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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Paris Terror Attacks: French Media Reporting Police Raids Across France; French Fighter Planes Target ISIS in Raqqa; Presidential Candidates Clash Over ISIS Strategy. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired November 15, 2015 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting. CNN's continuing live coverage of the Paris Terror Attacks.
Breaking this hour, French media reporting that anti-terrorist police units, they are carrying out raids across France right now, specifically around Toulouse, Grenoble, and Calais area seen as potential recruiting grounds for Jihadists. Potentially hundreds are involved in these raids. The operation apparently still unfolding as we meet and speak right now.
Also tonight, at least one very dangerous suspect is clearly on the loose reportedly slipping the grasp of a French police. We are learning that Salah Abdeslam was stopped and questioned while he was driving in the direction of the Belgium border but he was not, repeat, not, detained. A source telling CNN that happened only a few hours after the brutal attack, Friday night.
Meanwhile, France is striking back on ISIS unleashing a major round of air strikes on the terror group strong hold in Syria. 20 bombs were dropped on the city of Raqqa. France says all the target were destroyed and its planes returned safely to bases in Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.
Activists tell CNN that a stadium used by ISIS as both its headquarters and a jail was among the targets hit. The people of Paris, they are struggling right now with their grief, their fear. Memorials have sprung up at the scene of the attacks even though residents have been urged to stay off the streets.
President Obama, meanwhile, says the skies have been darkened by the attacks that have killed at least 129 people, and wounded more than 350 others. Paris, beginning to wake up right now just after 5:00 A.M. Nic Robertson is joining us from the scene.
Nic, what can you tell us about these raids that we're just learning about in the last few minutes reportedly happening right now in major cities across the country?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yeah, Wolf, these major cities are in quite geographically diverse places. You have Grenoble which is sort of south-central France. You have Toulouse which is southwestern France and you have Calais which is right in the north of France close to the English Channel.
What we understand, there are extensive police raids involving their specialist counterterrorism units, the RAID unit and the GIPN unit. These are specialist police forces who are used to and trained in counterterrorism measures.
They're very usually heavily armed. They have sophisticated equipment. They're going in the enlarge numbers. In Toulouse, being on the center may be 200 police involved in the raid there and of course viewers who remember Toulouse was the scene of the Radical Islamic Attack back in March 2012.
Mohamed Mira radicalized, inspired by al-Qaeda went on a gun rampage at a Jewish school and then killed French military service members who came to catch him. Seven people were killed then.
So this, Toulouse certainly will resonate with the French public here of why the French police are targeting a raid there, we don't know specifically why the police are targeting these different towns at the moment but what is very clear, these raids are coordinated. They're happening through the night here and they appear to be coordinated in a way such as not to tip off any other groups, cell members, whatever, that the police may be looking for, Wolf.
BLITZER: Nic Robertson, we're going to get back to you. Nic is watching what's going on in Paris. Paris, as I said, beginning to wake up slowly but surely right now, Nic.
Ivan Watson is joining us from Belgium -- Brussels in Belgium where there's a huge investigation under way right now. Police there have rounded up suspects. What's the latest, Ivan, you're learning?
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, at least two of the Paris attackers were residents of Belgium, of the capital of the European Union, Brussels, and another man who there's a manhunt under way for him, Salah Abdeslam. He was a Belgian-born man, 26 years old.
His brother is one of the attackers who was killed in Paris. He has a third -- a second brother who was arrested as part of a wave of arrests that took place here in Brussels on Sunday, at least seven people detained.
A top officials in the Belgium government are saying there is a major problem, particularly in one largely immigrant neighborhood, of this city which has had serious Jihadist activity in the past.
Belgium has a population of only 11 million people but it's had more than 400 suspected Jihadist, citizens who've gone to fight in the Middle East, and that is part of why authorities here are quite alarmed at the recurrence of Jihadi activism and terrorist activity from the small country that is in the heart of Europe, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Ivan, we're going to get back to you as well.
Meanwhile, military action escalating right now.
[23:05:02] French fighter planes revving up their engines earlier today, their destination, Raqqa in Syria. Their target, ISIS outposts. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is joining us from Irbil in Northern Iraq right now, not very far away.
Nick, what can you tells us? How much damage is it estimated these French air strikes did?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What we don't know at this stage the scale of the damage and actually we also don't really know precisely why the targets, the activists say on the ground were hit were chosen.
