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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham; CENTCOM's Twitter Account Hacked; Interview With State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf; Al Qaeda's Recruiter in Europe Linked to Attacks
Aired January 12, 2015 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now: Pro-ISIS cyber-attackers target U.S. military's Central Command and threaten American troops, posting ominous new video and Twitter messages. Are terrorist sleeper cells now being activated in the United States? I will ask the State Department's deputy spokeswoman.
Plus, police hunt for accomplices in the Paris terror attacks. We're getting new information about possible suspects who may be at large.
And on the trail of the terrorists, what the U.S. knew about the terrorist attackers and when. Were early warnings of their plans for a massacre missed?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, chilling threats against Americans claiming to come from ISIS only days after the terror in Paris. Cyber-attackers brazenly break into social media sites of the U.S. military's Central Command. That's an elite command, a nerve center of the war against ISIS.
They are warning U.S. troops to watch their backs, posting their personal information and suggesting their families may be in danger.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is standing by. He's a key member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, along with our team of analysts and our correspondents. They are covering all the breaking news right now.
First, let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She's joining us with the very latest -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, good evening. The FBI has now stepped into the matter investigating, along with the military, was a pro-ISIS group responsible for the hacks into the U.S. Central Command's social media accounts?
STARR (voice-over): The hijacked Central Command account reads, "The cyber-caliphate continues its cyber-jihad." The posts continue. But is group the cyber-caliphate really ISIS ?
MARK RASCH, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It could have been anybody. It doesn't really matter that much that it was ISIS. It does matter that a group calling itself ISIS is taking credit for it. The goal here is to cause fear and overreaction. We need to react appropriately to it, but not overreact to it.
STARR: The tweets threaten U.S. troops and their families, including posting the document with names and addresses of U.S. military officials and documents related to North Korea and China.
"American soldiers, we are coming, watch your back, we know everything about you, your wives, your children," the hackers warn. The cyber- attack comes as ISIS has re-released a video calling for attacks on U.S. targets, including the military. The Pentagon says so far, it does not appear anything classified was posted and one U.S. military official said, some of the information has already appeared online elsewhere.
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I can tell you this is something that we're looking into and something that we take seriously. However, just a note of caution to folks as they're covering this story. There is a pretty significant difference what is a large data breach and the hacking of a Twitter account.
STARR: The FBI is assisting the military with the investigation of the hacking of both its Twitter and YouTube accounts.
It's the latest in a string of online hacks by people claiming to be ISIS. Last week, several local media organizations had their accounts hacked and similar threats were posted. And all of this comes as ISIS in the wake of the Paris attacks is also finding itself targeted online. The hacker group Anonymous says it is targeting ISIS.
RASCH: What's more concerning is not what they actually stole and posted; it's what they might have stolen and what they might be able to steal in the future.
STARR: The attack on Central Command came just as the president took to the stage to push for greater cyber-security. As the hackers were posting the threats, the White House was sending out a message from the president on its own Twitter account. "If we're going to be connected, then we need to be protected."
STARR: Now, the Pentagon is pointing out of course that its Twitter and YouTube accounts are hosted on commercial servers. It insists that it's classified computer systems, its classified information online still remains entirely safe. At least they hope so -- Wolf.
BLITZER: But they are worried about the fact that the names of senior military officers and their families were posted online.
STARR: Well, they are very worried about this whole trend right now in social media of what you are mentioning as well as even young troops, posting information online on their Facebook accounts, their Twitter that may be identifying information about where they live, what they do, where their families are, how to contact them. This is a big concern. They have been warning the troops for months to be very careful about what they post online.
And today you saw another example when whoever hacked into this posted indeed some information about senior -- more senior military officers -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Barbara, thank you.
Let's get to the Paris terror attacks. Now 18,000 French soldiers and police, they're fanning out across France right now. They are hunting for possible accomplices and guarding against any new threats. The French prime minister system he has no doubt there's at least one accomplice who may still be at large.
Let's go to our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto. He's joining us live from Paris.
What else you got, Jim?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that's been a lingering question since the gunmen stormed the offices of "Charlie Hebdo" just down the street from me here last Wednesday. Were there others involved who are still at large? The prime minister confirming today, yes, very likely, as you say, there were accomplices.
