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Mideast Cease-Fire Shatters as Talks Fail; Obama Speaks about U.S. Journalist James Foley; Photographer Nicole Tung Talks about James Foley

Aired August 20, 2014 - 13:30   ET



COOPER: Welcome back. President Obama just spoke out last hour on the beheading of American journalist, James Foley. The president said he was able to talk with the family today. He had this to say about those responsible for Foley's death.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just god would stand for what they do every single day. ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings. Their ideology is bankrupt. They may claim out of expediency they're at war with the United States or the West, but the fact is they terrorize their neighbors and offer them nothing but an endless slavery to their empty vision and the collapse of any definition of civilized behavior. And people like this ultimately fail.


COOPER: Mr. Obama also urged the entire Middle East to join together to, in his words, "extract this cancer so it doesn't spread." Strong words from the president today.

I want to have more on what we've heard described as ISIS' first terror attack against the United States.

Joining me now is Robin Wright, Middle East analyst at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

Robin, thanks very much for being with us.

Does the video and the beheading of an American, it shouldn't really come as any surprise, really, given what we have seen from ISIS over the last, well, certainly several months.

ROBIN WRIGHT, MIDDLE EAST ANALYST, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: It's not a surprise, but it's also an age-old tactic by some of the extremist groups in the region. I lived in the Beirut in the 1980s when CNN's own Jeremy Levin, ABC's Charlie Glass and the Associated Press' Terry Anderson's was taken hostage. It creates such a drama and trauma for the home country of these hostages. So ISIS has been brutal in dealing with whether it's the foreign journalists in others, it's taken hostage with the minorities, Christian Yazidi and others, both in Iraq and Syria. So this does not come as a surprise. But I think we have crossed a threshold now in how to deal with them.

COOPER: And certainly I mean this tape is going to be dissected by intelligence experts to try to determine a location, to certainly determine when the video was shot, which will don't know, to try to determine even the identity of this, of the masked killer.

WRIGHT: Sure it's very difficult to find out, as we know, with the case of Osama bin Laden, how long it took to find him, to identify where he was. These are -- ISIS is constantly on the move in areas in Syria and Iraq. They cross back and forth. And I suspect they're nowhere near the place they actually executed James Foley.

COOPER: Also, you know, the technological abilities of ISIS, I think back to the Taliban, which didn't want to be photographed, didn't want to be videotaped, wouldn't want cameras pointed in their direction because they said it went against their version of Islam. ISIS has, you know, a sophisticated media strategy, a sophisticated digital strategy. Some of the videos they put out look like music videos. And a beheading video like this will be used really, sickeningly enough, as a recruiting tool.

WRIGHT: Yes, and they have been the most sophisticated of all the extremist movements in using social media, using all the different web outlets, Twitter, and making its videos as part of a recruiting campaign, which apparently has been very effective. There have been reports just in the last month alone several thousand have joined its ranks, including many from outside either Syria or Iraq. So there's a real danger. And that's what's going to make it really hard for the administration to figure out, how to deal with ISIS. Up until now, whether it's in Syria or Iraq, we have tried to avoid that confrontation and let forces on the ground deal with it, but I think in the last two weeks, we have crossed there threshold in confronting them directly. U.S. intervention in Iraq is no longer simply about creating safety for stranded minorities or protecting the capital of Kurdistan. We have moved into a new phase I think of what was once dubbed "the war on terrorism." This is a different group.

And with the execution of James Foley, we now face a challenge not just inside Iraq but also inside Syria, and bringing justice, as the president has now promised, will involve some kind of dealing on the ground or by air in Syria as well.

COOPER: Wow. Well, we'll see ahead.

Robin, thank you very much.

Ahead, we're going to talk with a photographer who was going to meet American journalist, James Foley, the day he went missing in Syria. We want to learn more about James Foley and his life. We'll be right back.


COOPER: The horror of the way James Foley died speaks for itself, it it's hard to imagine that fate for someone close to you. The day Foley went missing he was supposed to meet with a freelance photographer, Nicole Tung. Nicole joins us from New York.

Thank you for being here.

I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend.

I was wondering if you heard the president speaking a short time ago and what was going through your mind, if you did hear him.

NICOLE TUNG, FREELANCE PHOTOGRAPHER & FRIEND OF JAMES FOLEY: Thank you, first of all, for having me. Yes, I did hear President Obama speaking short while ago about James' execution and I think that what went through my mind is that it's amazing that there's been such an outpouring of I guess support and also at the same time disgust and anger at this -- at this horrific execution.

