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Source: Escapees Left Boots, Provisions in Cabin; Husband of Joyce Mitchell Speaks Out; S.C. Lawmakers Debate Confederate Flag Removal. Aired 5-6:00p ET

Aired June 23, 2015 - 17:00   ET


[17:00:09] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, manhunt. Searchers race to sur round the rugged area near a New York cabin where sources say the escaped killers left behind traces of DNA, boots and provisions. Are searchers finally closing in?

Flag debate. After the racially motivated massacre in Charleston, South Carolina lawmakers agree to discuss taking down the Confederate flag. Other states may follow. And major retailers are vowing to stop selling Confederate-themed merchandise.

And ISIS in America. A 19-year-old from North America is charged with plotting to kill up to 1,000 people. He's the latest of dozens of Americans accused of ISIS-inspired plots. And one top U.S. lawmaker now says the threat level has never been so high.

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: And let's get to the breaking news. There are new leads in the hunt for the two killers who escaped a prison in upstate New York. Law enforcement sources now say the escapees were taken by surprise after they broke into a hunting cabin some 20 miles west of the prison.

The sources say they fled in a hurry, leaving behind boots and provisions and traces of DNA. It's thought that one may even be barefoot in the rugged terrain.

Meantime, the husband of the accused accomplice, Joyce Mitchell, is speaking out about his wife, her relationship with the two prisoners, and the part she allegedly played in helping them break out.

Also breaking now, as new video emerges of the gunman in the racially-motivated Charleston, South Carolina, slaughter. South Carolina lawmakers will debate whether to remove the Confederate flag from the capitol. There are moves in other states to do the same thing. And national merchants are taking it off their shelves.

Our correspondents, analysts and guests are all standing by with full coverage on these stories and much more.

Let's begin with our national correspondent, Jason Carroll. He's at the center of the search area right now, Cadyville, New York.

Jason, what's the latest, and tell us about the DNA discovered in the cabin?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there was just a bit of an uptick in activity, in an area called Wolf Pond Road. We saw -- we heard about a number of choppers in the air, armed officers on the ground in that particular spot, so you can imagine there was a flurry of activity. That tip ended up being unfounded.

But one tip ends up being the best out of the 2000 leads that law enforcement has received so far, and that's the tip you mentioned. It's about that DNA, DNA found in the seasonal cabin in that area that really has investigators saying this is their strongest lead to date. They found a pair of boots there. They also found other personal items that investigators believe belonged to both David Sweat and Richard Matt.

Wolf, cannot emphasize enough what a strong lead this is for investigators, and the reason for that is, because it gives them a pinpoint on this trail. And for the past, what three weeks that we've been up here, we've heard about so many false leads. Again, this is the strongest lead that they've had to date -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jason, has the search area basically shifted?

CARROLL: Well, I would say that it's basically narrowed, Wolf. And again, that has to do with the DNA. And this is all in the area of Owls Head. What it does is it gives all of this law enforcement that's out here on the ground. You've got nearly 1,000 member of law enforcement that's been out here, the largest number that we've seen in the past three weeks.

And what this does, it enables them, it enables law enforcement to narrow the search. And so what they're doing is they're focusing on that very rural area. It's still a very tough task they have in front of them to try and find these two men, but this DNA basically gives them the best lead, Wolf, that they've had to date.

BLITZER: Jason Carroll on the scene for us, thank you.

While these two fugitives apparently are ill-equipped to deal with a rugged terrain, the thick undergrowth. Searchers are making use of the latest technology in their hunt.

Let's bring in our law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes, a former FBI assistant director. Tom, take us to the big picture where this search has basically gone on.

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: OK, first of all, Wolf, it started obviously at the prison, the correctional center in Dannemora up here, and then shortly after we had search areas like Wellsboro, followed by Cadyville. In the beginning, that's where the original 800 officers were searching that particular area.

Then this past weekend, we had multiple sightings that the police had to check out. One that we heard about was down near the Pennsylvania border, Friendship and Irwin, which the police referred to as a credible sighting, not confirmed. But almost simultaneously, we were getting a sighting at another location back closer to the prison.