AP reporting, quoting police sources, that perhaps as many as six tied to the plot still at large. Today, we found very hard proof that at least one of those tide managed to escape the country before the attacks.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): This is surveillance footage showing Hayat Boumeddiene, companion of the kosher shop attacker, Amedy Coulibaly, entering Turkey from Madrid just five days before the attacks. Accompanied by an unknown man, she hands her passport to an immigration officer and continues on her way. From telephone logs, Turkish authorities say she stayed in a hotel, then crossed into Syria January 8, one day before the siege.
Today, French authorities made clear she is not the only suspected accomplice still at large.
MANUEL VALLS, FRENCH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): There was complicity and networks and maybe finance also. I don't really believe in the idea of a lone wolf.
SCIUTTO: Which terror group, if any, ordered these attacks remains a mystery. Kosher shop attacker Amedy Coulibaly pledges allegiance to ISIS in a video circulating on jihadi Web sites with a chilling warning for the West. AMEDY COULIBALY, ATTACKER (through translator): You attack the
caliph, you attack ISIS, we attack you.
SCIUTTO: However, U.S. officials believe at least one of the gunmen in the attack on "Charlie Hebdo," Said Kouachi, trained in Yemen with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, and may have met with one of the group's leaders, the radical American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, before he was assassinated in a U.S. drone strike in 2011.
Today, France remains on its highest alert level, with officials concerned that additional terror sleeper cells may have been activated.
JEAN-YVES LE DRIAN, FRENCH DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): The president of France asked the armed forces to help secure vulnerable areas of France due to the scale of the threats which exist for our country.
SCIUTTO: Police now investigating a group of young men who met in Paris under the guise of jogging. They were being radicalized. That includes both the "Charlie Hebdo" attackers, Amedy Coulibaly. They are also looking at others who were radicalized while in prison.
These are some of the networks tonight police are scouring to make sure that they can get all those involved in this attack. Wolf, but the assumption among police is that there are others, that they are still at large, and that's one of the reasons for that enormous police and military presence around the country tonight.
BLITZER: Yes, a manhunt continues, enormous one, indeed. Jim Sciutto, thank you.
We are learning more about the girlfriend of the attacker at the kosher supermarket and her relationship with her now dead boyfriend. Is it possible she convinced him, she convinced him to embrace radical Islam?
Our anchor, Jake Tapper, is in Paris. He is digging into this part of the story.
Jake, tell our viewers what you have learned.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, earlier today, we spoke at length with the former defense attorney for Amedy Coulibaly. And this man represented Coulibaly through many years of criminal charges. Coulibaly had been embracing Islam in prison, having been there, been sent there for five armed robbery convictions as well as a drug conviction.
And he came to know an Algerian terrorist who was in prison for trying to destroy, trying to blow up the U.S. Embassy in 2001. It is this other terrorist, this other mentor who brought him together with one of the Kouachi brothers while in prison. But what's interesting is, this man was being -- his name, if I can
say, is Djamel Beghal. And Beghal had snuck a cell phone into prison or had one snuck in for him. Authorities knew about it. French authorities knew about it and they let him keep it because they wanted to listen to his calls.
At one point, they were listening and they heard Hayat Boumeddiene, this now wanted girlfriend of county, and they heard him complaining about Coulibaly, saying he's not serious enough, all he was interested is having fun. In another conversation, she said she...
BLITZER: Unfortunately, I think we have lost our connection with Jake. We will try to reconnect. But you get the point that the authorities, at least some of the authorities now suspect she was more involved in recruiting him, Amedy Coulibaly. We are talking about Hayat Boumeddiene, the girlfriend of this terrorist killed who was killed at the kosher supermarket.
We will reconnect with Jake and get more. Stand by for that.
In the meantime, let's bring in the State Department's deputy spokeswoman, Marie Harf. She's joining us from the State Department right now.
Marie, thanks very much for joining us.
Is it the working assumption there are other accomplices in the terror cell at large right now?
MARIE HARF, SPOKESWOMAN, STATE DEPARTMENT: That's certainly something we're working very closely with the French on.
We are looking at every possible lead to see who may have helped them, who may have helped radicalize them, but also who may have helped them with the attack. That investigation is ongoing. But as the French have said, we should assume that there are. We are running down all those leads right now.
BLITZER: Is this an ISIS operation or was it an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula operation?
