Return to Transcripts main page


White House: 'Jihadi John' is a Top Target; New Video Shows ISIS Thugs Ransacking Museum; Investigation Ramping Up after 'Jihadi John' Named

Aired February 26, 2015 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, whereabouts unknown. Officials confirm the identity of Jihadi John. Will that hurt the search for the ISIS killer, or help in targeting him? Revealed. Will identifying Jihadi John change the face of the brutal ISIS propaganda and recruiting effort?

Broken relationship. Have America's ties with one of its closest allies reached a new low?

And kiss-off. In just -- in just over a day, the homeland security paychecks will stop, but the House speaker kisses off any questions that will end the standoff.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You 're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Finally, Jihadi John is revealed. He's the front man for unspeakably horrific ISIS beheading videos, face covered, dressed in black. He holds a knife next to kneeling hostages taunting the entire world in perfect English with a British accent.

Now, U.S. officials confirmed that Jihadi John is a Kuwaiti-born Londoner named Mohammed Emwazi. We're learning more about his background and why the White House now sees him as a top target. That comes as shocking new video shows ISIS thugs ransacking an Iraqi museum, taking sledgehammers and jackhammers to priceless antiquities they called false idols and gods.

Our correspondents and analysts are all standing by. But let's begin with our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, who has the very latest.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: We are learning now that U.S. Lawmakers have been briefed on suspected Americans in ISIS. This has been a long-term concern, and this is also happening as U.S. intelligence officials have increased their estimate of the number of Americans who have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join jihad there, up to 180 now from 150.

These are those who have either gone or attempted to go. Some of them killed on the battlefield.

But today in the case of Jihadi John, we got the most vivid illustration of ISIS's broad appeal. Jihadi John, identified as Mohammed Emwazi, a 26-year-old British national born, as you say, in Kuwait, well off, well-educated, and radicalized, it seems, fairly quickly.

Now, though U.S. officials would not publicly discuss his suspected identity, today the White House said that Jihadi John ranks highly on the president's target list, because he's responsible for the murder of innocent Americans. Seen, of course, in the beheading videos of James Foley, Steven Sotloff and Peter Kassig.

Now today, his friends say they never saw signs of his future as a terrorist.


ASIM OURESHI, CAGE RESEARCH DIRECTOR: He's such a -- I'm sorry, I didn't expect -- he was such a beautiful young man, really. You know, it's hard to imagine the trajectory, but it's not a trajectory that's unfamiliar with us. Our entire national security strategy for the last 13 years has only increased alienation.


BLITZER: He seems to be arguing that the treatment that U.K. authorities gave this Jihadi John, that that treatment, the questioning, whatever, resulted in his radicalization, but this guy eventually went on to become a murderer, a killer, beheading all these people. And we see it on video. So this notion that he was simply radicalized because the British were investigating him, that doesn't sound plausible.

SCIUTTO: No, it's a fairly preposterous argument to make on the day that his serial beheader is identified. But it is a familiar argument. Some Muslim groups cite mistreatment and profiling as a radicalizing factor.

In his case they talk about a trip to Tanzania. He was going to go on a safari, and authorities suspected he was really trying to get to Somalia so they detained and deported him. He was also detained a second time in the U.K.

But the fact is the root causes of this go so much deeper. And the thing is that it is attracting, though, such a broad range of recruits. We're seeing now men and women in the Mideast and the west, rich and poor. The fact is that the profile is simply too broad and inconsistent, and the fact is in his case, we don't truly know why he turned radical.

But suffice to say it is clear and it is obvious that some mistreatment here and there by the police can certainly not justify or even explain how you become a serial beheader, so radical as Jihadi John.

BLITZER: All right. Good point. Jim Sciutto, thank you.

So will the exposing of this guy known as Jihadi John and the knowledge that there's a name now being targeted make him a less important symbol for ISIS? Brian Todd is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He's been looking into this part of the story. What are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's a very interesting question tonight. And we're getting a picture from U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials now of just how important Jihadi John is to ISIS.

Many of the officials and analysts we spoke to don't think his importance will diminish now that we know his name. This is a man who's simply become too identifiable with ISIS, its message and brutality. The British accent behind the mask.

