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THE SITUATION ROOM
ISIS Video: Second American Beheaded; Interview with Rep. Michael McCaul; ISIS Blames U.S. Strikes for Beheadings
Aired September 2, 2014 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, ISIS beheading video. It apparently shows the brutal murder of a second American journalist, Steven Sotloff, and warns a British hostage will be next.
ISIS warning to Obama -- the terror group says if U.S. airstrikes continue, its knife will strike the necks of Americans.
Will the president now expand U.S. action to Syria?
And Americans in ISIS -- some are fighting with the jihadists abroad.
Will they bring their terror training back to the United States?
I'll ask the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Congressman Mike McCaul.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Let's get right to the breaking news.
ISIS releases a new video, apparently showing the beheading of another American, Steven Sotloff, who disappeared last year in Syria. The brutal execution video comes two weeks after the murder of American James Foley. And this one comes with a direct warning to President Obama.
Our correspondents and guests are standing by with full coverage.
Let's begin with our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott.
She has the very latest -- Elise.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it appears very similar to the video showing the beheading of James Foley. And it is equally as shocking.
LABOTT (voice-over): It's a gruesome image -- American Steven Sotloff dressed in an orange jumpsuit, kneeling at the feet of his executioner, a hand on his throat. The masked figure, all in black, brandishes a knife and speaks to President Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So just as your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people.
LABOTT: Before his apparent beheading, Sotloff speaks to the camera, saying under duress that he is, quote, "having to pay the price for U.S. intervention."
He appeared two weeks ago in a video capturing the brutal execution of American journalist, James Foley. ISIS warned that Sotloff's fate depended on the US' next moves in Iraq. Later, a British citizen identified as David Haines appears in the video.
ISIS warns he could be their next victim.
SHIRLEY SOTLOFF, MOTHER OF HOSTAGE STEVEN SOTLOFF: My son Stephen is in your hands.
LABOTT: Two weeks ago, Sotloff's mother, Shirley, issued a heartfelt plea for ISIS to spare her son, a freelance journalist captured in Syria a year ago.
SOTLOFF: I ask you to please release my child. As a mother, I ask your justice to be merciful and not punish my son for matters he has no control over.
LABOTT: The killer appears to speak with the same British accent as the militant who murdered James Foley.
The U.S. says it's working to authenticate the video.
BRETT MCGURK, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR IRAN AND IRAQ: And if it is genuine, of course, our -- our hearts go out to the Sotloff family. And it's just a reminder of the barbarism of this organization.
LABOTT: After Foley's death, President Obama promised justice.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America does not forget. Our reach is long. We are patient. Justice will be done.
LABOTT: But even some of the president's staunchest supporters suggest his lack of strategy for combating ISIS has helped the group's lightning advance through Syria and Iraq.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), CHAIR, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I've learned one thing about this president, and that is he's very cautious, maybe, in this instance, too cautious.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
LABOTT: Now the Obama administration says military action is just one tool to combat ISIS, there are many other ways to go after the group, which President Obama, Wolf, will be discussing this week in Wales when he meets with NATO allies.
BLITZER: And then the secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense, they peel off from that NATO summit and head to the Middle East.
LABOTT: That's right. Basically, the goal is to set up a coalition to deal with ISIS. Obviously, the military is involved. But there needs to be a kind of diplomatic, economic and real whole regional approach. And that's what Secretary Kerry will be traveling with him, will be discussing next week.
BLITZER: Elise Labott, thanks for that report.
U.S. experts say they're working to authenticate the ISIS video of Steven Sotloff's beheading.
CNN's Tom Foreman has compared this new video with the one showing the killing of American journalist, James Foley, last month -- so, Tom, what clues are you finding?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These are very hard to watch, Wolf.
Here's a frame from the new video of the apparent murder of Steven Sotloff. And here is the killing of James Foley. The terrain, the time of day, the weather all seem to be generally similar. But there are many details that are similar, too.
