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Targeting Terror: Inside the Intelligence War. Aired midnight- 1a ET

Aired November 25, 2015 - 00:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The following is a CNN Special Report.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: [Speaking in Foreign Language]

JIM SCIUTTO, "TARGETING TERROR: INSIDE THE INTELLIGENCE WAR" HOST: It all happened within a few minutes, in the street, the cafes, at the game and the concert. But could what happened in Paris happen in the U.S.?

JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I don't know of a time when we've been beset by more threats.

SCIUTTO: Al-Qaeda and ISIS lurking beyond America's reach.

Tracking ISIS movements today in Iraq and Syria.

CLAPPER: That's a tough problem.

SCIUTTO: And the lone wolves inspired from afar but acting alone. Can American intelligence stay ahead of the terrorists? To find out, we go inside the agencies.

We're the first reporters allowed inside.

Working to keep you safe with exceptional access to the tools and the tactics they use for targeting terror, inside the intelligence war.

A quiet fall evening in Paris, in bars and restaurants lining the streets, Parisians and tourists eat, drink, and watch the world go by. More than a thousand people crowd into the Bataclan Concert Hall to watch an American Rock Band.

The biggest draw of the night is a huge international soccer match at the Stade de France, France's National Stadium. France versus rival Germany draws tens of thousands of fans. Among them, the French President Francois Hollande, it becomes the events that terrorists chose to begin their deadly rampage.

9:20 p.m., the game is already underway when a man approaches the stadium entrance.

BLEY BILAL MOKONO, WITNESS: [Speaking in Foreign Language].

I come face-to-face with this individual. His beard is dripping with sweat. This was not reassuring and prompted me to wonder, what was going on? And I could see he was very anxious, disturbed.

SCIUTTO: Security guards frisk him and find their worst nightmare, an explosive belt.

MOKONO: [Speaking in Foreign Language] Boom.

He had blown himself up. My shoulders and body were propelled back.

SCIUTTO: The soccer match continues, fans unaware, Paris unaware, until four miles away three masked gunmen armed with assault rifles opened fire at two restaurants popular with young Parisians.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had heard huge gunshots and lots of glass coming through the window so we ducked onto the floor with all of the other diners.

SCIUTTO: Back in the stadium, a bodyguard leans over and tells President Hollande that France is under attack. Then, 9:30, another suicide bomber detonates at the stadium.

MOKONO: [Speaking in Foreign Language].

We felt it again. We were propelled forward again. I saw my son Ryan, tears in his eyes. I had tears in my eyes and I take a hold of my son and I say, "I love you my son. Daddy is here."

SCIUTTO: Two minutes later another neighborhood, another cafe. This surveillance video from, people run for their lives. Outside a gunman aims at a woman lying on the ground. His gun jams. She gets up and runs away.

Inside, bullets fly, shards of glass spray and everyone ducks for cover.

9:36, diners at La Belle Equipe Cafe are under fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We heard this incredible gunfire and it's not a sound one knows, can you (inaudible) hear it.

<21:05:00> When I got there, there were six people lying on the ground in front of the restaurants and many more inside.

SCIUTTO: In just 16 minutes, two suicide bombings, three deadly shootings, a city in panic, shocked and despair. Who's behind the attacks, why, and most importantly, are they over? Sadly for Paris, the worst was yet to come.

At 9:40, a suicide bomber attacks the Comptoir Voltaire while across town at American Rock Band is playing at the Bataclan Concert Hall. Three men entered and start shooting.

ISOBEL BOWDERY, WITNESS: You could smell the gunpowder. You could hear the terror of people screaming. I looked around once and I saw the dead man that had been shot his face. He was facing towards me. And after that I said, no, I cannot look. SCIUTTO: When the attackers stopped to reload, dozens of terrified people flee through the back exit. This woman tries to escape out a window. She is pregnant and hanging on for dear life.

While on the street below, there's a mad dash for survival. One man limps away as best he can. Others drag the injured to safety. Finally, the woman is pulled safely from the ledge.

Near the stadium, there was a third blast from one final suicide bomber. Fans are left confused, seeking safety together on the field. It is 9:53.

At the Bataclan, the killing continues. The gunmen murdering people one by one as they lay on the ground. Those who aren't executed become hostages.

BOWDERY: It felt like a nightmare. It felt like the worst, horrible, you don't move. You pretend that you've already been shot. You pretend you're dead and that's what I did.

It was important. It was important that if I was going to die, if the next bullet was for me, that I left saying, "I love you." So I said it to every single person I've ever loved. And in that way it felt -- it felt OK to die because I had love in my heart and I reflected on a great life.

SCIUTTO: Hours passed. Then, after midnight, a SWAT team storms in. All three gunmen died, two from detonating their suicide belts.

