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THE SITUATION ROOM
Joan Rivers Dead at 81; Interview with Kelly Ripa; Boston Man Suspected of ISIS Ties; New Probe on Michael Brown Shooting
Aired September 4, 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 ANCHOR: Thanks very much.
Happening now, terrorist suspect, a Boston man being investigated for possible ties to ISIS. Is he helping drives the group's social media campaign? We have new information.
Federal probe, a major new development in the shooting death of Michael Brown. The Justice Department now targeting the Ferguson, Missouri, police department.
And the sad breaking news. The comedienne Joan Rivers dies one week after being put on life support. Was it the result of a botched medical procedure?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOAN RIVERS, COMEDIENNE: A girl, you're 30 years old. You're not married. You're an old maid. A man, he's 90 years old. He's not married. He's a catch.
When I was 21, my mother said only a doctor for you. When I was 22, she said, "All right, a lawyer, CPA." Twenty-four, she said, "We'll grab a dentist." Twenty-six, she said, "Anything." If he could make it to the door, he was mine, you know? "What do you mean you don't like him? He's intelligent. He found the bell himself. What do you want?"
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: She did standup comedy on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in the 1960s and was going strong until last week with her current TV show "Fashion Police."
We're following this afternoon's breaking news in New York City where comedienne Joan Rivers died a few hours ago. It was a week ago she stopped breathing, went into cardiac arrest during what was supposed to be routine throat surgery at a New York City clinic.
She was rushed to the nearby Mount Sinai Hospital, where she had been on life support. CNN's Miguel Marquez is outside the hospital. He's joining us now.
I understand that there are New York state, New York City investigations that are now under way?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there's a lot of frustration, a lot of anger and a lot of questions about her death right now. The family holding out the possibility they may sue Yorkville Endoscopy, where she had that supposedly outpatient procedure eight days ago.
The New York State Health Department saying that it has opened an investigation into Yorkville Endoscopy. One of the accrediting agencies that accredits these groups and these sort of facilities also says that it is investigating.
And the New York City medical examiner says the cause and manner of Ms. Rivers' death will be released at some point, indicating that an autopsy will be done and that they want to get to the bottom and understand what exactly happened, what went wrong and how this woman that was going strong just until hours before she had that procedure, how it is that she ended up dead -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The whole notion of these investigations raises all sorts of questions about the initial procedure. What was it that she was undergoing to begin with?
MARQUEZ: It's not entirely clear, though Yorkville endoscopy is a place that specializes in digestive disorders. It's not clear that's what she was going in for. It may have had something to do with her larynx. Basically, they're taking a camera and putting it down her throat. That would cause her or there would be the need to put her under, at least locally if not very heavily, under sedation so that they could do that.
At some point during that procedure, she went into cardiac arrest. She stopped breathing, and then emergency services were called and then she was brought a few blocks away here to Mount Sinai.
What is amazing about this is that she was doing a show the night before this, giving no indication that anything was wrong, that she had any reason not to go through the procedure that next morning. She was out at 9:30 or 10 p.m. and had dinner after. She must have been in there very, very early in the morning Thursday morning, because it was at 9:30 a.m. that the media got the call that something was wrong -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Have there been any news conference statements or anything coming from hospital officials where you are?
MARQUEZ: The hospital has not released anything other than Melissa Rivers saying that the family was around her. There was other reporting saying that this is a woman who had her nails done. She was -- had her hair done. She was -- she had her favorite blankets with her. She had everything that she would have wanted around at the end, including her family. Melissa, Conner, her grandson Cooper, her grandson. Everybody that she knew and loved was around her when she passed -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And there is word now of a funeral. A time and date for the funeral. Is that right?
MARQUEZ: No time yet. We know it's Sunday. We don't know exactly what time. We don't know if it will be open to the public. The guess is that it will be closed to the public but it will be at Emanu-El Temple here in Manhattan on this Sunday. I'm sure that it will cause a lot of people, a lot to come out here in Manhattan and around the world.
Already at her apartment on 62nd Street and Fifth Avenue, right on the park there, people are coming by, dropping off flowers, saying their good-byes to this legendary comedian -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Miguel. Thanks very much. Miguel Marquez reporting very sad news about Joan Rivers.