COOPER: We've been try to show as many pictures as we can of James Foley in life rather than pictures of him in those final moments. Because I think it's important for people to learn what his life was like, the life he lived, the person he was. What was he like as a friend, as a colleague?

TUNG: First and foremost, he was one of the most outstanding people that I ever knew. He was just a very warm and kind and, you know, gentle person. He was really good at making friends and warming up to people. And often when I was working with him in Syria, me also being a woman in an Arab society, it was much easier and more appropriate for him to approach people to, you know, get us access and to talk to people and to make friends that way. And so I felt so comfortable and so at ease traveling with him because I knew that he was very calm under, you know, stressful situations.

But also he was -- he was more than just a journalist. He really cared about his subjects and the stories he reported on. And in particular, you know, I tried to stress that he was so horrified by the situation in Aleppo for the civilians at one point that he felt so compelled to raise money for an ambulance for a hospital there that we had been covering for some time.

COOPER: Is that what drove him? I mean, to go to Syria at this time, as you did, as he did, and tell that story, you know the danger. It's the most dangerous place right now for journalists, really for anyone. What was his drive? Was it to tell the stories of the people caught in the midst of this conflict?

TUNG: Absolutely. I think he was just so I guess shocked by it, especially the civilian situation, and the fact that many of them had been, you know, simply sitting in their homes, being bombed out of their homes, being forced to flee. Even when they didn't have any political aspirations or any particular, you know, loyalty to either the government or the other side. So he was very interested in that particular plight. But also -- he also wanted to tell the stories of the rebel fighters themselves. There was a Libyan fighter who he tried to show wasn't actually the extremist that we have come to know. He was actually just a simple, you know, Libyan guy, you know, who wanted to go to help the cause in Syria. So he tried to dispel a lot of -- I think a lot of stereotypes about what was actually happening inside the country, and that was really the kind of person he was.

COOPER: Well, Nicole, I'm sorry we're meeting under these circumstances and I'm sorry that I never met him. And I appreciate you talking about your friend.

Thank you very much.

TUNG: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Attorney General Eric Holder has arrived here, trying to help ease some of tensions in Ferguson, Missouri. Now people wait as the grand jury looks over the evidence in the police shooting death of Michael Brown. And though that's going to take weeks, there's controversy around the prosecutor. We'll look at that and where things stand, next.


COOPER: Attorney General Eric Holder has arrived in Ferguson, Missouri, to help ease tensions here. This, 11 days after police officers shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, sparking massive protests. Protesters gathered in front of the prosecutor's office calling for him to remove himself from the grand jury proceedings. The issue is Robert McCulloch's background.

We want to bring in our George Howell.

George, the evidence is presented in secret and then the grand jury will decide whether to move forward with criminal charges. Why do people think McCulloch is not fit to lead? Is it what they say are his close connections with law enforcement, familiar connections?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, that's exactly it. People are concerned about his family connections when it comes to police departments. You have to keep in mind, that his brother, cousin, uncle, all police officers. Even his mother, a clerk at a police department. People are concerned about that. But more so, this point, the fact that, in 1964, Mr. McCulloch's father was shot and killed by an African-American suspect. It has protesters concerned he can't handle a case fairly with an African-American victim.

One new development we learned today amid protests here outside the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney's office, we learned that a grand jury will start looking at evidence in this case. They're targeting mid October. So that is the time line. That's when we expect them to start looking through the evidence, looking through the facts of Mr. Wilson, Darren Wilson's side of the story. Still unclear. We haven't heard that. We heard many other eye-witnesses give their account as to what they say happened to Michael Brown.

COOPER: Ultimately, the evidence presented before the grand jury, that will come out publicly, though not for a while, correct?

HOWELL: Right. And what you have is, you have that story, that evidence being discussed, quite frankly, behind closed doors. They will be looking at that, and making a decision as to how this case will proceed.

In the meantime, what we have heard -- and we've heard a wealth of it. We have heard from eye-witnesses explaining what they believe happened to Michael Brown. And more than that, Anderson, this case, in many ways, you have people -- the concerns of other issues are basically taking voice in this case. There's a great frustration you sense in the community, and people initially are just demanding answers, some accountability when it comes to this case.

COOPER: And you may have reported this, but how often does this grand jury actually meet? Often grand juries just meet once a week or a few times a week.

HOWELL: Right. Well, we know when it comes to this particular case, right now, they're targeting mid March. We expected them start talking about -- or mid October, pardon me. We expected them to start talking about the evidence today, but now we have confirmed, we understand that they will start looking through the evidence mid October. And that's when we'll start to see more of the legal behind the scenes take place.

COOPER: All right. So no resolution on this for quite some time.

George, appreciate the reporting.

That's it for me.

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