Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

U.S. Flight Ordered to Land in Iran; Searchers Race to Crash Site Near Jamaica; Iran and U.S. Deny Cooperating Against ISIS; Interview with Sen. Murphy

Aired September 5, 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: Jake, thanks very much.

Happening now, breaking news, ordered to land in Iran. A charter plane carrying U.S. military contractors from Afghanistan ordered to land in Tehran.

Search-and-rescue mission. Trailed by fighter jets, an unresponsive U.S. plane overflies Cuba, crashes off Jamaica. The U.S. Coast Guard is on the way to the scene.

Coalition to kill ISIS. President Obama says the U.S. is now leading a group of nations determined to degrade and destroy the terror group.

And Joan Rivers, the investigation, a probe into the comedienne's death. What went wrong with a minor medical procedure that left her in cardiac arrest?

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following two breaking news stories. Searchers are now racing to the site where a small plane crashed in waters off Jamaica. It flew for hours unresponsive, past its Florida destination, trailed by U.S. fighter jets as it approached Cuba. We'll have full details on this story. That's coming up.

But first, a charter plane carrying American military contractors has been ordered to land in Iran on a flight out of Afghanistan.

Our correspondents and guests are all standing by for full coverage. Let's begin with global affairs correspondent Elise Labott. She's over at the State Department.

What do we know about this plane, carrying U.S. military contractors, forced to land in Iran?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, well, this contract plane was flying from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan to Dubai. It had about 100 Americans and a couple dozen citizens from other coalition countries. The air control tower in Iran contracted the pilots, told them that their flight plan was out of date and told them to go back to Afghanistan.

Now, the pilot said they did not have the enough fuel. That's when the Iranians ordered them to land or, quote, "be intercepted." And now we understand that plane is still on the ground in Iran. Officials telling us that they hope that it will be resolved shortly. They're waiting for clearance to take off, Wolf.

BLITZER: And Elise, I just want to clarify. The plane was forced to land in Bandar Abbas, not in Tehran.

LABOTT: That's right. That's right. In nearby Bandar Abbas. We understand that they're still trying to work this out, get clearance to take off. But we understand that that plane still is on the ground at this moment, Wolf.

BLITZER: And has there been any -- as far as you know, any direct communication with the Americans on board?

LABOTT: Not that we know of right now. It's being held between the U.S. and Iranian officials. Trying to get that clearance, but as soon as we understand what's going on, we'll let you know, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by. I want to bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She's monitoring the story, as well. What are you hearing over there, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, these are somewhat routine, if you will, contract flights between Afghanistan and Dubai. They are not run by the U.S. government. U.S. planes, of course, do not fly through Iranian air space.

So this would have been a plane, our understanding it is a charter called Fly Dubai, a Dubai aircraft. These charter flights bring contractors in and out of Afghanistan all the time.

The question is, of course, what the jobs may have been of the U.S. personnel on board. It's our understanding that U.S. troops, U.S. contractors that hold very sensitive government contracts would not be on planes that fly through Iranian air space. They just do not board planes that fly through Iran. This is most likely contractor who have other jobs. Everything perhaps from being a cook to working engineering and road construction.

But to be clear, the U.S. government at this hour is not saying exactly who these 100 Americans are. As Elise pointed out, the hope is to get this very quietly resolved and get the plane on its way shortly.

BLITZER: And as far as you know, the discussions under way, I assume the United Arab Emirates that Dubai obviously, that officials from the UAE are involved. But are U.S. officials, as far as you know, directly speaking with Iranian officials?

STARR: We asked the question. The answer we got is "We don't think so at this time." I don't think -- they do not believe here at the Pentagon that there is direct contact with the Iranians on all of this.

In fact, Dubai, of course, has relationships, very close relationships in some cases with Iran. The likelihood is at this point they're letting the government of Dubai handle it, the Dubai aviation authorities. It may be the quickest low-key non- confrontational way to get the situation resolved, Wolf.