BLITZER: Well, if we go back closer to the prison, Clinton County up there, it was a relatively narrow area where that cabin was, but now it's expanded?

[17:05:00] FUENTES: Right. So the new search areas, there's the original search area, where we have a nine-mile perimeter, and two weeks ago we were saying there were 330 cabins, homes that they had to check out in this very narrow perimeter, and that proved to be unsuccessful.

Now, with the latest sighting near Owls Head, they get a sighting at 10:30 in the morning. The police go to check it out. They find out that the cabin was burglarized. They check out some of the items in the cabin, send it to the laboratory, and get confirmed that both fugitives' DNA matches. So now, this is not just a credible sighting; it's a confirmed sighting here in Owls Head.

Now, the problem with this is, by the time they confirm that, and by the time they get hundreds of police officers there, these guys could have walked easily in any direction a long way from that location. And we just don't know if they did, initially.

What we're hoping for is that they bring in the dogs, they go to the cabin, they get a fresh scent, and that the dogs hopefully can track them to a specific area, and they can narrow it down further.

BLITZER: In addition to dogs and personnel on the ground, there's some high-tech infrared devices that can be flown around to try to get some sense of where these two guys might be.

FUENTES: Right. It's very difficult. They'll put infrared equipment and helicopters. They've been using it all along in this investigation. And the problem is, they're looking through trees. And there's other animals and warm-blooded beatings. You have hikers, backpackers. They may have campfires. All of that will show up on the infrared screen.

BLITZER: That's a -- it's a new technology, relatively speaking. But it was Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, they found him that way, right?

FUENTES: Right. Now in this case, the way infrared works is that a human being's body is warm. Warm-blooded animals such as deer and bear, they'll be warm against a cooler background. In this case, Tsarnaev was in the boat. The boat was colder. The surrounding ground area colder yet.

So the idea is that a body will show up and stand out for the infrared. The problem is that they're searching a wide area. In this case, they put that helicopter right on top, you're searching a wide wooded area, you know, such as this to pick out one body on the ground and separate if from other bodies that belonged there, hikers, campers, other bodies of animals as we said, it becomes very difficult, to zero in the investigators to go to that location.

So we're really hoping here the dogs get a good scent. They've had now 48 hours to get that scent, and we don't know every detail, but we're hoping that they're closing in.

BLITZER: I think they are closing in. That's everything I'm hearing. But let's see. Don't go too far away.

The prison employee, Joyce Mitchell, is behind bars, charged with helping the convicted killers escape. Now her husband also a prison employee, speaking out about the escape and an alleged plot to kill him.

Brian Todd is joining us with new details. What are you learning, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, extraordinary new details tonight on this plot right from Joyce Mitchell's husband. He says he loves his wife but is angry with her, and doesn't know if he'll stay with her. Lyle Mitchell says if his wife had picked up the inmates, as was allegedly planned, and if he had been with her, they'd both be dead.


TODD (voice-over): Lyle Mitchell claims he had no idea of the plot until the day after Richard Matt and David Sweat escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility. In an interview with NBC, Joyce Mitchell's overwhelmed husband said there was another piece of news he got that day, that at least one of these two killers had planned to kill him.

LYLE MITCHELL, HUSBAND OF JOYCE MITCHELL: She told me that Matt wanted her to pick him up. She said, "Well, I'd never leave without Lyle. Never."

And he said, "Well, I'll give you some pills, though, to give him, to knock him out, and then you come pick us up."

She said, "I am not doing that." She said, "I love my husband. I am not hurting him."

TODD: Joyce Mitchell may have loved her husband, but Lyle Mitchell said three times during the interview, Joyce wasn't sure that he loved her. On the reporting that Joyce Mitchell had a sexual relationship with one or both of the escaped inmates, Lyle Mitchell said, quote, "Absolutely not."

MITCHELL: He gave her a little attention, she said, and this -- it went too far. He tried to kiss her a couple times. She said no. And she said then that's when he started threatening her a little bit.

