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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Report: Little-Known Drug May Be Fueling Jihadists; ISIS Waging War Across The Globe; Holiday Travel Ramps Up Amid Air Scares; Paris Trying To Move Forward. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired November 20, 2015 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[16:30:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Officials say it was a third man, an unidentified man who set off a suicide vest. They just also disclosed today that they found this third body as well. With me here is CNN's Clarissa Ward. Clarissa, what do we know about who this woman was and how she did die?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So it's getting increasingly complicated this picture. We know that this is a 26-year-old woman. Her name is Hasna Aitboulahcen (ph), and she's believed to be the cousin of the architect of these attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud.
Now, originally French authorities had said she was the one who detonated the explosive vest. And you heard the sound in that video just before the police stormed the building. She was shouting. He's not my boyfriend, he's not my boyfriend.
Now it turns out authorities say she's not the person who detonated the vest. It's one of two other men who were in the apartment. But we don't yet know was it Abaaoud who blew up the vest or was it in fact this other person who was also killed whose identity we don't know?
And we spent all day, Jake, today in Saint-Denis. There are still forensic experts. They are still combing through that apartment. You can imagine the carnage in that apartment for the authorities to take two days to come out and say, actually, we got this wrong, it wasn't her.
TAPPER: The mind reels that they didn't even know there was a third body until today. It must be gruesome. Quickly, if you could, we're finding out more about a suicide bomber from the Stade De France. He apparently also smuggled himself in embedded with Syrian refugees apparently.
WARD: So authorities now say they've identified the final attacker. We don't have a name for him, but what we do know is that he reportedly traveled alongside the other attacker who was carrying a fake Syrian passport.
This attacker too was carrying a fake Syrian passport, both of them using that refugee route going from Turkey to Greece and into Central Europe. As I said we don't have a name, but the name on the Greek ticket was Muhammad al-Muhammad, which I think we can probably assume was a fake name.
We can also assume these were fake passports. What this really tells you and what analysts say these men were likely European nationals exploiting the refugee system and situation so that they could come back into Central Europe under the radar.
TAPPER: Clarissa Ward, thank you so much for that great reporting. It may not be just a twisted view of the world that is driving ISIS to commit these horrific murders.
Could the terrorists also be high on drugs? And what will it take to ultimately defeat and destroy this toxic and lethal organization? That conversation is next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper reporting live from Paris where a desperate international manhunt is still underway for this man, Salah Abdelsalam (ph), believed to be the eighth ISIS terrorist from last Friday's carnage.
We're now learning that ISIS' holy war may not be just fueled by the terror group's hatred of the west. "The Washington Post" is reporting that an obscure drug many of you have probably never heard of could also be playing a role.
It's called Captigon. It's a highly addictive amphetamine banned by most countries since the 1980s and yet widely available on the black market including across the Middle East. Experts tell CNN that the drug is a synthetic stimulant that can produce a euphoric like high for users.
And it can have devastating side effects including psychosis and potentially brain damage. According to a "Time" magazine Jihadists are abusing the pill to stay up for days at a time on the battlefield where they fight with a feeling of invisibility and in some cases a senseless disregard for life, their own and others.
In a BBC documentary, one Lebanese user of the drug said, quote, "I felt like I own the world high, like I have power nobody has, a really nice feeling."
Now, critics caution that the notion that a stimulant is somehow driving terrorists to kill us is completely overblown. And a senior U.S. official tells CNN this afternoon that the use of Captagon would not be surprising.
But it only underscores the human frailty of ISIS fighters rather than any perceived superiority. Make no mistake, of course, whether Paris was fueled by this poison or not just the poisonous ideology.
ISIS and its addiction to violence is spreading like a drug across several continents, in Syria and in Iraq, the terror group headed by Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi has complete control over wide swaths of those countries.
ISIS has also taken advantage of the power vacuum in Libya and there's new evidence that Taliban defectors are aligning behind the black ISIS banner. So how does the U.S. fight a war against a terror group that seemingly can go anywhere?
Joining me now to discuss this all are Republican Senator John McCain and Republican presidential candidate and senator, Lindsey Graham. Senators, thanks so much for talking with me.
Senator Graham, let me start with you. Frightening scenes out of Mali today where terrorists sieged a hotel, murdered innocent civilians, the State Department saying about a dozen Americans had to be rescued.
You said earlier this week that you would propose an authorization of military force essentially with no restrictions, no geographical constraints. So right now should the U.S. be on the ground in Africa combatting this horrific Islamic terrorist extremism?