Joining us now is Tim Teeman of "The Daily Beast." He did the last major interview with Joan Rivers.
Tim, thanks very much for joining us. Well, what did she -- first of all, when was the interview conducted? What did she seem like? Did she seem healthy? What was your impression?
TIM TEEMAN, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE DAILY BEAST": Hugely healthy, in great spirits. Wonderful interview, actually. We did it in late July in the Russian Tea Room. She was publicizing her new book.
She did talk about mortality and facing death. She joked that she had left orders not to revive her unless she could perform an hour's worth of comedy.
But in a more serious way, she talked about her daughter, Melissa, and her grandson, Cooper. With Melissa, she had obviously survived the suicide of her husband, Edgar, in 1987, and they had survived that together. And the thing that she said she couldn't bear about dying, and she said this over and over again, was the thought of Melissa being left on her own. And that would be devastating for Melissa, and the thought that was devastating for Joan, as well.
But otherwise, in the interview, she was in immensely good spirits, being incredibly, wonderfully caustic about people, as she always was, and just extremely funny. She was a rare comedienne. She was as funny off-stage as on.
BLITZER: Was it is she or you who raised the issue of her mortality?
TEEMAN: Oh, I asked her did she consider her own mortality, and she said, "Constantly." It was something that she constantly felt because her friends, as she put it, were dropping like flies.
But she herself had no sense of that. She was -- she was in extremely good health. There was no sense of frailty about her or anything like that. Indeed, you know, the day before she was in hospital, she taped her
"Fashion Police" VMAs/Emmy special. And again, as you can see when you watch that show, that hour and a half show, she's on sparkling form as ever. So this is just a terrible, terrible thing.
BLITZER: Did you get any impression that she had an issue with her voice or anything along those lines? Did it sound weak, not the same Joan Rivers that all of us have known over these many years?
TEEMAN: No, not at all. As I said, the interview was conducted over lunch across a dining table. So she was quieter than she was on television. But no sense that the voice was in any way damaged or anything like that. She had had a full day of publicity that day. She was being followed by a TV crew. As I say, she taped "Fashion Police," you know, just the day before she was taken into hospital.
No one exactly knows why she was having that procedure done. If she was having some work done on her vocal cords. Maybe -- no one knows if she felt her voice was too raspy or she wants to resolve something. But certainly that day, I can't emphasize enough, she seemed very far from frail, and her voice was in good health.
BLITZER: Well, when you saw her on television, she always seemed very far from frail, as well. She was obviously incredibly funny, but she was also serious. Did the serious Joan Rivers come through when you had that meeting with her in New York?
TEEMAN: Absolutely. Yes, she was extremely serious about celebrity. I said, "You're incredibly rude about people."
She said, "No, I'm not rude. I tell the truth." For Joan, comedy was a vehicle for her to, you know, explode inflated egos, explode pompousness. She was a thorn in Hollywood's side. She was also Hollywood's crown jester.
But she had been rejected by Hollywood, you know. She had fallen out with Johnny Carson, the NBC debacle that happened for years, the failure of her own late night show. That led to Edgar's suicide she felt. And she was extremely serious when talking about Edgar's suicide.
You know, that had been a terrible, terrible blow to her and her family. And she felt, you know, that what happened with NBC had led to that.
She also felt in a funny way at the funeral -- at Edgar's funeral she told me that a friend had said, this has freed you, this has liberated you, and in some sense Joan knew that to be true, as well. Because after Edgar's death, bringing back home to her (UNINTELLIGIBLE), she had to come through for herself.
And as you can see, I mean, she reinvented herself for an entire new generation. Can you think of anybody else of her age who reached a younger demographic and a younger audience with as much genuineness and with as much vitality as Joan did every week on "Fashion Police"? I can't. BLITZER: She had an incredibly important impact opening for women in
the field of comedy and acting, to a certain degree, over these many decades. Didn't she?
TEEMAN: Absolutely. I can't really think of, you know, Sarah Silverman, Chelsea Handler, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler. There's a whole generation of comics today, they may well have come through.
