Return to Transcripts main page
THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
ISIS Threatens New York; Ringleader Of Paris Massacre Killed; House Approves Bill To Halt Syrian Refugees; France Under State Of Emergency. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired November 19, 2015 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Michel announced he's going to increase, strengthen the security forces. He's also going to try to do more to stop Belgium's from going to Isis and joining the fight.
And then he vowed that any Belgian who fights for ISIS and tries to come home to Belgium will now be coming home to a prison cell, Jake. So they're trying to talk tough, but as you said they are indeed playing a lot of catch up here.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Yes, Drew Griffin reporting live from Brussels. Thank you so much.
A new ISIS video depicts suicide bombers preparing for an attack on New York City. What intelligence officials are saying about protecting America's biggest target? That's next on THE LEAD live from Paris. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. We're live from Paris. This is a city of course stunned by the massacre at the hands of is terrorists six days ago. New York City knows that feeling all too well.
But New York Mayor Bill De Blasio saying his city will not be intimidated after ISIS released another chilling video showing scenes from the big apple along with a suicide belt.
CNN's Deborah Feyerick is live for us in New York City. Deb, New York always on high alert of course especially during the holidays, how is New York responding and preparing?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're really taking a look at everything. You know, people understand that there will be millions of tourists who are coming to the big apple because of the Thanksgiving Day parade, the Christmas tree lighting, the ball drop.
So police are taking no chances. It's something really that the FBI director said that it is better to alert police if you see something and be wrong than to do nothing and have your suspicions basically come to fruition. So they're really urging everybody to keep their eyes open.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Tonight New York City is responding to a direct threat from ISIS, a propaganda video implying a suicide bomb.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: the people of New York City will not be intimidated.
FEYERICK: The NYPD deploying counterterror tactical teams to cover a range of potential threats.
JAMES WATERS, NYPD COUNTERTERRORISM CHIEF: They have additional training in explosive trace detection, hostile surveillance, and radiological detection.
FEYERICK: Police departments across the country are working closely with FBI and federal law enforcement. Officials reinforce there's no specific credible threat. It's the unknown threat the U.S. is working to protect against.
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: We are working around the clock to make sure that such things do not happen here in the United States.
FEYERICK: In Washington, D.C., a different ISIS propaganda video early in the week triggered increased security in the capital subway system. Wednesday Metro Transit police were seeking four men seen at the Pentagon station. The men were interviewed by the Joint Terrorism Task Force, cleared and released.
CHIEF CATHY LANIER, DC POLICE: Every threat no matter where it comes from or how credible it's deemed to be, we take them as credible and we act that way.
FEYERICK: Emboldened by the attack in Paris, ISIS has released multiple propaganda videos threatening multiple attacks in multiple cities. In the web video with images of Times Square, another image of Herald Square has raised concern as it's the end point of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.
It's a huge event that kicks off a very busy holiday season including the Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting and Times Square ball drop. With millions of tourists flocking to Manhattan for those events, police understand there is no room for error.
FEYERICK: And, Jake, one of the things that the FBI director said this afternoon is that these propaganda videos, this is not credible intelligence. But immediately after the Paris attacks the FBI did reach out to all their law enforcement partners overseas.
And they found no links between what happened in Paris to anything here in the United States. The FBI director is saying none that he's aware of -- Jake. TAPPER: All right. Deborah Feyerick, thank you so much. We have some breaking news now. The FBI director and the attorney general just finished speaking off0camera to reporters. And CNN justice reporter, Evan Perez, just stepped out of the meeting to give us little highlights and the latest of what they said --Evan.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Jake, the FBI says -- the FBI director said that he's had his agents working 24/7 looking for any links whatsoever that they could find between the Paris attackers and here in the United States. And so far they've found absolutely nothing.
Now, he did say that they've ratcheted up their attention to several dozen ISIS supporters here in the United States who they believe are the highest likelihood who could carry out an attack here in the United States.
There are about 900 open cases of violent extremists, most of those a vast majority of those are ISIS supporters. Another thing it's very interesting he talked about here is he said that the number of Americans who are traveling to join ISIS in Syria and Iraq is way down.
It's something that used to be about nine a month, now it is about six over the past three months or so and he says that perhaps one reason is because ISIS is telling people to stay at home and kill here. So that's a very big concern, a very big concern for them.
He also said that there are absolutely no credible threats, no known credible threats here in the United States of any size. Obviously they're keeping their attention on these ISIS threats and we'll see what happens in the next few weeks.
