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Erin Burnett Outfront
Joan Rivers Dead At 81; Larry King Remembers Joan Rivers; Source: Boston Man Aiding ISIS
Aired September 04, 2014 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, breaking news, Joan Rivers dead at the age of 81. Americans tonight paying tribute to a trailblazing comedian.
Plus her death under investigation tonight. How did a minor medical procedure go so horribly wrong?
And yet another American suspected of fighting for ISIS. How many others are answering the call for Jihad? Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. The breaking news, comedian, Joan Rivers dead at the age of 81. The former talk show host passed away this afternoon at Mt. Sinai Hospital here in New York City. Rivers went into cardiac arrest a week ago today during what was just a routine procedure.
Her daughter, Melissa, issued a statement a short while ago saying, "My mother's greatest joy in life was to make people laugh. Although that is difficult to do right now, I know her final wish would be that we return to laughing soon."
And laughing was what Joan Rivers was best at. She never took anyone too seriously. She was known for gossip and celebrity interviews on the red carpet and was a fixture at Hollywood's biggest awards shows.
She was the host of E! online's "Fashion Police." She loved to critique the outfits of Hollywood's -- I remember, you would flip through channels and hear her saying something absolutely -- well, it was like a dagger.
Rivers was one of the first female stand-up comedians and caught her first big break in 1965 on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson. An actor, author, comedian and incredibly successful businesswoman.
Miguel Marquez begins our coverage tonight outside the Mt. Sinai Hospital tonight. Miguel, what are her family and friends saying about this? It really was a tragedy. She was 81, but this was a routine procedure. No one would have expected any complication.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, tragedy and a lot of frustration and the family leaving over the door that they may sue at some point the endoscopy center where she had that procedure done. We just had our first glimpse of Melissa Rivers a short time ago as she returned to Ms. Rivers' Upper East Side apartment here in New York. She was with her son, 13-year-old Cooper, who Melissa's Joan's only daughter, Cooper is the only grandchild. This is a lot of weight on both of them. What we understand from the family, though, is that they were here at the hospital when that painful end of life decision had to be made.
And then they were at 1:17 p.m., Melissa Rivers announced that her mother had died here at Mt. Sinai Hospital -- Erin.
BURNETT: Miguel, the clinic that you mentioned, that performed what was supposed to be just a routine procedure on her throat is now under formal investigation. I know you said the family is keeping the door open to a possible lawsuit, but there's a formal investigation, right?
MARQUEZ: Yes. It could get a lot uglier than it could be better. The funeral is set for Sunday. But the Yorkville Endoscopy where Ms. Rivers went for something to do with her throat, possibly her larynx last Thursday morning, she had had a show just late on Wednesday night.
She had been out to dinner that night. She had a very early morning appointment. It was meant to be a sort of quick in and out. It shouldn't have been that difficult and there was certainly no cutting as far as we know.
She may have been under some anesthesia, but she went into cardiac arrest and then stopped breathing and then she was brought here to Mt. Sinai. The New York State Health Department has indicated that that facility, Yorkville Endoscopy is now under investigation.
The accrediting agency that does accreditation for these facilities says it is under investigation. The New York medical examiner now says that the manner and cause of Ms. Rivers' death will be made of at some point in the not too distant future, which clearly indicates that they're doing an autopsy on her -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Miguel, thank you very much. We'll have much more on that part of the story in a moment. But tonight fans are remembering Joan Rivers in Hollywood and her star on the walk of fame.
That's where our Stephanie Elam is with the latest. Stephanie, how are people remembering Joan Rivers tonight? What's happening there at her star?
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, we got out here, Erin, right when the news broke, pretty soon after that. Some people were met with shock that she didn't pull through. So many people were hoping that Joan Rivers would again be able to reinvent and make it so that she would come out of this again.
There was a lot of hope that she'd be strong enough. In fact, I talked to one woman who was the second woman to bring flowers here to her star, the second person to bring them.