But Joan in her way of just being fantastically, again sacred cows, fantastically rude, fantastically outrageous, she blazed a trail for things being said and for women being able to say them in a way that no other female comic has.
So she was absolutely a trailblazer. She absolutely broke new ground. And all those female comics coming through today who either exist on the margins or who say things slightly against the grain, or on knuckle, they can thank Joan Rivers for blazing that trail.
BLITZER: And she had so many fans, not only of her generation or a generation earlier, but young people today, they obviously know Joan Rivers. They watch her show. How do you explain that -- that generational opportunity that she provided, that there are people, young people in their 20s and people in their 80s, all of whom loved Joan Rivers?
TEEMAN: Well, what links those two demographics are they believe in truth telling. Now whether you agreed with Joan on things that she spoke about or the people that she went after, she spoke from the heart. She was very serious about joke telling.
And I think both young and old are probably linked by an appreciation of someone who told it as it was. But also told it with a great big smile on their face.
I interviewed her. I was very fortunate. I interviewed her three times. And the second time I went to her apartment, which your correspondent just mentioned. She had the most astonishing filing system. She actually filed away her jokes. She was incredibly serious about the crafting of jokes and about the telling of jokes. And about humor itself. And the benefits of humor.
She told me in the interviews that humor was one of the most palliative things you could have. Humor helped. And I think, you know, you just had to watch the documentary about her if you saw it in 2010, where she -- she carried on working, working, because Joan Rivers always wanted to be in the game. So maybe young people and old people saw that.
She wanted to be relevant. She -- she hugged popular culture. She liked popular culture, and she traveled. She did shows. She did a show here in New York really regularly in "Hell's Kitchen." She went to Indian casinos. She carried on working. She had a great fear, beyond truth, a fear of stopping working and what would that mean.
And there was no way that she wanted to stop working, absolutely not. She absolutely adored it, cherished it and needed it. Absolutely needed it.
BLITZER: And when she spoke about -- that people, what they were wearing on the red carpet on "Fashion Police," she worked hard to get those lines right. Those were not just off-the-cuff ad libs, were they?
TEEMAN: She had a team of -- a close team of writers who she worked with. She told me about them. But she also -- I can't emphasize enough. Those writers, those people who helped craft her jokes with her, they weren't around her when I interviewed her on those -- on those three occasions. And she honestly was as funny and as quick and as close. And as you felt the burn on your face, you felt the razor cut, without those people, as well.
She had a natural reservoir of Joan Rivers humor. That wasn't practiced. That wasn't put on. So yes, her gags were honed like any good comediennes' gags were honed, but the humor was all her own and absolutely naturally occurring, as well.
BLITZER: We will certainly all of us, we'll miss Joan Rivers.
Tim Teeman, thanks for sharing thoughts with us on this sad day. We appreciate it very much.
TEEMAN: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: We'll have more on the breaking news.
Coming up, the investigation into the clinic where Joan Rivers suffered cardiac arrest. We're learning new details. And our Dr. Sanjay Gupta is standing by.
Plus fears of an ISIS attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. That's the largest embassy in the world. Hundreds of Americans are there. I'll talk about that with the White House top terror advisor, Lisa Monaco.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Miss Joan Rivers. There it is. Congratulations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We're continuing to follow this very sad breaking news, the death of the comedienne, Joan Rivers. She was 81, had been on life support after she stopped breathing, went into cardiac arrest during what was supposed to be routine throat surgery only a week or so ago.
With us now on the phone, TV host Kelly Ripa.
Kelly, I'm so sorry we have to speak under these conditions. But tell us something about Joan. What was she like? KELLY RIPA, CO-HOST, ABC'S "LIVE WITH KELLY & MICHAEL" (via phone):
Hi, Wolf. I'm really sorry we have to speak under these conditions, as well.
Well, she -- Joan was a dynamo. I feel that a lot of people know her from her TV persona, which was larger than life, but she was larger than life; and she took her business and her company very seriously.