Now, activists from the group, Raqqa slaughtered silently, who do a very difficult job getting information out from the ISIS stronghold were frankly talking to outsiders can get you killed.
They say that amongst the targets was a building in there known as the stadium. That is a key building for ISIS in there. Many of these buildings no longer used, of course, for the title from the past but in the case of the stadium used as partially a jail, a headquarters.
Another building known as the museum and that is also used as a secret jail for ISIS and activists say ISIS, themselves, say well, you know, what you hit, there was nobody in there at all, but Raqqa still (inaudible) it's suggesting that in fact they have some time been preparing for the likelihood of air strikes that fighters being less visible on the street but I have to tell you, you know, this Raqqa, a stronghold that has been hit before but you have to ask precisely what intelligence it was provided by the U.S. potentially to the French that led to these targets being chosen.
If the U.S. were aware of them for the past weeks or so enough to be able to tell the French why was last night the night in which they were actually bombed unless it was because the French chose to take that move themselves.
So we will still in the hours and days ahead work out precisely what damage was done, but I think it's the volume of the strikes here, the 10 aircraft dropping 20 bombs of the 12 aircraft unit that was in the skies, launched from Jordan and the UAE A very defiant signal here from the French. We may well see more of this in the days ahead, Wolf.
BLITZER: I suspect we will. What about the Kurds, the Peshmerga? You were with them in recent days. They captured that formerly ISIS- held City of Sinjar. What's the latest? Are they getting ready to step up their military assault against ISIS as well?
WALSH: Well, Sinjar was key not only because of its symbolism, Wolf, you and I remember the damage done, the atrocities against the Yazidis who once lived there who were kicked out and brutalized by ISIS last year.
Well, the Peshmerga recapturing Sinjar that was key symbolically but it is also a vital strategically because Sinjar sits on a main road between Raqqa, the self-declared caliphate capital in Syria and Mosul in Iraq, another key city held by Isis. Slap on route 47, that main supply route between those two towns.
Now, the Peshmerga sat on that route and the leaders say they're facing toward Mosul potentially as another target. The key issue is, we've seen it ourselves, they've taken excavators in to cut huge trenches across that main highway, Earth Berms. It's pretty much impossible now. Now, that is key in escalating pressure against Raqqa.
We shouldn't get ahead of ourselves, Wolf, in all honesty because there's been a lot of talk for some time about pressure being ratcheted up against Raqqa. We've seen air strikes potentially intensified and months ago it seems coalition hitting targets in the ring around it to try to isolate that particular town but the ground forces simply aren't in place for that.
The Peshmerga proved their effectiveness in large numbers against Sinjar but can they duplicate that against Mosul and Raqqa? Tough in the weeks ahead, certainly, this could take months, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yeah, the Iraqi military certainly has to step up to the plate. So far they have not. All right, thanks very much Nick Paton Walsh reporting for us from Irbil in Northern Iraq.
Now, let's talk about what's going on, what's next in this entire operation. Joining us, our CNN National Security Analyst, the former CIA Operative, Bob Baer. Also joining us, out Law Enforcement Analyst, the former U.S. Marshal, Art Roderick.
Now, Bob, do you think any specific intelligence prompted these latest raids that are happening across France right now, these anti-terror raids looks like they're going around the country sweeping up suspects.
ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Oh, sure, Wolf. I mean, they've got a list of people they suspect and now, what we're seeing is preventative detentions. They probably haven't committed crimes but their life -- they could very well and they just want to roll them up to be sure they're not armed, you know, go through their address books, be sure they don't have weapons and this is a logical step for the French and it's a necessary one.
BLITZER: How likely is it, do you think, Art, you know, a lot about manhunts, that this terrorist suspect, Salah Abdeslam is going to be found and found soon by French, Belgium, other officials there because he's on the loose right now.
ART RODERICK, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yeah, I mean, I think based on these raids and the amount of information they're going to gather in intelligence, I think it could lead to the eventual arrest of the individual but, you know, that's -- it's going to be yet to be seen because obviously with this amount of raids going on, they're going to be gathering a ton of intelligence. It has to be sifted through before they can move to the next target. [23:10:01]
BLITZER: How's ISIS Bob, going to respond to this stepped up activity specifically by the French in recent days with the air strikes, now the raids, the arrests? What's Isis is going to do about it?