MOHAMMED EMWAZI, ISIS SPOKESMAN: Obama, you have started your aerial bombardment which keeps us striking our people. So it is only right we continue to strike the necks of your people.

TODD: A voice we now think belongs to a 26-year-old from West London named Mohammed Emwazi. With each new beheading video, a U.S. official says Jihadi John's value as a top ISIS figure has grown.

ALI PERITZ (PH), FORMER CIA OFFICER: His chief value is being the west's boogeyman and ISIS's man on the ground who tells it like it is and does terrible things to his victims.

DAVEED GARTENSTEIN-ROSS, FOUNDATION FOR THE DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: He's out of central casting for ISIS. ISIS has a flair for the dramatic. They're very good not only at social media but also film production and also figuring out in terms of narrative what is it that will scare people.

TODD: His mask, British accent, distinctive motion with a knife, the fact that he may have beheaded hostages on camera, not only shocked western viewers but emboldened other ISIS militants.

JESSICA LEWIS MCFATE, INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR: I think the freaky thing about Jihadi John is he kind of looks like he likes that job. So for ISIS, it's just a way of continuously desensitizing everyone who is within ISIS to the fact that that is business as normal.

TODD: U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement officials tell CNN Jihadi John is prized as a westerner within ISIS because he helps recruitment.

MCFATE: The message is to westerners, if you come to ISIS, you can be important, not just that you can be part of the crowd.

TODD: He sprang into America's conscience with the video showing James Foley's murder. It was soon followed by the Steven Sotloff video. Analysts say he may not have done it on his own, but Mohammed Emwazi's videos played a huge role in escalating America's war against ISIS.

PERITZ: Well, let's put it this way. Had it not been for these videos we probably wouldn't be bombing Syria today.

(END VIDEOTAPE) TODD: Has Jihadi John's propaganda value for ISIS diminished now that

he's been named? The analysts we spoke to don't think so. They say as long as he keeps menacing the west on camera, he's going to have propaganda value to ISIS.

The one mitigating factor, of course, is whether he's going to go further underground now that western intelligence and military forces know more about him. It will be interesting to see if he pops up again now that we know his name.

BLITZER: Possible that now that we know more about him, his value to ISIS could actually increase.

TODD: It could. Here's the way it could increase.

Now that we know he's college educated and that he comes from this family with means, that is going to get out to potential ISIS recruits. He's different from many jihadis who have been recruited by ISIS. Many of them come from poor backgrounds. They are seen to not have many prospects in life. This is a guy who had options in life. He chose this. That's going to get to ISIS recruits, as well.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you very much.

Despite punishing new airstrikes, there's more evidence that ISIS is tightening its grip. There's shocking new video of ISIS thugs gleefully destroying ancient artifacts at an Iraqi museum. And there are shocking new details of the mass kidnapping of Christian villagers in Syria.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. She's got more -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, billions of dollars of valuable history destroyed and a new horrifying assault on Christianity.


STARR (voice-over): ISIS says God ordered these ancient artifacts destroyed in Mosul, Iraq. One priceless statue after another smashed. Some date back to 700 B.C.

In northeastern Syria, these Assyrian Christians are fortunate to escape. More than 260 other Christians, double the original estimate, now held hostage by ISIS after fighters swept through their villages, according to an activist network. Women, children and the elderly among them.

CHARLA (PH) DAVID, RELATIVES KIDNAPPED IN SYRIA: At 4 in the morning they attacked them.

STARR: California resident Charla (ph) and Ramel David got a terrifying message about some of their 12 family members.

RAMEL DAVID, RELATIVES KIDNAPPED IN SYRIA: What we have heard, it was like a sea of black uniforms marching through all the villages, burning down the churches, desecrating the crosses and wreaking havoc.

STARR: The coalition conducted airstrikes in the region to back up Peshmerga fighters. But there is great worry the Christians are in peril.

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: When you have a group this big now, that's assuming that they're all still together. We don't know that. They could be split up, but we're always going to be mindful of civilians in any kind of air strike that we take.

