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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Maine Senator Angus King; Terror Investigation. Aired 18-19:00p ET
Aired November 19, 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 ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: terror dragnet.
Nearly a week after the Paris attacks, at least one suspected killer is still at large, despite hundreds of raids in France and beyond. Tonight, the mastermind of the attacks is dead, but has he already set new acts of terror in motion?
White House targeted? ISIS unleashes new threats against the United States in a new video, as investigators race to uncover secret terror cells around the globe and prevent new attacks.
Heightened alert. New York police deploy anti-terror squads after ISIS threatens to strike in Times Square. We're tracking new security moves across the United States.
And refugees and rhetoric. Lawmakers vote to keep Syrian refugees out of the United States at least for now, and Republican presidential front-runners, they are weighing in with some controversial new remarks about refugees and Muslims.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, ISIS is ramping up its threats against the United States, warning President Obama in a new video that the White House will turn black with fire.
The video also promises new Paris-style terror in Rome as well as in France. Another newly released video captures the horror of one of the Paris attacks in a cafe. Investigators are trying to determine if the gunman seen on the video from dailymail.com is Salah Abdeslam. He's the only primary suspect who survived. France is warning once again tonight that Salah Abdeslam is on the loose and very dangerous.
French officials are scrambling to trace links between the mastermind of the attacks and other terrorists. Authorities now confirm that Abdelhamid Abaaoud is dead, but they aren't sure if he was killed by police or if he killed himself. During an hour-long gunfight in an apartment in suburban Paris, we now know a female suspect blew herself up during that raid, and also now we have a chilling recording of her final exchange with police.
I will ask Senator Angus King what he's learning about the terror threat. He's a key member of the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services Committee. He's just had a high-level briefing. Also, our correspondents and analysts, they are standing by as we cover all the breaking news.
Up first, let's go to our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto. He's in Paris for us.
Jim, I understand you have new information about the female suicide bomber.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. She's now been identified and the most senior French security officials say it is not a question, but a certainty that there are other terrorists and other terror cells still on the loose here, ones authorities know about, as in the eighth alleged attacker from Friday's rampage, ones they do not know about, including a support network that would have allowed an attack of this size to be carried out here on the streets of Paris.
The alert here is certainly far from over.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): Tonight, an urgent manhunt is under way across Europe, as police continue to search for at least one suspected attacker still at large and still dangerous, Salah Abdeslam, briefly stopped by French police hours after the attacks, but then let go before authorities knew of his role in Friday's deadly rampage.
Six new raids in Belgium overnight and hundreds more here in France in recent days have failed to catch him.
BERNARD CAZENEUVE, FRENCH INTERIOR MINISTER (through translator): The republic is doing everything to destroy terrorism.
SCIUTTO: French security services have netted perhaps their most dangerous suspect, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the alleged ringleader, confirmed killed in a furious gun battle with police on Wednesday.
CAZENEUVE (through translator): In the operation of Saint-Denis, there was a target. It was reached.
SCIUTTO: And, tonight, we're seeing chilling new video of the Saint-Denis raid just moments before police kill Abaaoud.
France is now working feverishly to prevent scenes like this one captured on CCTV at the height of Friday's attacks obtained by dailymail.com. One woman saved here in front of the restaurant only because the terrorist's assault rifle appears to jam.
Today, French lawmakers voted nearly unanimously to extend the country's state of emergency, giving police broad new powers to detain suspects. FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): We are
at war. And for us to remain ourselves, because that is what is in question, France must not lose itself to win this war. France must respond to hatred with fraternity. France will respond to fanaticism with the hope of life itself.
SCIUTTO: French officials now confirming the name of the female suicide bomber. It's Hasna Aitboulahcen.
CNN has spoken to friends who knew her, saying she recently moved from her hometown, which is just on the outskirts of Paris. And we now know that some of her relative have been taken into custody.