BAER: Well, Wolf, the depth there, you know, their abilities here, the Russian -- bring down the Russian airplane, Beirut, and now Paris, tells me that they have extensive networks and I would imagine if the French damage them, they will strike back at the French somewhere and, you know, possibly the United States as we've been talking about. They will not let this stand and I think they probably have people in Europe that they can hit back with.
BLITZER: Well, you think they have people of United States?
BAER: I keep on asking that question to law enforcement and they keep on telling me they're here. They believe there are teams here. They provided no details. It seems very alarming to me but I get a consistent answer and especially from the FBI, that they just simply cannot cover everybody in this country, there's so many people, you know, people they can't -- they just can't follow. They can't keep track of them all. And it worries them.
BLITZER: Speaking of the FBI, Art, James Comey, himself, the director of the FBI has told me one of his biggest fears if not his biggest fear that these ISIS terrorists, they're using very sophisticated encrypted communications technology to avoid being monitored. That's a huge problem right now, isn't it?
RODERICK: I think it's the biggest problem they've got because one of the ways that we are able to gather intelligence and get information is determining how these individuals communicate with one another. And if they're using encrypted devices or gaming devices, then it's going to be very difficult to obviously gather information through that source.
BLITZER: The assumption, Bob, is that they have -- these terrorists in Paris had this encrypted communications capabilities, that's why it was so coordinated and pretty complex.
BAER: Well, Wolf, the French are very good. They've been monitoring all these sites in the chat rooms and the rest of it and they're not asleep at the switch, but the problem, as you said, they've gone to the deep net and the dark net. And it's -- and they also use couriers. If you're going to launch attack like this, the people are very smart and they just simply transmit orders face to face. And this makes it almost impossible to track down all these cells.
BLITZER: You need infiltrators, you need people on the inside who are going to be providing that kind of information if they are using that encrypted communication.
All right, guys, stand by. We saw fear and panic erupt on the streets of Paris. Tonight, we're going to show you some of the stunning moments on this very emotional day in France. Indeed, around the world. People are watching what's going on right now. Much more of our breaking news coverage in a moment.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our breaking news coverage of the terror attacks in Paris. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting.
Tributes to the victims have stretched all the way from France to Long Beach, California. That's where a vigil was held today for an American college student, Nohemi Gonzalez, the 23-year-old, was gunned down in Paris during her semester abroad.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You wouldn't think that this would happen so close to home, and unfortunately, you know, that -- she was one of my friends.
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BLITZER: The city of light has now been illuminated with candle-lit memorials Paris streets flickering early into the morning right now. I want to bring in CNN's Poppy Harlow. She's been an eyewitness to the remarkable show of support that's been going on in Paris.
Poppy, how is the city right now rallying behind these victims?
POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think, Wolf, remarkable is the perfect choice of words. It has been remarkable to see a city standing together, a city in defiance of terrorism, a city that refuses to stay indoors even when its government tells its citizens do not come outside. That is exactly what they've done.
I'm coming to you live tonight really in the middle of the night here from the Place De La Republique where a huge makeshift memorial, full of candles has been set up, Wolf, around this.
What so significant about this square where I'm standing is that this square has three statues behind me, equality, fraternity, and liberty is what they represent. And this square is known as the square that belongs to all in the city that is for all. This is a city that is a city made up of so many people from so many places in the world and they are standing together, Wolf, today. We saw it in so in ways.
BLITZER: It was a very touching scene specifically earlier in the evening at Notre Dame. What was the mood there at the cathedral where you were there?
HARLOW: I was there. I think it was by far the most touching thing that I've seen in my time here. There were literally thousands of Parisians and tourists surrounding Notre Dame on all four sides as officials walked in, the governor of Paris was there. I spoke with him and I said to him, what is your message? And he said, my message to the world is be together, two simple words. Be together. Also, the mayor of Paris in attendance, a representative of Francois Hollande, the president of France, former presidents of France also in attendance there and I think we have some images we can show you of inside Notre Dame. It was spectacular. The music pouring out into the streets one of the walls lit up with the French flag.
And as people came out, I spoke with them about why it was so important for them to be there tonight even if they didn't know any of the victims, Wolf, here is what they said.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is something we need to do it, and we stand next to, you know, next to each other and support each other and after all, it's a small world.