STARR: Just across the border in Iraq, airstrikes continued, U.S., French and Jordanian jets hitting an ISIS training camp near al Kayn (ph). The first combat operation inside Iraq for Jordan. The Iraqi air force claiming this airstrike targeted an ISIS hideout in the same town.

Still, the big target, Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, still fully controlled by ISIS. New doubt from top U.S. intelligence officials on the readiness of Iraqi forces to quickly be able to engage in large- scale combat operations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're talking about building from the ground up so to build from the ground up, individual...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When are they ready?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're talking probably six to nine months, best estimate.


STARR: Six to nine months for the Iraqi military to be fully ready to engage in large-scale combat operations, Wolf. That kind of estimate makes it awfully tough to see how they could be ready in the next couple of months to take on that battle for Mosul -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, because the briefing you had there at the Pentagon, someone from the U.S. military Central Command said that maybe by April or May, they'll have 25,000, 30,000 troops, Iraqi troops ready to go in and liberate Mosul. There seems to be a disconnect here.

STARR: You know, I think even before that briefing ended, there were a lot of people in the U.S. military that thought that was a little optimistic. And the new defense secretary, Ash Carter, has distanced the Pentagon from that estimate, saying that when the Iraqis are ready, that's when Mosul will happen.

Hard to see at this point that it could be April. Even hard to see that it could be May. But the clock is ticking on this. Summer is coming to Iraq. It's going to get very hot very soon. And that could make a land battle for Mosul very tough -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Good information. Thank you very much, Barbara.

Let's get some more now from the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman Adam Schiff is joining us from Capitol Hill.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us. Very quickly, you think the Iraqi army's going to be ready to launch a major assault on Mosul by April or May, to liberate that city from these ISIS terrorists?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I would be very surprised if they could be ready. One of the concerns I have is if the Iraqis are going to be too reliant because their special forces aren't ready on these Iranian-led Shia militias. Having Shia militias liberate Sunni towns, typically with the history of reprisals and ethnic cleansing you see from Sunni militias, that's a very bad idea.

So I wouldn't want us to see the Iraqis go before they're ready and be too reliant on these Shia militias or worse, have to call in the American cavalry, because we went in prematurely or encouraged them to.

BLITZER: There's no reason for encouragement thinking about that Iraqi military after their behavior last year. These latest U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, going after these targets, do you know if they were specifically trying to target this guy called Jihadi John -- we now know his name -- or the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi?

SCHIFF: I don't know the answer to that and at this point I'm not able to even confirm the identity, the United States and Britain aren't making any confirmation of these press reports. So that's not something I'm able to confirm.

BLITZER: And that's what I don't understand. I assume you've been briefed on all this, but now that the name is public and we know the British and U.S. governments have known the name for months and months, without giving us any classified information or anything, Congressman, why can't you give us more information about him, at least confirm what we all know, his real name?

SCHIFF: Well, let me talk generically about why we often don't confirm people's identity. And it's for one of a couple reasons. It may be because it would reveal some kind of source of the intelligence used to identify that person that we don't want to expose. Or it may be that some of the information that's wrapped in their identity may involve where they are located, and we don't want to give up that kind of logistical information in case there's an effort to go after them.

So there may be a variety of reasons. I can't comment on this particular case specifically, whether reports are accurate or if they're accurate, why that may be the case. But I can tell you as a general matter, those are often the reasons why they would withhold that kind of information.

BLITZER: All right. Appreciate that. Congressman, I want you to stand by. We have much more to discuss. A lot of questions about what's going on right now, including more on Jihadi John.

Also, this new effort by ISIS to go out there and kidnap Christians, men, women and children. Much more with the congressman right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story. The ISIS killer known as Jihadi John, he has now been revealed. His name has been revealed, and the United States is making it clear he's now in the crosshairs.

We're back with senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff of California.

I just want to be precise. There's no doubt if the U.S. knew where this guy Jihadi John is, Mohammed Emwazi -- that's his real name -- the U.S. would like to target him for assassination, right?

SCHIFF: I don't have any doubt that, if we had the opportunity to go after him, that we would, along with any of the other ISIL leadership or anyone who's participated in that kind of atrocity.

BLITZER: And certainly, the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, he's targeted as well, right?