And she said that she really, really was moved by Joan Rivers and that she came out here because she loved what she stood for. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARY RODRIGUEZ, JOAN RIVERS FAN: She was so strong. She was so strong. She bounced back stronger every time from whatever life dealt her. And she was just an amazing woman.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ELAM: Out here the memorial to Joan Rivers continues to grow. The Hollywood Department of Commerce bringing flowers out to remember Joan Rivers and people dropping off flowers now throughout the day and stuffed animals.
A lot of people just saying that they really love Joan for what she did. If you think about it, Erin, she's one of the original pioneers. She left New York and came to California with a dream and she made it happen.
Becoming the first woman with her own talk show and going on from there, reinventing herself year after year through several decades. So a lot of people out here remembering for all she stood for in Hollywood -- Erin.
BURNETT: Stephanie, thank you so much. It's incredible just starting to read some of these obituaries over what she went through, all the hardships that life dealt her that she tenaciously fought through them.
I want to bring in Larry King. He was friends with Joan Rivers. You've known her for more than 40 years, interviewed her many times on your show, Larry. I know that this is a personal loss for you and you've known her for 45 years. What do you remember the most about her over those years?
LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING NOW ON ORA.TV: Erin, she was quite a lady. First, she was so funny. She was really funny, on the air and off the air. She was a great interview. You loved talking with her. The kind of interview subject you really love because she answered the question you asked.
She was never afraid to go anywhere. She took no prisoners. You could never be personally offended because she cut a swath through everyone. She was not afraid of anyone. She was up front. She was a great mother, a great grandmother, a tireless worker.
She cared about people a lot. She was the kind of person, Erin, if she was on your show and you said you liked her ring, she'd give you the ring. I had dinner at her house a few times. She was a wonderful companion.
The tragedy in her life, of course, was the suicide of her husband, which she never forgave him for doing that. The sad part with the Johnny Carson episode because Johnny gave her a big break and she appeared many times. She hosted the show. And then when she took the one-year shot at Fox that closed after a year, Johnny wouldn't take a call from her. He wouldn't ever speak to her again. That was one of the saddest parts of her life that she had no other contact with him.
I think Johnny felt hurt that she didn't call him before she took that job, that he would have liked to have heard that from her and not from a newspaper. So they were like ships passing in the night.
Those two instances were, the death, of course, a great heartbreak, the sadness over the Carson thing. Other than that, she led an extraordinary life. She paved the way for many other top comedians, female comedians to come along. She was a path setter.
KING: She was a hell of a girl. There was no one like her.
BURNETT: And you mentioned Johnny Carson and of course, that's where she got her break. Then there was, as you say, he wouldn't speak to her when she took the rival job. I mean, I want to play -- I guess, 1984 back when she was filling in for him once. An interview she did with Lucille Ball when she was filling in for Johnny Carson. Here she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOAN RIVERS, COMEDIAN: I think I have more -- I really love -- I love performing. It's like a drug for me. Love what I do.
KING: So you work, if they booked you more, you'd work more.
RIVERS: Yes. When I could put two thoughts together as a child, I knew that's what I wanted to too. There was never a question and I say in the documentary. Well, maybe I'll be this or maybe I'll be that. Always that's where I'm going. Didn't know how I was going to get there, but that's where I was going.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Obviously that was a different sound bite, but I wanted to ask you something about that because you mention how she was always fighting and never gave up. I mean, she was incredibly tenacious. Be in a gritty club, right, or dealing with her husband's suicide. And she never gave up. Most people when dealing with the adversity she dealt with would have given up a long time ago.
KING: She never did. She was tenacious. You would have loved her, Erin. She was right there and her sense of humor was extraordinary where her mind would go. She was not afraid -- for example, she kidded about her own plastic surgery and others.
And if you kid about yourself, it's OK to kid about others, so she could take and give. She said once about Botox, she said if Botox goes bad you look like Cher. BURNETT: And she was so open about the Botox. That's one of the things I loved about her. She made it part of the joke. She had no shame. You say, there was no, well, I'm going to make fun about others and not about myself. It was all on the table.
KING: She took on any topic. She once said, do you know why there would never be a woman Jewish terrorist? There would never be a woman Jewish terrorist because no Jewish woman would ever put a bomb in her own Gucci handbag. That's funny.