PIERRE, WITNESS: [Speaking in Foreign Language].

There was blood on the walls. There was blood everywhere. It's the apocalypse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: French security experts, French security analysts believe that what they are seeing at this point is a coordinated terrorist attack tonight in Paris.

SCIUTTO: It is the most violent night in France since World War II. Hundreds are dead or injured.

Coming up, the enemy in our midst.

PETER BERGEN, NATIONL SECURITY ANALYST: Some of the bombers in the Paris attack were well-known Jihadi Terrorists.

SCIUTTO: France didn't see it coming. Could the U.S. be next?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: [Speaking in Foreign Language].

To Hollande, we are telling you, wait and see the worse. I swear, I swear, you will drink from cups of death. SCIUTTO: ISIS propaganda, America's greatest fear is now France's nightmare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: [Speaking in Foreign Language].

The day we are revenging because you started the assault.

SCIUTTO: Paris, November 13th. As hospitals and morgues in Paris are inundated with the injured and the dead, the investigation began into how the attacks happened but there was little doubt about who was responsible.

BERGEN: ISIS claimed responsibility very quickly. The French government within 24 hours identified ISIS as being responsible.

SCIUTTO: Quickly investigators would learn the identities and movements of the men who killed and died that night in Paris.

BERGEN: Many of them had long histories of Jihadist terrorist activity. Some of the bombers in the Paris attack were not on the U.S. watch lists. Some of them were because some of them were quite well-known Jihadi terrorists.

SCIUTTO: Almost all of the attackers were European nationals and most had traveled to Syria. Several were known to both European and U.S. intelligence.

BERGEN: The French say that for every one militant they are trying to follow, they need 25 people to monitor that person. So if you've got thousands of people, do the math.

SCIUTTO: Do the math and then ask the hard question, could what happened in Paris happen here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: White House, this is NCTC, how do you have us?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have you loud and clear of thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have you loud and clear as well.

SCIUTTO: This is the daily meeting at the NCTC, or National Counterterrorism Center. The agency charged with stopping terror attacks in the U.S. Critical to heading them off is first understanding what's happening elsewhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The National Counterterrorism Center is tracking an explosion near the pyramids in Egypt and two suicide bombings inside Nigeria. ISIL is framing multiple strategies to remain and expand on these dependingly geographic regions.

SCIUTTO: That means ISIS makes different plans for different places. Like putting a bomb on an airplane in Egypt or striking France's capital.

NICHOLAS RASMUSSEN, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL COUNTERTERRORISM CENTER: ISIS is an organization that is definitely still expanding and growing. SCIUTTO: Growing and says NCTC Director Nicholas Rasmussen, learning.

<21:15:05> RASMUSSEN: And that gives you pause and that gives you concern because it suggests that the organization is seeking to develop capability, capability that can be brought against U.S. interests, not just in one area, Syria and Iraq, but around the world.

SCIUTTO: One critical innovation, avoiding surveillance altogether.

One adaptation is using encrypted communication, going dark. How much does that impede your ability to stop terror plots on the U.S. homeland?

RASMUSSEN: It's clear that our terrorist adversaries have figured out and learned what kind of communications we in the past been able to intercept and they now understand that if they take those communications off-line or find other ways to communicate that they can shield their communications from us.

SCIUTTO: Just like the attackers allegedly did in Paris. Another factor? Aspiring terrorists hiding in training in what intelligence officials call hard targets.

RASMUSSEN: It's true, we do not have this clear of a picture we would like of what they are up to when they are inside the conflict zone.

SCIUTTO: A conflict zone like Syria where operatives can learn to use weapons, make bombs and communicate covertly, skills that allowed a handful of men in France to make a global impact.

RASMUSSEN: If they are able to identify and motivate and inspire individuals to take action, even on a relatively small scale in locations around the world, that type of activity can have an outsized political or strategic effect.

SCIUTTO: Devastating Paris, one of the world's great cities just as New York was devastated 14 years ago. Are we safer today than we were then?

CLAPPER: In my 50-plus years in intelligence I don't know of a time when we've been beset by a more diverse array of challenges towards crises around the world.

SCIUTTO: James Clapper is the Director of National Intelligence. No one knows better the magnitude of terror threats and the limits on the tools to fight them.

CLAPPER: We're not clairvoyant, we can't predict the future but we can certainly describe their conditions, and we can certainly describe the trends of what's going on.

SCIUTTO: Trends among those that intend harm. Today on U.S. soil, there are more potential terrorists than ever before. There are 900 active investigations, 900 now pending against suspected operatives inspired by ISIS, at least one investigation in every U.S. state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: [Speaking in Foreign Language].