TODD: Joyce Mitchell's lawyer could not be reached for a response to her husband's remarks. Joyce Mitchells pleaded not guilty to charges of aiding the escapees. A source familiar with the investigation says the tools Matt and Sweat used may have been smuggled to them inside a frozen chunk of hamburger meat.

A key question tonight, if Mitchell helped them, did she have help?

ARNETT GASTON, FORMER COMMANDING OFFICER, RIKERS ISLAND PRISON: I would be shocked if there was no help beyond this lady.

TODD: Clinton corrections officer Gene Palmer has been placed on administrative leave. Palmer knew Matt and Sweat, got a painting from Matt, and used the two inmates as sources of information, according to his lawyer. The lawyer says Palmer knew nothing of the escape plot.

Former Rikers Island commander Arnett Gaston says investigators might want to look at whether Clinton had so-called trustees, inmates trusted by the prison staff who are allowed to move around freely. Gaston says trustees are allowed to carry and work with tools.

GASTON: It is possible that they could have brought the materials to where these men were digging, bringing them. And they could have transported them away. So that they wouldn't be found on searches.


TODD: The Clinton County D.A.'s office did not respond to our calls or e-mail about possibly investigating Clinton's trustees, neither the New York State Department of Corrections nor the state police would comment on that, Wolf.

BLITZER: But Ryan, tonight there's some extraordinary video of one inmate, Richard Matt from the late 1990s, tell us about the incredible to watch.

TODD: Wolf, these are newly-surfaced images showing Matt's resistance to pain. This 1997 video obtained by ABC shows Matt demonstrating a blow dart gun. At one point a friend shoots Matt through the arm with it, and he doesn't flinch. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to shoot a dart into Ricky's arm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Went in there, started to come out there.


TODD: Now, that was videotape in 1997, just months before Richard Matt murdered and dismembered his former boss. The detective who put Matt away for that murder described Richard Matt as psychotic. In a comment, which actually speaks to the video you just saw, that former detective David Bentley, told "The New York Times," quote, "I have seen him inflict wounds on himself, cut himself, break his collarbone and not seek any treatment. He's just totally fearless and doesn't respond to pain."

Extraordinary video there, Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly is. All right, Brian. Thank you.

And joining us now once again, our law enforcement analyst, the former FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes; and the former ATF special agent in charge and security expert Matthew Horace, who's joining us. There he is from New York. Retired chief deputy U.S. Marshal Matthew Fogg is here with us in Washington.

Matthew Fogg, let me start with you. The Franklin County sheriff believes these two guys are still operating together, that they haven't split up. Based on all the searches that you've conducted, what do you believe?

MATTHEW FOGG, RETIRED CHIEF DEPUTY U.S. MARSHAL: It's just amazing to me, because I believe they would be separated by now. But if for some reason or another, these guys were put off guard and had to find their way around, then most likely, they'd stay together. But most of the time, they would separate, knowing that they would be targets. It's an easier target to find one man, as opposed to one.

BLITZER: Right. If you see two guys walking around, people are going to get nervous much more quickly than if you see an individual right, Tom?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, that's true. I think they're still in the mode of needing each other for their own survival, so if they're trying to get food, break into cabins, try to keep a look out for somebody coming toward them, it's easier with two people than one.

BLITZER: Matt Horace. You heard Brian Todd's report. A former Clinton Correctional prison guard says security at the prison was lax. Do you think it's possible that tools could have been hidden in this frozen hamburger meat, bypassed through a metal detector?

MATTHEW HORACE, FORMER ATF SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Well, I think based on what we're hearing, what we've heard day in and day out, it's almost possible that anything could have happened. As Tom Fuentes pointed out so ably last night, this stuff is beginning to sound like a circus of some kind. So it's very possible that that could have happened, in addition to other things.

BLITZER: We also know, Tom Fuentes, a pair of boots, provisions were found in this cabin, where these two guys left in a hurry, is it possible that they knew about this cabin in advance, and the stuff had been left there for them by some other outside accomplices?