SCHIFF: Well, absolutely. Not only because of his leadership of this vicious brutal organization, but part of their ideology is that he's the caliph, that he comes from a certain line of descent.

So you take out the caliph, you take out those, potentially, that could follow in his footsteps and you could have a strategic impact on the situation.

BLITZER: Congressman, I want you to listen to James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, testifying today up on Capitol Hill, saying terrorism this past year is at its worst. Listen to this.


JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: When the final accounting us done, 2014 will have been the most lethal year for global terrorism in the 45 years such data has been compiled.


BLITZER: I was pretty surprised to hear that. But you follow it probably closer. That's pretty shocking when you think about it.

SCHIFF: Well, it is pretty shocking although when you consider how many thousands, really hundreds of thousands that have been killed in Syria and you add to that the number that have been killed in Iraq, in Nigeria and all around the world, it's been a horrendous year. You had a metastasizes of this insanity, this terrorist violence; and it's claimed a tremendous number of lives.

BLITZER: You heard also James Comey, the FBI director, yesterday saying there are now investigations, surveillance operations under way in all 50 states against suspected ISIS or other terrorist plotters out there. That's pretty shocking when you think about that, as well. SCHIFF: Well, it is pretty shocking, although I do think we have to

put it in context. I would imagine probably almost any year we have investigations in all the 50 states of a variety of terrorism cases. What makes this unique is that these are ISIS-related terrorism cases.

I was in the U.S. attorney's office back in the '80s and '90s in Los Angeles. We had terrorism cases in L.A. They were about blowing up the federal building over tax disputes. So it's not unusual to have them all around the country. It is unusual to have them all associated with a single terrorist organization.

BLITZER: One of those three Brooklyn plotters arrested yesterday helped organize and finance that so-called operation. He was doing so from Florida. The individual who was arrested in Florida was providing all the money for these trips that were supposedly to take place to Turkey and Syria. Do we know if that individual was directly linked to ISIS?

SCHIFF: I don't know the answer to that. And one of the things that we're working through in this case and in others is what is the level of engagement with ISIS? Was this a situation where, as the criminal complaint points out, that some of these people were in touch with a website that's affiliated with ISIS? Or was there some more direct involvement? Were they getting instructions from ISIS to finance particular plots?

So there are obviously a hierarchy of command and control. Some may be self-radicalized completely. Others may have had some level of contact. With respect to the guy in Florida, I just don't know the answer.

BLITZER: These men from Brooklyn, two from Kazakhstan -- two from Uzbekistan, one from Kazakhstan, they pledged allegiance to the Islamic State or ISIS or ISIL, whatever you want to call it. Does the U.S. intelligence community, law-enforcement community, have a pretty good idea how they were initially radicalized?

SCHIFF: I think so. These are people at least a couple of which that law-enforcement community had contact with for some time. I think they were able to watch how that radicalism proceeded.

I don't know whether they know as much yet about how they were radicalized before they came onto the radar screen, and that may be most particular with that Florida financier, but I think we do know a good deal about these people.

One thing that, you know, this calls out to me when you look at these three individuals, you look at the reports of the background of this Jihadi John -- and again, I can't confirm whether that's correct or not -- but if it were correct, you've got people who are middle class or upper middle class. You've got people who are very much at the fringe of society and everywhere in between.

So you can see how difficult it is to profile what someone looks like who might be self-radicalized. And that is part of the challenge that we're dealing with. BLITZER: As far as the prime minister of Israel is concerned, he's

going to be addressing a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress Tuesday morning. There are some Democrats who are deeply angered about this. You've called the whole invitation from the speaker to the prime minister a terrible mistake.

Will you be attending that joint meeting of the U.S. Congress to hear what Prime Minister Netanyahu has to say about Iran's nuclear program?

SCHIFF: I will be attending. And you're right, Wolf: I have from the beginning thought it was a terrible mistake, not only because it holds out the specter of interfering in the Israeli elections but because it tries to drive a partisan wedge in the U.S./Israel relationship here at home. And that's a very dangerous thing to do for the long-term health of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

All that being said, the speaker did invite him. He accepted the invitation. I will be there. I've encouraged other people to be there. This is a very important issue.