HARLOW: Can you find it in your heart to forgive?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is very difficult, very difficult, very difficult. We will try, but it's very difficult.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: And you heard that last woman there, Wolf, saying it is very hard, very hard to forgive, that woman you heard said, but the message, she said, that was presented to all of the people who went to that mass tonight at Notre Dame by the archbishop of Paris Andre Vingt-Trois is forgiveness. Can you believe, Wolf, they are preaching forgiveness 48 hours after this city was terrorized?
BLITZER: Such a moving moment, Poppy. Thanks very much. You've been doing excellent reporting for us from Paris. Appreciate it very much.
Coming up, are the attacks in Paris bringing the U.S. and Russia together? Presidents Obama and Putin, they're discussing the next moves against ISIS in Syria. We have details. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We're following the breaking news. CNN learning within the past hour that a nationwide operation is happening in France as we speak. Elite counterterror police units raiding neighborhoods in three major cities.
A crack down coming as France is still trying to comprehend a Friday night massacre that killed 129 people. President Francois Hollande called the ISIS terror attacks an act of war and today French fighter jets retaliated and kind of unleashing a major bombardment in the ISIS strong hold of Raqqa, Syria.
Meanwhile, world leaders are gathered in Turkey right now for the annual G-20 Summit with a renewed sense of urgency. Earlier a stunning moment when President Obama and the Russian President Vladimir Putin huddled for over half an hour in a hotel lobby. Look at this, these pictures. CNN's chief white house correspondent Jim Acosta is in Turkey for us at this G-20 Summit. He's following all the Developments. Jim, what's the latest?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the battle against ISIS appears to be entering a new phase with France retaliating against the terror group and President Obama vowing to ramp up U.S. efforts and there's signs Mr. Obama could have a new partner in the war on ISIS, Russia's President Vladimir Putin. It was a moment of silence before a rare display of unity on the world stage that now is the time to stamp out ISIS.
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BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: The skies have been darkened by the horrific attacks that took place in Paris.
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ACOSTA: With his G-20 Summit sounding more like a war council than an economic conference, President Obama and other wold leaders vowed to intensify the battle against the terrorist army.
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OBAMA: We will redouble our efforts working with other members of the coalition to bring about a peaceful transition in Syria.
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ACOSTA: The Paris attacks may also be bringing together longtime adversaries during an intense 35-minute meeting in front of the cameras, President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to a political transition process in Syria where ISIS has exploited a bloody civil war.
After weeks of accusing Russia of acting in Syria on behalf of its leader Bashar al-Assad, the White House praised Moscow's strikes against ISIS. The soft and diplomatic language comes after Putin said and a message to the French people "for effectively fighting this evil, the entire international community should unite efforts."
The White House is eager to show Mr. Obama on the move against ISIS after the president said days before the Paris attacks that the terror group had been contained. An assessment the administration defends.
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BEN RHODES, W.H. DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: What we've been able to do is stop that advance and reclaim territory, going on the offense with our partners on the ground.
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ACOSTA: There are also new questions about the Syrian refugee crisis after French officials determined one of the Paris bombers posed as a migrant fleeing the war-torn country. The Obama administration says those refugees must still be vetted and welcomed.
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RHODES: We cannot close our doors to these people.
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ACOSTA: While the White House is promising to intensify the battle against ISIS, there is no major strategy shakeup under way. The Obama administration says it's still not considering expanding its ground game in Iraq and Syria saying U.S. Forces are not the solution to the problem. Wolf?
BLITZER: Jim Acosta reporting for us from the G-20 Summit in Turkey. I want to get right to our global affairs correspondent Elise Labbott joining us from Washington. Elise, we know the U.S. has been sharing targeting data with France. The White House has also promised to intensify its own battle against ISIS. What does all this mean big picture as far as the U.S. is concerned?
ELISE LABOTT, GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, wolf, when President Obama says he's going to intensify the campaign in Syria, I think it means that it's going to be a stepping up of what they already did.
You saw about a week or so ago President Obama ordered about 50 special troops to -- special operations troops to Syria to work with Syrian Kurds and other Arab group as they launch their offensive on that ISIS stronghold in Raqqa, and they're also working with the Peshmerga. You saw the U.S. was involved in Sinjar Mountain the other day with the liberation of that mountain. They're trying to choke off these ISIS supply routes and try and make it dense against the group.