FUENTES: It's possible. If they knew about this cabin, and it had provisions already placed there for them, then they could have abandoned their old boots, their old clothing, their old underwear, and take new clothing on and go from there.

BLITZER: You would agree, Matthew Fogg?

FOGG: Yes, I would agree. But the other thing it could be possibly, also, is that this was just a holdup spot for just a temporary spot, and then they moved on. But that is possible. I mean, the bottom line is, I've always said, if you're in that same area, you have no place to go, you would have a spot where you would go, lay low for a while and then take off.

There's a lot of cabins up in that part of upstate New York. People have their summer cabins, if you will, but they're usually empty, other than in the summertime. Only now are people beginning to go back to some of those cabins.

BLITZER: That's right. All right. We're going to take a quick break. Much more on this developing story. Apparently, they're getting closer and closer to these two guys. We'll see what happens. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news. Stepped-up activity, police activity in upstate New York, where sources now say those two escaped killers left DNA traces, boots and provisions in a burglarized cabin. We're back with our law enforcement analyst, the former FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes, the former ATF special agent in charge, security expert Matt Horace, and retired chief deputy U.S. Marshal Matthew Fogg.

You know, there's one school of thought, Matthew Fogg, that maybe this is all a diversion, a very sophisticated plot to get the police, law enforcement in one area, but these two guys are in a totally different area. If they have outside accomplices, that's certainly possible.

FOGG: You know, Wolf, that's one of the things I've always said from the beginning, that you look at the elaborate escape, how these guys got out, everything they did, you wouldn't think that they just went out there and just got, you know, cold feet, being out there, and expecting somebody to pick them up that never picked them up.

[17:20:12] No, I believe it is a great possibility they could have had a spot, they went to a spot at first, and then they left. That could have been the spot and then they told somebody, let's just make this we fooled the police, make them think you've been here all along, leave stuff there so the police could stay on that trail but you're long gone.

BLITZER: Do you believe it's possible that it's that sophisticated, they planted DNA there, knowing it would just divert the police, and these guys are in a totally different area?

FUENTES: Well, maybe not intentionally plant DNA, but just go to this cabin and have provisions already put there by some other accomplice that was going to help them, where they'd get fresh clothes, boots, some food, and whatever else they need, and then take off. Their DNA would still be there as of three weeks later, Saturday, when the cop went there, so we don't know, that's possible.

BLITZER: Matthew Horace, what do you think? HORACE: I think in my career a lot smarter criminals have made

stronger mistakes than these two. And I think one lucky break in this case, and we're going to have both those gentlemen in cuffs, and that's irregardless of the complexity and the elaborateness of their plan.

BLITZER: I wouldn't call them gentlemen, because these guys, Matthew, as you well know, better than anyone, these guys are convicted killers. They're hardly gentlemen, but they are obviously pretty intelligent, pretty sophisticated, Matthew. They seem to know what they're doing, and by all accounts, they must have had and they probably still have some outside help. What do you think?

HORACE: I have said that from the very beginning. There had to be more help than just the one suspect who's in custody right now. There are too many elements of support and health throughout this case. It's very complex. There are still a lot of unanswered questions, and there are still questions that the law enforcement authorities know now that we don't.

BLITZER: Matthew Fogg, one quick question: let's say they catch these guys today or tomorrow. What are they doing with them? They're not going to send them back to Clinton Correctional Facility, from which they escaped?

FOGG: Absolutely not. It's going to be some serious interrogation, trying to find out everything that they can get. They will be taken to another...

BLITZER: Is he legible to go to that -- are they eligible to go to that super max prison in Colorado, even though they're not charged with federal crimes?

FOGG: I would say, I mean, the bottom line is, where are they going to take -- it's going to be somewhere -- it's a super max. They're going to go somewhere where they don't escape again. That's for sure.

BLITZER: Let's hope they're not in the honor -- the honor roll, if you will. They're not going to be able to mingle and do whatever the hell they were doing.

FOGG: That's right.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much.

There's also breaking news in South Carolina, where the effort to take down the Confederate flag at the state capitol got past a major hurdle today. We have details.