In addition to that, we have yet more -- and this is almost a daily event, Wolf, yet more videos coming out from ISIS threatening attacks, more attacks inside the United States. This latest one threatening the White House, nothing credible or specific, but certainly something that U.S. officials know that they aspire to attack on the U.S. homeland -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, this latest video threatening not only the White House, saying they want to burn it down and make it black, but also threatening monuments in Washington, D.C., saying they want to blow them up like they blow up archaeological treasures in Syria and in Iraq. Very disturbing information in that propaganda video. Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.
We're also getting a new glimpse into the bloody gunfight in suburban Paris and the death of a terrorist mastermind.
Our senior international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, is joining us now from Saint-Denis.
You spoke with a woman, Clarissa, who was sleeping, what, two floors below the apartment where Abdelhamid Abaaoud was hiding out when police moved in. What did she say?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf; 30-year-old cleaning lady Karin (ph), she asked us just to identify her, was living on the first floor.
She told us that the walls were shaking with the impact of those blasts. She said that in those moments she saw nothing but death. She was absolutely petrified. There were children in the apartment. They were screaming and crying. One little boy, she said, asked his mother if they were going to die.
And they were there for a full two hours before police successfully evacuated them. Of course, Wolf, I asked her did you know this man was living or was hiding out in this apartment in your building? And it was interesting. What she said to me was, I didn't notice and I didn't know because this is the kind of neighborhood where you mind your own business, where you keep your head down, where it doesn't pay to be looking too much at other people and trying to understand what they are doing and who they are.
Also, it's worth stating, Wolf, this building is a squat, or was acting as a squat, and that really gives you a sense of why it's so attractive to people, jihadist terrorists like Abaaoud, to hunker down somewhere like that because, quite simply, Wolf, nobody in that neighborhood is going to report them to the police.
BLITZER: That is so chilling just to hear that, Clarissa.
We're also getting, as you know, a first look at the terror inside a Paris restaurant, how investigators are using the video to track fugitives still on the run. What can you tell us about this?
WARD: Well, Wolf, it's not just that video.
Of course, every single minute or second even of CCTV video, surveillance video, we know they are combing through any eyewitness videos. They're looking for any clues, cars, gunmen, people in the background, trying to identify anything, because while, of course, the focus today, Wolf, has been on celebrating what has been a major victory for French officials in the killing of Abaaoud, it's important to remember, as Jim Sciutto just mentioned in his piece, the eight attacker, Salah Abdeslam, still on the loose.
Two days ago, there was talk of a possible ninth suspect, and then beyond that, we're looking at a much larger network that likely would have been needed to facilitate and orchestrate attacks of this nature. Who helped get the weapons, who organized the vehicles, who organized that squat for Abaaoud and his cousin to hunker down in for the last few days? Investigators here combing through every piece of evidence, Wolf, trying to get to the bottom of this before anything else bad happens -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, that dailymail.com exclusive video that we have been showing our viewers is so -- there it is again. So awful to see what was happening during those moments. All right, Clarissa, thanks very much.
Also tonight, top U.S. law enforcement officials say they are working around the clock to uncover and disrupt any terror plots in this country. ISIS is issuing a series of new video threats against the United States, warning of attacks in New York City and right here in Washington, D.C., as well, including over at the White House.
Our national correspondent, Deborah Feyerick, is in New York.
Deb, major U.S. cities, I take it they are going on a higher state of alert just to err on the side of the caution.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they really are.
And the FBI director today pointed out very succinctly that the propaganda videos, the magazines, they are not credible evidence. But what they do is, they try to terrorize populations to make them think that they are under attack, are under threat.
One person I spoke to today said ISIS' strategy right now is to provoke, provoke, provoke. They are trying to force Europe and the United States to put boots on the ground, but security here very tight.
FEYERICK (voice-over): The new video released today is less slickly produced than the two earlier ones this week, a pair of ISIS fighters talking into the camera threatening Rome and the White House.
And, tonight, New York City responding to a direct threat from the terror group, a propaganda video implying a suicide bomb.
BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: 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, radiological detection.