She was a tireless professional, a brilliant comedienne. But a thoughtful, lovely, caring woman who I don't think I've ever complimented her on anything, whether it was her perfume or her necklace, without immediately her sending it to me to the studio the very next day. She was just a generous, kind, funny, would make you laugh until the back of your skull ached. That's the kind of person she was.
BLITZER: You had her on your show, I think, twice over the past year or so. Is that right?
RIPA: We -- I mean we have her on as much as she's willing to come. Literally she's my go-to fill-in co-host. I've worked with her many, many times. She's just the easiest person to work with.
And I was saying earlier today that I was just at a wedding with her. Our good friends' wedding a month ago. I sat next to her, and I laughed all night. And she's just such an innovator. She's constantly reinventing herself. And she was talking about creating an app. And we were having this fascinating conversation. And we laughed and we were reminiscing about we've shared some bad times together and some really great times together.
And if I had only known that that was going to be the last time I saw her, I would never believe that would have been the last time, Wolf, because we saw her every September on our show. So, you know, I just said, "See you later," like "I'll see you in a month." It never occurred to me. I would have -- I would have held onto her for dear life if I had known.
BLITZER: When I heard what happened a week or so ago, like so many millions of other people, I was shocked. It just came out of the blue. When you heard about that, what was your immediate reaction, Kelly?
RIPA: Well, I thought it was an erroneous report. You know, like everybody else. And it wasn't until I heard from my girlfriend Liza, whose wedding we were just at. She said, "Oh, no, this is -- this is real. This is serious, and I'm scared."
And I thought, well, they'll put her in this medically-induced coma so they can stabilize her; and then she'll wake up and she'll be back at it. She'll be back at it in no time.
I really -- I don't know if it's denial or you know, you hope against hope that Joan's going to be that one person, that one bright shining star that gets to live forever, because she's done so much for so many. She's given not just to the entertainment community, but so many communities. She really is a giver. And I will miss her for the rest of my life.
BLITZER: What did she do for women in show business, especially in comedy?
RIPA: Well, I mean she was -- she was a pioneer, certainly. And she has a long history of blazing a trail for female comics.
But what she showed me personally and professionally is that nothing is impossible. You can have everything. You can do it all. And when you think that, you know, the chips are down and they knock you down and you can't get back up, she's somebody that pulls herself up by her bootstraps and never stopped re-creating herself, reinventing herself.
And anytime there was a new area of entertainment to explore, she explored it; and she did it with -- with completely with -- without fear. And with a self-deprecating wit that always, you know, has certainly influenced my life. And I don't think there's a single thing that I laugh about or joke about on my show that I have not completely ripped off from her somewhere, some conversation we've had over the years.
BLITZER: She inspired so many women and men, I must say. You know, when you -- when I watched her over the past few years, and I remember watching her many, many years earlier, you know, it was basically the same Joan Rivers. I didn't see any great change. She was still telling great jokes now, and she was telling great jokes 40 or 50 years ago.
RIPA: Yes, well, I mean, exactly. But you know, I think the thing is that she's -- she's persevered when people told her she couldn't do something. She just didn't listen to it. She found a way to do it, found a way to make it work.
And you know, it wasn't easy for her. She did take her licks. She did get knocked down, but she always came back from it, bounced back from it funnier and stronger and smarter and more clever. And boy, I just -- endless -- you know, endless good times. Endless and even in the bad times, she would still find a way to make you laugh. You know?
BLITZER: I think all of us want to express our deepest, deepest condolences to Melissa, her grandson, Cooper. This it is really a sad, sad time. Even though in the past eight days, a lot of us have been bracing for this bad news, once it happens, it's still so, so awful. Give us a final thought, Kelly, before I let you go.
RIPA: I just -- I don't know. I just think that heaven got a whole lot funnier and a whole lot brighter. And I just -- I don't think there's going to be another one like her, Wolf. I really don't. I think that we really lost a true legend today. We lost a legend. And there's not going to be another.
BLITZER: That's very well said. I totally, totally agree. Kelly, thanks very much. I know this is a sad time for you, a sad time for me, sad time for millions and millions of people who have grown up watching Joan Rivers. And we're so sad she has today passed away. Coming up, we're going to have more on the breaking news, especially
the investigation that has now begun into the clinic where Joan Rivers suffered cardiac arrest. We're learning the details. Sanjay Gupta is standing by.
