeditiously as possible to restore trust, to rebuild our understanding and to foster cooperation between law enforcement and community members.

BROWN: other African-American residents complain Ferguson police have a history of singling them out and using heavy-handed tactics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We deserve to have a community that prospers, that trusts their public safety officers.

BROWN: A report by Missouri's attorney general conducted before the Michael Brown shooting found Ferguson police were twice as likely to arrest African-Americans during traffic stops as they were white.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not about black or white. It's about right.

BROWN: Under Eric Holder the Justice Department has been much more aggressive about investigating local police. In the past five years, the DOJ has launched 20 investigations into police departments nationwide, more than twice the number compared to the previous five years.

This most recent one comes as the grand jury weighs evidence in the Michael Brown shooting criminal investigation. Whether or not Officer Darren Wilson will face charges will hinge on their decision.


BROWN: And in response, Michael Brown's family says, in part, "We believe the transparency and law enforcement is the only way to build trust in the community, not just in the killing of Michael Brown, but for others who have suffered, as well."

And Wolf, we want to point out we reached out to the Ferguson Police Department for comment and have not heard back. DOJ officials say that officials welcome the investigation and pledge cooperation.

Also, I want to point out that, in the past the police chief of the Ferguson Police Department has defended his department, saying that the claims of discrimination are more, you know -- are really not the reality of this situation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Pamela Brown, thanks very much. So, what does a federal investigation really mean for the

Ferguson Police Department?

Joining us now to discuss, John Gaskin of the NAACP; our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin; our CNN anchor, Don Lemon; and our CNN law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes, the former assistant director of the FBI.

What's been the reaction there in Missouri, John Gaskin? How important is this civil rights probe, for example, for African- Americans on the scene?

JOHN GASKIN, NAACP: Well, as I've spoken with the local NAACP leadership here, this is long overdue. Many people feel as though finally our cries have been answered. People feel that, now that this is getting national attention finally some light is going to be shed on issues that have been taking place for decades. Not just in the city of Ferguson, but within other neighboring municipal police departments in St. Louis County.

And this is a big problem. It needs to be addressed, but this is also what we see as a small victory for the NAACP since day one. We've been asking for the Justice Department and the attorney general's civil rights -- civil rights division to come in and take a clear look at this and evaluate what's been taking place.

The attorney general in our meeting that we had with him, when he was in St. Louis, mentioned that he was taking a look at it. And this -- this just goes to show that he's about action and not just talk. And he's got to do something about it.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, legally speaking, how significant is this investigation announced today by the attorney general?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's potentially very significant, depending on how it comes out. You know, troubled police departments have been investigating and effectively taken over by the Justice Department many times. Most famously in New Orleans, Cincinnati, San Juan, Puerto Rico. This is what the Justice Department does when there is a pattern of allegations against the police department.

And given what's come out about Ferguson since the shooting of Michael Brown a couple of weeks ago, it is not at all surprising that the Justice Department has taken this step. Usually, these end with some sort of agreement, what's called a consent decree, where the Justice Department takes a bigger role in monitoring or even ordering changes in the department.

BLITZER: Because, Tom Fuentes, you worked with the FBI. Does the FBI actually get involved in this new investigation?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: No, they won't. This civil rights division, the people that will work on this, are separate and they have to be. You can't have the bleed-over of the investigators that are working on the actual shooting incident itself to be involved in this.

And this is more of a procedural day-to-day operation of the department. How do they operate? How do they treat the people that they serve in their community?

BLITZER: So Don, you were there. You did our anchoring from the scene. All of our viewers remember your outstanding coverage there. Give us your reaction when you heard the attorney general of the United States today make this announcement?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I wasn't surprised, because I knew that the first -- the first investigation would center around just the shooting, and then this one now centers around the police department and their actions. I actually was not surprised about it. I was actually surprised at how quickly it happened but not surprised to hear it. Because there were so many people who had complained there about the police department, and it's not just black citizens that are complaining there about the police department.

And as Mr. Gaskin said, it's not just in Ferguson. It's Florence. It's St. Ann. It's different municipalities that border on Ferguson and the surrounding areas. So not surprising.

BLITZER: How do you restore, John Gaskin, the trust between the local community and law enforcement?

GASKIN: Things like this that are taking place to show that people do care. To show that national leadership and leadership that is in place does care about the rights of those individuals on the ground.