Also, another American is now charged with supporting ISIS. Police say he was actually plotting to kill up to 1,000 Americans.


BLITZER: Breaking news in South Carolina as people outside the state capitol in South Carolina demonstrated against the Confederate flag. Those houses future this summer. Revulsion over the Charleston church massacre and pictures of the confessed gunman posing with the Confederate flag are prompting a nationwide backlash against the flag's sale or official display.

Let's go to Charleston. CNN's Martin Savidge is on the scene for us. What's the latest in South Carolina, Martin?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you pointed out in the legislature today, both at the House and the Senate, they were able to approve a resolution that says that they will begin -- well, they will allow the discussion of possibly bringing down the Confederate flag.

That's really no small endeavor. I mean, they needed a two- thirds majority in both of those votes, and they got it. However of course, just saying that you're going to talk about it is a long way from passing any resolution that says you will actually act upon it and bring the flag down.

Meanwhile, there was a very large demonstration on the state House property today, right in the face of the monument where that Confederate flag flies. It got a bit testy at times, but for the most part, it was peaceful. But it shows you that emotions are very strong on this issue. And we still have a long way to go, Wolf.

BLITZER: We certainly do. The debate in South Carolina certainly sparked a huge debate in other states, as well. Tell us what's going on.

SAVIDGE: It was really amazing about how quickly this has caught fire across the south. For instance, the state of Mississippi. It actually has the Confederate flag emblem of it, built into its state flag. And it was last night that the speaker of the House Republicans said that it is probably time to have that removed. In fact, he didn't say any probably about it. It is time to have that removed, because it is offensive or deemed offensive to some. That is a major step forward on the part of Mississippi.

However, again just saying that you're going to do it, and acting upon it, it could be a long way before that actually happens.

Other states, though, have that emblem on license plates that you can buy. Virginia is one example of that. North Carolina is another. They're taking steps to remove that as a possibility of someone buying it and putting on their automobile. So in many ways, the Confederate flag is woven into a lot of states and now trying to extricate it could be a difficult and tricky process, but it has begun.

BLITZER: It certainly has, and will be tricky in many of those states. As you also know, major retailers, businesses, they're stopping the sale of Confederate flags, related paraphernalia. Tell us about that.

SAVIDGE: Well, and that's another issue here, you know, just showing you how fast people are trying to move. Wal-Mart certainly one of the biggest, if not the biggest retailer, says, no, you won't be able to buy the flag any more. Not just the flag but belt buckles that may have the Confederate emblem or shirts or any kind of clothing apparel. And then on top of that, Sears is the same way. Amazon now says you won't be able to buy it online.

[17:30:07] However, that is not to say you won't be able to buy this. There are millions, and literally, millions of outlets across the country. Small ones, mom-and-pop places, or gas stations or other outlets where people will be able to purchase that merchandise if they so choose.

And remember, it's not trying to stop the -- anyone buying the flag in the state of South Carolina, returning it here. It is merely saying it shouldn't be flown on state or public property. If someone wants to do it in their own home, that is perfectly fine -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Martin Savidge on the scene for us, thank you.

Let's get some more perspective on what's going on in South Carolina right now. Across the nation.

With us is the president of Charleston branch of the NAACP, Dot Scott. Todd, thanks very much for coming back.


BLITZER: Do you expect this will successfully pass through the South Carolina state legislature, now that the governor, the two Republican senators, they're all in favor of removing the flag from the state capitol grounds? Do you expect it will go through both houses?

SCOTT: Well, I'm cautiously optimistic. We've got our governor, and we've got the momentum going that could surely have the flag removed and no longer fly on the premises of our statehouse.

BLITZER: It took nine people, nine wonderful people dying for South Carolina's top elected officials to finally call for the Confederate battle flag to be removed from the capitol grounds. Why did this come with such a steep price?

SCOTT: Well, everything, it seems to me, with the civil rights, the price for our -- what I call equality, the dignity for African- Americans, it's always been pricy, and this is an awful price to pay. Why this had to happen, maybe we'll understand it at some point.