BURNETT: That is funny. And, of course, some people were offended. There were those who loved and those who loathed, which made her perhaps so successful.
I want to play that moment on Johnny Carson. You mentioned her being a female comedian, but here's that moment when she interviewed Lucille Ball.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RIVERS: Some actresses, the method. They go and they study the bag women and they become a bag woman. Did you do anything like that?
LUCILLE BALL: No, I found it very easy to be a bag woman.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Did she not get the Johnny Carson slot because she was a woman?
KING: I don't know. I know Johnny appreciated her humor. He thought she was very funny. He love young comics. He loved discovering people. He gave so many people a break on "The Tonight Show."
He was a great interviewer of comics. She knew how to be a great straight man. He liked her and played off her well. Lucille Ball was probably the greatest sketch female comic ever and Joan Rivers would be the greatest stand-up comic ever.
BURNETT: I want to play another moment just because this is time to obviously think about some of those. This is again an interview with you, Larry, back in 2010. She was talking about how she was stopped at the airport because her ticket had the wrong name on it.
RIVERS: It was a woman, and I think she was premenstrual. And she was just in a terrible -- she just wasn't going to understand that I was flying under two names with my passport that the United States government says also known as, aka.
KING: So you never boarded the plane?
RIVERS: Not allowed to board the plane, was left in the airport, which closed on Sunday night. It was a very small airport and was told, that's it. KING: What name was on the ticket?
RIVERS: The ticket was Rosenberg, but they had mixed it up and I didn't see it. I just saw Rosenberg. They put a man's name on, Joseph. So I went through five -- I think four or five security points where they looked at my passport and didn't notice that it wasn't even my name.
BURNETT: Rosenberg, of course, was the name of her husband, Edgar, who committed suicide. Larry, what I like about that is also the look on your face when she says the word "premenstrual." What was it like to interview her?
KING: It was -- I always loved her -- I must have done her three times a year. She has a new book out. She was just out promoting. I think she's going to be on our show in a couple weeks.
Of course, what you always want as an interviewer is someone who responds to your question who doesn't give you yeses and nos and is not afraid to go anywhere.
There was no cut-off from Joan's brain to her mouth. Whatever she thought came out and she wasn't afraid of anyone. When you're an interviewer, that's duck soup, man. You love that. And I love to laugh and she made me laugh.
BURNETT: Larry, one final moment I wanted to play on the "Ed Sullivan Show" from 1967.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RIVERS: At 21, my mother said only a doctor for you. When I was 22 she said, all right, a lawyer, CPA. At 24 she said, well, grab a dentist. At 26 she said anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And yet, at 81, Larry, she had some of her greatest success in the last years of her life.
KING: She did. Performing all the time, selling merchandise. She invented the red carpet. She made it her own. Her fashion critiques. This is fashion week in New York, I understand. She'd have been -- if she were on her show this week, there would have been a lot of funny fashion talk.
We'll never see her likes again. We should always be thankful that Joan Rivers gave us the greatest gift you can give, the gift of laughter.
BURNETT: It truly is. Larry, thank you so much for taking your time as you knew her so well.
KING: Thank you, Erin. BURNETT: Next, you're looking at a live shot outside Joan Rivers' home where fans have been leaving flowers tonight already gathering to remember and recognize her.
Just last week, she was performing a signature stand-up act, as Larry was talking. Just last week and then she went into the hospital and was fighting for her life. What went so wrong?
Plus thousands turning to social media with their heartfelt Joan Rivers' tributes including Jimmy Kimmel, who tweeted she was funny all the way to the end.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you go to Madonna's wedding?
RIVERS: Hairy, hairy. She raised her arm. I thought Tina Turner was under there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a photo of you. This is you in the studio in 1965, you and Johnny.
RIVERS: The second night that I was on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that right?