BLITZER: And one final question, Barbara. How extraordinary, how unusual is this?

STARR: Wolf, I have to tell you, a few years back, I was on a charter flight out of Afghanistan, and we took the same route, myself and our CNN crew, and they announced that we had entered Iranian air space. They announced when we had exited Iranian air space, shortly before crossing the gulf and landing in Dubai.

I think most Americans who might be on a flight that transits through Iranian air space would breathe a little bit of a sigh of relief once they're past Iranian air space. It is a routine flight pattern in many cases. But again, for non-U.S. aircraft.

BLITZER: And as you say, 100 Americans on board?

STARR: That is the estimate. I think several of us at CNN are getting that indication from U.S. government officials. They believe there are about 100 American citizens on board and about 40 additional passengers from a number of other countries.

But they are really -- at this point, they're trying very hard to keep it low key, get it resolved, get that plane back up in the air and on its way to Dubai. They want to -- by all accounts, what the Obama administration wants to do is get this resolved, get that plane out of there, get those Americans out of Iran and not face yet another crisis, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's hope that happens and the plane takes off for Dubai. All right. We'll stay in close touch with you, Barbara, and Elise Labott over at the State Department, as well.

There's another breaking story we're following. An urgent search-and-rescue operation now off the coast of Jamaica. U.S. Coast Guard aircraft are racing to the site where a small plane went down. Unresponsive, it overshot its Florida destination, followed by U.S. fighter jets as it flew toward Cuba. Our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh, is joining us with the very latest.

What is the very latest?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, at this hour, Wolf, this search mission off the coast of Jamaica is happening. We do know that at 8:45 this morning, this turboprop aircraft carrying a businessman and his wife -- we now know their names, Larry and Jane Glazer. We know that they took off from the Rochester, New York. They were headed for Naples, Florida.

The flight appeared normal until the plane was over North Carolina. That is when the pilot radioed to air-traffic controllers, saying he had a problem. Let's take a listen to a portion of that audio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY GLAZER, PILOT: We need to descend down to about 180. We have an indication that's not correct on the plane. Stand by.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nine hundred KN descend and maintain level 250.

GLAZER: We need to get lower, 900 KN.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: All right. Well, so you heard there the pilot again requesting to descend. After that request to descend, controllers lost contact with the plane. We know that NORAD, they scrambled two of F-15 fighter jets to investigate. When the jets intercepted the plane, its occupants were slumped over, and the windows were frosted, both indications that the plane had lost perhaps cabin pressure.

Here is the scene one of the pilots inside the fighter jet described. Take a listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can see his chest rising and falling. Right before I left was the first time we could see that he was actually breathing. And if it -- it may be a deal where, depending on how fast they descend, he may regain consciousness once the aircraft starts descending for fuel starvation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARSH: OK. So there you heard there, very vivid description of what those pilots saw. The fighter jets continued following the plane until it flew over Cuba. The plane flew back over international waters, finally crashing 14 miles off the coast of Jamaica. That is a whole 4 1/2 hours after the flight began.

So the question now, what happened on board? What happened in the cockpit? We know that NORAD officials believe it may be a case of hypoxia, essentially a lack of oxygen causing the occupants to lose consciousness -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And Rene, we're getting a statement in from the family of Larry and Jane Glazer, the two people on board this plane. Larry Glazer, a well-known developer in the Rochester, New York, area.

His kids issued this statement: "We are devastated by the tragic and sudden loss of our parents, Jane and Larry Glazer. They loved and appreciated the opportunity to help build the community of Rochester, and we thank everyone in the community for their expressions of support. We understand that there are many questions yet to be answered about today's events. And we, too, are awaiting answers. At this time, we would appreciate the ability to mourn privately. Thank you for your understanding." Signed Mindy, Rick and Ken Glazer.

We also got a statement from the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo saying, "I join the residents of Rochester during this difficult week in mourning the loss of Larry and Jane Glazer in today's tragic plane crash. The Glazers were innovative and generous people committed to revitalizing downtown Rochester and making the city they love a better place for all. I offer my deepest condolences to the Glazer -- Glazer family and friends during this difficult and trying time."