FEYERICK: Police departments across the country are working closely with FBI and federal law enforcement. Officials reinforce there is no specific credible threat. It's the unknown threat the U.S. is working to protect against.
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: ISIL and supporters put out all kinds of like propaganda like videos and magazines, but that is not credible intelligence.
FEYERICK: In Washington, D.C., a different ISIS propaganda video early in the week triggered increased security in a capital subway system.
CATHY LANIER, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA POLICE CHIEF: 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 attacks in multiple cities, in a 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, the 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.
(END VIDEOTAPE) FEYERICK: And the FBI director saying that immediately after the
Paris attacks, intelligence officials looked over everything they knew and everything they had in their database to see whether there was, in fact, any link to the United States.
The FBI director saying today that, as far as he is aware, there is none -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Deborah Feyerick in New York for us, thanks very much.
I quickly want to go back to Jim Sciutto in Paris.
Jim, I understand you're getting new information about this massive manhunt that is now under way for this terrorist who may be on the loose.
SCIUTTO: That's right, Wolf.
And you're well aware just how intense this manhunt is right now. We got some new information that has been extended, this for the alleged eighth attacker, a missing terrorist from the Friday attacks, his name Salah Abdeslam. This is the subject of the international arrest warrant, that the search for him has now been extended to the Netherlands.
Why the Netherlands? Because he has associations there in the past and it's just yet one more reminder of how easy it can be to move around Europe. The distances here are short, the borders effectively open. It's visa-free travel from country to country . And, remember, Salah Abdeslam, he was stopped by police just hours after the attacks in Paris. They did not at the time know he was involved in the attacks. Stopped on his way going from France to Belgium.
Now you have this manhunt being extended onto the Netherlands, just giving you a sense of the scope. One more detail that is coming in now, that is that Salah Abdeslam -- rather, that the alleged mastermind of these attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the ringleader who was confirmed today killed in the bloody raid, that bloody shoot-out yesterday in Saint-Denis, that he has now been connected to a conspiracy that was uncovered earlier in August of this year to attack a concert hall in Paris.
Keep in mind, that's, of course, what happened on Friday, that concert hall at Bataclan where really most of the deaths in this attack carried out. There was a hostage situation, dozens of people killed there in cold blood. So you had an arrest for someone speaking about just such a plot a couple months before this plot was carried out.
It's yet one more sign that these ideas have been percolating here, these clues, these connections and, again, a connection back to that ringleader have been percolating. Sadly, you can call it perhaps another missed sign, but it's another measure of just how many people in Europe and France and elsewhere attempting to carry out attacks, how broad the network is and it's a reminder that that manhunt not just for one attacker, it's for many people potentially connected to the plot here on Friday, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, on Friday night, that concert hall in Paris, that's where an American rock band was playing. And you're right. Most of the people killed in those terror attacks were young people attending that rock concert with an American band performing.
Jim Sciutto, stand by.
I want to bring in Senator Angus King. He's a key member of the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services Committees.
Senator, thanks, first of all, for joining us. You have been well-briefed.
Can ISIS really do what they are threatening to do in these propaganda videos that they release, go after targets in Times Square, Herald Square, New York, the White House, monuments here in Washington?
SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: Well, I think the first thing to say is just what the director of the FBI said, which is, we have no credible intelligence. It's basically threats at this point.
But we don't know what they can do. I mean, we know that around July 4, they planned some of these attacks, and the FBI did a fantastic job, arrested 60 people who are now awaiting trial, but who were sympathetic with ISIS.
Here is the problem, Wolf. It's not necessarily importing people from Europe or from the Middle East into America. They have been radicalizing our own people through the Internet and through communications, texts and other things. And they may just -- all they have to do is say, OK, now is the time, go get your automatic rifle and head to Times Square.
That's the toughest thing for us to counter act, because there is no plot, if you will, to thwart. On the other hand, we have, as the FBI has shown, pretty good knowledge and access to a lot of these people. The answer to your question is, there can't be any guarantees. I think that's obvious, but we are, we do have a lot of assets that are being deployed right now.
