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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
New Evidence in the Michael Brown Shooting; American Jihadi Killed in Syria; The Hunt for James Foley's Killer; U.S. Journal Released, Mother Shares Joy; New Report On Delays At Phoenix, VA; 120 Healthcare Workers Dead From Ebola
Aired August 26, 2014 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening and thanks for joining us. One American's journey tonight from Christianity to Islam to jihad. An ISIS fighter, an American killed in Syria during a battle between rival extremist.
Tonight, what we know about why he left the United States to fight alongside terrorists and why experts say there could be many more just like him.
Also tonight, a scathing new report on an issue our Drew Griffin brought to light nearly a year ago, about delays in veterans getting the medical care they desperately need and in some cases dying on the waiting list.
Tonight, what the VA inspector general's report says and what happens next.
We begin, though, tonight in Ferguson, Missouri, with what could be a critical piece in the puzzle on what really happened when Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Tonight there's newly released audio of what is said to be the shooting recorded by a man who lives nearby. He's asked not to be identified but his attorney says he caught the incident on tape as he was talking with a friend on video chat.
Now CNN cannot independently confirm whether it was definitely the Michael Brown shooting that is on this recording. The FBI, however, has spoken to the man who recorded it and the audio is being analyzed by experts to see what information can possibly be drawn from it.
Ted Rowlands tonight brings us up to date.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the critical moment caught on audio tape, and it could be a key piece of evidence as investigators work to determine exactly what happened between Michael Brown and Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. The shots can be heard in the background of an online video chat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are pretty.
You are so fine. Just going over some of your videos.
How could I forget.
PAUL GINSBERG, FORENSIC AUDIO EXPERT: It's electronic, it's objective. It doesn't take sides.
ROWLANDS: Forensic audio expert Paul Ginsberg analyzed the nine- second clip and created a way form graphic highlighting the gunshots. He counts a total of 10 shots with an approximate three-second pause after the sixth shot. Take another listen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are pretty.
You are so fine. Just going over some of your videos.
How could I forget.
ROWLANDS: The three-second pause could be very significant.
GINSBERG: It could be, depending upon what the witnesses say they saw and what's in the police report.
ROWLANDS: Several of the witnesses do mention a pause.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They shot him, and he fell, he put his arms up to let them know he was compliant and that he was unarmed, and they shot him twice more.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He put his hands in the air, and he started to get down, but the officers still approached with his weapons drawn, and he fired several more shots.
ROWLANDS: An independent autopsy determined that Michael Brown was shot at least six times, all to the front of his body. The other four shots as heard on the recording could have missed.
(On camera): The man who inadvertently recorded this audio wants to remain anonymous. He lives in one of these apartment buildings, which, as you can see, is very close to where Michael Brown was shot and killed.
LOPA BLUMENTHAL, ATTORNEY: He was in his apartment, he was talking to a friend on a video chat. He heard loud noises and at the moment, at the time, he didn't even realize the import of what he was hearing until afterwards.
ROWLANDS (voice-over): The recording could prove critical, should this go to trial, a tool both the prosecution and the defense could use to bolster their case.
GINSBERG: This has a bearing on really everything else. This is a piece of the puzzle that has to fit.
COOPER: And Ted Rowlands joins me now live from Ferguson.
So what are investigators saying about the audio?
ROWLANDS: Well, Anderson, they are analyzing it, according to the man that recorded it. His attorney says that he has been interviewed by the FBI, they're analyzing it, and as you mentioned at the top of the show, looking to see what they can use out of that, that will be pertinent to this investigation.
COOPER: All right, Ted, appreciate the update.
Joining us now are our legal team, former federal prosecutor, Sunny Hostin, criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos, and George Zimmerman's former attorney Mark O'Mara.
Sunny, do you think this is a significant piece?
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think there's no question about it. If that pause -- and I would suggest it's a pregnant pause. Three seconds is a significant amount of time when you're talking about a shooting because they do happen very, very quickly. And I think if it corroborates all of the witnesses who are explaining, and I think we've seen them explain, that there was a pause, and that Michael Brown, during that time, turned around with his hands up, that, I think, is a game changer in a case like this.
COOPER: Although we should also point out there is another witness, who I interviewed, who said he didn't see the hands going up. He saw actually hands more around his waist. Again -- conflicting accounts.
Mark O'Mara, what do you think about this recording?
MARK O'MARA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, I'm frustrated that yet another tidbit of information is coming out. For this reason, not only does it allow speculation, but it now is going to have an opportunity to infect witnesses testimony because it's natural for witnesses to drag in facts they know are out there into their testimony. So it may now show up in witnesses' testimony, it may customize other testimony.