Let's get some more now on the search operation that's under way. The U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman, Marilyn Fajardo, is joining us right now on the phone from Key West. Where does this search operation stand as far as we know, Marilyn?

MARILYN FAJARDO, U.S. COAST GUARD SPOKESMAN (via phone): Well, right now, Wolf, we're working with the rescue coordination center in Kingston, Jamaica. We have an E-130 air crew that has arrived on scene, along with two Jamaican aircraft crew, a rotary and a fixed wing. They were unable to locate a debris field. We're continuing to search in the vicinity where we know that the plane dropped off radar, which is approximately 14 miles off the coast of Port Antonio, Jamaica.

BLITZER: Jamaica. You're working in conjunction with Jamaican officials, right?

FAJARDO: That's correct. We're working with the Jamaican defense force out of the rescue coordination center in Kingston.

BLITZER: Are they in charge of this investigation and you're supporting them?

FAJARDO: We are working in coordination. We are leading the investigation as far as the search-and-rescue is concerned. We are assisting the agencies in Jamaica.

BLITZER: What have they told you, Marilyn, about what happened? Do you have any more information?

FAJARDO: We can't speculate as far as what happened. I can tell you we're in close coordination with the FAA. The aircraft flew along the east coast of Florida, through Cuban air space, as your reporter mentioned, before descending into the ocean about 14 miles off the coast of Port Antonio.

The flight departed from Greater Rochester International Airport at about 8:26 with a filed flight plan of Naples, Florida, at 12 noon today.

BLITZER: So how many pieces of equipment, planes, ships, whatever you're doing, are involved in the search operation? This rescue -- I don't think it's a rescue operation. We could call it a search operation. FAJARDO: That's correct. We do have, like I mentioned, the C-

130 air crew that launched out of Clearwater, Florida. We also have the Coast Guard cutter Bernard C. Webber. It's a 154-foot cutter. It's one of our newest cutters. It has also launched and had an estimated arrival of about seven hours.

BLITZER: Have you actually seen any parts of this plane?

FAJARDO: No, we have not.

BLITZER: But you have a good idea where it went into the water?

FAJARDO: We are searching in that vicinity 14 miles off the coast of Port Antonio. That's the area that we're concentrating in right now.

BLITZER: You're familiar with this kind of small private plane. Would it be most likely floating some place, or would it be submerged under the water?

FAJARDO: We can't speculate on that right now. But we are searching in the area.

BLITZER: Searching in that area. And you think something presumably in the coming hours will come up. Is that what you're saying?

FAJARDO: As we get information, this is a developing story for us. We're getting a lot of information. Like I said, we're in very close coordination with the FAA, with NORAD, with U.S. NORCON (ph). We'll make sure that we make any it available to you and your viewers.

BLITZER: Do you know, Marilyn, how unusual, extraordinary this particular, very sad incident is?

FAJARDO: We've seen these incidents before. We've responded to plenty of search-and-rescue missions and search missions. The Coast Guard, one of its core missions is the rescue mission. But I can't speculate as far as this case, because it's still a developing case.

BLITZER: Marilyn Fajardo, spokeswoman for the U.S. Coast Guard. Marilyn, thanks very much. We'll stay in close touch with you, and we'll update our viewers as we get more information.

Up next, President Obama announces a coalition to, quote, "destroy ISIS." U.S. allies are getting on board. But how will they carry out that mission?

And the death of Joan Rivers. So what went wrong? Investigators in New York are now looking into a medical procedure that left the legendary comedienne in cardiac arrest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get to our other top story. A very dramatic announcement at the end of the urgent NATO meeting. President Obama says the United States is now leading a coalition of allies who are determined to, quote, "degrade and destroy ISIS." Amid growing calls to expand the use of military force, the president now says the dismantling of ISIS will be, in his words, "systemic and methodical."