As Jim said, you're also going to see I think an effort to deepen cooperation with Vladimir Putin. You know, ISIS -- Moscow is definitely in ISIS crosshairs now after the downing of that Russian airliner last week. So I think that there's an effort now to intensify on the ground in Iraq and Syria, but Wolf, as we've seen in Paris, in Egypt, also this week in Beirut, ISIS took responsibility for a number of explosions there.
ISIS has already moved on in a little bit in effect from Iraq and Syria. They have their territory there but the new concern is this global rise of ISIS and these affiliates and I think that's what the U.S. is going to start focusing its attention on. How do they get more of a global handle on this group, Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Elise, for that. I want to talk more about the evolving U.S. strategy dealing with ISIS. Joining us, are CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen and former National Security Council Official Farah Pandith.
Farah, what about a no-fly zone? I know the debate is intense right now. Hillary Clinton, for example, the former secretary of state thinks the U.S. should impose one of the President of the United States, President Obama, is resisting. Would that make a major difference if the U.S. were to impose a no-fly zone?
FARAH PANDITH, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL OFFICIAL: So whatever choices they make, it's about breaking the momentum. And they have to focus on that one. We think about the appeal of ISIS.
So I know that there are a lot of varying opinions on what's going to work and I'll leave it to the military folks to decide on that. But what I know for sure is that the momentum has to be broken in both in the physical war and in the emotional and psychological war.
BLITZER: Peter, these attacks, these ISIS terror attacks in Paris, they were clearly highly coordinated, nearly simultaneous, very sophisticated. Took materials that it took pretty intense logistical work to map it all out for all these targets. Have we seen this kind of planning from ISIS, not Al-Qaeda, but from ISIS before?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think quite on this scale but I mean they have conducted multiple attacks and in other -- I mean, just the recent Beirut attack was double suicide attack. They killed 43 people.
They conducted an attack in Ankara that involved probably more than one attacker that killed something like 100 people about a month ago. So I mean this is -- yeah, I mean this is something that's on a new scale but yeah, I think it's important to realize that they have conducted essentially mass casualty attacks outside Syria and Iraq already when, of course, the Russian attack against the Metrojet was, you know, somebody had to smuggle that plane, or the bomb, that's not an easy thing to do even in a place like Sharm El-Sheikh where the security was shaky. It was still you know, to get any bomb onto a commercial flight shows a level of sophistication.
BLITZER: You know, I think it's pretty clear, Farah, that there is some level of cooperation with some of the moderate Arab states right now. I think it's significant, for example, that these French fighter jets took off from bases in Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. Here's the question. How do you get all of these moderate Arab states more directly involved in fighting ISIS?
PANDITH: Look, I think this is about Muslims and Muslim majority countries as well as states in which Muslims live as minorities. You cannot look at this as if we just checked down a list of the nations that have the most Muslims taking part.
Optically, it sounds really great but the fact is that this is a global war that we're facing. Both in the physical space and the ideological space. So what we need to see is the same kind of international effort that comes to the table.
And by the way, ISIS is recruiting in every country in the world, so being able to convince a state to take part in this, just means we need to be looking at how that state thinks about their own populations and the vulnerability of their youth.
BLITZER: You think what happened in Paris, Peter, will help ISIS in their recruitment of these young people?
BERGEN: I think basically, yes, because, I mean, many of the things that turn off anybody watching this show, any civilized person, are the very things that appeal to some of these ISIS recruits. The beheadings of people accused of sorcery. The throwing homosexuals off tall buildings to their certain deaths, the beheadings, all these things we find appalling are the very things that are attracting the relatively small group people who are joining I mean there are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. 30,000 have come to join ISIS. It's a tiny, tiny number, proportionately, but not insignificant. And they are, you know, they're not turned off by the terror and the appalling tactics.
BLITZER: Peter Bergen, Farah Pandith, thanks very much for joining us.
Just ahead, as the French conduct a major anti-terror operation right now, throughout France, U.S. intelligence is working to uncover any new ISIS attacks that might be in the works in the United States. We're getting new details on what's going on. We'll also get some perspective from a former CIA insider.
BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer. There's new breaking information coming into CNN, actually within the past few minutes. French police we've just confirmed they executed a search warrant in a Paris suburb of Bobigny. Our affiliate in France, the BFM TV says the warrant is directly related to the Friday night terror attacks, where ISIS terrorists killed 129 innocent people.