RIVERS: I had been working eight years in Greenwich Village and nothing. And he said, God bless him, you're going to be a star. It changed my life. And you look at this, look at how nice -- my legs look good. The breasts are in the right place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That was comedian, Joan Rivers, with Jimmy Fallon during her historic return to "The Tonight Show" that was earlier this year. The entertainment world took to social media today to share their memories, show respect and of course, had to have laughs in Rivers' honor.
Nischelle Turner joins me now. Nischelle, what are other celebrities saying? I mean, they're all, of course, now in this world turning to social media to talk about her.
NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, this is just some of the tweets that I printed out and this page, I mean, this is maybe 1/16th of what I saw on Twitter today.
But you're right. Some were poignant. A lot were funny. You know, just really kind of celebrating Joan's life. One of the people that tweeted today was Whoopi Goldberg. You know, she just also lost her friend, Robin Williams not too long ago.
She was very good friends with Joan. She said, "My friend, Joan Rivers has passed away. Once again, to quote, Billy Crystal, there are no words." Also, another friend of Joan's, Roseanne Barr tweeted today. "Rip, Goddess. Hail, hail, a genius has vacated this realm. Joan Rivers has died."
Then Lena Doneunham who was often the target for Joan on the red carpet, tweeted, "Watching Joan Rivers do stand-up at age 81 was incredible, athletic, jaw dropping, terrifying and essential. It never stopped. Neither will she?"
BURNETT: Well, that's the funny thing, right? That even those people whom she eviscerated -- I remember you'd be flipping through and she would say that looks like a toilet seat. I'd think, whoa. Then you couldn't turn away. But the person whom she may have said looked like a toilet seat, those people are still coming out and staying they miss her today.
TURNER: They are. Katy Perry is one of them because she was a target of Joan's as well on the red carpet. She tweeted today, "What's the point of wearing all these dumb costumes if Joan's not here to rip them apart? R.I.P., Joan Rivers, you are one of a one."
And also Evan Rachel Woods said, the first time I saw Joan rip me on the red carpet, that's when I knew I had made it in Hollywood.
BURNETT: That's amazing. All right, I want to bring in Dr. Elan Singer into conversation. Joan Rivers suffered cardiac and respiratory arrest while she was doing something that -- it wasn't a major surgery, there was nothing wrong with her.
She just had a minor elective procedure on her throat at an outpatient clinic. That's when this all went south. The clinic is now being investigated by the New York State Department of Health.
Joining me now is Dr. Elan Singer, he is a professor at the icon school of Medicine at Mt. Sinai, of course, the hospital where Joan Rivers was being treated and where she died today.
Now just three days before she underwent this, again, elective minor procedure, she was doing her show on E!. I want the play a quick clip so viewers can see she was the same Joan Rivers she had always been.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RIVERS: Screaming at how you can't wear dead animals. That I want to stand by, I'm sorry. Yes, you have to wear dead animals because I tried and live ones bite. You must wear dead animals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I mean, she was clearly in great shape there, nothing that seemed to be wrong with her. Are you surprised about what happened, that she went in for this surgery and then went into cardiac arrest? DR. ELAN SINGER, BOARD CERTIFIED PLASTIC SURGEON: I am surprised. These procedures are done all over the United States, thousands on a daily basis.
BURNETT: This was a very common procedure.
SINGER: It's a very common procedure. It's done safely all over the United States every day. So I am surprised this is an unfortunate event but a rare event. This has not happen all the time. This is a very big event in the medical community.
When healthy people even though she's 81, still seemingly healthy, when this happens this is a big event and I'm confident that the Department of Health will come to the bottom of this.
BURNETT: This minor elective procedure in her case took place in an outpatient clinic. Is that also common? Because you're saying it happens all across the country every day. Was there more risk at it not being done in a hospital?
SINGER: Right. Well, there's more risk because it's not done in a hospital. But not to say it is not done in a safe way. You can do these procedures on healthy people in an outpatient facility safely. It's done all the time. Age is not a contraindication to doing these procedures outside a medical facility. The most important event is the patient's health.
BURNETT: And so is there more risk when you're older because of the general anesthesia or something? What would have happened? It's just a part of this natural procedure.