Let's go live to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. He's joining us from Cardiff in Wales with the very latest -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, President Obama did not mince words today at this final day of the summit after taking so much heat after saying he didn't have a strategy for dealing with ISIS in Syria and then later saying he wanted to reduce the ISIS threat to a manageable problem. He delivered a much tougher message today. Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You can't contain an organization that is running roughshod through that much territory, causing that much havoc, displacing that many people, killing that many innocents and enslaving that many women. the goal has to be to dismantle them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: And also today, the Obama administration announced it now has ten countries, including the United States, in what it considers to be an anti-ISIS coalition. Those countries will be doing different things based on their varying capabilities. And Secretary of State John Kerry, along with other top administration officials will be heading to the Middle East in the coming days to start lining up Arab participants for this coalition. It's a mission the president thinks will be successful. Here's what he had to say about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: And I think it is absolutely critical that we have Arab states, and specifically Sunni majority states, that are rejecting the kind of extremist nihilism that we're seeing out of ISIL that say what is not what Islam is about and are prepared to join us actively in the fight. And you know, my expectation is, is that we will see friends and allies and partners of ours in the region prepare to take action, as well as part of a coalition.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Now, the president and Secretary Kerry both reiterated today there will be no U.S. combat boots on the ground, taking on ISIS in Iraq or Syria. Secretary Kerry, in one NATO session, called it a red line for the administration. That's probably not the term the White House would use, because obviously, red lines have been crossed before during this presidency, but it also underlines, Wolf, just how far this administration wants to go in assuring Americans that, even though they consider ISIS a serious threat and they want to go after this terror group, they're not putting combat forces on the ground to take them on, Wolf. BLITZER: All right. Jim Acosta traveling with the president in

Wales. Jim, thanks very much.

As the United States forms this anti-ISIS coalition with some of the NATO allies, seeks to bring in some of the Arab nations, as well, could it also be teaming up with arch foe Iran?

Brian Todd has been asked to take a closer look into this part of the story.

What are you finding out, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we know that the U.S. and Iran have a mutual hatred of ISIS. And in their efforts to drive the group out of Iraq, there's a lot of buzz out there that somehow the two archenemies could work together. They may have already done that in one recent battle, even if it wasn't planned.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): In the northern Iraqi town of Amerli, residents were under siege from ISIS. They feared a massacre.

But in recent days, the siege was broken. Iraq's president acknowledges a combination of U.S. air strikes and Iranian-backed Shiite militias on the ground drove ISIS away. Is there any cooperation or coordination between the U.S. and Iran against ISIS?

MARIE HARF, DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON, STATE DEPARTMENT: We do not coordinate military action or share intelligence with Iran and have no plans to do so.

TODD: An Iranian official denies a BBC report saying Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, approved cooperation between his forces and the Americans against ISIS. Specifically the report says Khamenei sanctioned General Qassem Suleimani, the shadowy head of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard to work with U.S. forces. Suleimani may look like George Clooney, but analysts say a better Hollywood comparison would be Don Corleone.

PATRICK CLAWSON, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EASY POLICY: He's a relatively mild-mannered man but he has a done a very effective job at organizing the most brutal thugs that the Islamic republic has.

TODD: This photo, posted on Twitter by a group called Digital Resistance, is described to be of Suleimani on the ground in Amerli around the time of that siege. CNN cannot independently verify that.

Qassem Suleimani would be among the strangest bedfellows America has ever had.

PHILIP MUDD, FORMER CIA/FBI COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICER: As soon as you sit down with him, though, you're sitting down with someone who's got the blood of Americans on his hands.

TODD: U.S. officials believe during the Iraq War Suleimani's units provided Iraqi insurgents with a lethal weapon against American troops.

CLAWSON: It was his Quds Force which provided these very advanced explosive devices -- really, it's a misnomer to call them improvised explosive devices -- that penetrated the armor on American vehicles and, as a result, killed an awful lot of Americans.

TODD: Despite their mutual hatred of ISIS, other reasons why a U.S./Iranian alliance may not work?