In each case, the victims are dressed in orange, which intelligence analysts say ISIS uses to mirror the jumpsuits worn by prisoners at Guantanamo. In each video, the executioner wears black, keeping his face almost entirely covered. He has a gun and he holds a medium sized knife, which looks very similar, in his left hand. He has the same general body build, gestures and demeanor.
So is this the same person?
Listen to the voice in this latest video.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You, Obama, have yet again, from your actions, (INAUDIBLE) another American citizen. So just as as your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people.
FOREMAN: Now compare that to the voice in the murder of James Foley.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any attempt by you, Obama, to deny did the Muslims their rights of living in safety under the Islamic caliphate, will result in the bloodshed of your people.
FOREMAN: Intelligence analysts say if it is not the same voice, at very least, the accent in both cases sounds as if it comes from the London area. That suggests a possible link to dozens of radicals believed to have traveled from there to join the fight against the Syrian government, people who are thought to be handling foreigners captured by ISIS.
PAUL GINSBURG, FORENSIC AUDIO/VIDEO EXPERT: The intelligence community will go through the every inch of this, every second, analyzing the electronic impulses, the audio, the video, the speech, voice identification, the geography, for whatever information it can provide, as well as the production techniques.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
FOREMAN: There are a few things in this video which suggest that James Sotloff, indeed, may have been killed in just the past couple of days. But that's not really clear. There are many mysteries here.
Each video includes a statement by the victims critical of U.S. policies, statements which were obviously given under extreme duress. And just as the Foley video ended with a threat to kill Sotloff, the Sotloff video ends with the display of another captive and another implied threat -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's so chilling, indeed.
All right, Tom Foreman, thanks very much.
Let's dig deeper now with our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto -- Jim, you watched the entire tape.
So what struck you?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I think two things, Wolf. And I will say, I did not watch on purpose. I did not watch the James Foley tape. Just personally, I felt I didn't I want to -- I wanted to allow one less person, frankly, to be terrorized by these videos. And that's what they're intended to do.
I watched this one. One thing that strikes you is just how it is directed very much at the US. The title, "A Second Message to Obama," of course, following the James Foley beheading.
Two, he addresses President Obama directly, and then, of course, addresses U.S. military action in Syria and says that this killing, this purported killing of Sotloff on camera, is in direct response to U.S. airstrikes against Syria, against ISIS positions in Syria.
But the other thing that stands out, Wolf, is as you watch this long tape and you watch the -- what Steven Sotloff must have known were his final words, is just the immense calm, that he handles this with strength. You know, and as we -- as we watched this, and, of course, we focused on the politics the military options, etc. This is very much a human story.
And we saw a young man, a 31-year-old man, presumably in his final moments here. And as I personally watched that, he just exhibited really incredible strength, which is hard to believe under the circumstances.
BLITZER: A lot of folks believe, sick as it may sound, that these kinds of horrendous videotapes are actually some sort of recruitment tool for ISIS.
So what's the strategy here?
SCIUTTO: The strategy is recruiting, one, but also just showing its strength internationally. It is. It's shocking that this kind of attack can energize people to join a movement like this. But it really gets at this immense anger that some people, even in our own country, of course -- because as you and I have talked about many times, there are American who have gone out to draw this -- to join this group, but this immense anger that they feel justified in holding against the U.S. and the West.
You have a couple of intentions here. One is surely to terrorize, to show share strength. Two, to show that they and they alone are standing up to the U.S. and the West. That is a recruiting tool, as well. And we've seen that working.
You'll remember that one of the Americans who was killed fighting for ISIS, he appears in a video. And he talks about what an immense charge it is to fight against more powerful countries abroad.
So, yes, this brutality, as much as it shocks us, it works for a certain portion of the population, even, alarmingly, in our own country -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's a sick, sick thought.
Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.
BLITZER: Let's go in depth now with the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, the Texas Republican, Congressman Mike McCaul.
Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX), CHAIRMAN, HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just quickly, have you actually watched this video, the beheading of Steven Sotloff?
MCCAUL: Yes, I did. It's a very chilling, disturbing video, very similar to the execution of James Foley, as well. The executioner appears to be the same individual that we saw in the Foley video, left-handed, a British accent. But just very, again, a chilling reminder of how brutal ISIS is, how savage they are and how intent they are on killing Americans.
BLITZER: The numbers we've heard -- and you're the chairman of the committee, so you probably have more precise numbers -- maybe a dozen Americans have actually gone over to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS.
Is that right?
MCCAUL: No, that number is actually much larger than what you stated. I believe, based on the briefings I've received, that we are talking somewhere in the range of between 100 to 200 Americans that are over in Syria and Iraq joining the fight, in addition to the tens of thousands of other foreign fighters, including a lot of Western Europeans, all of which, as you have pointed out, have Western passport and travel documents. Which is why the biggest, you know, what is the homeland security concern here?
It's the fact that we have Americans and those with travel documents that can come back to the United States and perpetrate an act of terrorism. And that's -- we're on a, really, a high state of alert right now.
BLITZER: Because that 100 to 200 number I had been told, but you have more precise information, includes all the various terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria, al-Nusra, not just ISIS. I had been told maybe a dozen that they know of working with ISIS. But there are a lot more working, for example, with another terrorist group called Al-Nusra.
MCCAUL: Well, Al-Nusra is the al Qaeda -- core al Qaeda affiliate in the Syria.
But what we do know is there are between 100 to 200 Americans in the region. I would argue, Wolf, that we don't have precise intelligence on the ground to determine who -- which al Qaeda faction they're working for or fighting with. But the fact is, those numbers are very alarming to me and they should concern the American people.
BLITZER: And they're alarming to me, as well. And there are hundreds of Europeans who are serving with ISIS, is al-Nusra, some of the other terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria. They have European passports and they could enter the United States without visas fairly easily, as well.
Congressman, Mr. Chairman, I want you to stand by for a moment.
We have a lot more to discuss, specifically about the threat to the U.S. homeland from ISIS and these other terrorist groups.
We'll continue our conversation with Congressman McCaul right at this.
BLITZER: Let's get right back to the breaking news.
A new ISIS video apparently showing the beheading of a second American journalist, Steven Sotloff. He disappeared in Syria last year. It comes two weeks after a video showing the murder of the American journalist, James Foley.
We're back with the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Texas Republican Congressman Mike McCaul.
I just want to clarify one more time, the number of Americans, Congressman, serving with terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria, including, ISIS, you say between 100 and 200, is that right?
MCCAUL: The numbers that we've received and, of course, they're not 100 percent accurate, is that there are around 100 to 200 Americans that are in the region joining this fight. And that is of grave concern, certainly not only to the region, but from a homeland security standpoint, because of their ability to travel back to the United States. And we saw a case like that in Florida, where the individual traveled back to Florida and then went back to Syria again and was a suicide bomber.
What if he had stayed in Florida and detonated a car bomb in the United States instead?
So that is why is intelligence officials and Homeland Security officials are so concerned about this threat.
BLITZER: We heard the British prime minister, David Cameron, in recent days raise the threat level in Britain.
Is it time for the U.S. to raise the threat level here?
MCCAUL: Well, I think, you know, that this -- these chilling videos are a reminder, it's a wake-up call for the American people as to the threat that ISIS presents, again, to the United States, that they are intent on killing Americans. They would love nothing better than to pull off something in the homeland. And they talk in their own words about we're in your cities, we're in your streets. And that's what we're very concerned about.
I think we are on a higher state of alert. We've had two be on the lookout notices by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, basically alerting state and locals to look for suspicious activities.
And so I do think that the prime minister in the U.K. is moving forward in the right direction. I would encourage the president to do so, but more so in terms of eliminating the threat overseas where ISIS exists, rather than allowing them the opportunity to come to the United States.