SINGER: Of course, there's more risk, but that's up to the medical professionals to mitigate. Are you doing a small procedure on a healthy elderly person? That's OK. I do procedures in my office in an operating room all the time in a safe way. But unfortunately bad things happen and it's too soon to really determine what exactly happened.
BURNETT: Well, sounds like it's very appropriate that they're doing an investigation. All right, Dr. Singer, thank you. Nischelle, thank you.
Joining me now on the phone is a friend and colleague of Joan Rivers. E!'s chief news correspondent, Ken Baker. Ken, you also worked with Joan over the years and, of course, had worked with her very recently.
She was, right, was there anything that would have indicated she was weak or that this was anything other than a minor, routine procedure?
KEN BAKER, E! CHIEF NEWS CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): You know, actually, the absolute opposite of slowing down. She had a full schedule. I personally saw her here last Tuesday just two days before that unfortunate incident that landed her in the hospital. She was vigorous.
She was actual rushing out after taping an episode of "Fashion Police" and she was heading back to New York because she had so much to do. The day after the procedure that she had scheduled she had a scheduled performance I believe in New Jersey.
And she had an absolute full schedule. There was no slowing down. I have to say it's been a very difficult day not only for the world, I mean, fans everywhere, but around here, honestly, we just wrapped our E! News. We shoot in the same studio as the "Fashion Police."
And you really learn that expression, heavy heart because you really feel it. We're all feeling it and she's part of our family. It's been a very, very difficult day.
We're all just trying to stay focused on what Melissa said in her statement, which was her mother would want us to remember the laughter. After all this grieving, all the pain of this loss, her enduring legacy is going to be her humor, her laughter, the levity that she brought us all. We're hoping and looking forward to that time when we can get to that place.
BURNETT: You know, Ken, I was reading the obituary in "The New York Times," which I thought was beautifully written. And Joan Rivers had made jokes about death. She made jokes about her husband's suicide. One of the quotes, talking about her husband.
She said, "After Edgar killed himself, I went out to dinner with Melissa. I looked at the menu and said, if daddy were here to see these prices, he'd kill himself all over again.
There was nothing that was too much, that she couldn't make some kind of a joke about. What was she like to work with? What was she like as a mentor to you?
BAKER: Well, you know, she was a very gentle Joan. That's what I like to call her because she had this very kind of, you know, rough (inaudible) all those very harsh jokes. She didn't pull any punches. But really she was a very gentle person.
You mentioned the suicide of her husband, Edgar, and she was very open about her struggles. She had contemplated that at one point and she gave interviews talking about that. She was so open, so relatable. She made herself vulnerable.
And I think it was because of that ability to make fun of hers herself. It was that brand of humor that could be very aggressive. But when the cam was off. One here said she was like a grandma to him. People really do feel that way.
That is the real story. This isn't just a glossed over posthumous remembrance. This was the real deal. She was a gentle, kind, beautiful woman. The loss is extremely severe right now.
BURNETT: All right, well, Ken, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with us on this difficult day.
Next, a Boston man is under investigation tonight of being part of ISIS. Authorities believe he may have paid a crucial role for the terror group.
Plus the hunt for the British man who has now beheaded two Americans. Why no one can find him tonight?
BURNETT: Tonight, an American suspected of working for ISIS. We can report that a Boston man is now on the FBI most wanted terrorist list. And unlike other Americans caught fighting for the terror group on the battlefield far from American shores, this man's role may have been a much bigger and closer threat to America.
Deborah Feyerick is OUTFRONT.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Intelligence sources say it makes sense that ISIS would want to recruit a guy like American Ahmad Abuosamra. He grew up near Boston, holds both 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 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 suspected 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, with 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 SPOKESWOMAN: 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, that your citizenship cannot serve as a shield if you take up arms against the United States.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BURNETT: And, Deb, I know you've been talking to your law enforcement sources, you've asked about whether there are even other Americans suspected of being part of ISIS, and what are they telling you when you asked them?