But having said that, it's still one piece of information that I agree needs to fit into the overall picture. But it doesn't offer, I think, evidence one way or the other. I'll give you an example. As Sunny mentioned, this could be evidence that the officer turned into, you know, a racist murder, and took aim with the last four shots, and executed him, or it could be that the first several shots missed their mark, as he's running after the -- after Mr. Brown.
Maybe those shots weren't even justified, who knows if Brown was running away. But when Brown turns around to confront or to focus on him, then the last set of shots could be justified, so as a defense attorney, I look at this and say, well, wait a minute, if, in fact, those shots hit the front of Mr. Brown, he had to be facing the officer, and maybe the second half were justified.
So now that I'm getting both sides of the story, we just have to wait and stop speculating as to how this fits the overall picture.
COOPER: But, Mark, what -- Mark O'Mara, what you're saying is interesting. You're saying that if the final four shots are actually justified, even if the first six are not, that doesn't matter?
O'MARA: No, not only does it not matter, that makes the fatal shot, which is the only relevant shot, if you think about it, that may make the fatal shot justified, if, in fact, Mike Brown, having been hit or having whatever happened with the first six shots, justified or as unjustified as they may have been, when he turns around and confronts the officer, those last four shots, which we know are the fatal shots, may well have been justified because of the then existing confrontation.
HOSTIN: That's a really loaded phrase, though, Mark, when you're saying confrontation.
O'MARA: I agree. I agree it is.
HOSTIN: I mean, there's no evidence --
O'MARA: No, no, no. I'm not suggesting evidence. Look, this is pure speculation. We have to be careful doing that. But if you want to look at both sides, then if there was a confrontation, then the last four shots may have been justified. If there wasn't, and I'll say the other side of it. If Mike Brown has his hands up and said, by the way, which might show up on that audio tape, if it's shown to say here, either what the officer says or what Mike Brown says. If Mike Brown says, I surrender, I'm sorry, and he shoots him, that's an execution.
COOPER: Mark Geragos --
O'MARA: But it's more of the other.
COOPER: What do you make of this tape?
MARK GERAGOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I'm a little leery about even speculating as far as any of my esteemed colleagues are because when somebody wants to remain anonymous and somebody is putting something out there and it's on a video chat and I don't know how you ever -- at this point, at least us in the media, substantiate that. I mean, I understand what the forensic guy just did in your package, and I agree, unfortunately, with Sunny and Mark, I guess, in this.
You can make it move either way. I mean, as a defense lawyer, there is a wealth of stuff to play with there. And as a prosecutor, this could give you the impetus to say, I've got probable cause to file the charges. But remember, this is somebody who wants to remain anonymous. They're putting something out there by the lawyer. Take it with a grain of salt. It would not be the first time I've been commenting on some high-profile case and some piece of make-or-break supposed evidence came about and it turned out to be --
HOSTIN: I'm not --
COOPER: But if -- but if the FBI has actually interviewed -- Sunny, I mean, if the FBI has interviewed this person, according to their attorney, you would think they would be able to see what time this was recorded, if, in fact, that does jive with the time of the shooting.
HOSTIN: Well, no question, the FBI certainly can authenticate it. And I'm not surprised that someone in a case like this that is so charged, would want to remain anonymous. And let's remember when you listen to the video, it's a video chat, it's -- he's talking about how he enjoyed seeing someone's video --
COOPER: Right. It's creepy. I mean, it's a creepy video chat.
HOSTIN: It's a little creepy. There's no question that someone would want --
COOPER: Right. Right. It's probably the most embarrassing kind of thing you could be recording, like him saying to some person, hey, baby, you look great.
HOSTIN: And quite frankly it makes it almost more authentic to me because why would someone want to release something like that?
COOPER: You know, I actually -- I just want to show some live pictures right now from Ferguson, a small protest underway. We're just getting some pictures in. I'm looking at them. They don't really seems to be showing much of anything there.
Mark O'Mara, you agree with that, though, that to you, it's not the idea that this person doesn't want to come forward, that's explainable to you?
O'MARA: No, no. I think this is going to turn out to be a legitimate audiotape of the shooting. It just showed up, he's close by, the timing is going to be right. His embarrassment put aside, the FBI is going to be able to identify that it's probably shots of that caliber weapon from that distance. So I think it's going to turn out to be legitimate.
I just don't think that whatever it is, on its own, or even in context of some of what we know now, it's going to be all that relevant. I agree, it matches some of what the eyewitnesses have said they heard, but I can also look at that and go, wait a minute, one said two, one said four, one said -- I think we just wait, wait until we all get it, let the grand jury do what they do and --
COOPER: And again --
O'MARA: And stop building up expectations.
COOPER: Right. And the forensic evidence, we don't know. There's been no really forensic evidence, and I keep repeating that every night, because I do think that is going to be critical, because of different conflicting testimony.