BLITZER: Should the U.S., Congressman, be taking special precautions?
Coming up in a few days, the anniversary of 9/11, September 11th?
MCCAUL: Sadly and unfortunately, the answer is yes. They -- they take anniversaries very seriously in terms of when they choose to attack in the United States. Al Qaeda likes to pick anniversaries. They like to pick large sporting events, for instance, like the Boston Marathon. They look at economic damage they can inflict and political damage.
And so I think coming up on the heels of this video, now with of 9/11 just a couple of days away -- or a couple of weeks, I think we have to be on a high state of alert.
BLITZER: Yes. The Boston Marathon not necessarily al Qaeda, but sort of Muslim fanatics, if you will, home -- maybe even homegrown, right?
MCCAUL: Well, Wolf, I think that's the other part of this threat that we're concerned about are these homegrown violent extremists, people that can get on the Web site, look at this video, somehow in a sick way get inspired by it. There is "Inspire" magazine out there to -- that shows them how to make bombs, for instance.
So we're very concerned about radicalization within the United States. ISIS has demonstrated they're very adept at social media. They can launch a campaign offensive on social media that can radicalize and inspire Americans that are already in the United States.
And so that's the other half of the equation that we're trying to guard and protect Americans against.
BLITZER: What did you -- I don't know if you've studied some of David Cameron, the British prime minister's actions, what the British are doing pre-emptively to deal with this threat.
Would -- would they be some of the more controversial ones, not allowing these British citizens, for example, to come back to Britain or to go out and arrest them even before they've done certain things, is that something that the U.S. should be considering?
MCCAUL: Well, we always have to balance, you know, privacy and security. I think that certainly the U.K. is looking at a larger threat than the United States, because of the proximity of where they are. And I think he's probably doing the responsible thing to protect his citizens.
You know, whether we need to carnage the law if you are a -- provide material aid to a foreign terrorist organization, we revoke your passport, maybe that's something that we ought to be looking at.
But let me tell you what we are doing, and that is trying to properly identify those overseas to ensure that will never allow them to travel into the United States. And I think that's a very important point to make, particularly when you look at the bombmaking capability that we've seen demonstrated out of Yemen with the Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula now aligning itself with ISIS.
So now you have this technology and manpower coming together with ISIS. We need to do everything we can to stop that from getting on airplanes, as well..
And as you know, Wolf, we have heightened the security precautions at these foreign airports that we believe are the most likely to be targeted by ISIS.
BLITZER: As you know, the U.S. launches airstrikes against terrorist targets only in the past couple of days in Somalia against Al-Shabab in Yemen, against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan and Yemen. In Iraq, we have the U.S. has been launching airstrikes.
Is it time for the U.S. to launch airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria?
MCCAUL: I believe so. I mean if this is not a wakeup call, what is?
What more evidence do we need?
And the fact that we're -- we're launching airstrikes against Al- Shabab when ISIS is clearly the more greater threat to the homeland and the United States, it seems to be, you know, that we ought to be hitting ISIS wherever they exist, including, as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Dempsey, said, in Syria..
And I think what you're seeing, Wolf, is an internal debate within the administration between the Pentagon, which came out pretty strong for action, and others in the administration who are warning to be more cautious.
I think this policy of containment needs to shift to a policy of defeating ISIS where they are, including in Syria, rather than just containing them in Iraq.
BLITZER: Do you believe the president has the authority, without additional Congressional action, to launch those airstrikes?
MCCAUL: He does under The War Powers Act. He's operating, I think, within the law. He has reported these actions to the Congress, as he should. I -- I do think that it would be a good idea to update the authorized use of military force, which was passed in 2001, to include organizations like ISIS. And I believe you would have broad-based support within the Congress to get that.
BLITZER: Do you have confidence in the administration, the secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson and others, that they are doing what needs to be done to prevent, shall we say, another 9/11?
MCCAUL: Well, you don't know what you don't know. You don't know how many of these guys have actually gotten back into the United States. That's my biggest concern.