All this happening as elite terror police units are conducting anti- terror operations across France tonight in Calais, in Grenoble and Toulouse. And we're also just learning that in Toulouse, counter- terror police have taken three people into custody. Expect many more will be in custody soon. We'll continue to bring you all the latest information as soon as we confirm it and get it up to date.
Meanwhile, Paris, itself, remains in a state of emergency. We're learning more details about the Paris attacks, who the ISIS terrorists were and now U.S. officials have a new concern. Did these ISIS terrorists go dark just before they sprung their plan on an unsuspecting people in Paris? Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, is in Washington. She's getting new information. What can you tell us, Pamela?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I can tell you that counterterrorism officials I've been speaking with today are concerned that the Paris attackers used encryption, in fact, one official I spoke to said that he would be shocked if they didn't use encryption because that is what we're seeing from terrorists, particularly those who have gone over to Syria and Iraq to train with ISIS. That is part of their M.O.
In addition to these encryption apps and apps that allow you to write a message then have it disappear quickly, officials are also looking into the possibility that the attackers may have used gaming devices such as Playstation and Xbox where you can communicate really across the world via headphones.
It's not encrypted but it's an easy way for terrorists to communicate in a setting that is harder to detect. So these are all possibilities that officials are looking at. I haven't spoken to anyone who has concrete evidence yet that this is, indeed, the case, but the fact these terrorists were able to plot, plan, get that training, coordinate the way they did, it appears, Wolf, that they did it under the radar and clearly pulled it off, and that is what officials are so alarmed by.
BLITZER: What are officials doing based on everything you're hearing from your sources, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and elsewhere to make sure that what happened in Paris doesn't happen in the United States?
BROWN: Officials with the FBI, other U.S. agencies are working around the clock. They're going back looking at their cases particularly the high-priority people who they're concerned about and increasing surveillance of them, wiretapping, basically increasing scrutiny of these cases to make sure that we don't see copycat attacks. That is the big concern in the wake of what we saw in Paris.
I'm told that at this point in the investigation, there's no indication that there's anyone in the U.S. connected to the Paris attackers at this early stage, but what they're worried about, Wolf, is the copycat attacks. Therefore, the FBI has been in touch with law enforcement across the country to go back, look at their cases and make sure that everyone is communicating. Wolf?
BLITZER: Pamela Brown, thanks very much. I want to bring in Republican congressman Will Hurd is from Texas. He's a key member on the House Homeland Security committee.
[23:40:00] Also in his earlier career, spent nine years as a clandestine officer in the CIA. Congressman, are you confident that everything is being done right now to prevent what happened in Paris from happening in a major city in the United States?
REP. WILL HURD, (R) HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: You know, Wolf, I am confident. You know, one of the things if you would have ask me when I was in the CIA, I was in the CIA when 9/11 happened. And if you would have told me that it would be 14 years before another attack on our homeland, I would have said you are crazy. And the reason there hasn't been one, is because of the men and women in our intelligence services, our law enforcement community and the military that are still operating as if it's September 12th, 2001.
So what they're going to be doing is they're going to be getting all the information that the French are sharing with us, going back to the records, looking and see if there's any new indicators and that they can use to look at some old cases. So these men and women that are working hard every day to keep us safe, this is priority number one for them.
BLITZER: Certainly is. Mike Morrell, the former deputy director of the CIA, said the current ISIS strategy, the overall ISIS strategy is not working. I want you to listen to something he said. Listen to this.
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MICHAEL MORRELL, FORMER CIA DEPUTY DIRECTOR: I do think a question of whether President Assad is -- needs to go, or whether he is part of the solution here, we need to look at again. You know, clearly he's part of the problem, but he may also be part of the solution.
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BLITZER: I guess he's referring to the fact that President Assad in Damascus he's fighting ISIS as well, ISIS is going after his regime. It's a brutal regime. How should President Obama and the U.S. military deal with this real basic problem in Syria? You want to kill ISIS, but at the same time you want to go after Assad. What's worse?
HURD: Well, ISIS is worse but Assad is pretty bad as well. I don't think you can have any political solution in that region that includes Bashar al-Assad. Bashar al-Assad has killed millions of his own people. You know, in part of the reason that you have things destabilized in this region, which helped with the growth of ISIS.