Also ahead, a very different story. An American man now suspected of ties to ISIS. Is he helping drive the terror group's social media campaign?
BLITZER: Before we learned of Joan Rivers' death this afternoon, a spokesman for the New York State Health Department confirmed it's opened an investigation into the Yorkville Endoscopy. That's the clinic where Joan Rivers suffered cardiac arrest during what was supposed to be routine throat -- a routine throat procedure. Her long-time friend, Jay Redack, saw her the night before she went to the clinic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you were saying you had dinner with her the night before?
JAY REDACK, FRIEND OF JOAN RIVERS: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And she said what about the procedure?
REDACK: Pardon me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She said what about the procedure?
REDACK: She said she was having this procedure on either her vocal cords or her throat in the morning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Didn't seem concerned.
REDACK: No, not at all.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was she like that night?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How did she seem? What was she like that night?
REDACK: What was she like?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
REDACK: Alive and having a ton of fun. We laughed our ass off.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So the usual Joan?
REDACK: I'm sorry?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The usual Joan? REDACK: The usual Joan, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's bring in our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. We say routine or minor throat procedure, but when you're under some sort of anesthesiology, it's never all that routine, is it?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it sounds like it was completely elective type surgery in an outpatient setting. And what that means usually is that, you know, you go through all the pre-checks, if you will, to make sure someone's ready to have a procedure like this from a medical standpoint, they're going to do well from it. And they also expect to go home. That's why it's an outpatient procedure. So in that case it sounds more routine.
If it was in fact throat surgery, as you just heard there, the type of anesthesia, if you will, can be a variety of things. You can have anything from as simple as sort of spraying the back of the throat with something that just numbs up the back of the throat. It could be some medication, some pain medication, an IV. Could even be something like propofol medication that would sort of make her sleepy, quite sleepy but not require her to be on a breathing machine necessarily.
So we don't know specifically what she had done. But the expectation again was that she would go home. That's the routine part of it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: When you're 81 years old, though, does that raise further complications?
GUPTA: You know, it's an interesting thing about age, Wolf. You know, we -- in that world, the biological age is less important than the physiological age, if you will. There are people in their 50s who are too sick to have a procedure like this and people who are in their 80s who should be able to do just fine.
It sounds like she was, you know, doing well otherwise. You know, very active. Even socializing the night before. So it's a little bit hard to say. I think you -- but again, because it's elective, typically you go through the sort of visit ahead of time with the anesthesiologist, the doctors to make sure you're cleared for the procedure. So regardless of age, that's the standard procedure.
BLITZER: She was speaking to Joy Behar. She filled in for Larry King here on CNN. Let me play this little clip for you, Sanjay. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOY BEHAR, TV HOST: Aren't you scared to go under anesthesia and everything?
JOAN RIVERS, COMEDIAN, Terrified:
BEHAR: It's very, very serious. RIVERS: Yes. My dad was a doctor. And the anesthesiologist is as
much a part of that group as the plastic surgeon. Very serious. But you also want to look we're a society that wants people to look good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: November 2007. So she's obviously familiar with the procedure. Should that type of procedure be really done in a hospital in case there's complications as opposed to some sort of office visit as an outpatient?
GUPTA: It's a -- it's a long debated thing within medicine, Wolf. And I'm sure it will be debated again now. I mean, part of this is that you look at the types of procedures that we do in outpatient settings. And you know, for the most part patients do really well. It saves them the time of going to the hospital, staying in the hospital overnight. All of those things. But you're right. It's not a cut and dry sort of thing.
And the concern is, you know, if someone -- if they what is called lose their airway, their airway is no longer secure because there is swelling in the airway, because there is spasm of the muscles of the airway, for a variety of reasons. If you lose the airway, that's a much more difficult thing to manage in an outpatient setting. So it's -- to your point, Wolf. And if it can't be managed in that situation, someone starts to go into respiratory arrest, that's the term that you've been hearing.