Right now, I'm just very glad that as a result of the -- I mean, the horrendous loss of life that we're having to deal with now, that there will be something positive that will come out there. Maybe not only the Confederate flag will be removed from the state house grounds, but maybe some hearts and minds are going to change and say, enough is enough in terms of reminding African-Americans that you are inferior, simply by flying the flag. That was the picture of why -- we had to suffer the loss of the Civil War. So I'm optimistic that at this point there's some good will come out. BLITZER: Let's see. As you also know, major retailers,

including Wal-Mart and Sears, E-Bay among others, they've already announced they will pull Confederate flag merchandise, not sell any more.

But since those announcements, sales of Confederate flags, related paraphernalia, have skyrocketed on Amazon. Amazon decided this afternoon to pull the merchandise from their site, as well. But just before pulling it, they were -- they noted that the number of people buying Confederate flags on Amazon had gone up 3,000, 4,000 percent. What do you make of that?

SCOTT: Well, that usually happens. I think we've had some issues with the "Duck Dynasty." The very same thing happened. I don't know whether people are buying it because maybe they feel that they will not be able to get it, but that does not surprise me at all.

And maybe instead of Wal-Mart after the good deed of saying they were no longer going to sell it, someone's going to buy it from them. So as long as it's gone and it doesn't come back, we'll be fine with that.

BLITZER: As you know, Dot, the flag, the Confederate flag just a small part of the problem. There's a big problem over there right now. How do you get to the root of the problem? The deep racial divides that unfortunately still exist in our country?

SCOTT: Well, I think that begins with honest conversation around race and exactly what is underneath all of this.

When we look at the issues of education in South Carolina, we look at what we deal with here in Charleston. The divide that continues to separate kids and schools. The rumors of schools that are what I call equalization schools. Until we deal with those issues, that symbol may be gone, but hearts and minds must change in order for us to truly be a state we can be proud of.

BLITZER: As you know, the president, President Obama, the first lady, the vice president, Joe Biden, they will all travel to Charleston this Friday. The president will deliver the eulogy for the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who was one of the victims in the church massacre. What would you -- Dot, what would you like to hear from the president of the United States?

SCOTT: Well, the president's roll here is to eulogize Reverend Pinckney, Senator Pinckney. Senator Pinckney was a member of the NAACP. He walked the talk. He was there in our -- in an elected capacity, but also he was an activist in terms of dealing with the issues of civil rights.

So I think our president, I have all the confidence that he will say all of the right things that needs to be said while honoring the life of Senator Pinckney.

BLITZER: Dot Scott is the president of the Charleston branch of the NAACP. Dot, thanks very much for joining us. SCOTT: Thank you for having me.

BLITZER: Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we're getting some alarming new details about yet another American ISIS suspect. Police say he was plotting to actually try to kill 1,000 Americans.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: All right. There's major breaking news in the New York manhunt. Joyce Mitchell the prison worker accused of helping the two escapees break out of that prison, is now giving authorities new details about the plot.

Let's go to our national correspondent, Jason Carroll.

Jason, what are you learning?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a source close to the investigation tells me that Joyce Mitchell has told investigators that she put hacksaw blades inside frozen hamburger meat. That frozen hamburger meat then passed on to Richard Matt, this happening just about a week before the prison escape.

In terms of how that hamburger meat was passed through to Richard Matt, it was actually passed through a guard there at the prison. His name is Gene Palmer. Apparently, Gene Palmer did not pass that frozen chunk of meat through a metal detector, which is a violation of prison policy.

I have spoken to his attorney. His attorney made it very clear to me that his client, Palmer, did not know what was inside that frozen chunk of meat. He at this point is under investigation.

And a little bit more information coming to us, Wolf, about this woman, Joyce Mitchell. We've been hearing so much about her, about her husband. We are also hearing that she had personally vouched for both Richard Matt and David Sweat for several months, bringing in baked goods, giving them to other guards there at the prison, to try to convince other guards that these two inmates were, quote, "good guys" and could be trusted.