But I think the better part of valor would be if all the parties agreed to have a classified briefing with the prime minister rather than something that is such a political spectacle.

BLITZER: Who do you blame for that so-called political spectacle? Was it the speaker to blame? Was it the prime minister to blame, or do you blame both of them? Because they did it, as you know, not going through normal protocol. The White House was surprised by this. The Democratic leadership in the House and Senate, they were not in on the invitation. Who's to blame for this terrible mistake as you call it?

SCHIFF: I lay the responsibility at the speaker's feet. No one compelled him to send the invitation. He had to know exactly what he was doing in doing that. I leave it up to the Israelis to decide whether their prime minister made a good decision in accepting it. I don't want to get involved, and I don't want the speech to be involved in influencing the Israeli elections, so I don't want to comment on that. That's for the Israelis to decide.

BLITZER: Yes. The Israeli elections are two weeks later after that speech, the speech Tuesday, March 3. The Israeli elections March 17. Adam Schiff, thanks very much for joining us.

SCHIFF: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Adam Schiff is the ranking Democrat, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Coming up, more on our top story. We have new details coming in on the hunt for Jihadi John. Experts are standing by to discuss.

And we're also learning more about the alleged ISIS wannabes who are said to have plotted attacks right here in the United States.

Lots of news happening right here. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story. Jihadi John, his name, real name, has now been revealed. The front man in those brutal ISIS beheading videos has now been identified as a Kuwaiti born Londoner. And the White House now says he has become a top target.

Let's go in depth with our justice reporter Evan Perez, our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson, who is outside Scotland Yard in London. Also our law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, he's the former FBI assistant director and the former U.S. Congresswoman Jane Harman. She was the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee. She's now president and CEO of the Wilson Center here in Washington.

Evan, what are you learning about the hunt for the so-called Jihadi John, Mohammad Emwazi, the revelation of his identity? How is all that playing?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, the FBI played a big role in trying to gather the intelligence that, you know, and working with the British authorities as well to try to get -- what they're trying to build a case, you know, just in case they can try to bring him to justice in the future.

You know, they interviewed a lot of the former ISIS captives, people who've been ransomed or people who've been released, and conducted all those interviews to try to gather any intelligence they could.

Now what's interesting is that if you remember several months ago there was an attempt to carry out a rescue of several of the American captives being held by ISIS and some of the intelligence that led to that rescue came from these interviews by the FBI and at the time, they also thought that if they carried out this rescue they might also be able to nab Emwazi which is something we did not know -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What about this other presumed Westerner who was featured in that ISIS video purportedly showing the beheadings, the execution of those 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya? I assume U.S. officials, others are trying to track him? He spoke seemingly with almost an American accent.

PEREZ: Right. Exactly. That's exactly what alarmed the FBI. They have opened an investigation now because they want to know whether or not -- again, the operating assumption that they have is that this accent appears to be Western. They think that perhaps that person might have spent time in North America, just again, listening to the accent.

They don't know for sure whether that person spent any time here in the United States, but this is something that they are now digging into, Wolf, and they're hoping that they can try to talk to people who have been held by these groups in Libya, perhaps they can try to gather some intelligence there.

Obviously now we are at the very beginning of the ISIS presence in Libya and they don't know nearly as much about that group as they do the one in Syria and Iraq.

BLITZER: Tom Fuentes, they have known, U.K. authorities, U.S. authorities, his real name, his identity, for months and months after they saw the video. Apparently it was not all that hard to find out who the masked man really was.

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Right. They've known that. But they didn't want to alert his partners in Europe, especially in London, that he might be in communication with, which might cause him to move, which might cause him to take the hostages to a different location.

If they're able to zero in on him, they don't want to attract all this extra attention that they know who he is and know where he might be because it will affect -- you know, if they have an operation being planned, and they have had operations against him, but if I could add to what Evan said, they're not just gathering intelligence.

They are gathering evidence because he participated in the murder of Americans which violates U.S. law and if the FBI gets their hands on him, he can be brought here and prosecuted for murder and all the other ones that you see in those video.