TAPPER: Evan Perez, thank you so much. Joining me now to discuss this all is CNN national security analyst and former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. Mayor of New York Bill De Blasio says there's no imminent threat against the city of New York. What are you hearing from the intelligence community?
MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: The same. A lot of what you see in the videos, Jake, is psychological operations, psychological warfare.
[16:40:11] Remember, ISIS has a lot of former military -- trained individuals from Iraq, from the Syrian government. So they would have the understanding of the value of having an actual event and then having a psychological operation to intimidate, cause fear, cause people to change their behavior.
And that's exactly what they're trying to do. Now, the caution is that, yes, it's a psychological effort. Many believe that. But there's also the concern that there may be an event planning and just like in Paris it's under the radar, they don't have it.
It's not that imminent event that they have credible intelligence, but it doesn't mean there's not somebody out there planning to do something.
TAPPER: The suspected ringleader, Congressman, of the Paris attacks, Abaaoud, is dead. He was killed this morning. He's been on the radar of the intelligence community for quite a while. Why do you think he was able to move so freely between Syria, France and Belgium?
ROGERS: Well, partly because they don't have the border controls that they used to have, and so once you're in anywhere in the EU and you have a valid passport, there's just nowhere you can't go, freedom of movement. That was the whole design behind the European Union.
So that's exactly why he was able to do it and the fact that they have -- that whole organization has shifted to encrypted communications, at least ones that they know of. They are very good about operational security.
They have learned from all of the four previous events that went wrong that he was a part of that he was apparently planning at least part of four disrupted terrorist attacks. They'll go back and analyze every one of those so they had secure communications, freedom of movement, they had money and they had weapons.
And that allowed them because all of that was already prepackaged for them that allowed them much easier way to move about those countries without being caught or without being noticed.
TAPPER: The prime minister of France, Manuel Vauls said in an interview today that some of the terrorists here in France, quote, "took advantage of the refugee crisis to slip into France."
That's obviously a big concern in the United States. But the vetting process is -- even if one doesn't think it's tough enough, it is much tougher than there is a vetting process here in Europe, right?
ROGERS: Yes, but here's the only problem with that, Jake. Unfortunately, I think in America it turned into the politics of religion and race, which it should never have done. Candidly I blame the president for that.
This was about a national security issue. These governors had legitimate concerns about saying because their law enforcement communities by the way were going to them and saying, wait a minute, you're going to send someone here.
You can't access certain databases to tell me that they're not involved or engaged in any of the radicalization or as an active member of ISIS. We know for a fact that ISIS back in September said it infiltrated as many as 4,000 across Europe.
If they get fake passports, which you can buy on the web for $1,000 -- $900 actually, the deep web they call it, Jake. You can actually go from a visa waiver country here. So you can infiltrate with the refugee population, buy a fake passport.
You can even buy Syrian driver's license in the deep web so you can conceal your cover. And I think the law enforcement community says, hey, wait a minute, we know that they're doing this. They've told us that they're doing this.
Now we just saw a terrorist attack using the refugee program. Maybe you should slow down and see if there's a better way to get to security. And it got blown up here I think in a pretty negative way.
And I think Republicans are acting wrongly on it. And I think the president started this thing for the same reason that he didn't take action in Syria in the first place to stop the refugees. It's very irritating for a guy that looks at national security every day.
TAPPER: Congressman Mike Rogers, thank you so much. Appreciate your time. A House bill just passed may force top national security officials to personally individually sign-off on Syrian refugees coming into the United States. Does that vote hold any weight? We'll dive into the debate even more coming up.
Plus, two countries with two very different interests in the fight against ISIS. Coming up, a new call for the United States and Russia to come together and fight ISIS together.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper, coming to you live from Paris, France, where today the French prime minister said some of the ISIS terrorists who killed 129 innocent people here last week, quote, "took advantage of the refugee crisis to slip into France."
That admission and other evidence have sparked a heated debate about refugees across the United States. France is still going to take in 30,000 refugees over the next two years. The French president said yesterday.
But today in the U.S., the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to change the vetting process effectively suspending the program that allows Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the United States.
Nearly 50 Democrats joining Republicans in favor of the legislation although President Obama has pledged he will veto it if it does get through the Senate and land on his resolute desk.
Let's bring in CNN's Joe Johns live on Capitol Hill. Joe, this issue has become a major political debate.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Intensely political, Jake, and that large bipartisan vote today means at least for now there are enough votes to override a presidential veto if it ever comes to that. And the White House has already launched its objections.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JOHNS (voice-over): With millions of refugees trying to flee the civil war in Syria, and even France pledging to take in 30,000 of them --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The yays are 289 and the nays are 137, the bill has passed.
