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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
TSA: Multiple Agents Shot, One Killed At LAX; Interview with Rep. Loretta Sanchez
Aired November 1, 2013 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: We're not ready with that sound yet? Apologize. So Shawn, an individual who had problems with TSA seeking to target, is it also possible and also Tom and Mary Ellen, I want to talk to you about this, is it also possible this person may have had the intention of getting on an airplane, if he was walking down the terminal?
SHAWN HENRY, FORMER EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, FBI (via telephone): Well, you certainly don't know. You've got somebody who stopped at the initial checkpoint, pull a weapon out of their bag and certainly that's something, talking about a long gun, that would have been identified going through the magnetometer. It would have been identified through that initial security check.
So I think that gives further rise to believe that this individual may have been targeting individuals, particularly when you look at specific TSA officials who were shot. That's got to be something law enforcement will focus in on.
TAPPER: We know one was killed and a few were wounded. We will go to right now to President Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Obviously we have been monitoring and we're concerned about it, but I'll let the law enforcement folks talk about it directly. All right, thank you, everybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: President Obama briefly commenting on the shooting at LAX saying he's monitoring it. They're concerned about it, but he's going to let law enforcement speak to this. Tom Fuentes, CNN law enforcement analyst and former FBI assistant director, let's talk about the fact that this is the closest that somebody like this has gotten to a cockpit as far as we know, I guess there was a shooting at LAX. In 2002, but that person didn't get past the ticket counter. The closest a person like this has gotten to the cockpit since 9/11.
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Right. The question here would be, the police officer that shoots him and stops him, therefore stops the attack, what happens if that officer's not there or that officer can't shoot straight or this guy kills the officer before he gets shot, and moves on, where was he going.
Looking at a diagram of the cluster of gates that he was approaching, typically if aircraft are at those gates and they are disembarking passengers or loading passengers, as that's happening, the cockpit is sitting there open. All that security that's designed for a plane in flight is not yet in play because the door is open, the pilots are going through pre-flight checklists. The crew is helping passengers get on or get off the aircraft.
Again, maybe he was just looking for his 15 minutes of fame, but he sure would have been even more famous if he actually gets his way into the cockpit of an aircraft. Then you can theorize all beyond what could happen if this person gets on an aircraft.
TAPPER: Mary Ellen O'Toole, former senior FBI profiler, former FBI special agent, he seemed very mission-oriented, you were saying.
MARY ELLEN O'TOOLE, FORMER SENIOR FBI PROFILER: He did. And that's really a new term, that's a new phenomenon that we've seen. A mission-oriented shooter is someone who is almost like on a military mission. They come armed so that they can carry out if necessary maximum lethality and they take very high risk to carry out the shooting.
So your listeners may say that's crazy to think that you could go through security at LAX. But he's not being logical. He is committed to carrying out whatever his mission is, which again, I agree with Tom, the multiple -- the likelihood of multiple motives is very real here.
TAPPER: All right, we are going to take a very quick break. I will get the latest details on the shooting from Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez and we are also learning more about the shooter. Stay with us. Our breaking news coverage back in a few seconds.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. We're continuing CNN's breaking news coverage of the shooting at Los Angeles International Airport. Because of the Homeland Security measures put in place after September 11th, airports are considered to be some of the safest places in the country.
And yet, there you see on your television an image of after the carnage, a policeman, a still photograph of a policeman and what appears to be a semiautomatic rifle used allegedly by the shooter on the top there and on the bottom on the left-hand, images from Los Angeles airport obviously not so safe today.
What, if anything, could have been done to stop what happened today at LAX? That's a question that a lot of members of Congress are going to be asking in future days. Joining me now is California Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, a Democrat who represents the Orange County area. She's also a senior member of the House committee on HOMELAND SECURITY.
Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us. I understand you have been briefed. What have you learned?
REPRESENTATIVE LORETTA SANCHEZ (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, we know that the shooter was this 23-year-old American citizen, resident of the L.A. area, Paul Ciancia is the way you would pronounce his last name. That he went in, that he had -- was armed when he was stopped at the first initial place where you go to show your boarding pass to the TSA person and your I.D.
That's when he pulled out the weapon. That most likely, he was aiming at some of the TSA employees. Remember that our TSA employees, they're our officers, they are not armed. You can imagine if they were armed as angry as people sometimes get at these entry points, these security points, so we don't arm them.