O'MARA: I look forward to see if that tape may have Mike Brown's voice on it or Darren Wilson's voice on it, saying stop or I give up, or whatever. Because even at that distance, we know in the Zimmerman case you can hear a lot on the tape once the voice --
GERAGOS: But don't you -- you know what I wonder is why is it -- it's wonderful that in America, if you're a cop and you shoot somebody, that you get all of this deliberation, you get all of this time. We'll let the grand jury look at it for two months. You know, if one of my clients shot somebody, he'd be in custody right now. He would have already had the arraignment and we'd have the discovery.
HOSTIN: And I think that --
GERAGOS: Why is it -- why is there such a double standard when it comes to cops? People wonder why it is there's the militarization of the police and they wonder why it is there's so much anxiety --
HOSTIN: Well, and Mark, that's -- that's why people are so troubled by this, right?
GERAGOS: I don't blame them.
HOSTIN: Because it's a less than opaque investigation.
GERAGOS: Well, it's --
HOSTIN: I mean, we haven't really heard from this officer. We haven't heard a firsthand account. The police incident report that was, you know, released is so heavily redacted, you don't really know what happened. And so we're getting this information and these drips and dribbles. And I think that is why we're left to, you know, sort of speculate on little bits of evidence.
GERAGOS: Name one murder case --
O'MARA: Maybe we as the lawyers, maybe we as the well-trained lawyers can use our voice to tell people, this is the process that is going to take a long period of time, particularly those who want to make sure it's done right and the right --
(CROSSTALK) HOSTIN: But it shouldn't take a long period of time.
GERAGOS: It shouldn't take a long period of time.
HOSTIN: This is not a who done it, this is not a complicated case.
GERAGOS: But Mark --
COOPER: Guys, one at a time.
GERAGOS: Mark, I'll ask -- Mark, I'll ask you one question. How many murder cases, how many murder cases involving non-cops, non-law enforcement, do you see somebody come out and say, yes, we'll get to a grand jury in October. We'll get to it -- and other than somebody like Robert Blake, I can't think of a single one where they took any appreciable amount of time. They arrest first and they ask questions later.
COOPER: Mark, I want you to answer that and then we've got to go.
O'MARA: Well less than half. However, when we're talking about cop shooters, the people we give the authority to shoot when they think they need to, I don't mind waiting and letting a grand jury look at a case like that, because particularly in a racially charged case that now is a national event, we should do it right and we should not do it by speculation.
COOPER: Mark O'Mara, Mark Geragos, Sunny Hostin, thanks.
A quick reminder. Make sure you set your DVR so you can watch 360 whenever you want.
Coming up tonight, another young American has died in Syria fighting for ISIS, the same terrorist group that beheaded American journalist, James Foley.
This is the young man, the latest on who he was and how he ended up on the battlefield in Syria, next.
COOPER: Tonight, another grim reminder of why U.S. officials consider ISIS such a threat. Thirty-three-year-old American Douglas McCain, an American with ties to Minnesota and California, was killed in Syria over the weekend while fighting for ISIS. In fact, his full name is Douglas McArthur McCain. He was a convert to Islam, his family was told of his death yesterday.
He's not the only young American to go down this path. In May, a 22- year-old American from Florida died when he carried out a suicide bombing in Syria. That's him. He joined the Nusra Front after converting to Islam. In a martyrdom video, he's seen tearing up and then burning his U.S. passport and then urging others to join the fight. There's also, of course, Adam Gadahn who grew up in California, converted to Islam, moved to Pakistan, became a translator and spokesman for al Qaeda. U.S. intelligence officials believe that dozens of Americans may have
now joined ISIS to fight against the U.S. and other Western countries.
Chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto joins me now with the latest.
So you've spoken to this man's uncle. Were they aware of what he was doing?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: They said they were not aware. They said -- in fact, he told me today, they were devastated and just as surprised as the country when they got the phone call yesterday from the State Department, saying that their son, their nephew, had gone there to fight. He said, listen, he was brought up a Christian, it was a few years ago that he converted to Islam.
That did not raise red flags for the family. They respect all religions and that they lived in Minnesota at the time where there were a lot of Muslims who live in Minneapolis. So they weren't surprised by that.
They did say that over time there were some postings on Facebook and Twitter that were concerning, expressing sympathy for some of these groups like ISIS, et cetera, that's one thing. But they did not expect him to go fight there. And in fact when he did go to travel, he said he was going to Turkey, just because he likes to travel, and they didn't know he'd gone to Syria until they got the word from the U.S. Department.
COOPER: But U.S. officials seemed to be aware of him?