FEYERICK: Well, that's one of the biggest concerns right now and that's why they are looking at everything. They're going back over every single file they ever had on somebody who might be a citizen, somebody who's got a green card, somebody who's may be a visitor, and they're looking closely to see whether there's something they missed because obviously, you don't have to reinvent the wheel. You simply have to go back and look at the people who have been on the radar, this guy was.
He was with on the FBI's most wanted terror list because he fled the United States when he knew that charges were going to be brought against him. He's been on the run for five years. The FBI in Boston has made this a priority to bring him back. And he's got every single credential you would want if you're going to assign somebody to lead your social media wing, because he's good at all of it.
BURNETT: Incredible he's been on the run for five years.
BURNETT: Deborah, thank you very much.
Shawn Brimley served in the Obama administration as former director of strategic planning at the National Security Council, and also joining us is Bob Baer, former CIA operative.
All right. Bob, let me start with you.
As Deb was just reporting, the FBI has been looking for this man for years. How concerning is it that they still don't know where he is?
BOB BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Well, you know, if he's in Syria, it's impossible to find him. We have no connections with the Syrian government. He could have snuck across the border from Turkey, for instance, disappeared, picked up other passports.
He understands computers. He's gone off cell phones.
These people are very sophisticated and they know all about Edward Snowden and those leaks. They know what the National Security Agency is and they know how to fly under the radar. They can do it. This is what concerns me.
BURNETT: And I think what may shock a lot of people watching who with all this coverage of the NSA and all this coverage of people spying on people, think that everybody knows everything. It's so far from true.
I mean, Shawn, when you think about this, some viewers may be thinking about the 9/11 hijackers, living openly in the United States. Could ISIS members be doing the same thing right now? SHAWN BRIMELY, DIRECTOR OF STUDIES, CENTER FOR NEW AMERICAN SECURITY:
I think it's possible, but it's important to underscore that, you know, look, we have an entire generation of national security professionals, intelligence professionals, that spent a better part of 13 years building the architecture of counterterrorism intelligence. So, I think there's reason enough to be concerned.
But we're in a different world now than we were, you know, pre- 9/11. That's not an argument for complacency by any stretch. But I have confidence that the tens of thousand of people working this issue are doing it rather well. What I'm more concerned about is the threat to our national interests right now emanating from Eastern Syria and Western Iraq.
BURNETT: Yes. And, Bob, how many other Americans in the U.S. could be helping ISIS right now? I mean, I know you don't have an exact number but, I mean, do you have any sense of the scale?
BAER: Well, if you ask the Iraqis, they'll say there's hundreds. But it's closer probably to a hundred. But what has the FBI concerned and I've been talking to them recently is Americans who aren't on social media who have no record of travel, are on any suspicion, and go to Syria, get training and come back here. They said, look, we just can't trace these people. If someone's gone for a year, there's hundreds of thousands of people come back from overseas trips, how can we possibly know? And they're absolutely right.
BURNETT: Which is what's frightening because that gets to the question, could there be people living here again, openly in plain sight?
I mean, Bob, General Martin Dempsey is, of course, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, held a Facebook town hall today. So, he wrote -- that's the format of a town hall. I quote him, "To be clear, we'll deal with threats to U.S. persons and facilities directly, quickly, and by ourselves if necessary", which I just thought was a really important statement. But it sounds like despite all the hopes for, quote- unquote, "coalition", and all the talk we keep hearing about that that the United States is preparing to go it alone even perhaps with boots on the ground, frankly just like it always has in the Middle East.
BAER: Well, Erin, the problem is countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, they're half sympathetic to ISIS in the sense that they are Sunni Muslims. And they look at them as victims and they haven't been entirely forthcoming. The second largest number of fighters with ISIS are Saudis, and I would be very surprised if the Saudis have turned that list over to the United States. They just don't share information like that.
BURNETT: Shawn, what do you think?
BRIMLEY: No, I think that's right. I think there's reason to be concerned. I mean, the silver lining here is that we have a pretty good ally in the Kurds in northern Iraq. And I have every reason to believe that there are CIA paramilitary forces, special forces, U.S. special forces, on the ground right now, with highly sophisticated communications and range finders and we're vectoring airstrikes in day in and day out.