Usually behind them, especially at LAX, which is the airport I use every week to fly back and forth to Washington, D.C., we generally have an officer back there. It is usually of the particular airport, we have various law enforcement there, we have LAWA, the airport police.
We have LAPD, who have a pod there. We have sheriff once in awhile there. Of course, we have our TSA officials and we also sometimes have FBI or special agents because of other things going on. In this particular case, he not only shot and killed a TSA employee, but he also wounded at two other TSA employees who are at the hospital now.
And of course, probably anywhere between two and four others who are at various hospitals. We also know that this young man was never a TSA employee.
TAPPER: That's been reported in other media outlets and you say and we have reported earlier today as well, this individual was not a TSA employee. Congresswoman, one thing I heard from people who fly in and out of LAX a lot is that it's very easy to get to the security checkpoint and there isn't as much security, it wouldn't have been that difficult for the shooter to get to that checkpoint. I'm not exactly sure what the complaint means. Maybe you can shed some light on it. Do you think this airport is fortified enough? Do you think it is safe and secure enough?
SANCHEZ: Well, at some point, you have to start the entry process, if you will, into being a passenger on a plane. Now, I fly quite a bit and I have flown to many, many airports internationally as well as our domestic ones, and I will tell you that almost everybody does it the same way.
In other words, to get to the terminals, you generally must enter the security point where you have somebody checking your I.D. to begin with and then you get to the place where you check your belongings, et cetera, that you're carrying on.
There are very few places, there are some places that check you first, put you on a bus and then take you to a terminal, but usually the entry point is done pretty much the same way in almost every airport I've been to. So I don't know how much more fortification one could have, in particular when you do have especially at LAX, at least in the terminals I have accessed.
You generally have a police officer right beyond the point where you go through after you've put your luggage or your carry-ons through. I don't know how much more people want us to fortify at the same time as the traveling public is telling us we're spending too much time there, we don't want to be in line, why are you checking me all the time. So it's always a balance of how you do commerce and how you try to keep people safe.
TAPPER: Congresswoman, I just want to have you repeat what you were briefed on by law enforcement as a senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee. You were told that the shooter is a 23 -- was a 23-year-old male or is a 23-year-old male and his name again was what?
SANCHEZ: Paul Ciancia, I believe, C-I-A-N-C-I-A, as I -- as it was described to me, and he is an L.A. area resident and obviously, we're trying to track down what will happen now and the FBI is heading the whole investigation even though there's, as I said, a pod of different law enforcement. They are now trying to figure out what he was doing before that so that we can have some information as to the intent and motive of what he was doing.
TAPPER: I'm about to bring in Evan Perez, our reporter at the Justice Department who has more information. Before I let you go, Congresswoman, have you been told during your briefing or from any other of your sources in your capacity as a member of the Homeland Security Committee, have you been told about any possible motive and have you also been told about whether or not the alleged shooter, 23- year-old Paul Ciancia, whether or not he is alive, whether or not he's in the hospital, his current status?
SANCHEZ: Not allowed to comment on his current status, although we have been told, and secondly, as to motive, we don't know other than the fact that at least the person who is dead, the victim, and at least two others were TSA employees. I don't know if that's because that's the barrier you have to get through before you can enter terminal three down into the actual hallway of the terminal, or whether in particular he was advancing towards TSA employees. We don't know that yet.
TAPPER: All right, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, thank you so much for joining us. Good to see you again. We will talk to you soon. I want to bring in Evan Peres very quickly. Give us this information you have. We will take a quick break after that and come back to you, but what is the information you have about possible motivation?
EVAN PERES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, right now, the FBI is still looking at the situation. They did recover some materials from the suspect and trying to figure out whether or not that perhaps describes some motivation. We understand there was some material that expressed some anti-government views, anti-federal government views.
I believe Shawn Henry on the air just a little while ago also described some anti-TSA expressions, perhaps. Again, this is all from the scene there and this is all early information. As with the name of the suspect, which the congresswoman just said on our air, this is again, they haven't done fingerprints.
They haven't gone through everything to make sure that it is indeed that person. As you know, sometimes this early information is often incorrect, but that's what we have to go on right now.
TAPPER: All right, Evan Peres, thank you so much. We will sneak in another quick break. Our breaking news coverage will continue. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN's breaking coverage. Welcome back to THE LEAD as well, continuing our coverage of the shooting at Los Angeles International Airport. Sources tell CNN that the shooter is a 23-year-old man. We continue to learn more about him.