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think we should go into mail right now. I think we should go in on the ground in Syria and Iraq. American boots on the ground is part of regional force to destroy ISIL.
There are credible imminent threats to the homeland more than the al Qaeda offshoot in Mali. We should help the French and the Mali government, but we should be on the ground tomorrow if we could get there destroying ISIL in Syria.
[16:40:10] TAPPER: Let's talk about Syria, Senator McCain, you've been arguing strongly for years to arm the moderate Syrian opposition. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is among the voices in the United States that says the U.S. needs to stop trying to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. That ISIS is the priority. What do you make of that argument?
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, I understand the priority of ISIS, but I also hope she and others would understand the priority of Bashar Assad who has slaughtered a quarter of a million of his own people with these horrible barrel bombs driven millions into refugee status.
The reason we have the refugee status today is as much to do with Bashar Assad's insanity as it is ISIS. So to allow one of the great butchers in the 21st Century to remain in power, I think, would be insane.
And by the way we can do it. Could I just say again, the president's policy which was clearly containment, which is what he may have made a mistake by articulating the truth is not working. Containment doesn't work.
And that's why we're going to have to take some action and one of them is this more American ground troops TAPPER: Senator Graham, your rival in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, suggests that the U.S. should prioritize Christian refugees from Syria over all others including Muslims. Would you do that?
GRAHAM: No, I would look at people's needs as human beings. We're Americans here. We believe in religious freedom and diversity. But I would suspend the Syrian refugee program for all Syrians until we can find a way to make sure we vet who comes.
But, no, I think most Americans would help a woman who's raped regardless of her religion whether she's Muslim. What I've been trying to tell the American people that the refugee problem is a failure of strategy.
There are many other ways to get here rather than faking a refugee. If we don't come up with a regional approach, regional army, go on the ground in Syria to destroy ISIL, we're going to get hit here.
TAPPER: Senator McCain, what do you think of the legislation that the House of Representatives just passed to make more difficult the vetting process, essentially block Syrian and Iraqi refugees from coming to the United States?
MCCAIN: Well, I think that we have to have a pause. And I think we have to assure the American people that sufficient measures are in place and some of them may be tough. We're talking about this visa program among others.
So they can be assure that had a terrorist isn't coming in to this country. I think it's entirely appropriate at this time. And again, I want to emphasize what Lindsey said. We're looking so hard and everybody's fired up about the refugees.
Why don't we address the problem that caused the refugees? You know, it's easy to stand up there and say we're going to stop the refugees. It's harder to do what Lindsey Graham and I are saying and that's do what's necessary to stop it. I think there's a bit of theatrics going on here in all due respect.
GRAHAM: If I could just suggest, Jake, how about this idea, make sure they don't have to leave their country to begin with because they don't want to leave. But they're being raped and murdered in large numbers by Assad and ISIL and other terrorist groups.
So this idea of keeping Assad in power or anybody who believes that's a good idea, one, agrees with the Iranians and doesn't understand the effect that it would have on the region in Syria, so stop the reason they leave.
Send them back to their homes with a safe haven, a place they can go without being killed, and get about destroying ISIL, which is the right goal but we don't have the right strategy before it's too late.
I have the experience to win a war we cannot afford to lose. And I hope after the last week people understand that experience does matter.
MCCAIN: A safe zone would relieve the pressure of the refugees. I'd like to see all of my friends who were so worried about the issue support that.
GRAHAM: And, Jake, just finally, for three years we've been talking about a strategy that has an air component, a ground component training the Free Syrian Army. Three years ago we predicted everything you see happening on your TV screens today. And the worst is yet to come if we do not change our strategy.
TAPPER: Senator John McCain, Senator Lindsey Graham, thanks to both of you.
MCCAIN: Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: In the U.S. airline travel on high alert as terrorists try to target passenger planes. What extra security could mean for you as we head into the busiest travel week of the year.
[16:45:08]And one Friday night, six locations destroyed by terrorists, 130 people killed. How people in Paris are trying to return to their lives as they question what happened last week.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper coming to you live from Paris, France. This is a city obviously shaken by the ISIS terrorist attacks just one week ago today.
The attacks here along with the Metrojet bombing just last month over Egypt, which ISIS has also claimed credit for, have led to an air travel industry on edge with a number of security scares happening in the U.S. last week.
This all comes of course just as the holiday travel season is beginning. More than 2 million people expected to fly each day. I want to get right to CNN aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh. Rene, what are you hearing from airlines?