SCIUTTO: U.S. officials were. He was on a terrorist watch list. And one way that the U.S. comes to be known of these guys, these fighters, is because they're very proud of it, they're very public with it. They're posting pictures and, you know, preachers -- you know, sermons from imam, et cetera, showing their support for this so --
COOPER: Do we know the details of how he got killed?
SCIUTTO: We know this. We know that he was fighting for is. U.S. officials tell us that and that he was actually fighting in one of -- one of these battles with another militant group there, the al-Nusra Front, which is tied to al Qaeda. And in this crazy mix of the fight that's going on in Syria right now, al-Nusra is, you know, the more moderate group than ISIS, right? I mean, they kicked -- al Qaeda kicked ISIS out because they were so brutal and they've been fighting each other as well.
COOPER: Al-Nusra is the one that just released this American, Theo Curtis.
COOPER: Just a short time ago. In fact, I'm going to speak to his mother. SCIUTTO: And al-Nusra is also the group that the other American from
Florida that you showed before, he was fighting for them when he set off the suicide car bomb.
COOPER: Is it clear to Western officials that you've talked to, to intelligence officials, how many Americans there really are, and -- you know, "The New York Times" reported that the American who was fighting for al-Nusra who committed a suicide attack, he actually came back to Florida and then went back again.
SCIUTTO: That's a really alarming detail. I wouldn't say it's entirely clear. U.S. intelligence officials believe about 100 Americans have gone to fight there. For all the various groups. Not just for ISIS.
SCIUTTO: But for some of them, for ISIS. And they are keeping close tabs on them. Jen Psaki from the State Department and others have made -- have reiterated that point today. But clearly, there are holes in the system. You mentioned the one, the American who detonated the truck bomb. He came back. He went to Syria, came back and then set off the attack, which of course raises the possibility that these guys, even if you are watching for them, can come back.
And that's the real fear. When they come home, do they bring jihad back to the U.S. homeland?
COOPER: I mean, I was just struck, I mean, it's a minor point, but just this guy's name, I mean, Douglas McArthur McCain, could you have a more American name?
SCIUTTO: Yes. I was saying earlier today, he might as well been named George Washington. Right?
COOPER: Yes. It's incredible.
SCIUTTO: I mean, it's incredible.
COOPER: Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.
You know, the White House says that President Obama still has not decided whether to launch airstrikes against ISIS fighters in Syria. He has, however, authorized surveillance flights over the region. In the meantime, U.S. and British counterterrorism officials are trying to identify the U.S. militant who beheaded American journalist James Foley. The ISIS militant, I'm sorry.
His gruesome execution was recorded and posted on YouTube. The killer's British accent is one clue in this -- in this case.
Nick Paton Walsh joins me now with the latest in the investigation. Nick, there's been a lot of focus on the ISIS member with the British
accent in the video, but you've been honing in on discrepancies between that man and what a lot of the experts are saying is a second man that appears later in the video.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I mean, the major clue for British and U.S. investigators has been the premise that the voice, the British accented voice is effectively identifying the man who carries out the murder. But if you look at the video more closely, forensic experts say there is a clear edit between the speech and the execution. That appears to be an execution, I should say. We don't see much detail.
The issue, really, the forensic experts focus in on is the man who gives the speech is physically quite different in stature to the man who carries out, it appears, the execution. That leads them to believe, potentially, we're talking about two different people -- Anderson.
COOPER: And I mean, we have a policy, I do not like to show and even stills from this videos, but given that this is what investigators are looking at, and the hunt is on, we do think it's worthwhile for this story.
You've also noticed some differences in the knives that appear in the video.
WALSH: Some experts say if you look at the knife in the hand of the man giving the speech, it is visibly different to the knife that is discarded, I hate to say it, knife discarded on the floor next to the body of the deceased, which suggests some sort of change during the video. The potential, we're not talking about the same person at this stage -- Anderson.
COOPER: And the discrepancies line up with what U.S. analysts have told CNN, which is essentially that it's not knowable for sure at this point who the killer is, because the murder isn't shown in the video. Are you hearing anything more from sources in the United Kingdom?
WALSH: I have to say, for Britain, where it's normally a plethora of leaks, there's been remarkably little information apart from the British ambassador to the U.S. saying that they think they're close to ID-ing the killer. There's been very little information here, frankly.
And there's one other thing to point out, too. If you look at the man giving the speech, his weapon is holstered as though he'd be a right- handed person. The executioner appears to be left-handed. So there are many discrepancies here and all of them point to a much more complex job of ID-ing the killer than they initially may have thought -- Anderson.
COOPER: Nick Paton Walsh, appreciate it. Thanks.
I want to bring in our national security analyst, former CIA officer, Bob Baer. Also Philip Mudd, who's -- held senior positions with the CIA as well as the FBI.