You know, Mr. Lemon just mentioned one of the things that I just said. I'm so happy that he sees what's been going on on the ground for decades. But it takes these types of things going forward. It is our hope that the attorney general and the Department of Justice will see some of the real concrete problems that we've been speaking out on for decades.

And so, once they come up with common-sense solutions, they can begin to implement some different programs and some new regulations that will stop the police brutality, the discrimination, the heavy- handed force that's being used on our citizens in Ferguson and surrounding communities.

BLITZER: The good news, Don, is at least based on everything I can tell, and you've been watching this a lot more closely than I have. It's been quiet over these past several days.

LEMON: It has been quiet over the past several days, and I think things like this help, regardless of what this investigation or these two investigations turn up. At least there is a feeling there, and there's some sentiment that something is happening and that it is being overseen outside of the police department that they deem corrupt there.

And it's not really just about whether, you know, the heavy- handed treatment of the citizens. That's very important, but it is also the disconnect between the citizens and the people who are supposed to protect and serve. So, that will be looked into, as well. Maybe more. And probably more community policing will come out of this, and that will be a good thing.

BLITZER: Yes. That would be a good thing, indeed.

All right, guys, thanks very, very much.

Just ahead the dramatic, well-produced videos that showcase ISIS's brutality. They've been a major weapons in the group's campaign of terror. We're learning new details about the American -- yes, an American man -- who could be behind these videos. Stand by for our own investigation.


BLITZER: They have the sophisticated look of movie and television dramas, but the brutal and bloody videos produced by ISIS are all too real. Could an American actually be playing a key role in the terror group's media campaign?

Our Brian Todd has been looking into this for us.

What are you finding out, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as brutal as this group is, ISIS is a powerful force in the media. Its execution videos and combat footage are slickly produced and effective. And one reason they make Western audiences shake is because in some clips, they remind them of their favorite movies and TV shows.


TODD (voice-over): It's a slick, horrifying video with Hollywood-like production techniques. This is the opening of that video created by ISIS, showing Steven Sotloff's execution.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will vigilant and we will be relentless.

TODD: Look familiar?

This is a clip from the opening to Showtime's terrorism drama "Homeland."

OBAMA: We must and we will remain vigilant at home and abroad.

TODD: Similar phrase, similar grainy video effect.

MATTHEW LEVITT, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: There's no coincidence here. This is Western media production personnel for ISIS, drawing on their knowledge of Western popular culture to not only get our attention but kind of stick it to America.

TODD: One ISIS video has a scene similar to one in the film "The Hurt Locker". An ISIS drone video looks eerily like a scene from "Zero Dark Thirty."

But strangely enough, these productions could harm ISIS. In this recent video showing Syrian soldiers being paraded in the desert in their underwear to their executions, the camera at one point swings jaggedly swings around to show militants on the production team. One man holding a camera, another one with his face shown, driving.

(on camera): Are these frame grabs any use to western intelligence?

LEVITT: When Western intelligence looks at a frame grab like this, they're looking to see if there's someone's face, there might be someone that recognize. And frame like this isn't quite as useful, you can't see anything about his face here, maybe you see can see that he's right-handed. But given that there's so many Westerners involved in the slick ISIS propaganda machine on social media, digital media, one of the things they'll be looking at is to see if this is one of the known Westerners.

TODD (voice-over): CNN has learned investigators are looking at whether Ahmad Abousamra, an American from Boston who's on the most wanted terrorists list, has now joined ISIS and whether he may be behind some of its social media campaign.

RICHARD BARRETT, THE SOUFAN GROUP: These groups themselves understand that you need to get somebody who understands the vernacular, if you like. You need to get somebody who knows what images are going to appeal.


TODD: Our analyst Peter Bergen calls the ISIS videos dynamic and the videos from al Qaeda core boring by comparison. What does he mean? We're going to show you.

Look at this ISIS video that we're going to show you next to the latest al Qaeda core video. The al Qaeda video is on the left. That video announcing this week operations on the Indian subcontinent. Now, that al Qaeda video opens with an image of bin Laden, then a map, then its 15 minutes of what you see there, Ayman al Zawahiri giving a speech on camera.