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, airlines are warning passengers to arrive two hours before departure. Record number of fliers coupled with heightened airport security will mean longer lines.
[16:50:10] MARSH (voice-over): Millions of passengers will pack onto planes starting today to kick off the holiday travel season. From now until December 1st it's estimated a total 25 million people will fly on U.S. airlines, 3 percent more than last year. This as airports around the country remained on high alert. SETH KAPLAN, AVIATION ANALYST: TSA has to be a lot more thorough because of all these concerns. It's pretty simple mathematics. In the end it's going to take more time to screen each person. And that is going to add up to longer lines.
MARSH: Travelers should expect longer wait times as TSA spends more time inspecting passengers and luggage. Expect random checks, hand swabs to test for explosive residue and additional random checks at the gate.
Even pre-check passengers may be required to remove their shoes and laptops. Homeland Security has also called for expanded screening of all items on aircraft leaving overseas airports with direct flights to the United States.
There's no known specific threat to the U.S., but passenger planes remain a target for terrorists. This week ISIS claimed this is the bomb that brought down a Russian passenger plane earlier this month.
That crash along with the terrorist attacks in Paris has led to a climate where pilots and airlines are taking no chances.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next aircraft is the emergency aircraft.
MARSH: Two Air France flights were diverted this week after bomb threats were called in.
UNIDENTIFIED PILOT: Precautionary we are declaring an emergency, this is a security issue.
MARSH: Thursday night a Spirit Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing in Fort Lauderdale after another bomb threat. They all prove to be hoaxes. But heightened airport security paired with more holiday travelers will likely lead to long waits at America's airports.
KAPLAN: Everybody understands that the first priority is to be safe. Now, especially with the new security concerns you're really more than ever going to want to get to the airport early.
MARSH: And you're looking at what's projected to be the ten busiest airports this travel season. And the other factor that could impact wait times, TSA's full-time airport security staffing levels have steadily decreased due to a smaller budget -- Jake.
TAPPER: Rene Marsh, thanks so much. The world watched in horror as the series of attacks erupted here in Paris exactly one week ago, the city of light plunging into darkness when those eight ISIS terrorists senselessly murdered 130 people.
The entire city is still reeling, but resilient Parisians are trying to stand bright against the dark.
TAPPER (voice-over): The horror that started last week is still not done, with at least two terror suspects still on the loose and tragic news this afternoon that the death toll from the attacks has risen to 130.
Dozens of victims of the terrorist attacks remain in hospitals with many in intensive care. And there are those wounds that may never heal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just stay, those words saved my life because the people who ran were shot.
TAPPER: The weather here in Paris today matching the mood of the country as armed police, soldiers, and extra security are sprinkled throughout the city. While at the same time barriers that had surrounded the sights of the horrific ISIS terrorist murders come down.
(on camera): Paris is struggling to return to normal. The Eiffel Tower has reopened, but initial surveys suggest the terrorist attack haves had a huge economic impact on the city with some estimates showing tourism down almost 60 percent.
The signs that some have indeed been terrorized are clear where usually there are throngs of tourists, today there is only open space. Tour buses are empty. The French Senate today unanimously voted to extend the current state of emergency to three months, lasting well until February.
In some ways it's hard to imagine it's only been a week. The band eagles of death metal is still being advertised as performing at Bataclan, the concert venue where 89 people were so senselessly slaughtered seven days ago this evening.
But even though nobody will be performing at Bataclan this night there is a push for France to return to normal, the hashtag, everyone to the bar is trending in French social media. And there are those determined to do their patriotic part.
(voice-over): It should be noted Thursday at midnight, the year's new batch released as planned, this cafe even creating a rustic French countryside on the sidewalk in the heart of the city.
[16:55:04] And the shops at the Christmas village closed after the terrorist attacks are open now and attracting crowds of shoppers. All of them are proving these Latin words, which have been the motto of Paris officially since 1853 and are now plastered throughout the city.
On the Eiffel Tower and here at the city's largest makeshift memorial at the Place De La Republique, they translate to mean, she is tossed by the waves but does not sink, nor will she ever.
TAPPER: This weekend on "STATE OF THE UNION," I'll discuss the aftermath of the Paris attacks with Republican presidential candidate, Governor Chris Christie, with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunez, and with President Obama's former defense secretary, Chuck Hagel. That's Sunday at 9 a.m. and noon Eastern.
That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Stick around for Wolf Blitzer. He's in "THE SITUATION ROOM."