We want to bring in an aviation security expert to talk about some of the recent issues at LAX including today's shooting. Rafi Ron is the former director of security at Tel Aviv's airport. Rafi, given what you know about airport security, given what you know about incidents at LAX both recently and in 2002, there was an incident, individuals killed at the El-Al ticket counter, are our airports here in the United States sufficiently ready for people coming in with guns?
RAFI RON, PRESIDENT OF NEW AGE SECURITY SOLUTIONS: I think that we invested a tremendous amount of effort in protecting aircraft after takeoff and relatively, we invested much less in protecting airports against ground attack. I want to remind you that back in the '70s, when the attacks against aviation were almost a weekly matter, many of those attacks were against airports, on the ground.
European airports from Paris to Munich to Athens to London to Vienna to Rome, all of them suffered ground attacks by terrorists at the time. So there's a lot that needs to be done. We did seem to have a very quick response this time in LAX.
And I think that this can be contributed to the fact that LAX already experienced an attack way back in 2002 by a single gunman at the El-Al counter and many lessons have been drawn but the question is, are these lessons also drawn in other airports around the country.
TAPPER: The question of course, why would airports be a target, it would be just because I guess a lot of people in one small confined area. Why else?
RON: I think airports have become an attractive target for terrorists, way beyond the logic. Aviation, the aviation system is a central system that we all rely upon, our economy, our freedom of movement. A lot of relying on the way the airports are functioning. If you are able to shut down an airport like LAX for half a day. That is something very dramatic and has a lot of consequences. So airports seem to be much more attractive than other targets at this point in time for terrorism. TAPPER: Rafi Ron, former director of security at Tel Aviv International Airport and the Israeli Airport Authority, thank you so much for coming in. We appreciate it.
We've got to get in another very quick break. Our breaking news coverage continues. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. We're continuing CNN's breaking news coverage of the shooting at Los Angeles International Airport. I want to bring in -- bring back Mary Ellen O'Toole, former senior profiler for the FBI along with CNN law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes, former assistant FBI director.
Mary Ellen, we have heard from Evan Peres that the 23-year-old suspect was found to have anti-federal government literature in his bag. This fits in with what you were talking about earlier, which is that individuals like this, they don't just snap despite common public misperceptions. There's a build up to this.
O'TOOLE: There's a build up and it's not -- this is not a rageful act. A rageful person, they're screaming and yelling. This is someone that's ruminated for a period of time and decided and planned it out and took precautions to get as much shooting done as he could, but I think the important thing is as the FBI goes out and investigates his background, they will identify people who will say yes, I did see something but I didn't really give it any significance. Those are called warning signs.
TAPPER: Warning signs. We've heard that about other individuals who have reacted horrifically, the Newtown shooter, aurora, et cetera. What can individuals do if they suspect somebody that they know is in a place where he may cause harm? You can't call the cops and say this guy is saying something mean.
O'TOOLE: It's not a matter of somebody saying something mean. It's a matter of someone having almost this obsession with let's say for example TSA, if that's part of his motivation, and he hates them, and he says things like I will get them, I will go in there and shoot up the place, that's called leakage.
Believe it or not, people will engage in leakage before one of these events. Then you factor in does he have access to weapons. That two combination right there, that two factor combination is enough for somebody to say you know what, I don't care if he's kidding or not kidding, let me call someone in law enforcement and let them vet that.
TAPPER: Tom, we were talking about the challenge of how difficult it is to have situations like this not take place in a country like this, not only because of the fact that guns are considered to be a right in the constitution but also just because it is such a big country and we fly more than any other country of comparable or larger size. FUENTES: Right. The sheer volume of passengers every day boarding aircraft, going through the security measures, is enormous. And you know, it doesn't take, what, one person with a gun to cause the kind of damage that we've seen today. So it's very difficult.
As Mary Ellen mentioned, the leakage, it's important for the public to know if you have somebody that's a friend or family member expressing bad thoughts, if you will, or ill will to the government or to another person, and also buying guns, also taking steps in furtherance of their bad thoughts, that's a danger sign and they need to alert someone.
TAPPER: Thank you so much. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer. He is in "THE SITUATION ROOM." He will continue with our live breaking news coverage -- Wolf.