BLITZER: What if any impact -- now that his name is out there, Mohammad Emwazi, now that his name is out there, Jane Harman, what impact does that have on all of this, except for the curiosity. We know this guy as a name, we know about his background.

JANE HARMAN, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: Well, it has a lot of PR value for them. I think --

BLITZER: It makes him more valuable?

HARMAN: It makes him more of a romantic hero. And we're way behind the curve on how these folks recruit. My understanding is most of it's done from Twitter. We need a much more sophisticated understanding of how they do it and we have to get ahead of it. It's not just closing down one account and then they will open another account. It's figuring out how they do it, the serial accounts, and what messages really appeal to young kids because let's remember, this isn't new stuff.

A guy named Adam Gadahn, who is a lost kid from Southern California is the P.R. spokesman, I think he still is, for al Qaeda in Pakistan. And he has been there for years. And he has been pretty public and we haven't been able to get him. So unless we get ahead of this thing, I think we are in for a very bad time.

BLITZER: Nic, you're there in London, you're just outside Scotland Yard. The British said they've known his identity for a long time. Some of his former friends, they are actually blaming British authorities for radicalizing him because they would bring him in for questioning and all this. It sounds preposterous given the fact this guy is now on videotape beheading various hostages and all of that.

But give us a little sense of why the British even now that we know his name, Mohammed Emwazi, why British authorities are refusing to confirm that is the accurate name.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's what the police are continuing to say here, that they are sticking by the line that they've had all along as this investigation really after the murder of James Foley and Steven Sotloff really began in earnest. The police here have said we don't want the media to speculate on the name of Jihadi John because life is at risk.

Those are the words that they've used. And even today, the police are sticking by that line. This is Metropolitan Police here. They are in charge of counterterrorism in London. Emwazi should -- was on their radar but their -- what their message at the moment is, is they have an ongoing terror investigation. The prime minister's office here, David Cameron, has said -- and David Cameron himself has said in the recent past they want to bring Jihadi John back to Britain to face justice here.

They want justice to be done. So the sense you get from British authorities is they don't want to jeopardize any opportunity to get him and bring him here and we certainly don't want to jeopardize the possibility of a successful prosecution -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Evan, what else are you learning about those three guys from Brooklyn, two from Brooklyn, one from Florida, the mastermind supposedly, the man with the money from Florida. The arrests yesterday. What else can you tell us?

PEREZ: Right, Wolf. That's the picture that we have on screen right now which his name is Abror Habibov. He's 30 years old. He owned several kiosks in shopping centers and cell phone repair kiosks. At least one of the other suspects worked at one of those kiosks for a time. That was his tie. Now the FBI and other law enforcement agencies in the last two days have been doing a lot of police work behind the scenes.

One of the issues with Habibov was that when they plugged his name into the system for law enforcement they found that he was here on an overstayed immigration visa and now what they are doing, Wolf, is they're trying to figure out if there's anybody else who was working for him that they need to go round up immediately because this is one of the big concerns, Wolf, is that, you know, you have people who are here perhaps illegally.

And therefore, they might be, you know, there's a chance they might be able to do something and if there's a way to grab them and detain them right now, that's what they're going to try to do. We do know that that is something that both the Homeland Security Department and the FBI is working on at this hour.

BLITZER: All right. I want everybody to stand by. We're getting new information, more reaction now from one of Jihadi John's so-called former teachers. That's coming up.

Also ahead, growing strains on a vital relationship. Syria's tensions rising as Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepares a visit to Washington, a visit to one of President Obama's top advisers, Susan Rice, has called destructive.

And amid new worries about ISIS in America, will Congress actually let money for Homeland Security run out? What is going ahead? You see the countdown clock, 30 hours, 22 minutes until funding for the Department of Homeland Security is over.

Will Congress get its act together?


BLITZER: We're learning new details about a trip that one of President Obama's top aides is calling destructive to the U.S./Israeli relationship. The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to arrive in Washington on Sunday for a visit clouded by harsh words, clashing personalities and politics.