And respiratory arrest basically means -- most of the point is not enough oxygen is getting into the blood and not enough oxygen is not going to the brain and to the heart. And that, you know, obviously adds further complications. That is the sort of sequence of things. Again, we don't know precisely what happened here. But what we're hearing is that it was a respiratory arrest followed then by a cardiac arrest. The heart muscle not getting enough oxygen and starts to have a cardiac arrest as well.
BLITZER: Sanjay, very quickly, because I raised the question because my own gastroenterologist, when I had a colonoscopy and endoscopy, he said you know what, I like to do these procedures in a hospital just in case something goes wrong. They could do it in the office but I really would prefer to go to a hospital. Of course we went to the hospital to do it.
Is he being overly cautious, this gastroenterologist, or is he being wise?
GUPTA: You know, it's retrospect is always, you know, obviously he had the benefit of that in this case. It would seem wiser to have done this in a hospital to have on standby for this sort of thing. But I can tell you a lot of these procedures are done in outpatient settings. And it's become more of the trend. Part of that has been cost driven. Part of that is just because hospitals are full. They're doing other types of operations in the operating room. All sorts of different reasons. But I should point out, Wolf, that there is an investigation into this
particular situation, and sometimes that can be at the request of the family, sometimes it can be because this is just an unusual unexpected thing. So yes, you always want to err on the side of caution. But it is still worth pointing out, that this is unusual. Most outpatients do just fine when they have procedures in an outpatient setting.
BLITZER: Yes, I think you're right. Sanjay, thanks very much.
We're going to have much more on that, the sudden very sad death of Joan Rivers coming up in our next hour. But there's other important news we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM, including an American man now suspected of ties to ISIS. Is he helping drives the terror group's social media campaign?
Also the federal investigation into the Ferguson, Missouri, Police Department and the shooting of Michael Brown. His family's attorney now standing by to join us live.
BLITZER: We're following new developments in the ISIS terror threat including a Boston man now being investigated as a possible key player behind the group's social media campaign.
Our national correspondent Deborah Feyerick is learning new details. She's joining us now.
Deb, what are you learning?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're being told by intelligence sources that the FBI is going back and scrubbing all available files on anyone, any American, any green card holder, any visitor, anyone who may have hit the radar in the past and this does include people who've had unusual travel, their associates and certainly people on the FBI's most wanted list.
FEYERICK (voice-over) : Intelligence sources say it makes sense that ISIS would want to recruit a guy like American Ahmad Abousamra. He grew up near Boston, holds both a Syrian and U.S. passport and graduated from Northeastern University in Boston with a degree in the field of computer technology. Believed to be in his early 30s, Abousamra is fluent in both English and Arabic.
The FBI released this audio recording they say is Abousamra. It's unclear who he's speaking to.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they don't have a warrant, they don't have the right to do that. Make sure you tell your mother that the next time because they might scare her.
FEYERICK: Although authorities will not confirm Abousamra's role in ISIS if any, a law enforcement official tells CNN that they're looking into whether he might be involved in the murder group's media wing, specifically its English social media including Facebook, an online magazine and Twitter, which recently suspended the group's account.
Abousamra's friend American Tarek Mehanna was accused by the U.S. of heading the media wing of al Qaeda in Iraq which morphed into ISIS. He's currently serving 17 years in the U.S. for providing material support to terrorists.
Both men were indicted together in 2009, accused of attending terror training camps in Yemen for the purpose of traveling to Iraq to kill U.S. troops. Abousamra was last seen in Syria with a woman and child believed to be his wife and daughter. Ironically, two years ago, the FBI tried using social media specifically Facebook and Twitter to find Abousamra.
MARIE HARF, STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON: Obviously we take very seriously this threat of American citizens who join terrorist organizations. We take additional care when thinking about options for taking them off the battlefield. But your citizenship cannot serve as a shield if you take up arms against the United States.
FEYERICK: And a retired law enforcement source tells me that finding Abousamra is a top priority for the FBI. He was indicted in Massachusetts and a federal court in Boston. He's been a fugitive now for nearly five years. And areas of suspected travel include Syria and Iraq, possibly Lebanon and Turkey -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Deborah Feyerick, thanks very much.