BLITZER: So, what you're saying is that ISIS has, what, sleeper terrorist cells all over the United States that could be activated at any time to go out and commit these terror attacks?
KING: The FBI has investigations of terrorism going on in every single state of the union right now.
BLITZER: And what? And these individuals potentially could be alerted through social media or encrypted communications, this is the time, go do something?
KING: That's right. It would be what I call a terrorist APB. They send out a -- they don't -- it's somewhere between directed and inspired.
And in Paris, it was directed. That was a plot. But it could also be inspired, where they may not even know the names of the people. They just know that there are people they are communicating with on social media in Kansas City or San Diego or Chicago and give the word.
And we have seen some of those plots. Remember, there was one down in Garland, Texas, where the two guys came at the Muslim -- anti- Muslim rally and they were killed by the local police. But we know that those people are out there. And we're just going to have to keep after them day by day and we're going to have to focus on where the real threats are.
BLITZER: Yes, the nightmare is this encrypted communications capabilities that they apparently have as well.
Senator, we have more to discuss, including that.
Senator Angus King of the Intelligence Committee remains with us.
We will take a quick break, much more right after this.
BLITZER: We're back with Senator Angus King of the Intelligence Committee.
But we're also following breaking news on the terror attacks in Paris, including the death of the mastermind behind attacks. We're also getting now for the first time the first image of the suicide bomber who blew herself up during Wednesday's raid.
Also just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM, word that the search is now expanding from France into Belgium, but now into the Netherlands, as authorities hunt for the fugitive eighth terrorist from last Friday's Paris attack, Salah Abdeslam. There he is, 26 years old, a French national.
We're back with Senator Angus King.
Senator, the European intelligence services, the French, the Belgian, some of these other intelligence services, I have heard from many U.S. experts they seem to be overstretched, overwhelmed right now. Is that what you're hearing?
KING: Yes, absolutely.
I think they are. I think the combination of the terrorist activity, a lot of people, by the way -- there is an apprehension that this is al about Syrian refugees. Most of these people you have been talking about today are citizens of France and Belgium. They have been there for years. But they are overstressed. And one of the problems is, I don't
know if the Europeans consider it a problem, but you can move so easily within Europe. There are literally no borders. There are no checkpoints. You don't have to show a passport. You can drive from Hungary to Sweden, crossing the channel, of course.
So, that's one of the things that makes it easier for people to move around and harder to be keeping track of them.
BLITZER: Well, France, the president, Francois Hollande, the president of France, said he is going to -- over these next three months, these emergency decrees, he's going to do something at the borders, because you're absolutely right. For years, you could drive around Europe like you drive around the United States.
You can go from Michigan to Indiana or whatever without border controls or any checkpoints or anything like that. This visa waiver program, I know you're concerned about it. It's been around now for a long time. Citizens of friendly countries like France or Belgium, Germany, Britain, they can come to the United States as tourists, as business men and women and simply come in without a whole lot of checking. They don't need special visas.
KING: That's right.
And that's -- and I see that as our major vulnerability. There is a lot of talk about the Syrian refugees. Since 2011, 2,000 refugees have come in. Visa waiver last year, 20 million entries to the United States.
BLITZER: From countries that have visa waiver programs with the United States.
KING: Thirty-eight countries around the world, but they include the European countries.
And so that's where I think there is some real work to be done.
BLITZER: What work needs to be done? Do away with it?
KING: Well, I don't know if we need to do away with it. But we certainly need to tighten up standards and we need to be sure that the European countries are doing the proper background work.
Here's the problem.
BLITZER: But they are overwhelmed already, the Europeans.
KING: And perhaps we should pause it. I'm not sure yet what the answer is, but I'm trying to gather the data.
But when I heard that number of 20 million, that's a pretty shocking figure. And that's where I think we need to be concentrating our attention. BLITZER: Which way are you going to vote? This House measure
passed overwhelming today to put a pause on the refugees coming into the United States from Syria and Iraq. It's going to come to the Senate. How are you going to vote?