HARF: Well, unfortunately, I think in today's world, some of these terrorists are radicalized and inspired by several different groups, and it's not just one or the other.
We have talked about if it turns out they had gone to Yemen and met with AQAP and gotten training there, that's obviously very concerning. But we also know that they have spoke been ISIS and looking to them. It's not as clear cut as that anymore. All of these groups have the ability still I think to radicalize people.
BLITZER: There's a report now that the man -- and you just heard just Jake starting to talk about it a little bit -- al Qaeda's chief reporter in Europe, this Djamel Beghal, that he played a role in recruiting these guys. What do you know about that? HARF: The intelligence community, Wolf, is looking into all of that
right now. We had had information about these brothers and about their travel that we have been sharing with the French.
But we're going to continue looking at it. I think, Wolf, really the longer-term question here, beyond what was responsible for this attack, this horrific attack, is how people become radicalized. How did these two brothers end up going on such a horrific killing spree? That's part of the longer-term challenge when we talk about countering this kind of violent extremism that's a lot tougher, quite frankly.
But we're working with the French and others on it. We will have a summit at the White House soon on it as well.
BLITZER: You heard Senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, say there could be some sleeper cells here in the United States right now as well. What can you tell us about that?
HARF: Well, my law enforcement colleagues I think put out a statement today saying we have no specific and credible threat information indicating there's a threat like the one we saw in Paris in the homeland right now.
But they are very vigilant because we know it's hard to detect sleeper cells. But we're committed to trying to see if there are other possible threats out there, but nothing to indicate it at this point.
BLITZER: Here is something that worries me. I will let you react. You saw the video of Hayat Boumeddiene, the girlfriend of this terrorist who killed those people, those four young men at that supermarket in Paris.
She was in Turkey. There's a close-circuit Turkish passport control video. There it is right there. She got into Turkey and then from Turkey she supposedly went on to Syria to connect with ISIS. Turkey is a NATO ally. She was well-known to international counterterror authorities. How does this happen?
HARF: I think it just underscores how really tough the challenge is of closing these borders to Syria. And we have worked closely with the Turkish government to improve their ability to do so. I think it just shows the problem with foreign fighters not just coming in, but also coming out.
It's something we continue to work with the Turks on, but other countries in the region as well, because these are very long borders. They're very porous in places. And I think there's still a lot of questions about what kind of documents she was traveling on. Obviously, this is something we're very concerned about, though.
BLITZER: Are you leaning toward this being an al Qaeda operation or an ISIS operation? Clearly, not simply a couple or three guys who were as they say lone wolves who were just inspired by some terror magazine. This was a very sophisticated, highly planned operation. There may be other accomplices still at large. HARF: They clearly had significant training. All you have to do is
look at that video of how they used the weapons to know that they had some.
And we're looking into all of that right now. It may turn out that they had training from a certain terrorist group, but it took a few years for them to be inspired by a different terrorist group. Those are all unknowns right now. I think that's the longer-term challenge. Right?
We're looking at this group of people who may have gone to train. What in 2015 caused them to finally pick this time as when they would undertake this attack? There are a lot of unknowns right now. A lot of things are very difficult to know in advance of these attacks when you are talking about such a small cell. But we're working with the French on it. We're working with our law enforcement intelligence counterparts to do better.
BLITZER: All right, Marie Harf, I want you to stand by. We have more to discuss, including your boss, John Kerry. Why didn't he go to Paris to participate in that rally with all of these French leaders and world leaders who were there? We know the president didn't go. The Secret Service apparently didn't want him to go. But we will talk about that.
Stay with us, Marie. We will be right back.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news.
A man identified as al Qaeda's chief recruiter in Europe now has been directly, directly connected to two of the Paris terrorists. It's unclear where the man is now, according to a Western official source familiar with the investigation.
We are back with the State Department's deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf. We're talking about the Paris terror attacks, the hunt under way right now for possible accomplices.
Do you have any clue at all, Marie, where this chief recruiter might be? He is apparently on the loose someplace.
HARF: Well, I know my intelligence community colleagues are working with theirs in France and elsewhere to see what we know. Obviously, there's ongoing investigations right now.
BLITZER: The White House today did something extraordinary.