I -- I have a lot of admiration for Jeh Johnson. I think he is a -- comes from the Defense Department and he's -- he understands that this is the greatest threat we've seen since 9/11. He -- we've had conversations about that. And they are taking corrective measures to guard against the threat.
But, you know, it only took 19 hijackers to pull off 9/11. When we have hundreds of Americans and tens of thousands of foreign fighters with legal travel documents, you do the math. It is -- it increases the probability of an event to occur not only in Western Europe, but in the United States. And that's what I'm most concerned about.
BLITZER: Yes. And what's also concerning, and you acknowledge this, is that the U.S. should gear up and be ready for the anniversary of 9/11. That's coming up in a few days. It's obviously a very, very worrisome date for a lot of Homeland Security folks out there.
Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for joining us.
MCCAUL: Thanks, Wolf. Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: We're going to have much more on the breaking news. The apparent beheading of another American journalist increasing pressure on President Obama. Is there a strategy yet for dealing with ISIS in Syria? Our panel of experts are standing by.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We're covering the breaking news, the terror group ISIS posting a video showing what appears to be the beheading of a second U.S. journalist.
President Obama ignored reporters' questions as he left the White House earlier this afternoon. He's now aboard Air Force One. He's on his way to Europe for a NATO summit.
Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is joining us from president's first destination, the capital of Estonia, Talan. He's going to be making a major address there before he heads to Wales for the summit. But we're getting new information. What are you learning?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I did have a chance to talk to a senior administration official here on the ground in Talan just within the last several minutes who said that right now the U.S. intelligence community is analyzing the video that is apparently the beheading of Steven Sotloff. This administration official said, at this point, White House officials have no reason to doubt its authenticity, but the intelligence community, they still want to go through the process of analyzing it, trying to determine when it was shot, where it was shot; try to determine exactly whether or not the killer in this video is the same person who executed James Foley.
So those are some of the basic questions that are being asked right now. We can also tell you that the president is very likely being kept up to speed right now. But no official word from the White House as to whether or not he's been briefed and just how soon he'll be in contact with the Sotloff family.
Wolf, this official did emphasize, though, that it did take several hours after the release of the James Foley execution video for the intelligence community to come out and say officially they've authenticated it. So this could take some time, could take several hours, and the president is in the air right now traveling with his own communication staff.
And I have to tell you, Wolf, when we landed here in Talan, Estonia, where the president will be here tomorrow for a press conference and a big speech, the White House communication staff traveling with us was not exactly in the best communication with the staff traveling with the president because, basically, we were landing as they were taking off. So both sides have to reconnect I think before we get more information on this.
At the same time, the senior administration official that I spoke with said that they still believe a small number of Americans are being head hostage by ISIS and, obviously, Wolf, this is going to overshadow the president's trip this week. As we've seen with so many of these foreign trips, it seems like these unforeseen big breaking news developments around the world have a tendency to overshadow what he's trying to accomplish. He's landing in Estonia in six or seven hours from now to talk about basically NATO's commitment to the defend small states that are a part of the NATO alliance like Estonia. They're very nervous about Vladimir Putin's intentions. They're concerned that with what's happening in Ukraine, that they could be next. The president is here to assure them the United States has their back.
BLITZER: Yes, we just heard Mike McCaul, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee tell us that, sadly, the U.S. should be taking special precautions right now to gear up for security around the anniversary of 9/11, which is approaching in a few days.
All right, we're going to check back with you, Jim Acosta.
ACOSTA: And Wolf --
BLITZER: Go ahead.
ACOSTA: I was just going to say that I think one of the key questions that will come up, and the president is holding a news conference in about 12 hours from now, I think it's very likely Wolf, that he will be asked a question about this apparent beheading and he will be asked about that comment he made last week as to whether or not the U.S. has a strategy for going after ISIS in Syria. The president said we don't have a strategy yet. I fully expect that question to come up. And it's obvious, given the response that's coming from Capitol Hill, that he's going to be coming under growing pressure to toughen his stance against ISIS.