Our White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski is joining us now with the very latest -- Michelle.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, you know, the White House wasn't even notified or consulted to begin with but now this upcoming speech by Netanyahu before a Joint Session of Congress has taken so much heat, revved up this debate. It has been called brazen, brave, inappropriate, a dangerous gamble.

Looking at whether this is an impassioned plea for global security during nuclear negotiations with Iran or a big piece of political theater days before he faces election in Israel.


KOSINSKI (voice-over): Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is sidestepping the White House entirely, accepting House Speaker John Boehner's invite to speak next week to Joint Session of Congress. The diplomatic rift only growing.

Netanyahu now saying he respects President Obama but, quote, "On such a fateful matter that can determine whether or not we can survive, I must do everything to prevent such a great danger for Israel, calling it his sacred duty to speak out against a possible nuclear deal with Iran that he feels makes too many concessions.

The White House restrained for weeks about this obvious tension finally let this fly from National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

SUSAN RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: On both sides, there has now been injected a degree of partisanship which is not only unfortunate, I think it's -- it's destructive of the fabric of the relationship.

KOSINSKI: Now the White House says it will send Rice and U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power to speak at the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee Conference next week. But this is an administration first that it won't be either the president, vice president or secretary of state attending.

AARON DAVID MILLER, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT NEGOTIATOR: Unlike some of the other dysfunctional relationships that American presidents have had with Israeli prime ministers and vice versa, this one has been dysfunctional without being productive.

KOSINSKI: The White House won't meet with Netanyahu while he's here, saying it's too close to his election. Netanyahu refused an invite from Senate Democrats, saying that would be partisan. Now, though, he will meet with some lawmakers from both sides of the aisle following what could be his fiery speech. His goal, he's expected to push for a hard line on dealing with Iran, maybe even urge Congress to sanction Iran even though the White House would veto that.

At least 29 Democrats now are not going to Netanyahu's speech. The former Senator Ben Lieberman says while there was a misstep in protocol at the start of all this, he thinks that's been blown out of proportion, that the speech is important.

JON LIEBERMAN (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Now the Netanyahu speech has gotten caught up in the politics of Washington which is not surprising these days because everything seems to be political in Washington. But it really is regrettable.


KOSINSKI: So the U.S. and Israel and analysts say the heart of this relationship, the cooperation and security and intelligence, the shared values, that is still strong. Also shared, of course, is about $3 billion a year in U.S. aid to Israel, most of it military -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good report.

Michelle, thanks very, very much.

We'll have more on this story coming up in our next hour. But right at the top of the hour, we have new details about the man until today we have only known as Jihadi John. Now that his name is out, one of his former teachers is speaking out.

And amid all of the worries about ISIS in the United States, will Congress money for the Department of Homeland Security run out in 30 hours and 14 minutes?


BLITZER: As we follow today's new warnings about terror plots and ISIS suspects right here in the United States, we're a little over a day away from a funding cutoff for the Department of Homeland Security. And thanks to a feud right now among several Republicans, nobody knows whether Congress can actually avoid meeting the deadline.

Let's turn to our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash, she's up on Capitol Hill with the very latest.

Dana, the clock is ticking.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is ticking. And as we speak, Wolf, House Republicans are meeting to try to plot what their next move will be. Late word from sources is that they are likely to try to pass a stopgap measure as soon as tomorrow so that the Department of Homeland Security doesn't run out of money at midnight tonight. But even passing that could be tough.


BASH (voice-over): Three men arrested and accused of trying to join ISIS inside the United States. Today Democrats are seizing on that and other threats to warn about the dangers of cutting off funding for the agency that keeps Americans safe.

SEN. HARRY REID (D), MINORITY LEADER: American people are frightened and rightfully so. ISIS appears to have money. Terrorists appear to have money. Why shouldn't our homeland have the at built to protect itself?

BASH: Meanwhile, the Homeland Security secretary is on Capitol Hill again, walking the halls, begging lawmakers to fully fund his department.

JEH JOHNSON, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: This is not just an inside the beltway political jousting. A failure to fund the Department of Homeland Security fully has real impacts on public safety.

BASH: In the Senate, even conservatives backed off threats to hold up Homeland funding. But all eyes are on Republicans in the House who are still insisting on also blocking the president's executive action on immigration.