I think we need to prepare ourselves. This is going to be a nine, 12, 16, 24-month campaign here that may spread into eastern Syria with news reports that we're flying surveillance flights over western Syria.
BURNETT: And, Shawn, will they -- I mean, we're going to be talking about this in just a moment, more about this hunt going on for that man who was in both of the execution beheading videos. Are they going to find him? Do they actually know where that place is at this point?
BRIMLEY: I have no idea what they know, Erin. But I think it's reasonable to expect the singular focus of Special Operations Command, Central Command, the CIA and the special activities division of the CIA, if it's possible to find these people, and I think it's possible, we will find them and kill them.
BURNETT: Bob, there's a new video also out today that is pretty incredible from al Qaeda actually, which you know is a name no one is talking about right now, everyone is talking about ISIS. But it's a 55-minute video which we're showing you here. You hear them speaking, talking about a whole new branch that they're opening up of al Qaeda. What do you make of that?
BAER: I think it's an act of desperation. I think Al Qaeda has been eclipsed. You look at Boko Haram in Nigeria, they've sort of sworn allegiance -- groups all over the Middle East are looking at Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State and they said, this is the way to go. And I think that's a really major concern now, is how many people are they going to attract at this point? And, you know, al Qaeda I think is fairly irrelevant at this point.
BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to both of you.
And next, the British ISIS fighter responsible for beheading the two Americans. What is being done on the manhunt at this moment?
Plus, our other top story tonight. More on the loss of Joan Rivers, the legendary comedian who said she got through life by laughing at it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RIVERS: And I want to thank Dr. Bernard Schwartz from Harley Street, because he got me well this morning. I came in. I said, I can't do the show. And he said coffee enemas. I can never go back to Starbucks, but the point is --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right. I want to check in with Anderson Cooper with a look at what's coming up on "AC360".
Hi, Anderson. ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Erin. Yes, we're live here in Los Angeles. We're going to devote our entire hour to comedic genius of Joan Rivers, remembering her talents, honoring her life and her ability to make us laugh. My great friend Kathy Griffin is going to be here. Kathy today remembered Joan Rivers on Twitter as a legend, a friend, a mentor, an icon and, of course, wildly funny. That she was.
She was also a history making pioneer. We're going to look back at her remarkable career. How she broke new ground with her comedy routines, breaking social barriers, including being the first woman to host a late night talk show, truly a trail blazer. I'll speak also with Dr. Sanjay Gupta on what might have gone wrong in the elective procedure that led to Joan Rivers going to cardiac and respiratory arrest.
That's all at the top of the hour, Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Anderson. Thank you very much. We'll see you in just a few minutes.
Manhunt -- a desperate search for the man front and center in the ISIS terror videos, the man who beheaded Steven Sotloff and James Foley, the man who in both videos spoke directly to President Barack Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You, Obama, have yet again through your actions killed yet another American citizen. So, just as your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Tonight, British Prime Minister David Cameron is vowing the manhunt will succeed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We're carrying out intensive work and we share our information with our key allies in making sure we do everything we can to bring these absolutely horrific people to justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Karl Penhaul is OUTFRONT from London tonight.
Karl, the British ambassador to the United States said they're close to identifying that man. He said that 10 days ago. But at this point, do they even know who he is?
KARL PENHAUL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's certainly a lot of political tough talk going on, Erin. What we wouldn't expect British intelligence services to do is come back necessarily and tell us that they have identify the man that media here have dubbed Jihadi John, that executioner with the British accent.
But certainly, people have been working around the clock to try and identify the accent, try and identify height, stature and see if that fits with anybody that they have in the database, any of these suspects they may have been tracking before they even traveled out to Syria and to Iraq. So that has been going on behind the scenes. But we don't know whether in fact they've now narrowed it down, if they know who this man is and if they know, also, who his associates and possibly even who his family are back in Britain, Erin.
But, certainly, they think that he comes from multicultural neighborhood of London.
BURNETT: And I know, Karl, there were 13 days between the release of the two execution videos. Obviously, we don't know when they were filmed, right? We just know they were released 13 days apart. You have done so much reporting on this and reported that at least they were not filmed at the exact same time.