MUDD: Let's remember: we want Bashar al Assad out. Iran has a long-standing support of Assad. We want a more inclusive government in Baghdad. Iran would prefer a Shia government.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: There's also the matter of Qassem Suleimani's dangerous reach beyond the Middle East. U.S. Treasury officials say he was involved in a notorious plot on American soil overseeing Quds Force officers who, in 2011, tried and failed to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the U.S., that place you see there, Washington's upscale Cafe Milano -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I remember when that story came out and the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir, he was targeted by Iranian terrorists. You say Suleimani was involved in that specific plot to try to kill Ambassador Jubeir?

TODD: It is thought that the Quds Force oversaw that plot. Maybe not directly involved, but he's got his hands on everything the Quds Force does, and he was implicated in that plot.

BLITZER: How much power does Suleimani have, actually, within Iran?

TODD: Enormous power, really. He's a legendry hero of the war. He said to really be answerable only to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. Got a direct pipeline to him. Answers to him and virtually no one else.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks for that report. Brian Todd reporting for us.

Let's bring in Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut right now. He's a key member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, thanks very much for joining us. What do you think? Should the U.S., under these kinds of circumstances, team up, at least a little bit, coordinate policy, strategy with Iran?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, I think we spent 10 years ignoring Iran, much to the detriment of U.S. national security. The reality is, is that they are a player in the future stability of Iraq. And I think we'd be fools if we didn't contemplate at least some basic level of conversation with Iran as to how we can make sure that, if we are to wade into a more substantial fight against ISIS, we're not simply taking sides in a sectarian civil war.

And Suleimani is not your only option there. In fact, there is a war going on within the foreign policy infrastructure of Iran between the new foreign minister, Zarif, the new head of government, Rouhani, and Suleimani, who really wants to exert Iran's influence by agitation versus cooperation, which is, I think, more where Zarif is coming from.

So we don't have to talk to Suleimani. We can talk to more moderate elements of that government.

But the politics of coalition building in the Middle East, if we're going to take on ISIS, are going to be messy. And we'd better be prepared to get our hands dirty if we want to get this done right.

BLITZER: We're just getting started, Senator.

I want you to -- I want to take a quick break.

We have a lot more questions to ask, including this provocative question: should the Obama administration start assassinating ISIS leaders in Iraq and Syria?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Can the United States and a growing coalition of allies actually carry out President Obama's stated goal of destroying ISIS?

We're back with Democratic Senator Chris Murphy you have Connecticut, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, you heard the president say today that in order to destroy, defeat ISIS, to destroy al-Qaeda, you've got to the in his words take out their leadership. He pointed with pride to the fact that in recent days a U.S. missile fired from a drone killed the top commander of al-Shabaab an al-Qaeda affiliate in the Somalia.

Here's the question to you, Senator. Would you support the United States starting targeted air strikes to assassinate the top officials, the top leaders of is in Iraq and Syria.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: I think we have to have all options available to us, including counter-terrorism options, including targets air strikes. But here's the condition for my support. That it be done in coordination with our partners in the region. The President announced today that he's got the support apparently of NATO allies. That's not the most important announcement.

What we need is for our military operations in the region whether they be going after armies or individuals, to be cloaked and endorsed by Sunni states and Shia states in the region. The reality is that when the United States has conducted these counter-terrorism operations how many times have we taken out the Taliban or al-Qaeda's number two or three. They quickly get replaced because for every one we kill, we inspire two more to join the cause. This will only work on any level if it's done in real coordination and partnership with other Arab nations in the region.

BLITZER: If the United States had great intelligence, timely intelligence that the leader of ISIS al-Baghdadi was at a specific location without a lot of civilians around or any civilians around for that matter in Syria. Would you support a drone strike with a hellfire missile to kill him?

MURPHY: I would in part because this man has threatened directly the United States. He has made it clear that his intention is if he is able to establish a caliphate, establish an autonomous region to take that fight to the United States. This is an enemy not just of our partners in the region, this leader is enemy of the United States.