[16:50:08] JOHNS: The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that effectively blocks refugees from Syria and Iraq from coming to the United States. It sailed through with support from both parties led by the newly minted House Speaker Paul Ryan in his first weeks on the job.
REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: The first duty of our government is to keep the American people safe.
JOHNS: The bill requires top administration officials to certify that incoming refugees are not a safety threat, which the head of the FBI and DHS say is overly cumbersome. The White House has threatened to veto it in the event it gets passed Democrats who oppose it in the Senate.
SENATOR HARRY REID (D), NEVADA: Don't worry, it won't get passed.
JOHNS: A new poll shows broad support for blocking certain refugees to keep ISIS fighters out. The top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee complaining the White House just doesn't get it.
SENATOR BOB CORKER (R), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: They have a tendency because of what they do on a daily basis to almost knock down concerns that average Americans have.
JOHNS: And the president's point man on Homeland Security sounding exasperated that his message is not getting through that the refugee program is a slow and careful process.
JEH JOHNSON, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: All I can do is keep repeating what I've been saying all week. I gave a speech yesterday publicly where I reiterated the thoroughness of our vetting process.
JOHNS: Many Democrats oppose changes to the refugee program which would only affect about 10,000 people. And they are countering with a proposal to address a bigger vulnerability, the so-called visa waiver program that allows 20 million people a year to enter the U.S. almost unquestioned as long as they have passports from any one of 38 countries. No vetting, no waiting period.
On the campaign trail today the rhetoric parallel the split in Washington with candidates on both sides adding some political zing and Hillary Clinton with a civil liberties argument.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Turning away orphans, applying a religious test, discriminating against Muslims, slamming the door on every Syrian refugee, that is just not who we are. We are better than that.
JOHNS: And Ben Carson, both soft spoken and inflammatory with a highly charged metaphor.
BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If there's a rabid dog running around your neighborhood, you probably not going to assume something good about that dog. And you're probably going to put your children out of the way. It doesn't mean that you hate all dogs.
JOHNS: Time is running out to pass legislation here on Capitol Hill and there is a question whether anyone will try to use a big spending bill that has to be passed by December 11th as a vehicle for this refugee issue -- Jake.
TAPPER: Joe Johns, thank you so much. The United States is waging a war against ISIS. It says so is Russia, a new push to combine forces next.
TAPPER: Everywhere you go in Paris, there are men with guns, soldiers, police, whatever they are, they are there keeping an eye on the crowds, on the public. But the people of France are still trying to go about their life, though as they will be the first to remind you this is the second major terrorist attack in just 2015.
The "Charlie Hebdo" and the incidents taking place in January. Earlier today Atika Shubert took a closer look at the security in Paris and the real fears that Parisians are feeling.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Life is returning to not quite so normal here in Paris. This is Paris' famous shopping avenue. Even Disney has its own private security checking even the smallest customers coming inside.
Security doesn't bother me at all this father told us. I came here with my little girl. She was nervous to come to Paris. But seeing all the police around has really comforted her.
The Christmas market in Paris has only just reopened as you can see with extra security to assure Parisians that they are on high alert. Police are also on patrol.
And as we walked we also saw a troupe of cars streaming by promoting the new wine with bottles and glasses in hand. Toy soldiers, real soldiers and wine Paris remains defiant. Atika Shubert, CNN, Paris.
TAPPER: And I'm joined once again by our senior national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto. Jim, one of the questions obviously that everybody around here is wondering about with the police raid yesterday morning where Abaaoud was killed, the raids in Belgium today. Do French and Belgian and European authorities think that there are still active terror cells ready to strike?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The short answer is, yes, active terror cells, support groups, et cetera, they don't know if they're ready to strike, but their assumption is -- they're operating under that assumption.
Let's start at the beginning. There are at least one, possibly two active members of Friday's cell still out there.
TAPPER: Abdelsalam --
TAPPER: And the guy from Belgium.
SCIUTTO: Exactly. So you have that. They've also said there's got to be a bigger support network to have carried out this attack. So you have that. And then they know that there are many Jihadis going back and forth they clearly don't have vision on because they didn't have vision on this cell as well.
So their informed assumption is, yes, there are. And in addition to cells that might be activated, supported, et cetera, are lone wolves, right? They have so many Jihadis out here who might choose to act on their own inspired by the bloodshed.
TAPPER: Three men yesterday in Marseille stabbed a Jewish teacher, probably unconnected to any active ISIS organization. They are just bad people and were inspired.
TAPPER: Jim Sciutto, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.
That is it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Goodbye from France.