Bob, how difficult is it to track an American, a French citizen, a German citizen once they've gone to Turkey and then are fighting inside Syria or even in Iraq?
ROBERT BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Anderson, it's virtually impossible. In the '90s, I and my team used to wander across the border into Iraq. It's very easy to do up by Diabakur. There's the land routes, people walk across, the Turks don't monitor completely. And not only that, the Turks have been letting in fighters to fight this war and civil wars. They are not even sure who they are. So you meet a group in Turkey, and they'll find a way across.
And that makes it so difficult for the FBI. If someone disappears or just goes away to Turkey, you don't know that they've gone into Syria when they come home. It's a really tough job to track these people. And of course, the Syrians aren't checking the border either. So there's nobody we can really refer to, who's there and who's not.
COOPER: And Phil, I mean, that's apparently the -- you know, the parents of this guy, Douglas McArthur McCain, knew that he'd gone to Turkey, didn't really think he'd crossed over into Syria.
If there are about 100 Americans who travel to Syria to fight, to you, is there a clear path to that kind of decision, to that kind of radicalization? Have you -- you know, we saw it early on with some Somali immigrants in Minneapolis, who committed the first suicide bombings back a couple of years ago in Somalia, but is it known to U.S. intelligence exactly how that radicalization process takes place?
BAER: Anderson, it's --
PHILIP MUDD, FORMER SENIOR OFFICER, FBI AND CIA: It's not --
COOPER: I'm sorry. Phil, go ahead. Yes.
MUDD: It's not, but you raise the Somali case, which I followed at the FBI, Anderson, back about six, seven years ago out of Minneapolis. I testified on that case. That was kids first generation Somalis, going from Minneapolis, radicalized by an individual in the community and traveling to fight in Mogadishu. As in this case, their parents didn't know.
Let me tell you what goes on in this case and why they're so hard to follow. In these cases, you think -- and this is confusing, that a kid wants to go fight with an organization that has just beheaded an individual. It's not that simple. What happens, especially among converts, who often are more radical about their beliefs than people who grew up in a religion, this kid will see emotional images, images that show the murder of a child or a woman, and the appeal from a place like Syria is not to come behead an individual, it's please come defend the religion.
Defend innocent men, women, and children. Come fight for the cause. That appeal for somebody is very powerful and sometimes especially among converts.
COOPER: And yet, Bob, it's not a big jump, I mean, after a while, they're killing other Muslims. They're killing Muslim who is they don't believe are the correct branch of the faith.
BAER: Well, Anderson, that's the problem as you may -- they may be going to Syria to be, you know, aid workers, you know, helping fellow Muslims and then before long, they get indoctrinated, and once they become fighters, then they move to the next stage, which is they agree to become martyrs, put on a suicide vest and either go after the Syrians or the Iraqi army or come back home.
But that -- we have no way to monitor that development in an individual. You don't know who they are, you can't see in their heads what they're thinking.
COOPER: Phil, Chuck Hagel, you know, the other day, he got a lot of attention, was saying, look, we've never seen anything like this, we've got to be prepared for everything. Is that -- I mean, is that really true? Is that really, you know, there's a lot of skepticism when government officials say stuff like that because it just seems like ratcheting up the fear in order to, you know, get people constantly in a state of fear.
MUDD: I'm not sure I'd buy the statement I heard from Secretary Hagel. Here's the reason why. I think people have talked about the complexity of this problem. I agree that compared to what I witnessed in places like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, this is complex because international borders have been erased, the numbers of people who are involved, 100 plus Americans, which might be a low estimate.
In my old world at the FBI, watching kids like this come home, that's an incredibly high number of people to follow. The reason I'm skeptical, though, is look, we've been at this 13 years. The blue team, that is the Americans, the Brits, the home team, we're a lot better, too. We've learned a lot about how these guys communicate. We've hardened borders, we've hardened cockpit doors in aircraft to keep them safe.
We've worked with partners like the Jordanians and the Turks to keep kids from going out and to flag them when they do move back through Western Europe. We've figured out intelligence tools to target these people on the battle field. So, yes, this is really complicated. It's different than what I witnessed in 20-plus years of following terrorists, but we're pretty good, too.
So I would say if I were in Washington, you got to relax a bit -- a little, and the message to the American people ought to be, this is tough, we might see an attack or two, but we've got a lot of experience. We can handle this.
COOPER: Yes. Phil Mudd, appreciate you being on, Bob Baer as well.
As always, for more on this story and others, you can go to CNN.com. Just ahead, though, in this hour, the mother of American journalist,
Peter Theo Curtis, describes what it was like to hear her son's voice for the first time after nearly two years of him being held captive by the Nusra Front. He was freed by his captors in Syria just days after Jim Foley was killed. We'll talk to the mom, ahead.