They admitted they made a mistake when they didn't send a high-level U.S. official to represent the United States at that French rally in Paris on Sunday. We know the president didn't go. We know the vice president didn't go. Frankly, I was surprised that John Kerry, who speaks French, loves France, studied in France, why he didn't go, tell the Indians, for example -- he was in India meeting with Indian leadership -- you know what? Let me take a few hours off. Let me go represent the United States on the streets of Paris.
Was that a mistake?
HARF: Well, look, the White House has spoken to the fact we should have sent a higher-ranking official.
But when it comes to Secretary Kerry, as soon as he heard about the march, he asked his team if there were any way that he could be there. Unfortunately, there wasn't. We had committed to doing this economic summit with Prime Minister Modi, an incredibly close partner, economic partner, an event that had been planned for a very long time and setting up the president's trip to India.
So, unfortunately, because of the time and how far India is from France, he wasn't able to be there. But he is absolutely looking forward to going on Thursday. He spoke directly in French to the French people the day of the attack, so has very much stood in solidarity with the French people. If there were a way for him to be there, he absolutely would have been.
BLITZER: But even the White House now acknowledges it was a mistake that only the U.S. ambassador to France was there. It was awkward, right?
HARF: We agree we should have had higher-level representation. Again, unfortunately, there was no way for Secretary Kerry to be there.
I think you and everyone else knows as well as anyone that if there's a way for him to get to Paris, usually under better circumstances, but in this case, he would have been there, looking forward to going Thursday. We have a number of way we have stood in solidarity with the French people. Certainly, the relationship is not defined by any one march, no matter how important, and this was an important one.
It's not defined by any one moment. It's a longstanding, the oldest alliance we have.
BLITZER: Speaking of awkward, let's talk a little bit about the U.S. military's Central Command. Their YouTube page, their Twitter account were compromised today supposedly by some ISIS sympathizer, very embarrassing diplomatically for the United States around the world right now that the elite military Central Command, which is responsible for fighting terror in Iraq, in Syria, in Yemen, all over the Middle East and South Asia, that the U.S. military's Central Command was hacked the way it was, Twitter and YouTube accounts.
How do you -- how could this happen?
HARF: Well, unfortunately, there are hackers out there who may be working for one cause or the other who can unfortunately get into social media sites, even those owned by the government. Obviously, this is something that is very concerning. I know the FBI is looking at it. None of the classified information that CENTCOM has was compromised. But of course this is a serious breach. And we're looking at how it happened and hopefully how we can prevent it in the future.
BLITZER: But sensitive information was compromised, including the names and family members, addresses of senior military personnel.
HARF: Well, as I think they have said, they have spoken to, no classified information was -- these are social media sites, which may have some personal information on them.
This is -- certainly was not a good thing that happened. But we're looking into how it happened. And, unfortunately, in the world of social media, the more you are out there, and the more that you are engaging with the public around the world, sometimes, it opens you up to risk. And what we try do is mitigate that risk. We're going to see how this happened and see if we can mitigate it even more.
BLITZER: All right. Marie Harf, thanks very much for joining us.
Marie Harf is the deputy spokesperson or woman at the State Department.
Marie, thanks very much.
Up next, new details of the Paris terror attack and the hunt for at least one accomplice under way right now. We will be back live in the French capital. Stay with us.
Also, what U.S. intelligence knew about the three terrorists who waged the deadly terror attacks. We're getting new information from our sources.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news in the Paris terror attacks.
A man identified as al Qaeda's recruiter in Europe now has been directly connected to two of the Paris terrorists. A Western intelligence source familiar with the investigation also says it's unclear where that man is right now.
Let's go back to Paris. Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is joining us.
What's the latest you are hearing about this, Jim?
SCIUTTO: Well, this man
BLITZER: ... directly connected to the Paris terrorists. A western intelligence source familiar with the investigation also says it's unclear where that man is right now.
Let's go back to Paris. Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is joining us.
What's the latest you're hearing about this, Jim?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, this man, Jamal Begal (ph), al Qaeda's top recruiter in Europe. This further substantiates the connection between attacks last week and al Qaeda. Very concerning. We already heard from the "Charlie Hebdo" gunmen. They claimed a tie to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. This draws a line to core al Qaeda back in Pakistan.