Compared to that ISIS video there on the right and the production and the visuality of it. That's 40 minutes of an audio speech after Ayman al Zawahiri with a simple graphic over it. The lowest of low tech production values in that al Qaeda video, Wolf, compared to that ISIS video, it seems like the world of media might have passed al Qaeda core by.

BLITZER: Al Qaeda core Ayman al Zawahiri very, very boring, just him basically looking into the camera, the ISIS video extremely slick, like the opening of "Homeland", as we a lot of us who watch that show, immediately spotted that recognized that, compare -- ISIS has been so effective with this social media campaign, the U.S. government is now directly responding to it.

TODD: It really has.

The State Department has produced a counter-narrative, a new video from the State Department. We can show you a clip of that right there as well. That it sarcastically kind of tells potential ISIS recruits that they can, quote, "learn new, useful skills by blowing up mosques, by crucifying and executing Muslims", as you see there. They show gruesome images to that effect, much of the rest of that video was too graphic for us to show you.

And again, Wolf, what's extraordinary. That video produced by the State Department just to counter the ISIS videos.

BLITZER: Battle of the videos on social media.

Thanks very much, Brian Todd, for that report.

Brian, by the way, is going to have a lot more information to share with you. He's been working on that subject now for a while. He'll be jumping on Twitter momentarily to answer your questions about the media strategy of ISIS. Tweet your questions, use the #Sitroom.

Just ahead, politics, beer, football, with Texas Governor Rick Perry. Our own Peter Hamby takes us behind the scenes out there on the campaign trail.


BLITZER: Fresh off his indictment on felony charges, Texas Governor Rick Perry is back out. He's touring the country as he once again seriously eyes a run for the White House in 2016.

CNN caught up with him in South Carolina. That's a key early primary state, as you know. But this isn't the usual boys on the bus political reporting. This is the "Hambycast".

Take a look.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, actually, the name sounds familiar, seriously.

HAMBY: Why were you impressed by him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought he seemed real, like he could talk to me. I could have a conversation.

HAMBY: He just wants like to meet people and like talk about sports.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a football fan.

HAMBY: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what you're here for.

HAMBY: The central thrust of this trip to South Carolina is the South Carolina/Texas A&M football game. The big season opener for the SEC, Perry's a big Texas A&M fan. What he's saying to these guys is just talking about sports. To be honest, it's a really big part of the culture down here.

We actually just got a glimpse of kind of some of the behind the scenes stuff that happens when you're campaigning for president. Perry just spent a good two hours hobnobbing with donors and Republican legislators in these Cockabooses behind us. That's a South Carolina tailgating tradition.

And this is like the fan part of covering political campaigns. There's a lot of speeches and policy rollouts and sort of road campaign events. But so much of politicking is going to a place like this, which is essentially a big old carnival.

What's the reaction been from South Carolina folks since you've been here?

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: There's a couple of big issues with them. One is they really appreciate what we've done in Texas on the border.

HAMBY: What's the other one?

PERRY: And the other one is just, you know, standing up for the rule of law. This indictment, they kind of see it for what it is. They think it's absurd.

HAMBY: Rick Perry certainly has some flaws to overcome if he runs for president again. You know, he's got to earn the trust of donors and voters who didn't take him seriously after the last campaign. One thing he's always been good at is retail politics.

This environment is tailor-made for him.


BLITZER: Peter's with us right now.

It's amazing. You're going to be doing this what, once a week you're going to go out there?

HAMBY: Yes, we're going to be doing this weekly. It's called "Hambycast". You can watch it on your phone, on

The goal is just to get out there, to bring people into my world, which is campaign politics, take them on the road, and introduce them to sort of characters and places that you don't usually see in political coverage, not every episode will be at an SEC football game, obviously, but we're going to try to keep it interesting and really just sort of introduce people to this world of politics that often doesn't make it into the mainstream media. BLITZER: I think our political news junkies out there and

everybody, including me, are going to love these.

HAMBY: Great. Thanks.

And it's short. Two minutes. So, for your digital attention span, it's perfect.

BLITZER: We'll love every second of those two minutes.

Thanks very much, Peter. You can look forward to it on as well as here on THE SITUATION ROOM. We're going to be showcasing Peter Hamby's excellent work.

One other programming note: please be sure to catch the new CNN film about a former Navy SEAL, a decorated warrior, a member of SEAL Team 6, who reveals a shocking secret to the world. "Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story" premieres later tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

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

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.