COOPER: Just five days after we learned American journalist, James Foley, was beheaded by ISIS, Peter Theo Curtis, another American journalist held captive by Islamic militants in Syria was freed. His family, like the Foleys had never lost hope.
For nearly two years, they didn't know exactly where he was or what condition he was in or whether they would ever see him again. Nancy Curtis will soon be able to hug her son again and she joins me tonight.
Nancy, first of all, just congratulations. I'm so happy for you. Can you take me back to that moment when you first learned that your son had been freed?
NANCY CURTIS, MOTHER OF PETER THEO CURTIS (via telephone): I got a call from the FBI agent, who has been working with us the whole time. She flew to the Middle East and she called me and said, I'm standing on the Golan Heights with your son by my side.
And he wants to talk to you, but he needs some time to compose yourself. That was all she needed to say. I knew that he was healthy and safe and it was a huge relief.
COOPER: Did you know that moment was coming? Did you know that this was in the works?
CURTIS: Yes, I knew that the agent had gone to the Middle East about a week previously. So we had been waiting for that call. But, you know, it was a very, very long wait.
COOPER: What is that moment like? I mean, after waiting and you know, so many ups and downs, and not hearing for so long --
CURTIS: This has been a very, very long road. And you learn to get over the panic, which is how I felt initially, the sheer terror is what began when I realized that he had disappeared. And then, you know, you get -- you slowly come to terms with the fact that he's gone, he's in danger.
It was a relief to know after nine months we heard that he was alive and then, you know, we had so many people working on the case and we had such support from so many terrific people that, you know, you learn to just take each hour as it comes. And you cannot live in anguish for years on end.
COOPER: You've spoken to your son now?
CURTIS: Yes, he did call me later that afternoon, after he got to Tel Aviv, and he was very, very excited. I think it's been -- I think it's been, obviously, tremendously stressful for him. And so to have that fear and anxiety suddenly, you know, taken away, it's just --
COOPER: It's got to be --
CURTIS: -- an outburst of emotion from him.
COOPER: It's got to be surreal for him to suddenly be, I guess, in that hotel room in Tel Aviv. What did he say to you?
CURTIS: He said, Mom, they're being so nice to me! And they put me in this beautiful hotel and I'm drinking a beer. He sounded over the top excited.
COOPER: Do you know when you expect him to be back?
CURTIS: We expect him to be back today or tomorrow.
COOPER: Wow, that quick?
COOPER: Do you have something planned? How do you even prepare for something like that?
CURTIS: You -- just like everything else. You just take it as it comes. I think he's going to be exhausted after a long trip. I can tell you, I'm exhausted, and I think that we'll just be really quiet for a while.
COOPER: The deal that freed Theo, it was done by the government of Qatar and it's my understanding that the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. put you in touch with them. Was that a good moment for you, when you made that contact or did you feel like -- I mean, did you have a sense that that would lead to something?
CURTIS: I knew that the United States government was not going to pay a ransom and did not want anybody to pay a ransom. But we were hopeful that the connection to Qatar would be productive, but we didn't know. And they certainly were very gracious and tremendously helpful.
But, you know, you have to give credit to all the people that I don't know about in the United States government who have been working on this hard for two years.
COOPER: I understand you have made a contact with Jim Foley's family. Have you --
CURTIS: Yes, early on, I met Diane Foley and we have become good friends and we have supported one another. And needless to say, I am devastated by Jim's death, and that certainly tempers any emotion that I have about Theo.
COOPER: So even in this time of happiness, there is also that sense of sadness. CURTIS: These people are like family to me, you know? I didn't know Jim, but I think he -- it sounds as if he and Theo had a lot in common. And I know the Foley family, they're wonderful people. And I've met the families of the other Americans who are held hostage, and I can't tell you how terrible I feel about that. So I'm relieved about Theo, I'm glad that he's coming home, but my emotions are very muted.
COOPER: Well, Nancy, I'm glad you're through it and continue to think about all those others who are being held. Thank you so much for talking to us.
CURTIS: All right, thank you very much.
COOPER: Incredible, what she and the others have been through.
Coming up, veterans dying while waiting for medical care at VA hospitals. Secret waiting list, cook books, and now there's a new report just out from the V.A.'s Inspector General's Office.
Drew Griffin broke the story months ago. He's been going through the report. He joins us next.
COOPER: Welcome back tonight. Keeping them honest with another disturbing chapter to a story we've been following for nearly a year now. Long delays at VA hospitals with some veterans dying while on the waiting list.
A scathing report has just been released about the VA facilities in Phoenix from the Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General's Office. In a study, more than 3,000 cases, investigators found that dozens of veterans have quote, "clinically significant delays in care and six of them died."