And in fact, Wolf, we're also hearing sources telling us that Joyce Mitchell actually went as far as going to prison officials and convincing them and saying it would be a good idea to move David Sweat's cell next to Richard Matt's cell. And we all know what happened shortly after that.

We did reach out to prison officials to get their comments on all of this. They said that this is an ongoing investigation. They were not able to comment on it at this time.

But, you know, today when we heard so much from Lyle Mitchell, talking about his wife. And she was saying so much of this was fantasy, and that she got in too deep. Well, it does appear that for several months, that she was vouching for these two inmates, once again going as far as telling prison officials that she thought it would be a good idea to move David Sweat's cell next to Richard Matt's.

BLITZER: Shocking information. All right, Jason Carroll, thanks very much.

Tom Fuentes, what do you think? What's your reaction?

FUENTES: I don't know. We keep hearing so many different stories that come out of Joyce Mitchell that I don't know what to believe, from wat we hear, that she supposedly says. So I just don't know.


FOGG: The same, Wolf. I mean, when you talk about somebody that's that close, getting involved, she's filing every type of right you can think of. So what do you believe? How much can we really trust her? Those prisoners were definitely manipulating her to do what they needed to do to get out of that place.

BLITZER: Pretty sophisticated, Matthew Horace, putting hacksaw blades into a chunk of frozen hamburger meat and then getting this other guy, allegedly, Gene Palmer, a prison guard, to get that meat through the -- into the prison without going through a metal detector. Your reaction?

HORACE: Well, we maintained that there had to be more than one person involved when you have this many security breaches, Wolf. And just remember this: The reason why investigators go back and re- interview and re-interview suspects, is because sometimes we get more information with each interview.

And it seems to me like Tom said, this story keeps changing by the minute. So it's really unknown at this time what to believe and what not to believe. And who knows what we'll be hearing a week from now.

BLITZER: We'll continue to work our sources. We'll get more information. Guys, stand by.

Now also coming up, ISIS in America. We have alarming new details about the latest arrest and a suspect who supposedly planned to try to kill 1,000 Americans.


[17:48:22] BLITZER: We're getting alarming new details about a plot to kill up to 1,000 Americans right here in the United States. They're coming to light after the arrest of the North Carolina teenager authorities now say was radicalized by ISIS.

Let's bring in our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto, he's got details, pretty alarming stuff. JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No

question. And U.S. authorities are taking the suspect seriously, and just this year, we've seen a number of suspects arrested. And the fact that this is coming on the same day as a brutal new ISIS video shows the exact reach of this organization, all the way into the U.S. homeland.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): He's a teenager, a Muslim convert from North Carolina, and allegedly the latest ISIS recruit in the U.S. According to the criminal complaint 19-year-old Justin Sullivan told an undercover agent that he was plotting to obtain a semiautomatic AR- 15 rifle to kill as many as 1,000 people. He also threatened to use, quote, "biological weapons, coating bullets with cyanide and setting off a gas bomb."

(On camera): Did you know any of this was going on?


SCIUTTO (voice-over): It was Sullivan's father who first alerted authorities. Calling 911 in April after his son apparently dowsed the house in gasoline.

R. SULLIVAN: I don't know if it's ISIS or what. But he's -- I come home, and he's destroyed Buddhas and figurines and burning stuff. We're scared to leave the house.

SCIUTTO: Sullivan can be heard in the background.

R. SULLIVAN: You put gasoline in the house.

JUSTIN SULLIVAN, SUSPECTED OF SUPPORTING ISIS: Why are trying to say? I'm not a terrorist. I didn't even do anything.

SCIUTTO: His arrest and more than 30 others like it so far this year, demonstrate ISIS' growing reach on the U.S. homeland. As well as a major effort by law enforcement to act quickly.

[17:50:03] JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: ISIL has spent about a year investing in trying to reach troubled minds in the United States through social media. To either recruit them to come to their so- called caliphate to fight or to kill where they stand.