BLITZER: Does the president need formal congressional authorization to launch this kind of military operation not only in Iraq but in Syria right now? Assuming he doesn't want to do combat ground troops but does want to start a war in effect against ISIS inside Syria, does he need authorization from Congress?

MURPHY: I believe he does, Wolf. The fact is, he's got two authorizations on the books now. One gives him authority to go after al-Qaeda. ISIS is not al-Qaeda. The other essentially gave him the authority to go after Saddam Hussein. This is a fundamentally different fight.

I think the President needs to come to Congress for authorization. I get that's not an easy thing to do on the precipice of an election, but there's this tricky thing called the constitution which gives only Congress the power to wage war. And the fact is, is that Congress is the only way the American people are in here.

And right now, while there is outrage at the brutality of ISIS, there is also some concern that we could get ourselves in the middle of a sectarian civil war that could end up intermingling the United States into that conflict for another decade.

BLITZER: Chris Murphy, the United States Senator from Connecticut. Senator, thanks very much for joining us.

MURPHY: Thanks a lot, Wolf.

BLITZER: Up next, we're getting new information about American who have joined the ISIS terrorists.

And later this hour, the search for what went wrong and why the comedian Joan Rivers died. We have the latest information from New York. Our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta will join us, as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOAN RIVERS, COMEDIAN: If I were to see three people --

(END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we are getting information about Americans who have been fighting alongside the terrorists of ISIS. Let's bring in our justice correspondent Pamela Brown. She is working the story. What are you learning?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we are learning that Americans who have fought with groups like ISIS are back here in the U.S. Officials say they are closely monitoring them. But as one law enforcement official told me today, there's a lot we don't know the about American who have become foreign fighters and that's the biggest fear.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are coming for you, mark my words.

BROWN (voice-over): A 22-year-old from Florida on the Jihadi mission in Syria.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

BROWN: Drive a truck full of explosives into a group of soldiers last May. That was Abu Salha's (ph) second time in Syria.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I went back to Florida, I was being watched by the FBI.

BROWN: Sources tell CNN, intelligence officials didn't even know he had gone back and forth between the U.S. and Syria. His case shows just how frighten and easy it is for American jihadists to get to the front lines in Syria and Iraq undetected.

Fighters can cover their tracks by first flying from the U.S. to Europe say Belgium, then crossing borders into another European country like France before flying into Turkey, the gateway into Syria where the jihadist easily disappears into a black hole.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: You tell me as a former CI guy, if you're still in the chair that you wouldn't worry about 100 or 200 Americans in Syria who have good documents where we might not know they've crossed from Turkey into Syria. We might not know they have joined ISIS.

BROWN: So far at least two Americans have died fighting alongside is according to U.S. officials including Douglas McCain two weeks ago. An intelligence source tells CNN they have some identifiable information on every American they know of in Syria and Iraq. But experts say in some cases there's not enough Intel to prevent a jihadist from coming back to the U.S.

Thursday, attorney general Eric Holder tried to tamp down concerns on Thursday.

How confident are you that the U.S. knows the identities of the Americans who have made it over there and those who have come back to the U.S.?

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think we have a pretty good handle on who is there and also a pretty good handle on who potentially might want to go there. We have brought a number of prosecutions. We have a number of ongoing investigations in that regard.

BROWN: Officials say it can be very challenging to arrest American jihadist who have returned to the U.S.

MUDD: You're always balancing let me not move too fast because I want to map the conspiracy. Let me not move too slowly because this guy's a ticking time bomb.

BROWN: And it's actually the smaller, less sophisticated attacks by returning jihadists that keep U.S. intelligence officials on edge.

MUDD: It's the ones you don't know who show up on the radar and explode a bomb in someplace like New York or Boston. If you're 98 percent confident you have everyone, it's the two percent I would be sitting there worried about. How do we find the ones we don't know?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And part of it also makes this so challenging for U.S. officials is that not everyone who goes to Turkey and on to Syria goes to fight in terrorist groups. Some of them have family and want to join humanitarian efforts. And also, there's a pretty high bar to put someone on a no fly list, Wolf. Needless to say, this is a complex issue.