And Lisa Monaco is joining us right now. She's the assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.
Lisa, thanks very much for joining us. I want to get right to this story that's unfolding, a report that a Boston man may have joined ISIS, may have been -- may actually have been responsible for some of ISIS' highly sophisticated social media campaigns. What can you tell us about that?
LISA MONACO, WHITE HOUSE COUNTERTERRORISM, HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: Well, Wolf, I can't speak to any ongoing investigations, but what I can tell you is reports like that are exactly the type of thing that we're concerned about when we think about the potential homeland threat from ISIL. We are concerned.
In the first instance with the regional threat that ISIL poses and the threat it poses to our personnel in Iraq, which is why you've seen the president take decisive action to address those threats and to address the threat that ISIL poses, as well, to vulnerable populations in Iraq.
And why he's worked and this administration has worked so hard to put in place and to see realized an inclusive Iraqi government to provide assistance in the form of arms and training and assistance to the Iraqi Security Forces and the Peshmerga to try and push back and blunt the momentum from ISIL. And with regard to a potential homeland threat, we're always going to
be concerned and are concerned with ISIL. When you have a group like ISIL that has established safe havens, that has secured resources in the form of money and other resources and that has manpower at its disposal. And by that I mean foreign fighters. Those who travel to Syria and Iraq to join ISIL and other extremist groups and who may have Western passports. And then who can come either Europe or in other ways to the homeland.
BLITZER: Is there --
MONACO: So we're going to be quite concerned about that threat.
BLITZER: Is there a credible threat right now to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad from ISIS?
MONACO: Well, let me be very clear, Wolf. We do believe that ISIL poses an immediate threat to our personnel in Iraq, in Baghdad and Irbil. That is exactly why the president authorized and directed military actions undertaken in order to protect our personnel and in order to conduct and assist the Iraqi Security Forces and the Peshmerga in pushing back ISIL and in addressing the threat posed by ISIL to vulnerable populations.
BLITZER: Is that why the president ordered 350 additional U.S. military troops to Baghdad, to the U.S. embassy there because there is some sort of credible threat potentially even on the anniversary of 9/11 which is a week from today?
MONACO: Well, what I would tell you, Wolf, first, the additional troops that the president ordered and that we notified the Congress about and have talked about was at the recommendation of his military commanders about what is prudent and appropriate step to take to ensure the continued security of our personnel in Baghdad and in Irbil. And that's what those forces are about because his first priority and his overriding concern is the protection of our personnel.
We have no credible information about any ISIL planning against the homeland or about 9/11 related plots. But I will tell you the intelligence community, the law enforcement community, the homeland security community here is going to be, as they always are, incredibly and consistently vigilant as we lead up to the 9/11 anniversary.
BLITZER: But as you know, the British government in recent days raised their terror threat level to a much higher level. Is the U.S. government thinking about doing the same thing?
MONACO: Wolf, we are always reviewing the threat picture and whatever steps we can take with our homeland security professionals to make sure that we are tailoring our security measures to the threat that's posed. What the British did and I've been in touch with my British counterparts and obviously the prime minister has spoken to this, is take steps prudent to the intelligence picture that they see with regard to British nationals that they know have traveled from the UK and to Syria and Iraq. And they're addressing that very specific intelligence picture.
BLITZER: You're heading to the region in the coming days. Where will you be going and what's your mission?
MONACO: I will be, Wolf. And what I'll be doing there is traveling to see a number of our partner in the region, in the Gulf countries in order to continue to build the regional coalition that is so important and essential to our strategy and our goal, which is, as the president said, to degrade and ultimately to defeat ISIL. And what we need in order to do that is first and foremost, an inclusive Iraqi government and we need regional and international partners to join in this fight.
This is a shared threat, first and foremost a threat to the region and to our partners in the region. And I'll be talking to a number of my counterparts in the Gulf about how we can combat that the threat together.
BLITZER: Lisa Monaco, good luck in your travels. We'll stay in close touch with you. Thanks very much for joining us.