SCIUTTO: And now there is a new fear. One senator telling CNN, there is concern that over time lone wolves may no longer act alone. Joining together in teams, increasing their ability to carry out larger scale attacks like the shooting in Garland, Texas.

DAVEED GERTENSTEIN-ROSS, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: You had a couple of guys who was linked up to carry out the attack and also were in touched with Judai Hussein (ph) who is there in Syria, an Islamic State official. So yes, it's absolutely a concern.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SCIUTTO: So far this year, there have already been at least 35

arrests for material support for terrorism. Many of them for ISIS. That's an enormous increase from last year, Wolf. That is due in part to greater retention. Law enforcement is going after these cases more aggressively but it's also because ISIS is radicalizing more young men and sometimes women here in the U.S. It's a great concern.

BLITZER: Is there a new policy on hostages, dealing with hostages? And maybe paying ransom?

SCIUTTO: That's right. Well, this is basically the White House formalizing what had already been the policy and practice. Officially it's illegal to pay ransom to hostage takers but in effect the White House had looked the other way. Now they are saying openly and publicly, you're OK to do this. We're not going to prosecute you.

They're also forming what they're calling a fusion cell which will allow the White House to deal with the families of hostages because frankly there have been severe complaints from many of the families as to how the administration treated them.

BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.

We're also getting a closer than ever look at the fearful and brutal realities of everyday life under ISIS. CNN senior international correspondent Arwa Damon made her way into a town at the Turkish-Syrian border the Kurdish fighters recently re-took.

Here's Arwa's exclusive report.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): No one is around to tell us who was held here or what horrors transpired at the Tal Abyad prison. There was a stench of sewage. On one solitary confinement cell's floor, splotches of red.

A scrap of paper. An idea of what is considered a crime under ISIS. In this case, taking God's name in vain. Among the many draconian directives of ISIS rule. Another forbidden act, smoking.

(On camera): This is the first time in two years that cigarettes are being sold in the streets of Tal Abyad. This man was just saying. And this is the first shipment that he's brought in.

He is saying that there is a cage at a roundabout down the street that they would put people in for punishment for doing things like selling cigarettes.

(Voice-over): We're taken to see it and told the story of a man who spent three days here for playing cards. Also banned.

The streets of Tal Abyad oddly very clean. ISIS also ordered perpetrators of crimes to pick up trash. At one of the ISIS security offices, the ominous black flag dominates every wall. Lest anyone forget who is in control here.

And we find a handful of blank pads. Of official forms on an office shelf. Shuttered store front after store front is spray painted red with a word, meaning it was claimed as property of the Islamic State.

(On camera): There is a group of men back there. They don't want to appear on camera because they still have relatives living in the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa but they were talking about how wretched life under their rule was. How they didn't dare stand up to them. How no one dared to speak out.

But they say they chose to continue living here because what they have here, that was everything that they possess in life and trying to survive as a refugee would be just too difficult. And all of them we were speaking to then pointed to this roundabout. This was called the roundabout of death because it was here that ISIS carried out its executions.

(Voice-over): The remnants of life under ISIS plagued this town where it seemed that reality was worse than what most could ever imagine.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Tal Abyad, Syria.


BLITZER: Excellent reporting by Arwa.

Coming up, searchers surround a rugged area where sources now say two escaped killers left behind DNA traces. And a source also now says suspected accomplice Joyce Mitchell has admitted hiding hacksaw blades in a chunk of hamburger meat.

After the racially motivated massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, southern lawmakers are now moving to drop the Confederate flag and retailers are banning Confederate merchandise.

I'll speak with Congressman Benny Thompson of Mississippi.


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Search intensifying. A flurry of new activity in the hunt for two escaped killers. And we have new details about critical clues they left behind in a hunting cabin. We're also now just learning of a shocking statement by a prison worker charged with helping them escape.

Confederate controversy. A passionate new push to remove the Confederate battle flag from South Carolina's capital and Mississippi state flag as some of the country's largest retailers announced they'll no longer sell merchandise bearing the emblem. I'll talk about the raging debate with the Mississippi congressman and the mayor of Charleston, South Carolina.