BLITZER: Very complex but potentially very dangerous as well. That's why U.S. law enforcement so concerned right now by these Americans who have gone over there for good reason.

Pamela, thanks very much.

Coming up, CNN obtained the audio of Joan Rivers' final performance the night before her fateful visit to a New York clinic. She was actually telling jokes about death.

Also, the search for what went wrong. We have important information from New York City's medical examiner and we'll discuss with our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Planning is under way for Sunday's funeral services for Joan Rivers. A spokesman for the New York City medical examiner says an autopsy has been completed. But more studies are needed to determine the exact cause and manner of death. Rivers died yesterday a week after she stopped breathing and went into cardiac arrest during what was supposed to be a routine throat procedure at a New York clinic.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is outside Rivers' apartment in New York City. He has more. What's the latest?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we know that that funeral will not only be right up the street at temple Emmanuel temple, it will also be close. Only close family and friends. We're outside of her house. And I want to show what is happening here.

There is scaffolding around here. It is a little hard to see in there. But you can see there are more fans dropping off flowers for her. You can see the beautiful orchids that people have dropped off, absolutely gorgeous displays of flowers. I've never seen anything quite like this for a woman who was beloved by her fans, this as there are now several investigations going into this superstar's death.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RIVERS: Do you understand you have something it talk about for the rest of your life?

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Joan Rivers joking about her own death during her last show.

RIVERS: I am now 81 years old. I could die any second.

MARQUEZ: Now multiple investigations into that very issue. An intense spotlight on what transpired at Yorkville endoscopy.

JAY REDACK, JOAN RIVERS' LONG TIME FRIEND: A procedure on her vocal chords or her throat in the morning.

MARQUEZ: Didn't seem concerned.

REDACK: No. Not at all.

MARQUEZ: Jay Redack had dinner with Rivers the night before she went for an early morning in what should have been routine procedure.

If a patient was going to Yorkville endoscopy which you are familiar with, would it be for really anything other than a digestive issue.

DOCTOR JONATHAN AVIV, CLINICAL DIRECTOR, VOICE AND SWALLOWING CENTER: What they're advertise and they're very, very well-known for and I sent many patients to them very very happily is for upper and lower endoscopy.

MARQUEZ: So anything from acid reflux to ulcers?

AVIV: Correct.

MARQUEZ: A patient would typically have been sedated typically with propofol, says Aviv.

One of propofol, you call this a twilight. It's not fully under.

AVIV: Twilight anesthesia, you're not so deep you need to have your breathing controlled for you. You're actually breathing on your own.

MARQUEZ: A camera connected into a tube then inserted into the esophagus.

Tommy Wright had an endoscopy for acid reflex done at Yorkville last year.

TOMMY WRIGHT, HAD ENDOSCOPY PROCEDURE AT YORKVILLE ENDOSCOPY: This place looks like you're in a hospital in a professional setting. That reassured me at the time there wouldn't be any issues. If there were, they would be an addressed right there.

MARQUEZ: Aviv says 10 million endoscopies are done in the U.S. each year. Still anytime sedation is involved, there is risk. In this procedure considered minor but still a risk.

AVIV: You can have issues with the heart. You can have a heart attack. You can have the heart rhythm not working well which can lead to other problems or you can have problems breathing

MARQUEZ: The New York state department of health and accrediting agencies have opened investigations into Yorkville endoscopy and Ms. Rivers death. An autopsy now complete, cause of death still unknown. Yorkville open in 2013. The state department of health only saying there have been no complaints or violations regarding this facility. The clinic has not responded from calls from CNN for comment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: And now back out here live to Ms. Rivers home where you can see the number of flowers being dropped off here. People coming up to the home throughout the afternoon just read the cards, many of them saying thank you, Joan, and we'll always remember you. Fans clearly moved by her death.