BLITZER: Yes, the pressure is clearly enormous for the president to take action against ISIS in Syria, not only in Iraq but Syria, as well. Jim Acosta is traveling with the president; he's joining us from Estonia.
Let's dig a little bit deeper in THE SITUATION ROOM. Joining us, the former Congresswoman Jane Harman; she was on the Homeland Security Committee, the Intelligence Committee; also Danielle Pletka, the American Enterprise Institute; CNN terrorism Paul Cruickshank. I should point out Jane Harman is also the head of the Wilson Center here in Washington.
Why, Paul -- you studied this. The beheadings. We remember in 2002, Daniel Pearl, the reporter from "The Wall Street Journal", was beheaded by al Qaeda in Pakistan. What's with the beheadings? Why do they do these?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, it's not for religious reasons. It's pure and simple to terrorize their enemies and also to satisfy the blood lust of their supporters, to energize them. We've seen this several times now, with Daniel Pearl but also with Nicholas Berg, an American beheaded in Iraq by this same group in 2004.
BLITZER: Jane, you agree with Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Intelligence Committee that maybe the president is being too cautious right now, your fellow Californian?
JANE HARMAN, (D) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Well, I think it's time for him to say more and do more. I'm sad he ducked questions on his way to the airplane. It's true that there's no conclusive proof yet that Sotloff was beheaded, and perhaps that's why he waited. But delivering his first remarks in Estonia rather than in America at a time when this country is grieving about this I think perhaps was not the best decision.
But, yes, I agree that it is time to roll out a comprehensive strategy. Danielle and Jack Keane and others have written about this; John McCain and Lindsey Graham had a good op-ed this weekend. It's not just a kinetic strategy. It has to have more. And what the bottom line is, is that this gruesome group has a narrative that's working, and the B roll is on your network 24/7. We don't have a counter narrative that's working. And our commander in chief has to sketch that out for the American people, show why they have a stake and, P.S., Congress has to play, too. I think Congress has to come back in session and debate this issue and, through Congress, the American people have to have a voice here.
BLITZER: What do you think the most important thing the president, Danielle, needs to do right now?
DANIELLE PLETKA, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE V.P. FOREIGN POLICY: I think he needs to stop with the tactical approach. You mentioned earlier the air strike on al Shabaab in Somalia. That really sends a message we're not focused on the matter at hand. It sensd a message that we're not focused on Iraq. We're not focused on Syria. That we really do have the tactical approach that the president has intimidated to the American people that we have.
Do you have a strategy? No, I really don't. We need to push back on this group. But if we push back on them just in Iraq, if we push back on them just in certain places, just in the mountains, just to help the Kurds, just to help these refugees, and we don't push back on them everywhere that they are and we don't empower our partners to fight with us, then we are going to be stuck with these guys for a very long time.
BLITZER: But does the U.S. really have a partner in Syria, for example? The U.S. does have a partner, the Kurds in Iraq. The Iraqi military, a partne -- not a great partner but a an partner. Who is the partner? The Free Syrian Army? They seem to be incapable of doing much.
PLETKA: Look, all of these groups are incapable if we're not there to help them. These are groups that come together for a variety of reasons. They may not share our values, but in these cases they share our enemies. We have a long history of partnering with a lot of people to achieve a particular end. And the Free Syrian Army has been left for too long, and ISIS has been allowed to rise in their stead.
BLITZER: Do you agree with Mike McCaul that the U.S. needs to take strict measures right now to prepare -- we hope it doesn't happen -- for some sort of 9/11 anniversary terror attack on the U.S. homeland? CRUICKSHANK: Well, there's clearly a lot of concern about this group.
This is a group with truly frightening capabilities, up to 1,000 European recruits, Wolf, in their ranks.
BLITZER: Just for ISIS.