KING: I'm going to take a look at it. I probably will vote against it.
I'm suspicious of bills that are introduced on Tuesday and passed on Thursday. That's almost a definition that it didn't get proper consideration. And, again, why are we focusing on 2,000 people in the last three years and not on 20 million last year? Let's focus our attention on where the real problem is.
One of the bills that was put in today, bipartisan bill in the Senate, would say anybody who has been to Syria or Iraq in the last five years, no visa waiver. Now, then the question is, how good is the data in Europe?
BLITZER: Because, if you're a terrorist, you're going to lie. You're going to say, I have never been to Syria.
KING: And that's where it falls down. Our -- the visa waiver program is only as strong as the weakest link. And if there are weaker links in Europe, then it isn't going to work.
BLITZER: Senator King, thanks very much for coming in.
KING: Yes, sir.
BLITZER: Angus King of the Intelligence Committee.
Just ahead, we will return live to Paris with the latest on the terror investigation and the new ISIS attack threats. Is the Vatican a possible target tonight?
Plus, we're learning more about the final moments of the mastermind of the attacks and that shoot-out in a Paris suburb.
BLITZER: Breaking news tonight, CNN has learned that a manhunt for the fugitive terrorists in the Paris attack is now expanding. A source close to the investigation tells CNN authorities are looking for Saleh Abdeslam in the Netherlands.
[18:31:24] Let's go back to our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto. He's following the latest developments in the investigation. Clearly, it's expanding.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. No question. It's an urgent manhunt. We knew they were looking in France, certainly looking in Belgium, because you'll remember it was just a few hours after the attacks here that police stopped him before they knew who he was or how he was connected, let him go. At that point, he was on the road to Belgium. Certainly, the terror level very high there. The search going on
there. Now they're expanding it to the Netherlands, the reason being is that he has past associations there. But keep in mind, just for folks back home, the distances between these countries, they're very short, like traveling state to state in the U.S. The borders virtually nonexistent. You can cross very easily. That makes a manhunt that much more difficult.
And it just raises and makes very clear the level of their challenge here in finding this one man across this country now.
And keep in mind, it's not just him that they're looking for. They're looking for a support network. And as we've heard from senior French security officials tonight, it's not a question; it's a certainty that there are other terrorists, other terror cells out there that they need to find before they can attack.
BLITZER: And I'm sure not just in France but in Belgium and elsewhere, as well. Jim Sciutto, stand by.
Officials in France have identified a female suspect who blew herself up during a raid and a gunfight in that Paris suburb, the same raid that led to the death of mastermind of the Paris attacks. Our CNN international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, is standing by. He's in Paris for us.
What are you learning tonight, Nic?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Hasna Ait Boulahcen was the female suicide bomber. Of course, her mother's house on the outskirts, northeastern outskirts of Paris yesterday was raided by police. And no doubt, they're developing more information about her, more information about her -- about her connection.
She, of course, the cousin of the person that is seen as a significant player behind the Friday attacks. We now have that from French officials, saying that absolutely he played a decisive role.
The reason that they got the information to know where to target him, that came in part from Moroccan intelligence sources, also in part from those telephone intercepts. And the raid to bring him down, that began in the early morning hours of Wednesday morning.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): 4:20 a.m. on Wednesday, an elite French police unit closes in on an apartment building in the Paris suburb of Saint-Deni. Intelligence, wiretaps, bank transfers have led them to this low-income neighborhood. Their target, this man: Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspect ringleader in a string of terror plots.
Police make their way to the third floor, but an explosive charge fails to open the security door. A ferocious gun battle erupts and continues for an hour. Three people are quickly arrested, but there are now still two or three people inside, including a woman. They throw grenades. Police fire 5,000 rounds into the apartment. After the scene quiets down, police send in an attack dog named
Diesel to check for signs of life. Diesel is shot dead. A police sniper shoots one of the terrorists inside. Injured, he continues to fire back. A police officer shouts to the woman: "Where is your boyfriend?"