The medical examiner in New York is saying that the autopsy is complete. It will take some time, days perhaps weeks before the toxicology is finished. And that's when we should have our first indication as to the cause of death and then see where the other investigations unfold from then on out -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Miguel Marquez, thanks very much.

And joining us now is Doctor Sanjay Gupta, chief medical correspondent. Sanjay, I think all of us agree if there were mistakes made as far as Joan Rivers is concerned, we want to learn from those mistakes and try to avoid them down the road. Based on what we know right now, base apparently the autopsy result, have we learned precisely what happened?

DOCTOR SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: No. I don't think we can say that yet, Wolf. And these investigations take time for the very reason that you mentioned. You want to make sure you're covering all of the different angles. And I'm not sure, you know, when the medical examiner gets involved it doesn't mean there's going to be an autopsy. It could be looking at toxicology levels, how much medications was she given, what medications were in her system to really thoroughly looking at exactly what happened.

And also from a department of health standpoint, looking at these types of outpatient centers, these endoscopy centers. Besides accreditation and credentialing which are very important points, what sort of emergency plan was in place if something did not go smoothly? What would have happened in terms of anesthesia? Was there an anesthesiologist, for example, available and ready?

All of these questions I think really need to be answered because as we made the point yesterday, Wolf, the vast majority of time things go well. But when something like this happens, regardless of whether it's Joan Rivers or any patient, an elective procedure in an out paint setting where the patient does not survive, that often prompts an investigation.

BLITZER: It's usually a routine matter, an endoscopy looking down the throat, if you will. How serious, how dangerous potentially are these endoscopies?

GUPTA: Well, you know, if you across the board, and you look at, you know, tens of thousands of time these procedures performed every year, less than half a percent of a time with you see the complications are concerns like Joan Rivers appears to have had, a respiratory arrest, a cardiac arrest.

Now, one thing I should point out is that, you know, when you're operating on the throat specifically, there are more challenges involved. You have to secure the airway. That's the trachea and there's tubes going into the trachea and you're also operating in that area. It can make it a little more challenging. But this is what they do. This is sort of what they're trained to do. So I would say that there's probably a little bit more risk involved. But overall, still a very low likelihood of this happening.

BLITZER: So if folks are out there watching us right now and potentially the doctor says, you know, we should have a routine endoscopy. Let's come on to the office. What would you say?

GUPTA: I would say a few things and I feel very strongly about this. First of all, if it is a routine procedure, regardless of whether you consider yourself a fully healthy person, you should get a pre-operative or pre-procedure clearance, get your heart and lungs looked at, get your blood checked. You need to do all that stuff because that low hanging fruit, you can avoid problems very easily that way.

Second of all, know exactly what you're having done and which doctors are going to be performing this besides the doctor actually performing the procedure. Will there be an anesthesiologist there? And what exactly the anesthesiologist is going to be doing? What is the anesthesia I'm going to be having if I am the patient?

I think that you also should understand what is the emergency plan is should something not go smoothly. There needs to be an emergency plan in place. This endoscopy center, very close a big hospital. There are many centers that are not as close to a big hospital. What in those situations.

And finally, you know, part of this is for the patients out there as well, you've got to be absolutely forth right and honest with regard to your own medical history, any medications you may be taking. Even if you think it's trivial, these things are very important because they could have an impact on what medications you then get during your procedure and also how you would be treated, again, if something doesn't go well.

So these are no-brainers. These sorts of stuff should be happening and maybe it all happened in this case as well, all those caveat. But for everybody else out there, I think it really really improves safety records to do that.

BLITZER: Critically important, potentially lifesaving advice from Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, thanks very much.

GUPTA: Anytime, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: And coming up, a plane carrying U.S. military contractors from Afghanistan is ordered to land in Iran.

And trailed my fighter jets at unresponsive U.S. plane over flies Cuba and crashes off of Jamaica, a search mission is underway right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)