CRUICKSHANK: Just for ISIS. Training camps on a scale last seen in Taliban-run Afghanistan. Tens of millions of dollars of cash reserves. The 9/11 operation, that cost $500,000, to give you some context there. So a lot of theoretical concern about this group. At the same time, this group has never plotted -- the leadership of this group has never plotted a single terrorist plot against the west. Of course, they may now retaliate and that's everybody's concern.
HARMAN: Well, I think, yes, we need to prepare. But, yes, we are preparing. I'm not sure we should advertise to ISIS exactly what we're doing. I think it's smart not to do that. But in the president's address, hopefully in a near time period, he does have to address America and talk about what we are doing to build resilience.
I also think that Jeh Johnson, who was just praised and is a very able Homeland Secretary, should be out there talking to the American people about what to look for and what to do. The American people are our best line of defense. We also have well trained -- finally we do have well trained first responders in this country after the serious experience of 9/11.
So I agree that we are preparing; we need to. There's no such thing as 100 percent security. They have to be right once; we have to be 100 percent of the time.
BLITZER: Will this beheading video, this second beheading video, convince not only the president but the American public to go ahead -- because the U.S. is war weary right now -- but to go ahead and do in Syria, for example, what you want the U.S. to do?
PLETKA: I don't want ISIS persuading the American people to do anything. What I want is the president of the United States and members of Congress -- Mrs. Harman is exactly right -- members of Congress showing the necessary leadership, explaining why it is we need to be there, what it is we need to do, who it is we need to help.
And let's not forget, we're all talking about ISIS. ISIS is giving great heart to the Sunni Islamist jihadist movement. But there's al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. There's al Shabaab. There's al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Libya has completely fallen apart. Yemen is falling apart. And we're sitting here; we haven't even talked about Ukraine. We are in a world of hurt and there are all sorts of threats out there.
HARMAN: But there are friends we can make. And, by the way, in the Middle East, we haven't even mentioned Saudi Arabia. Mecca is the logical capital of some new caliphate by this pseudostate and the Gulf countries who are Sunni also have to fear this. And they need to be in this with us, in the face of this new whatever it is, action against this extremist Muslim group ought to be a Muslim face. BLITZER: All right, unfortunately, guys, we're going to wrap it up
right now. But obviously the subject not going away. Thanks to all three of you for coming in.
Up next, U.S. aircraft have been hammering ISIS targets in Iraq. Are those strikes really making a difference on the battlefield? We're going live to northern Iraq for the very latest. Stand by.
BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news. ISIS has released a video apparently showing the brutal beheading of a second American journalist, Steven Sotloff. The executioner in the video specifically condemns American air strikes in towns besieged by ISIS along with the Mosul dam in Iraq.
CNN's Anna Coren has been watching what's going on, specifically the fighting around the dam. She's joining us from Erbil in northern Iraq right now.
What's the latest on the battle front, because ISIS was making some significant process (sic)? The impact, Anna, of these U.S. air strikes, what has the impact been?
ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as we have been discussing those U.S. airstrikes definitely placing pressure on ISIS, pushing them back in certain places. Containing them in others. Definitely the Kurdish and the Iraqi forces have had some victories, Amerli over the weekend where they freed that besieged city of -- township, I should say, of more than two months. And then up near Mosul dam which that critical piece of infrastructure that the Kurds managed to take back last week.
But still, there is fighting raging around Mosul dam, around the countryside, the villages and the small townships. We were up there over the weekend. We saw the U.S. airstrikes, Wolf. And it surprised us that ISIS is still digging in. You know, they haven't retreated back to their stronghold of Mosul, that city that was seized back in June. Iraq's second largest city where it really does have its major stronghold. The fighting is still raging, but those U.S. airstrikes making a huge difference -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Anna, are there any signs that the Kurds in Iraq, the Iraqi military, they're any closer to coming up with a real effective strategy, a military strategy to destroy ISIS in Iraq?