[18:35:01] She yells back, "It's not my boyfriend." Then a loud explosion. Police say the woman detonated a suicide vest. It turns out, she is the cousin of Abaaoud.
But it's several more hours before the police can enter the building, where they find a scene of carnage. Two men are detained, but there are the remains of two or even three bodies inside. French forensic experts race to discover whether Abaaoud is one of them but amid the severe carnage, have to move slowly. More than 24 hours pass before the prosecutor's office in a two-line statement says the bullet-ridden body is Abaaoud's.
BERNARD CAZENEUVE, FRENCH INTERIOR MINISTER (through translator): Among the six attacks that have been avoided or foiled since spring this year, Abaaoud seems to have been involved in four of them.
ROBERTSON: A victory against terrorism, but many questions remain.
ROBERTSON: And those questions, France's intelligence officials are and are obviously prioritizing and asking themselves, is they believe he was in Syria. It was only with the help of the Moroccan intelligence telling them that he was on French soil that led them to be able to thwart the operation -- another operation that he was just about to put into place.
So they have to figure out how he was able to slip back from Syria and get into Europe. And of course, that is a growing concern here right now.
We've heard from French officials today saying that they need to beef up and make the outer borders of this sort of Schengen Europe, this Europe of countries with no police controls and proper border controls, if you will. They need to make the outer levels of that, the outer rings of it -- we've spoken here about Italy, about Greece, these countries where migrants, refugees flood into Europe, they need to make those more secure.
But that's not all of it. What they also are talking about working on here -- we're hearing this from others in Europe -- is trying to get police forces in Europe to work in a more speedy, efficient, united way to really unify the police forces inside that hardened border, Wolf.
BLITZER: A lot of work ahead of them. Nic Robertson in Paris for us, thanks very much.
Let's bring in our justice reporter, Evan Perez; our CNN terrorism analyst, Paul Cruickshank; and our CNN military analyst, retired Major General James "Spider" Marks.
Paul, if the search for Abdeslam has been expanded now to include the Netherlands, not just in France or Belgium, might officials have information on his movements, any help he may have had moving across the borders, some contacts he may have had? What are you hearing?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, Wolf, the search goes on. I've been in touch with officials in Belgium and throughout Europe on this. And they're putting all the resources they can to find this man. There's a lot of concern, because there's a missing suicide vest. He's considered armed and dangerous, and there's concern that he might want to go out in a blaze of glory. He doesn't have many options left. The entire continent's security services are mobilized against them, Wolf.
Nine o'clock in the morning on Saturday -- we're talking about last time they had trace of him -- they actually stopped him, the French police, that morning at 9 a.m. as he was driving back after the attacks into Belgium, picked up by two of his friends from Molenbeek. But they didn't know at that point that he was one of the attackers, so they let him go.
They contacted Belgium police, who arrested the other two when they got to Molenbeek, but by that time he'd slipped the net; hasn't been seen since. And they really don't know where he is. I mean, he could be almost anywhere in Europe by now. He may even be trying to get back to Syria, for all we know, Wolf. That would be a good propaganda victory for ISIS.
BLITZER: If he could do that, that would be amazing, given the intense manhunt underway.
Spider Marks, the French officials, they didn't know where -- they don't know where this guy is. They thought maybe he was in France, Belgium, now maybe in the Netherlands. We're talking about Saleh Abdeslam, the eighth terrorist, who's still at large right now.
They didn't know that the so-called mastermind, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was even in France. They thought he was in Syria someplace with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the ISIS leader. So the critics say the French intelligence service has a lot of answers -- has a lot of questions to answer.
MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it is all about intelligence, and it's all about getting that intelligence out and shared very, very broadly.
Look, Interpol exists for a reason. And that's so that the international communities that subscribe to that and are participants in that have access to that data. It needs to not just be available. It needs to be pushed so that it goes down to respective locations when something like this pops up.