But it also raises questions about Begal (ph) himself, because he was not just a recruiter. He was in prison in France for a plot to blow up the U.S. embassy here in France but then later released into house arrest. Not clear where he is right now. That raises questions about who was allowed to operate in France despite clear evidence that they had ties to terrorism, which has been an issue, of course, with both the "Charlie Hebdo" attackers and Amedy Coulibaly. They had histories. The brothers, the Kouachi brothers had been under surveillance. They were taken off surveillance. Why was that?
There's going to be an investigation under way as to why that was allowed to happen. But now you have yet another hard link to terrorism, a missed warning here, Wolf, that's going to raise additional questions about how the French handled these terror threats.
BLITZER: Yes. There are a lot of questions that have been raised. A lot of lessons that have to be learned.
Jim Sciutto, stand by.
Let's get some more. Let's bring in Congressman Jane Harman, the former U.S. congresswoman. She was a key member of the House Homeland Security Committee. She now leads the Wilson Center in Washington. Also, our national security analyst, Peter Bergen; our counterterrorism analyst Philip Mudd; Philip Crowther, the Washington correspondent for the French news channel France 44; and our law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes.
Phil Mudd, this woman, Hayat Boumeddiene, she wasn't just a girlfriend, apparently. She was very much involved as a terrorist and may have been more involved than even her boyfriend, Amedy Coulibaly, according to these late-breaking reports. She managed to get to Turkey in recent days. We believe she's now with ISIS in Syria someplace. This is extremely disturbing information.
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: There's a couple things you need to think about. First is the complexity of this investigation is more significant than most of the investigations I witnessed in the United States. We're talking about links to Iraq and Yemen going back, you know, five, ten years.
You just talked about a recruiter who's been around in Europe for years. You're talking about two simultaneous operations in Paris. The possibility that there's someone else out there at the periphery of this cell who's still out there thinking, "Hey, the noose is tightening, I'd better do something now," I think that's pretty significant.
However, Wolf, this lady herself, I don't think we will ever see her again. There's a chance she'll show up on a propaganda video. But now that she's gone over into Syria and Iraq, I think she'll never come home again. She might be killed by Syrian military operations. She might be killed by fighting among factions. She might be killed by a U.S. drone or U.S. airstrike. Once she's gone over there, I think she's done. I don't think she poses a threat, because I don't think she'll come home alive.
BLITZER: Well, let me follow up now with Tom Fuentes. She goes to Turkey, a NATO ally. She's well-known to international counterterrorism authorities. They've got video of her going through passport control. Then she goes into Turkey and disappears into Syria. What's going on in Turkey?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I think, Wolf, that she wasn't wanted at the time that she showed up there. And just the fact that the intelligence services know about her doesn't mean that they put her in the computer system and so some officer at passport control would have known about it to stop her.
But if I could add to what Phil Mudd just said, the complexity, the gal in Paris being tied to this plot and tied to the U.S. embassy bombing plot in the same week of 9/11, 2001. That was supposed to happen. Seven countries in Europe had al Qaeda cells that were part of that plot, and later prosecutions were done in Belgium, the Netherlands and in Paris. Most of the subjects got ten years or less.
But had that plot not been unfoiled (ph) and had those intelligence and police services not been working with the U.S., with the FBI, we would have had our embassy bombed the same week as the 9/11 attack here in the United States.
BLITZER: Yes. He was convicted of a plot to blow up the United States embassy in Paris. He spent, what, four years in jail. Then they released him to house arrest in 2009, which is when you think about it, pretty shocking.
But let's bring in Philip Crowther, French TV -- France 24. Philip, what's the latest you're hearing about accomplices, a broader cell that is being hunted for in France right now?
PHILIP CROWTHER, FRANCE 24: Well, there's talk of all sorts of sleeper cells or at least some single suspects who might have been part of sleeper cells or might be part of them right now. The problem with these sleeper cells is, of course, they are asleep. They're not visible. That is why we're seeing such an enormous amount of U.S. -- of French military personnel on the streets of France. Not only of Paris. Up to 10,000 soldiers will be on the streets of Paris and other cities of France by Tuesday morning.
That is, of course, to protect institutions. According to the defense minister, these are sensitive areas. He's not saying exactly what kind of places these are. But they certainly include Jewish schools and synagogues. If sleeper cells do become awake, that is, of course, the kind of
place they might be going. These are the French authorities clearly saying what possible targets could be in the future, if indeed, there are any. That's what the French police and the military are doing now.
This is unprecedented, by the way, this large amount of camouflaged military personnel on the streets of French cities. The French people don't necessarily like uniforms all that much. But this time around, they are ready to see them. This is a country that is pretty nervous and afraid of any possible copycat attacks or these sleeper cells, indeed, making an appearance.
BLITZER: We're told some 700 Jewish schools and institutions across France, they are being protected right now with special security.
Peter Bergen, if officials are looking for terrorist cells right now that have been truly activated, what do they look for? How do they deal with this?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think the main person they truly must be looking for is the person who shot the video of Coulibaly, who pledged allegiance to ISIS.
Somebody shot that video. Somebody edited that video. Somebody put it online and clearly is deeply involved in this conspiracy. So the first order of business is to find who this person is.
BLITZER: How difficult will that be?
BERGEN: I don't know. I mean, it's hard to tell. Presumably, they would have the information about which site it was uploaded to. They might be some digital fingerprints that could put them to a particular Internet cafe or particular house that might be lead them to this person. But this person may have also hid behind some kind of proxy when he uploaded the video. So it might be very difficult. It might be easy. I just have no idea.
BLITZER: Jane Harman, Senator Dianne Feinstein suggested on CNN yesterday that there may be sleeper cells here in the United States right now. That is extremely worrisome.
JANE HARMAN, WILSON CENTER: Well, that's been our assumption for years. Complexity is the new normal. And it's not just going to take police action to figure this out. Although I commend the French police for doing what they're doing. And I commend the FBI for trying -- and the Homeland Security Department for keeping us safe here.
We also have to build trust with Muslim communities, because they're going to figure out -- people are going to figure out that their own children or their own neighbors are involved in something weird. And if they trust law enforcement, they will reveal some of this.
And in addition to that, we have to use social media as aggressively as the bad guys are using it to recruit. We have to have counter -- a counter narrative that sells the fact that what they're doing is bad. It's not -- it's not consistent with Islam. And that what the west offers and "je suis Charlie" is really a value set that should be embraced by the Muslim community. And we have to do a better job of that.
So I -- I don't just see this as having people in camouflage walking on every street. Then we're going to build the police state that we are obviously trying to protect against. I see that as a piece of what's necessary but more necessary, it seems to me, is building trust and having a counter narrative.
BLITZER: Yes. That's going to be a major, major challenge but an important one. Jane Harman and everyone else, stand by.
Up next, what U.S. intelligence has picked up about the terrorists as American law enforcement goes on alert. We're going to talk about that and more with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. He's standing by to join us live.
BLITZER: The Department of Homeland Security is expanding tougher security measures at federal buildings, government buildings in the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks.
U.S. law enforcement officials, they are now on alert for the possibility of similar attacks here in the United States as they pore over every new detail about the slaughter that occurred in France.
Let's bring in our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown. What are you learning, Pamela?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, in the wake of Paris attacks and what we saw there, the fact that ISIS is now trying to capitalize on the momentum of what we saw in Paris. DHS is asking law enforcement here in the U.S. to stay on a heightened state of vigilance.
Also, DHS is boosting security at buildings in more cities.
BROWN (voice-over): With an ISIS flag behind him, and a rifle at his side, alleged killer in the kosher market siege, seen here in video that emerged over the weekend, pledges allegiance to ISIS.
A senior U.S. law enforcement official tells CNN Amedy Coulibaly was in the U.S. government's terrorist database known as TIDE "for a while," but it's not certain if he was on the no-fly list.
The Coulibaly video surfaced just as ISIS tweeted out a video, urging jihadis go out and attack government officials and civilians in Canada, the U.S., Australia and France. Law enforcement officials say the terrorist group is trying to galvanize supporters in the wake of the Paris attacks.
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: This is the nature of the new threat that we must confront.
BROWN: In response, the FBI and DHS sent out a warning urging law enforcement officials across the country to stay on a heightened state of alert. And the NYPD sent out a city-wide warning.
DEPUTY COMM. JOHN MILLER, NEW YORK POLICE: What you see with the threat is a call for a wider audience through their Twitter capabilities, through their Internet reach, through the videos to say, we want more people to engage in low tech/low cost/high yield attacks with whatever they can put together.