COREN: Well, look, Wolf, I think they're definitely waiting for direction from President Obama as to how the United States is going to proceed. Obviously the Kurdish officials want the air campaign to be extended but also to be intensified. They feel that they need more airstrikes than what we have seen to date. But certainly there needs be a coordinated effort not just amongst the Kurdish forces here in northern Iraq but amongst the Iraqi Security Forces.
We have seen them come together in Amerli, in Mosul dam to fight. And effectively fight against ISIS. But at the moment, they are very much operating quite independently. It's going to take a political situation, a political solution, Wolf, as we know for this government to be inclusive so that it's the Iraqis that rise up and push ISIS out of these major cities and townships -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Anna, thanks very much. Anna Coren is in Irbil reporting. Always be careful over there, Anna.
Coming up, what we know about the British captive that ISIS is now threatening to kill next? Brian Todd is standing by with that.
And in our next hour, we'll get perspective from the U.S. State Department. We'll speak with a deputy spokesman -- spokeswoman, I should say, at the State Department, Marie Harf.
BLITZER: We're back with our breaking news. A new ISIS video claims to show the beheading of a second American journalist, Stephen Sotloff. It comes two weeks after the brutal execution of another American journalist, James Foley. And this new video warns that a British captive may be next.
Our Brian Todd has been looking into this part of the story. Brian, what do we know about this?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, at the end of this ISIS video, Steven Sotloff's murder, the militant makes a similar threat to the one they issued in the James Foley video a couple of weeks ago. He threatens the life of a British captive who the video identifies as David Hawthorne Haines.
Here is what the militant says in that section of the video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We take this opportunity to warn those governments who've entered this evil alliance of America against the Islamic State to back off and leave our people alone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Now there's not a lot of information available on the man they identified as David Haines. According to the "Washington Post," he is an aid worker and was kidnapped in March of 2013 near the Atmeh refugee camp, it's right about here, along Syria's northern border with Turkey.
Now the "Post" cites information from aid workers who have been trying to secure Haines' release. We have not been able to get additional information from British officials about this man.
Now on the statement by that militant, it strongly suggests a warning to the British government of Prime Minister David Cameron. The British are making humanitarian drops in Iraq. They are sending weapons to the Kurds. And David Cameron has just laid out his battle plan to counter the threat from extremists possibly returning home to Britain.
He wants to confiscates passports, ban suspects from boarding planes before they leave his country. It's estimated about 500 British citizens fighting -- are fighting with ISIS and other groups in Syria and Iraq, Wolf, and the militant in this video is thought to be British.
BLITZER: Analysts believe the video will energize other jihadists around the world. What are you hearing about that?
TODD: Yes, well, Wolf, I mean, they believe that it's going do that, possibly help with the recruiting of ISIS fighters. It'll energize the jihadists around the world to join the movement. They kind of get excited about videos like this.
Now we also have, what we have to say, Wolf, is a new account from a man who claims to have been held by ISIS for about 40 days last winter. His name is Bunyamin Aygun. He's a photographer for the British -- excuse me, for the Turkish newspaper " Milliyet".
He told that paper and an Arabic newspaper "Al-Monitor" that he was held for 40 days by ISIS last winter. Now according to those publications, Aygun says he was hooded and blindfolded the entire time. He said fighters in black tunics would be interrogated him every day, asking questions like, do you drink, who are the women in your Facebook page, who are you working for.
He said all they did all day was fight and pray but he did describe his captors as young and educated who had a mastery of interrogative techniques.
CNN has not been able to independently verify this man's account of his captivity with ISIS -- Wolf.
BLITZER: But it is all very, very chilling. Especially when they warned this third westerner could be next, if the U.S. and others don't stop doing what they are doing.
All right, Brian, thanks very much.
Coming up, ISIS warns President Obama that if U.S. airstrikes do continue there will be more beheadings. We're taking a closer look at the president's options. And I'll get the reaction to the ISIS beheading video from the State Department's deputy spokeswoman, Marie Harf.