But does anyone know exactly where they were filmed yet?
PENHAUL: You know, we know that they weren't filmed at the exact same time because in first video, Steven Sotloff appears almost shaven- headed and with no bothered. In the next video that was released this week, then, of course, he appears with stubbly growth both on his head and the beard.
There is an independent group that has been looking very closely at topographical, at geographical details of those images. They believe they've traced the area of James Foley's execution to hills and ridgeline around the city of Raqqa in Syria, that's the ISIS stronghold. If you look closely at the video in which Steven Sotloff last appeared, then it seems to be a similar kind of terrain. A desert area, stony, there are little tufts of grass there as well.
But they've moved Sotloff in comparison to where James Foley was executed. They put him in a dip in the ground seemingly to eliminate some of those defining details around him. We can't see any traces of habitation near him.
But it appears to be the same general area and that, as I say, independent outlets seem to indicate that that is an area ridgeline near the city of Raqqa, Erin.
BURNETT: Thank you very much, Karl Penhaul, who has been reporting on this from London.
And back to our top story, the death of Joan Rivers. The comedian in her own words is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RIVERS: I've had an amazing life. If it ended right now, amazing life, and how lucky we are, how lucky we are, every minute, this has been my life.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, mom.
RIVERS: I love you so much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RIVERS: This is the clothes I wore the first time -- 1965 hair.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me show the picture.
RIVERS: Show the picture.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this the same dress, was it '65.
RIVERS: February 17th, 1965.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty-one years.
RIVERS: Twenty-one years.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you had the strand, the same hairdo.
RIVERS: The bow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bow, look at this. If this is from, if you don't believe it, look at me. It's hard to believe sometimes on the time frame to think that it was 21 years ago when you first came out and sat down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And that's the top story tonight, Joan Rivers dying today at the age of 81, a career that spanned decades. She never stopped making people laugh and tonight, we remember the legend at a look at her best one-liners.
RIVERS: You know what? This is what the Midwest thinks a gay wedding looks like.
RIVERS: I love the shape. It goes in and out more than Britney Spears and Arby's drive through.
I don't know, it's black with a little bit of white or is it white with a little bit of black? Exactly what Chris Janney (ph) said the first time she saw northwest.
RIVERS: Anthony Weiner just saw Parker in this and went limp for the first time in years.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here is Lindsey leaving rehab in Malibu.
RIVERS: I'm thrilled she's out but I can't believe those are the shoes she's chosen to take her next 12 steps in.
RIVERS: I love this, how chic can you get? I love this. I love this. Love this.
The only thing I don't kind of like is that gothic makeup, you know? Her makeup is heavier than a sack full of Gwyneth Paltrow's hate mail.
I love that hair. I mean, that hair is really the second biggest cut she's ever made. The first when she cut Kelly and Michelle out of Destiny's Child. I love that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Denim overalls like that, he will be mistaken for a day laborer. So, I just you know, I don't get it.
RIVERS: I don't get it. I know what he was trying to achieve, because I'm very close to him, he wanted to dress like a train conductor, because he's sending out the message that black men like (INAUDIBLE).
This is the cutest thing I've seen in cops since Reese Weatherspoon mauled off (ph) to that cop. Otherwise, picture, please?
Could Paris Hilton working on the pilot for her new TV show "Taxi Cab Infections"?
BURNETT: We'll be right back.
BURNETT: Tomorrow on OUTFRONT, we talk to the man who started a whole new conversation on how people should behave on a plane. James Beach (ph) was the person who used a knee defender on his flight. What this means is when people in coach recline their seat the whole way, and you can't breathe, it keeps the passenger in front from reclining. It actually blocks them and it led to a confrontation so heated his plane was diverted.
We're going to find out if he plans on using the gadget again, and, you know, think about your story when you were sitting there in coach and politely decided not to recline your seat because you didn't want to kill the person behind you, and the person in front of you recline it so much that your nose, if it's big like mine, got broken.
That's tomorrow night.
"AC360" starts right now.