In other words, whenever you have a leading indicator, you then push the intelligence down to where you think those actions need to take place. It's a guess that he's still in Europe and where he might be.
[18:40:03] BLITZER: You've just come, Evan, from a briefing with the U.S. justice, the attorney general that's head of the Justice Department, Loretta Lynch; with James Comey, the director of the FBI.
What are they saying about these latest ISIS propaganda videos saying they're going to go after targets like Times Square, Herald Square in New York, the White House, the -- they want to blow up the monuments here in Washington, they say, like they blew up archeological treasures in Syria and in Iraq? What are they saying about these?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Really, Wolf, they have two messages. The first of it is, you know, let's not let these people make us live in fear. We just refuse.
Loretta Lynch, that's what she was -- that was her primary message, which was that the Justice Department, the FBI has upped its game on this, has made sure it's increased the number of people it's monitoring closely. We know that the FBI director, Jim Comey, said today that there are dozens of people that they have increased monitoring of because of the concern that they are high-priority people who could act out on behalf of ISIS.
We know they have 900 investigations. This is a much smaller pool that they're focusing on.
And they also talked about the fact that we know that these people, there are much fewer of them that are traveling overseas to join ISIS and Syria and Iraq, and the question is why. Is it because the message is getting through to them that they shouldn't go? Or worse, that they're heeding the message from ISIS, which is to stay here and kill here? That's the word of Jim Comey, the FBI director.
BLITZER: Pretty frightening when you hear that directly from the director of the FBI.
BLITZER: And the attorney general of the United States.
All right. Stand by. Everyone stand by. We're getting more information on what's going on. This expanding manhunt underway right now. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.
[18:46:16] BLITZER: We're back with our terrorism experts in the breaking news we're following. The manhunt for a dangerous fugitive suspected in the Paris terror attacks now expanding, CNN has learned. Authorities are looking for Salah Abdeslam in the Netherlands, not just France or Belgium -- that manhunt expanding.
When they released a video, Paul Cruickshank, a video ISIS saying "Paris before Rome" and they specifically say they want to go after Rome, they don't necessarily mean the city of Rome in Italy or even the Vatican. They have a much broader definition of what Rome is, don't they?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: That's absolutely right, Wolf. For them, Rome is the entire western world and the message in this new video put out by an ISIS branch in Iraq is they want to come eventually after the White House, that they are going to engulf the White House in Washington D.C. in flames.
They are really ratcheting up the propaganda in the last few days against the United States and I think that's quite interesting with these threats against Washington, also New York. They are trying to make hay while the sun is shining on them from their point of view because of these Paris attacks, and I think one of the concerns is that they could try and infiltrate European operatives into the United States. Some of these attackers in Paris were not, we understand, on U.S. watch lists and so could have presumably quite easily gotten on planes and come to the United States and perhaps try to launch something over there.
I think that's something security officials in the United States will be watching out for. There was no specific reference, by the way, to Italy itself in the new video, but I understand that there has been a security alert put out, security advisory from the State Department, American tourists in Italy, about sort of being careful when they are over there at this point.
BLITZER: Yes, the State Department spokesman John Kirby told me earlier today, Spider, that the U.S., that Washington is sending more marine guards to various embassies throughout Europe or Paris or Brussels or Rome for that matter just to err on side of caution.
Airstrikes clearly are intensifying. President Hollande of France is coming to the White House on Tuesday to meet with the president, and to the Moscow to meet with President Putin, but air strikes alone can't get the job done, you agree?
JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Oh, completely. The air strikes, if we could increase, if the Western powers, coalition, to include -- to include France and now Russia, if those air strikes became smothering in terms of the number of the sorties, the precision of the strikes and we ended up with an ear bleeding kind of a campaign against ISIS, we could contain their activities.
That's not, that's necessary but it's not sufficient and what is sufficient, ultimately, is to get something on the ground, soldiers on the ground so you can occupy the space and you cannot let it go back because it will. Recidivism takes place with geography as well. It will go back to the bad guys.