MONACO: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Much more on the ISIS threat, that's coming up at the top of the hour. Also a new federal investigation into the use of force by the Ferguson, Missouri, Police Department. I'll speak with an attorney for the family of Michael Brown, the teenager who was shot and killed by Ferguson Police.
BLITZER: There's breaking news today in the wake of the fatal police shooting of the teenager Michael Brown and the days of disturbances that followed in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. This afternoon the attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, announced the Justice Department is opening a separate and broader investigation of the Ferguson Police Department.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: In Ferguson, 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 techniques and tactics that have been brought to light.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Joining us now is Benjamin Crump, he's the attorney for Michael Brown's family.
Mr. Crump, thanks very much for joining us. So what's the family reaction, your reaction to what the attorney general announced today?
BENJAMIN CRUMP, BROWN FAMILY ATTORNEY: Well, Wolf, the family's encouraged because this gives them some belief that transparency is going to be at the forefront of the independent investigation by the Justice Department and they are wondering, was their son's death part of a pattern and practice of police excessive force? And so they want to know those answers, as many around the country want to know those answers.
BLITZER: And this is a broader investigation of the entire Ferguson Police Department by the U.S. Justice Department. How will it impact the specific case of Michael Brown?
CRUMP: I think as the attorney general said in the clip you just showed, they're going to look at how they conduct the stops. How they conduct the use of force. Remember, many of the witnesses said after Michael Brown put his hands up the police kept shooting and that is clearly excessive force when you put up the universal sign of surrender. And so people all over America have often questioned the police use of force where there's a loose end or Victor White's case of Arkansas or Travis Carter.
And so this is the crux of the matter, ground zero in Ferguson for the nation on these issues of police departments having bad practices that are killing our children.
BLITZER: So as far as I can tell now there are about several separate investigations under way. There is an investigation in Ferguson of precisely what happened. That's the grand jury is now investigating that. Then the Justice Department has a civil rights investigation. Now this investigation, are there more investigations? Am I missing something?
CRUMP: Well, the ones that are important to Michael Brown's mother and father are the Justice Department investigations. Remember, the grand jury is secret proceeding and those were to many people, Wolf, because if in the secret proceeding you don't know what the local prosecutor is doing, what local law enforcement is presenting. But in the federal investigation, they are going to look at everything independently and I think it is almost oversight saying to the family and to America, please have faith that we're going to look at everything, if you don't trust the local law enforcement agencies because there's mistrust there, Wolf.
BLITZER: The grand jury investigation, I suspect, we're going to get a result in the next month or two. But federal investigations into these kinds of matters, they can go on for a few years, right?
CRUMP: They could, and I think the Justice Department has really taken a very aggressive response to this, Wolf, because I think everybody is concerned about a secret proceeding in this matter when the community has such issues with mistrust. Transparency is why everything that happened in Ferguson took place because the community said, we've seen our children being killed and nobody held accountable.
And this, with Michael Brown, was different. Because it was in broad daylight and everybody watched him in that community get executed and they have strong emotions that the police were going to try to sweep it under the rug. So this is why they're saying, we don't want this left to just the local authorities because based on the history they have never done right by that community when it came to holding the police accountable.
BLITZER: Benjamin Crump, thanks very much for joining us. We're going to, of course, continue to stay in touch with you and the family.
Benjamin Crump joining us today.
Coming up, NATO leaders talk terror. The ISIS threat is dominating the agenda over at the summit in Wales. We're going there live.
Plus the breaking news, we're going to have the latest on the death of the comedian Joan Rivers.
BLITZER: Happening now, destroying ISIS as world leaders gather. A few American allies backs the use of military force against the brutal terror group. The State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf, she's here. We'll discuss.
ISIS horror videos. He's an American, an American from Boston, playing a key role in the terror group's sophisticated social media campaign.
And Joan Rivers is dead. The legendary comedian and fashion critic made people laugh even as they cringed at some of her outlandish routines.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're tracking several major stories right now. An urgent meeting of world leaders as President Obama and his NATO counterparts grapple with the bloody fighting in Ukraine. And the brutal terrorism of ISIS which could lead to allied military action.
Also, a federal investigation of the police department in Ferguson, Missouri, where an officer shot and killed an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown.
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.