BLITZER: What do you think of this new manhunt, it started in the last hour or two in France right now, Congressman? They're going after suspected terrorists in major cities across the country. Clearly, a lot of these suspects who may be picked up had nothing to do with what happened in Paris but may be involved in other plots.
HURD: That's likely. Or, you know, after review over the last couple of days of information, finding the identities of these attackers, they may have been able to piece together further information. So this is a good sign that there is leads to follow up on. This is important. Sharing of information is incredibly important.
One of the things I sat on the task force looking at ISIS in the United States, and one of the things that we found was the level of communicating and information sharing with some of our European partners was nowhere near to the level it should have been.
We've been sharing tens of thousands of names of known bad guys to our European partners and many of our European partners weren't -- wasn't using that information to check against known travelers. This is something very basic. This should be happening immediately. And I think with what you saw happen on Friday, this is going to make sure that all our European partners are doing everything they can.
BLITZER: One big problem, and the FBI director himself, has spoken to me about it -- James Comey -- is the fact that these terrorists are not getting more sophisticated in their communication and they have this so-called encrypted apps in which the U.S. and other intelligence services really can't monitor what they're saying to each other. How big of a problem is this from your perspective?
HURD: Well, this going dark phenomenon is something that I've been involved in a number of conversations on. In order for someone to go dark, you got to know who they are. You probably have a phone number, know they use a certain headset. And so there's a lot of information that you can glean from these bad guys not knowing the plain text that they may be exchanging.
And if they have a certain level of sophistication, even within that plain text, they're not going to be saying the attack is at this time, at this location. But this is something that we need to continue to focus on. We can work with some of these companies to make sure we're getting all the information that we can.
The other good thing about when you have some of these bad guys using encrypted services or social media, that means we get better access to them. When I was chasing al-Qaeda in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, you know, if you were an American and got anywhere close to al-Qaeda, you would get your head cut off.
Now with ISIS, they're looking for stuff like that which gives us an opportunity to see the folks into these organizations in order to gather intelligence that we can get back to our military planners and stop things from happening all across the world.
BLITZER: Congressman Will Hurd of Texas, member of the House Homeland Security Committee. Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
HURD: Thank you, sir. And thanks for bringing -- highlighting this important topic.
BLITZER: It's very important. The whole world as I say has been watching what's going on and they will continue to watch because it's a critically important issue.
Still ahead, the men and women who want to be commander-in-chief of the United States, they are now weighing in on the Paris terror attacks. The candidates, what they're saying, how to defeat ISIS when we come back.
BLITZER: Tonight, France has been conducting new anti-terror raids across the nation. Three arrests already in Toulouse but French media reports stress that the suspects have no direct connection to the Paris attacks in which is terrorists murdered 129 people.
The attacks have reverberated around the world including in the United States as presidential candidates are seizing on the Paris terror attacks. They're engaged that a heated clash right now over what the U.S. should do next to combat ISIS and to protect Americans. Our chief political correspondent Dana Bash is joining us now from the campaign trail in South Carolina. Dana, is every candidate jumping on this? I assume they are.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They absolutely are. You know, Wolf, the hallmark of the 2016 campaign so far has been a major voter flirtation with non-politicians. The question now is whether or not the voters are going to turn more to traditional candidates with government experience especially on the world stage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: The race for president scrambled by the Paris terror attacks.
HILARRY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Attacking Paris, the city of light, reminds us that there is no middle ground in going after these terrorists.
TED CRUZ, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Evil, radical Islamic terrorism needs to be called out for what it is, and it needs to be defeated.
BASH: Most Republicans advocate a robust American response.
MARCO RUBIO, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This was clearly an act of war and attack on one of our NATO allies and we should invoke article 5 of the NATO agreement and bring everyone together to put together a coalition to confront this challenge.
CLINTON: Thank you.
BASH: The Democratic front-runner warns the U.S. should not take the lead.
CLINTON: It cannot be an American fight, and I think what the president has consistently said, which I agree with, is that we will support those who take the fight to ISIS.
BASH: Prompting harsh GOP criticism.
JEB BUSH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hillary Clinton last night said that it's not our fight. It is our fight. And without our leadership in building a coalition to destroy ISIS, it won't happen.
BASH: The terror tragedy is also roiling anti-immigrant sensibility in the GOP since Paris officials say at least one suicide bomber was a Syrian refugee.