BLITZER: How much coordination, cooperation between the FBI and law enforcement intelligence is there with the Europeans?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: There is a lot more of it. They are sharing pretty much every bit of information. The information they had before these attacks that perhaps maybe they might have held on to, try to develop it further. They are sharing things a lot more quickly, Wolf. That's one reason why you saw in Italy there was a warning as a result of information the FBI shared with the Italian authorities. That's exactly what's happening.
You see in light of what these videos are calling for, they are making sure they are monitoring these people because they want to make sure they stop any copycat attacks. It's a big priority, stopping any copycats from trying to do what happened in Paris.
[18:50:01] BLITZER: It's a nightmare.
All right, guys. Stand by. We're going to continue to follow the breaking news. We've got to take a quick break. Much more right after this.
BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, the search for the fugitive eighth terrorist in the Paris attacks now expanding to the Netherlands. A source telling CNN that Salah Abdeslam previously spent time in that country.
Here in the United States, the House of Representatives has passed a bill effectively blocking refugees from Syria and Iraq for that matter from entering the country, at least for now.
Our senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns is here with details.
Joe, this legislation passed overwhelmingly.
[18:55:00] A lot of Democrats joining Republicans, a veto-proof majority in the House.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The vote was 281-137, a veto proof majority -- just enough to support to override a presidential veto if it ever came to that. And the White House has made its objections to this bill perfectly clear.
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 yeas are 289 and nays 137. The bill is passed.
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.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: 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 says is overly cumbersome. The White House has threatened to veto it in the event it gets passed Democrats who opposed it in the Senate.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: 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.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R-TN), FOREIGN RELATIONS CHAIRMAN: 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 sounded 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 that would only affect 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.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: That if a terrorist is going to try to come into this country, they are much more likely to use loopholes in the visa waiver program to do it.
JOHNS: And there was more action today. Republican senator and presidential candidate Rand Paul also tried to slip a provision on to a transportation bill that would have blocked government benefits to refugees from 34 countries, just one more indication this debate over refugees on Capitol Hill is not going away -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Joe Johns, up on Capitol -- thanks very much.
Meanwhile tonight, Donald Trump isn't ruling out what many people consider a radical step beyond trying to keep Syrian refugees out of the U.S. Trump says he's willing to consider requiring Muslims living in the United States to register with the national database.
Let's go to our political reporter Sara Murray. She's covering the Trump campaign. She's out there in Iowa right now.
What exactly is he saying?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right. That was an interview with Yahoo News and Trump basically said he wouldn't rule out the option of having Muslims register in a database. He says we need to look closely at all of our options out there.
Previously, he said he would also be open to shutting down mosques. And tonight in Iowa, he's continued this tough rhetoric, saying it would be suicide to admit Syrian refugees into the United States -- Wolf.
BLITZER: So, tonight, a controversial remark by Dr. Ben Carson on the whole refugee issue. What did he say?
MURRAY: Yes, we're seeing a number of Republicans try to take a hard line on this. But Carson caused a stir today when he compared the Syrian refugee crisis to rabid dogs, using an analogy that some people thought was a little bit indelicate. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: At the same time, we must always balance. We must balance safety against just being a humanitarian. For instance, you know, if there's a rabid dog running around your neighborhood, you're probably not going to assume something good about that dog, and you're probably going to put your children out of the way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: Now, in another campaign event today, Carson explained that he was talking about needing to vet the Syrian refugees and better screen them as they come to the U.S. He accused the media of twisting his words -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Increasingly, Sara, the candidates are speaking out on the national security issues in the aftermath of Paris, right?
MURRAY: Absolutely. I think that we're seeing a number of candidates realize this race is quickly becoming a test about who is prepared to be commander in chief.
BLITZER: Sarah Murray on the campaign trail with Donald Trump in Iowa for us. Thanks very much.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
CNN special coverage of the Paris attacks continues right now with "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT".