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Killing of James Foley, Threats Lead to Calls for Crackdown on ISIS; Foley Executioner Believed British, Manhunt Under Way; National Guard Ordered to Withdraw from Ferguson; How Did British Become Involved in ISIS; Eric Holder Visits Ferguson

Aired August 21, 2014 - 13:30   ET



DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Back now live here on CNN, the execution of James Foley has been called ISIS's first terror attack against the U.S. The threat of more attacks by ISIS has led to calls for a crackdown on the militant group.

CNN's Brian Todd joins me now from Washington.

Hello, Brian. Is there a fear of an attack here on U.S. soil?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, there is increasing concern of an ISIS attack on American soil. A U.S. intelligence official tells us they have indications of ISIS cells in Europe which could attack U.S. embassies and other American interests. Security and intelligence analysts say there is growing concern that ISIS could also develop sleeper cells inside the United States. Now, intelligence officials here will not go as far as saying they are here in the United States now, but it is possible, and ISIS clearly, as you've seen in that video with James Foley, has the motivation to attack American targets given the U.S. airstrikes against them in Iraq. And one analyst says the ISIS leader, al Baghdadi, what this analyst calls a narcissistic psychopath. That could be in their plans in the future.

LEMON: British Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed that Foley's executioner is British. Are there Americans among the ranks of is, Brian?

TODD: We're being told, Don, it's very likely there are Americans within the ranks of is. U.S. intelligence officials have told us more than 100 Americans have gone to Syria to fight with jihadist groups, and it's looking increasingly likely that at least a handful of them have joined is. Now the fear is they've got American passports, trained on combat, on bomb making and other things and also it's hard to track them. U.S. intelligence assets human intelligence in Syria especially is not very extensive -- Don?

LEMON: So who exactly is -- Brian Todd, thank you very much. I appreciate that.

The question is, who exactly is the ruthless jihadist believed to be the masked executioner who beheaded American James Foley? The evidence investigators are scouring through, next. We're going to talk about that.


LEMON: An international manhunt is under way for the ISIS fighter who beheaded American journalist, James Foley. Now, officials believe he is a British citizen, possibly a ringleader of a group of British jihadists known as the Beatles.

Joining me now from London is our Atika Shubert.

What are you learning about the man suspected of being Foley's executioner?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We know the government is specifically looking at that video, analyzing it. They've tracked hundreds of jihadists that have gone there to fight. They're looking at their records, seeing if any of these descriptions match. And this is the key. In fact, Britain's former counter-terror chief here, Richard Barrett, gave an interview with the BBC in which he said, quote, "They" -- meaning the community here -- "may be able to identify him. I think the community will be able to recognize this person, and I'm sure many in the community will be keen to do so."

There have been an estimated 400 to 500 young men, but also a few women that have gone to Syria to fight. And I've actually spoken to a lot of family members who have children there, and they are worried. They don't want their children there. And every time one of these propaganda videos shows up, they fear, you know, that this could be the voice or the face of their child.

LEMON: You know, these British jihadis are particularly dangerous to the West because they can travel around Europe and even to the U.S. without a visa. What are British and U.S. officials doing to help hunt down the killer, Atika?

SHUBERT: Well, they're trying to keep track of as many of them as they can. But it is very hard, as you can imagine. And more importantly, they're trying to prevent a lot of people from going. There is a big police campaign here to reach out, particularly to Muslim communities, and say, you know, we know you want to help in Syria, but fighting there isn't the right way to do it. It's not helping the conflict there. So they're trying. But clearly, it's not working. When you have as many as 500 youths going over there to fight, you have a problem.

The question is, are they going to be coming back, and are they going to be coming back with the intent to carry out attacks? As soon as anybody they know comes into the U.K., they are questioned. Many of them are arrested. But the question is, is that enough, and should they be doing more?

LEMON: Thank you very much, Atika. We appreciate that. Reporting from London.

Just ahead here on CNN, we're going to have more on the hunt for James Foley's killer and the strategies investigators may take to bring them to justice. We'll be right back.


LEMON: All right. We've some breaking news here into CNN. The governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon, has ordered the Missouri National Guard to withdraw from Ferguson. That is according to a press release from his office. Again, the governor of Missouri orders the National Guard to withdraw. Governor Nixon ordered the National Guard to withdraw from Ferguson. It says today he has ordered the National Guard to begin a systematic process of withdrawing from the city of Ferguson. It says the Missouri National Guard will coordinate with the Missouri State Highway Patrol in carrying out this order. "I greatly appreciate the men and women of the Missouri National Guard for successfully carrying out the specific limited mission of protecting the united command center so that law enforcement officers could focus on the important work of increasing communication with the community, restoring trust and protecting the people and property of Ferguson." Again, Missouri National Guard will be withdrawing from Ferguson, Missouri. That is our breaking news that we will follow here all day long here on CNN as we continue to broadcast live from Ferguson.

Let's get back to our big story here on CNN, a major hunt under way for one of the world's most-wanted killers.

And right now I want to bring in Griff Witte, a "The Washington Post" London bureau chief.

Griff, you have covered the threat in the Middle East and Asia for years. The group, known as the Beatles, guards western hostages for ISIS. How did the British jihadists become so important within the terror group?

GRIFF WITTE, LONDON BUREAU CHIEF, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, they play a very important role in what ISIS is trying to do. And it's two things, really. A lot of the British jihadists are even more radical. They're not local to the area. They don't know the local customs. They watch a lot of videos like the one that unfortunately came out the other day. And they are very ideologically motivated, and they're willing to do very extreme things that perhaps some of the locals are not willing to do. But more importantly, they're really a vital instrument of propaganda for an organization like is. It packs a major punch when you see someone with a British accent executing an American on video.

LEMON: And some experts believe, Griff, that the British jihadists are the most ruthless is members. Why is that?

WITTE: It's really because they are watching these videos at home. They're seeing the war from a distance in places like Britain, in places across Europe, even in America. And they're becoming very, very ideologically driven. They've become very radicalized. And when they get to a place like Syria, when they get to a place like Iraq, they're ready to participate in these atrocities. Most of these atrocities are not carried out against Americans, against westerners. Most of them are carried out against Muslims from the Middle East. And oftentimes the foreigners, the Europeans, the Americans are the ones who are most willing to carry out those atrocities.

LEMON: As many as 500 British jihadis are pleased to be operating in Syria and Iraq right now. And Syria's first known suicide bomber took part in an ISIS attack back in February. Why do you think there are so many jihadists coming out of Britain, Griff?

WITTE: There is a huge amount of soul searching going on in Britain right now and indeed across Europe. There have been thousands of people who have decided to go join the fight in Syria. It's not very hard for them to travel there. It's just a very cheap airline ticket to get to Turkey and then from there across the border into Syria. And there's a real sense in Britain right now of how do we stop this? How do we keep these people from going? For over a year now, there have been -- there's been a very steady flow. It's picked up recently within the last couple of months after the Islamic State declared its caliphate that seemed to have an effect in terms of motivating people. And I think the British government is asking very serious questions now about how does it end, how did they stop these people from going?

LEMON: All right, Griff, thank you very much. We appreciate you joining us here on CNN.

I want to reiterate breaking news here. The Missouri National Guard being -- all right, I appreciate it Griff. The Missouri National Guard ordered out of Ferguson, Missouri. That is by the governor. Governor Jay Nixon, saying they're going to start that coordinated to remove the National Guard from Ferguson, Missouri. We'll continue to follow that here on CNN.

In the meantime, deep frustration and outrage boiling on to the streets of Ferguson. We're going to take a look at what's fueling the recent unrest and what can be done to restore the peace, next.


LEMON: The police shooting of an unarmed black teen by a white police officer here in Ferguson is putting the spotlight on a problem that is playing -- has plagued this community and towns across the nation. Racial tension and a deep distrust many minorities feel toward law enforcement. 70 percent of Ferguson's population is black. But the town's police force almost all white.

Attorney General Eric Holder visited yesterday to review the civil rights investigation into the death of Michael Brown. He also met with community leaders and talked to residents. And this morning, he talked about what he learned during that visit.


ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: In my conversations with dozens of people in Ferguson yesterday, it was clear that this shooting incident has brought to the surface underlying tensions that have existed for many years. There is a history to these tensions, and that history simmers in more communities than just Ferguson.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: Stefan Bradley is director of African-American studies and associate professor at St. Louis University.

Eric holder is the nation's first black attorney general, facing really a significant crisis in the predominantly black communities, talking about it. I want you to give me your impressions on the impact he had in his visit here.

STEFAN BRADLEY, DIRECTOR OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN STUDIES & ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, ST. LOUIS UNIVERSITY: Well, it was very much a call from the community that the community doesn't have faith in the local authorities, obviously so, based on what happened after the initial demonstrations with Michael Brown, with Michael Brown's death. So a federal officer, agency coming down, the attorney general, opening up an investigation is exactly what the community wants. And so I think that's a good move. I think some of the calculus is working better now.

LEMON: And earlier we reported about the man in St. Louis shot by police after wielding a knife, saying "Shoot me, go ahead and shoot me." There are many saying he didn't have to be shot, stunned, tased. It was caught on cell phone video. It raises a lot of questions, clearly, about the use of force, and a lot of people say, you know, this is another example of trigger-happy police. Do you believe that?

BRADLEY: Well, I'll tell you this. That in speaking with police officers from the area, there's certain protocols that they have, and they know that maybe regular citizens don't know. But there has to be some way to disarm and disable people whom we consider threats. And so without having to shoot them dead every time.

LEMON: Filmmaker Spike Lee appeared on CNN earlier this week and talked about the situation in St. Louis and Ferguson. Let's listen and then we'll talk about it.


SPIKE LEE, FILMMAKER: This is about Trayvon Martin. This is about Jordan Davis, Michael Brown. Ezeal Brown (ph) shot in L.A. a couple days ago. Today, in St. Louis, a couple blocks away, another African- American male shot and killed today. They said he had a knife. But I just think there's a war on the black male. And it's tearing the country apart.


LEMON: That was an Anderson's program, "A.C. 360" Tuesday night. Do you agree there is a war on the African-American male in this country?

BRADLEY: I don't know if I would use that word, but I think it's sometimes dangerous to be a black male in this nation. Black men have figured out how to navigate poor neighborhoods. There are shootings that occur all of the time, between black men, of course. But then you have to look out for police officers. And that's where I think police officers and those pretending to be police officers. And so it's very difficult in that way. And those are the things that are killing people immediately.

LEMON: Stefan, in your estimation, what is fueling this violence, do you think?

BRADLEY: Yeah, it's a nasty mix, Don. It's a nasty mix of a long time of neglect, there is, of course -- there's racial tension at the bottom of this. There's economic disparities at the bottom of this. There's poor relationships between the police department and the community. And so when this is over, when you leave --


-- people are going to have to do some things. Some of those might include, if I just have a second, is the community policing. There's going to have to be a new way that the police approach the community out here. I think there's going to have to be something in the way of increasing the diversity of the -- the racial diversity on the police department. That's going to be necessary. I think a citizens' review board. All of those things will be necessary.

LEMON: And also having a discussion, even in the community, among people like Talib Kweli. That's how we talk to each other. People get on television and they want to have these civil conversations, and they don't want to offend anyone, but you have to dig in --


BRADLEY: Right. That's why I wanted to challenge them to arrest them --


LEMON: Are you ready?

BRADLEY: Let's go get them.


LEMON: Thank you. Thank you, Stefan Bradley. We appreciate it.

BRADLEY: Thank you.

LEMON: That's it for me.

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And for our viewers here on CNN in the U.S., NEWSROOM with Brooke Baldwin starts after this break.