The report says investigators couldn't conclusively link their deaths to the delays, but had other disturbing findings about the poor care that veterans received.
Our senior investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin, broke the story and he's been keeping them honest from the beginning and has been going through the 133-page report tonight. He joins me now live. So what was in the report? What did the Office of Inspector General find?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, basically, it's a confirmation of everything we have been reporting and our whistle-blowers have been telling us about for months and months, Anderson. Veterans suffered while waiting to get care.
They couldn't even get initial appointments in time and administrators all along were trying to hide that fact. There were unofficial lists, official lists, thousands of people waiting on these lists.
In many cases, requests for appointments just stuffed into drawers, the hidden list. The secret list we've been telling you about, 3,500 veterans waiting on lists at the Phoenix VA -- Anderson.
COOPER: It's just infuriating. What about -- the whistle-blowers had said to you that they thought as many as 40 veterans had died while waiting for care on this secret list. Any evidence of that?
GRIFFIN: This is where it gets just a bit confusing. They did find 40 veterans who were on the waiting list, who died. But they went through the 3,000 various cases on these waiting lists, and while they did find those 40 patients on the waiting list died, they couldn't say they'd died because of the delay.
More importantly, they linked 20 deaths to substandard care, but again, couldn't say that those substandard care deaths were caused by the delays. They couldn't conclusively say that even though these veterans died, even though they died on the waiting list, that we can't medically say or conclusively say, Anderson, that they died because of the waits.
COOPER: So what happens from here? I mean, is the Inspector General Office still investigating?
GRIFFIN: Yes, they are still investigating, both in Phoenix and at 93 places across the country, Anderson. The FBI is involved, the Department of Justice is involved as well. So this continues and we'll see more reports coming out in the near future.
COOPER: And do the families, are they buying that the inspector general couldn't find conclusive proof that the delays caused the death of their loved ones?
GRIFFIN: You know, they're not buying this at all. Two families don't even think their cases were looked at. Let me tell you about Priscilla Valdez. Her father waited a year to get care. He died.
Sally Barnes' father-in-law waited months after urinating blood in the emergency room, waited months to get care. He died. They both told us that the VA inspector general hasn't even called them yet. Take a listen.
GRIFFIN: No one from the VA's asked for your father's medical records?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
GRIFFIN: No one from the VA has asked for any autopsy, either one of your families might have done?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
GRIFFIN: No one in your -- in the VA has asked to compile a list of how many times you, Priscilla, drove your dad down there, or your dad went down and was denied care?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no. GRIFFIN: So nobody in the VA has really bothered to pick up the phone and find out your stories?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nothing, nothing.
GRIFFIN: So do you think --
PRISCELLA VALDEZ, DAUGHTER OF DECEASED VETERAN: There's no sense of acknowledgement, whatsoever. Nothing. In spite of all of our attempts to keep this in the front lines of the media, so it wouldn't get pushed under the carpet, it's basically what happened anyhow.
GRIFFIN: So do you think the VA even wants to know what happened to your loved ones?
VALDEZ: My answer to that question, Drew, is, they had no choice. They couldn't close their eyes and turn their back to it anymore. If my father hadn't died, if pops hadn't died and other people hadn't come out and expose what had happened, they would have never admitted it.
GRIFFIN: Anderson, Priscilla Valdez's father was just 66 years old, he fought in Vietnam. He coughed for a year trying to get an appointment at the VA, died of acute respiratory failure. She is getting over this by believing that her father was not only a hero in Vietnam.
But a hero at the veterans authority hospital, because he led to the changes that are taking place now. And that's only way she can get her head wrapped around the fact that her father's gone.
COOPER: And have really changes started to be made yet at the VA?
GRIFFIN: Yes, real changes have been made. They've been drastically cutting down on these wait lists. There is some question as to whether or not these vets are seeing real doctors or not, but they are seeing medical professionals. They're being evaluated. They are getting some treatment.
But as far as all the administrators who created this problem, for the most part, they are still there. They're not being fired. There's not the wholesale changes that many believe need to take place to fix this, you know, this sick VA system that led to these hidden wait lists, for crying out loud.
COOPER: Drew will keep on it. Drew, thanks very much. And as I said, Drew has been on this story from the beginning, knows it inside and out. If you have questions about this report or the VA, go to our Facebook page, facebook.com/ac360. Drew is going to try to answer your questions in this special online video.
Up next, a stunning admission by the director of the CDC from the front lines of the fight against Ebola. Also, trapped, angry, and hungry. More than 17,000 people trapped quarantined in one neighborhood. Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins me to discuss it all. The latest on the Ebola outbreak.