BROWN: Law enforcement officials say it's not yet clear if the Paris suspects were directed or just influenced by ISIS or al Qaeda to carry out this low tech/low cost attacks. Whether or not there could be similar type attacks in the U.S., U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein raised alarm bells when she said this on CNN Sunday.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I think there are sleeper cells not only in France but certainly in other countries and, yes, even in our own.
BROWN: A senior U.S. law enforcement source I spoke with today said there's no evidence of sleeper cells in the U.S. But, of course, it is possible there are people that they are not aware of who are plotting an attack. That is the big concern in law enforcement, Wolf.
Meantime, the Department of Homeland Security saying that it has no specific credible intelligence of an attack of the kind in Paris last week being planned by terrorist organizations in this country -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Pamela Brown, thank you.
Let's get some more. Joining us, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is a key member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Senator, I know you're extremely worried. You have said, expect more attacks. U.S. Intelligence at least in part is eroding. Do you believe there are sleeper cells in the United States plotting against America right now?
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: I would assume that there are. If we knew where they were at, we would do something about it. A sleeper cell is a group of people who have had training that have migrated here, looking for some orders to attack. A lone wolf is a self-radicalized person that's kind of always there to be worried about.
But MI5 said it better than I could. The chief of MI5 said that major casualty events can be expected throughout the Western world, including the United States. And I take him at his word.
BLITZER: So, when you call a sleeper cell is what happened had Paris, even the 19 hijackers on 9/11.
GRAHAM: Right, absolutely.
BLITZER: 9/11 was a sleeper cell as well.
GRAHAM: Absolutely. And, obviously, we didn't know about those guys.
But this fortress France and America is not going to work. It is part of the strategy, but we have to go after them. We're on defense. We need to take the fight to these guys.
President Obama's strategy to eradicate and destroy ISIL is never going to work without a ground component. And I don't see this happening during the next two years, unless you get a ground component to complement the air component. And if the French government is really serious about being at war with the terrorists, let's form an international coalition, let's go help the Iraqis in Iraq and let's help the Free Syrian Army, what's left of them in Syria, and take it to these guys on the ground.
BLITZER: I don't sense that's going to happen. Do you?
GRAHAM: Well, then, we're really not at war with them. No, I don't either. I think it's all talk. It's sad, it's heartbreaking, but you're never going to protect America, France, or any other nation as long as you have this kind of passive policy. You've got to take the fight to these guys. You've got to dig them out in Syria. You've got to dig them out in Iraq. And you've got to hold the ground once you take it.
BLITZER: And you don't believe air strikes, drone strikes, F-16 air strikes, that could get the job done?
GRAHAM: Not in the least. The Iraqi army is trying to reconstitute. You've got good fighters in the Kurds. But to take Mosul back, it's 10 times larger Fallujah, which was in Anbar province. When we liberated Fallujah from al Qaeda in Iraq back in 2007, '08 and '09, in that time period, we had 8,000 Marines and the Army helping the Anbar Sunni tribal members.
There's no way on God's green earth you're going to take Mosul back with the Iraqi army and Kurds without some international help. And when you look over the border to Syria, there's no ground component. If you trained the Free Syrian Army and you send them into Syria without dealing with Assad's air power, they're going to get slaughters.
So, the president has no vision, no strategy, is trying to run out the clock and pass this problem on to the next person. And that's very bad news for us.
BLITZER: CNN is reporting, Senator, that a man identified as al, Qaeda's chief recruiter in Europe, a man by the name of Djamel Beghal, he is directly connected to two of the Paris terrorists.
Here is the question: If that is true, does that suggest al Qaeda is stronger right now than a lot of people thought it would be? GRAHAM: Oh, absolutely. This narrative that bin Laden is dead, al
Qaeda is decimated is a false narrative. Look, there are more terrorist organizations that exist today with more safe havens with more capabilities, with more weapons, more people, with more money to attack the American homeland than before 9/11.
Pulling out of Iraq against sound military advice, not going, not providing air cover to the Free Syrian Army and help train them three or four years ago when it would matter and leaving Libyan in shambles after Gadhafi failed, has allowed these groups to be stronger than ever. They are much stronger than ever.
The operative word when it comes to terrorism is "more". There are more of them with more capability.
BLITZER: The other news today, and it's so shocking, that the U.S. military's elite Central Command, you've been in the military for a long time. You served in the Air Force.