BEN CARSON, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wouldn't invite the Syrian refugees here.
BASH: Neurosurgeon Ben Carson had an unusual take on why he'd reverse president Obama's plan allowing 10,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S. CARSON: You know the reason that the human brain has these big frontal lobes as opposed to other animals, we can engage in rational thought processing.
BASH: In this year of the outsider campaign, the attacks are a challenge for those without foreign policy experience. Carson struggled to answer multiple attempts to ask which countries he'd call for an anti-ISIS coalition.
CARSON: If we get out there and we really lead and it appears that we're making progress, then all of the Arab States and even the non- Arab States who I think are beginning to recognize the Jihad movement is global.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, another candidate, Chris Christie, gave an impassioned speech this weekend summing up the argument for a candidate with government experience. And he said the hour is too late to wait for people to be trained. We need a president who is ready to serve. And, Wolf, expect a lot more like that from people with governor or senator before their names who are running who haven't been able to get much traction.
BLITZER: Dana Bash thanks very much.
A new search warrant has just been issued in Northeast France in connection with the Paris attacks. Our sources are sharing many new critical details about the suspects in the Friday night massacre. Much more on the massive manhunt when we come back.
BLITZER: We're back with the breaking news on the Paris terror attacks. Elite police units conducting anti-terror raids across France. Let's go to CNN's Fred Pleitgen. He's in Paris for us. Tell us about the raids, the arrests. What are we learning?
FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf, yeah, these raids are going on around the country in France and there's one in particular that we're keeping our eye on. It's in the town of Toulouse which is in the South of France and we have just learned that three people apparently have been arrested in that raid in Toulouse in the South of France.
The authorities there are saying it's not necessarily connected to the Paris attack, however, the area in Toulouse where this took place called "Mere" is an area that is known for people being there who in the past have tried to go to Syria to fight there for the Islamic state, for ISIS.
But again, we're not sure whether or not that is actually connected to the attacks that happened here. There's also raids going on in Bobigny which is just outside the Paris. There's raids going on in Grenoble and also in Calais. So this is a countrywide operation that seems many people believe that this could be in relate to the fact that, of course, you have a state of emergency here, and the police might be trying to take people into custody to see that nothing goes wrong, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yeah, the French government clearly mobilized. Now, Fred, standby. As a worldwide manhunt under way for a Belgium-born French national suspected to be involved in the attacks, Brian Todd is getting more information on the suspect. What can you tell us, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, RESIDENTIAL & COMMERCIAL ESATE AGENTS: Wolf, tonight, we know his name is Salah Abdeslam, he is 26 years old, a Belgium-born French national. It's not clear exactly what role he had in the attacks but he's one of three brothers tied to the Paris massacres. One is believed to be an attacker who blew himself up. Another brother was arrested and in custody tonight.
CNN has learned Salah Abdeslam was stopped soon after the attack as he was driving near France's border with Belgium. He was questioned then he was let go. Now there's an international warrant out for his arrest. There is an intense manhunt under way for him. Wolf, French police say he's dangerous and members of the public should not interact with him.
BLITZER: There's also, Brian, as you know, some really disturbing information coming out tonight about another attacker who blew himself up. What have you learned?
TODD: Absolutely disturbing, Wolf. We have learned one of the suicide bombers apparently infiltrated the recent mass influx of refugees into Europe. A man who blew himself up at the Stade de France was carrying a doctor passport. He falsely declared to be a Syrian man and Ahmad Amohammad that is according to a French Lawmaker brief by the interior ministry.
And that lawmaker says the man traveled from Syria, arrived on the Greek island of Leros on October 3rd then made his way through Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, then to Paris. Two of the dead terrorists have been identified at this point at this, Wolf. One of them we know is connected to Belgium. His name is Bilal Hafdi, 19 or 20 years old, another terrorist who attacked the concert hall, CNN has learned, was born in the South Berg of Eros, his name is Ismael Omar Mostefai, 29 -- excuse me 29 years old. French official say, he was a common criminal radicalized several years ago. That's what we know at this moment about some of these suspects.
BLITZER: Very disturbing information, Brian thank you very much. And to our viewers, stay with CNN for all the breaking news on the Paris terrorist attacks.
[24:00:03] I'm Wolf Blitzer. Thanks very much for joining us.