COOPER: Well, worse than we fear. That's how it's being described right now. The alarming message on the fight against Ebola from the director of the CDC who's on the ground right now in Liberia. Dr. Thomas Friedman warned it's a brutal battle in an interview with WSB Radio. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an absolute emergency. We have never seen anything on this scale of Ebola before and, unfortunately, it's going to get worse before it gets better. We have not yet turned the tide. The outbreak is ahead of our response and the critical block now is getting treatment units up around the country as rapidly as possible, but ensuring safety at all steps.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The outbreak is ahead of our response. That's what he said. The Ebola virus has already killed more than 1,400 people in West Africa. Liberia is the hardest hit nation. The government is struggling to stop the spread of the disease.
In the capital of Monrovia, an entire neighborhood has been quarantined. More than 17,000 people are trapped in the west point slum with no way out. The military is blocking them. Many people are angry, scared, and hungry.
Strict measures put in place after they looted an Ebola treatment center, claiming the virus was all a government hoax. It is no hoax. The death toll keeps rising. The World Health Organization warned today that an unprecedented number of health care workers, 120, have died in the outbreak, and 240 have been affected.
Chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, he joins me now with more on the new developments. This is an unprecedented number of health care workers, who have become ill with this virus. Do we know why so many? Is it just the scope of the outbreak?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think a lot of it is the scope. But what's interesting is that the health care workers are always the first people to get sick because they don't at the time that they're dealing with Ebola.
So at the beginning of an outbreak, you always have a lot of health care workers. But think about this as several simultaneous outbreaks. So you've got somebody, for example, appearing in Nigeria. The first people that cared for him, they didn't suspect that he had Ebola.
And I think several, five, maybe seven health care workers got sick within a short time after caring for him. A lot of it's not knowing where these sporadic outbreaks are coming. But you have 240 infected health care workers, 120 of them have died.
GUPTA: They're literally risking their lives to do this work.
COOPER: And continuing to do it, even though they know the odds of what they're facing. The facility you were at, did you have the feeling that everybody was well trained, everybody knew the protocol?
GUPTA: We were with the doctors without borders, MSF, and they're very well trained. I was with one particular doctor, who had been in previous Ebola outbreaks, so there's almost a feeling of exactly how we get dressed, how we put this protective gear on.
You see us doing it there and the goal is to protect every inch of your skin, nothing showing, but then there's also little things. When you come out, you're kind of blinded a little bit, you have to have a buddy behind you, helping you to put your gown on and also to take it off.
You're being sprayed down. You have to be sure that now that this hand is bare, you don't actually touch it against a part of your suit, because that could be a potential contamination.
COOPER: Something little like that, brushing your hand against the --
GUPTA: You know, Anderson, this is the thing about Ebola. When they say it's so infectious, even some on your skin, even if the skin doesn't appear broken, could be a threat. Because we all have breaks in our skin, even if we don't realize it. There is a little tiny breaks in our skin.
There was one day, one of the doctors showed me something that I could barely see underneath his finger and he said, I can't go until that is completely healed up. They are careful, but they're running out of resources.
We're hearing stories about people re-using gowns, some of this protective gear. That just increases the risk for error each time you do something like that.
COOPER: I saw the director of the CDC is on the ground in Liberia and he reported seeing bodies laying out on the streets, which is terrifying for just, not only is it tragic, it's terrifying for the spread of the disease.
GUPTA: Yes, that was some of the strongest language I think I've heard from Dr. Frieden. He basically said, we are nowhere near controlling this thing. We haven't gotten to the point where we can even say that we've made significant progress.
And corpses lying in the street is of significant concern with the Ebola because the virus can still spread from a body that is deceased. A lot of bacteria and other viral diseases, once the body dies, the virus will essentially die pretty quickly after. With Ebola, it can live longer.
COOPER: And that's one of the way it spreads, people handling a dead body and cultural practices.
GUPTA: They wrap the body for a few days, as you know, before they will actually do a burial. And during that time, there's a lot of laying on of hands on the body. And that's what they believe.
In Liberia, as you may know, they've had a public decree now that the bodies had to be cremated. And just culturally, that was such a shock.
COOPER: Sanjay, thanks.
GUPTA: Got it, thank you.
COOPER: Coming up next on 360, we're live for the next hour on 360. The FBI is analysing an alleged new recording of the Michael Brown shooting. Now authorities determine whether it's authentic and how it could impact grand jury investigation. That at the top of the hour.
COOPER: Welcome back. Thanks for watching tonight's extended edition of 360. A lot to get to in this hour. We begin with what could be another important piece in the investigation into the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
As you know, there was no dash cam, so investigators can't see what happened, but perhaps they can hear what happened. The FBI is analyzing an alleged audio recording of the shooting with someone who lives nearby says he just happened to capture while video chatting.