The Central Command, which is responsible for all of the Middle East, South Asia, North Africa, if you will, they deal with Iraq and Syria and Yemen and al Qaeda, that's their responsibility. Their Twitter account was hacked. Their YouTube account was hacked. Sensitive information about senior military officers and their families, that information was leaked, maybe not classified information.
But how awkward, how awful is this?
GRAHAM: Let's say propaganda coup for them is more embarrassing for them than it's a national security threat but it should be a wakeup call between this and Sony. America doesn't have a sound cybersecurity defense. Congress has failed.
I beat on the president. I think he deserves a lot of criticism for letting terrorism rise and al Qaeda come back so strong, but the Congress is cutting the budget at the NSA, CIA, the FBI, the Department of Defense. We can't agree on a cybersecurity bill.
So, we share a lot of the blame by making America weaker against cyber threats and we're reducing our intelligence capability to detect the next attack by allowing our budgets to be cut at a time when we need more capability, not less.
BLITZER: And you don't want the Department of Homeland Security budget to be held hostage to the president's executive order on immigration, right?
GRAHAM: You got that right. I don't mind fighting the part of the budget that implements the executive order, but to my Republican colleagues, we're playing with fire here. We need a robust Homeland Security budget now.
But between 2016 and 2020, we're going to cut the DOD budget to have the smallest Navy since 1915, the smallest Army since 1940. We're really gutting the NSA, the CIA, the FBI -- all of the intelligence eyes and ears are beginning to be deaf and blind because of sequestration.
My number one mission in 2015 is to replace these cuts to our defense budget and intelligence community before it's too late.
BLITZER: Senator Graham, thanks for joining us.
GRAHAM: Thank you.
BLITZER: More breaking news coming up. We have the latest on the Paris terror attacks, the ISIS cyber attack supposedly on the U.S. military.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news in the Paris terror attacks.
A man identified as al Qaeda's recruiter in Europe now has been directly connected to two of the Paris terrorists. A Western intelligence source familiar with the investigation also says it's unclear where the man is right now. A manhunt is underway.
Philip Mudd, might ISIS and AQAP be coordinating efforts in these attacks? What do you believe?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: We've got to separate out what ISIS and what AQAP think at the leadership level. There is rivalry between them. That is confused the conversation, Wolf, about what's happened in Paris.
A couple of people get trained, they come home. Years later, they conduct an attack.
I think the leadership in Iraq and Yemen talks about the conflict they have at the leadership level. I think the operators we've seen in France, they don't care. They come home. They say we have simple sympathetic views, we want a coordinate attacks.
I think they operated together without having coordinated guidance from their leadership in Yemen and Iraq.
BLITZER: Peter Bergen, what do you think?
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: I agree with Phil. The dispute between the ISIS leadership and al Qaeda leadership is what would be characterized as narcissism of minor differences. You know, certainly, these groups are very ideologically very similar. They are in a power struggle for control of a global jihadi movement.
What we saw in France is not an example of ISIS and al Qaeda coordinating in a formal sense. It is a sympathizer with ISIS and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as far as we know with the information we have right now.
BLITZER: Tom Fuentes, if there are sleeper cells in the United States, take us behind the scenes. What might the FBI be doing about it?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, they will be looking at every possible record of them. And, you know, one of the things -- when these threat warnings go out, Wolf, and they say, we know of no credible threat, well, they wouldn't tell you if they did know. They would go disrupt it, they'd go arrest them, or put a full court press on that group.
But the idea is that the warnings have gone out. The attempt to activate the cells has gone out months before now, not just the recent ones, and so that effort has already been underway and has been underway for a long time.
BLITZER: Has that effort in your opinion, Phil, been undermined by some of the more restrictions that have gone into surveillance right now?
MUDD: I don't think so. I think we're going to be learning a lot about this attack and about, for example, the avenues of travel these attackers took to places like Yemen to determine if we've seen the same patterns in the United States.
I think the frustrating thing I see here, Wolf, is people saying, how do we stop this? We've seen attacks against the parliament in Ottawa. We saw an attempt recently against police officers in New York. We've seen attacks against transportation --
BLITZER: All right.
MUDD: -- in London and Madrid.
Now, we're having a conversation in the post-Snowden era about how we increase security. I think we got to step back and say, you know, the world is difficult.
BLITZER: We got to leave it there, guys. Thanks very much for watching.
BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.