I swear to God, like we struck France and its stronghold Paris, we will strike America in its own stronghold, Washington.


RICHARD LEDGETT, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: Special power, water distribution of the aircraft control system financial sectors all those things.

SCIUTTO: Enemies already able to shut down the U.S.

LEDGETT: Via cyber attack.




SCIUTTO: August 14th, 2003 at 4:10 p.m., almost all of the Northeastern United States plunged into darkness. The largest blackout in American history. As night fell, 50 million people were in the dark. No lights, no public transit, no commerce, no computers. The only news came from battery-powered devices.

With memories of 9/11 fresh, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had to calm Manhattan saying there is no evidence of any terrorism whatsoever.

This blackout was caused by a tree limb in Cleveland, Ohio and it hasn't happened since. But Richard Ledgett knows how easy it would be to make this happen again.

You're saying that today, foreign actors already have the capability of shutting down key U.S. infrastructure?

LEDGETT,: Absolutely.

SCIUTTO: Via cyber attack?

LEDGETT: Yeah. Special power, water distribution, national gas distribution, transportation networks, aircraft control system, financial sector, all of those things.

SCIUTTO: You've just shut down the U.S.?

LEDGETT: Yeah. Basically, yeah.

SCIUTTO: Ledgett is the Deputy Director of the National Security Agency where every day he is fighting a war that's constantly shifting against increasingly familiar adversaries.

LEDGETT: We are in a battle, if not an actual war in cyberspace, and I wanted folks to understand and appreciate that.

SCIUTTO: With multiple actors?

LEDGETT: With multiple actors, yes.

SCIUTTO: China, Russia, Iran?

LEDGETT: North Korea, Eastern Europe.

SCIUTTO: Countless enemies launching a staggering number of attacks, tracked here in the NSA's Cyber Command Center.

How many cyber attacks do you see a day here? If you had to quantify.

LEDGETT: If you had to quantify, hundreds of thousands.

SCIUTTO: And it gets worse. Cyber attacks happening at lightning speed so the NSA has to put up defenses just as fast.

LEDGETT: The fastest we've ever done that is 10 minutes from start to finish, got the threat and put the defense up.

SCIUTTO: 10 minutes?

LEDGETT: 10 minutes.

SCIUTTO: Incredible.

The cyber intruders are getting faster, smarter. China suspected in the largest theft of U.S. government personal information.

Russia believed to be behind the hacking of White House e-mail.

And now terrorists such as ISIS and al-Qaeda have learned how to disappear from U.S. electronic surveillance completely.

Is it true that terrorists or adversaries can go completely dark?

LEDGETT: Absolutely. There is part of the world that is dark to us. In other words, we can't see.

BERGEN: The time to go dark is what the FBI terms their inability to see people's communication because of encryption and of course they are not happy about it.

<21:25:06> SCIUTTO: An online world hidden by widely available encryption, technology that makes messages impossible to monitor.

So that simple tool wins versus the whole apparatus and infrastructure of the NSA?

LEDGETT: Well, so that's maybe a little bit of an overstatement. What it does is it makes the job more difficult.

SCIUTTO: Are you letting on there and this is something that is fascinating to me that there is a way around encryption for the NSA?

LEDGETT: So that's a really difficult question to answer. Sometimes there is.

SCIUTTO: I mean, that gives me -- it gives a little bit of comfort, right, to imagine...

LEDGETT: It shouldn't give you too much comfort. It's a serious problem.

SCIUTTO: Operating in that darkness is a whole range of threats, Russian spies, North Korean hackers.

Police believe the Paris attackers used encryption to help cloak their operation.

BERGEN: Oh, I think we saw in Paris that intelligence agencies had no idea that these guys were going to do this and that present as huge problem because the United States had been very reliant on its ability to monitor e-mails and phone traffic, if it's losing that it's going to be a lot harder for it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We thank our listeners for tuning in and present the following Islamic State news bulletin.

SCIUTTO: Nadia Oweidat, a senior fellow at the New America Think Tank showed us one encryption tool being used by ISIS.

NADIA OWEIDAT, NEW AMERICA THINK TANK SENIOR FELLOW: So this is telegram app. It offers ISIS unprecedented ability to reach recruits and fans without worrying about its information being intercepted, and unless you subscribe to the channel you wouldn't even know about it.

SCIUTTO: Telegram is it a free app that ISIS uses to spread its propaganda and recruit new members. It's also a way that ISIS can secretly wire money or carryon private text messaging.

OWEIDAT: So I'm going to say, "Hello" and send. So it's just like a conversation.

SCIUTTO: Since the attacks in Paris, telegram has taken action blocking hundreds of public ISIS-related channels. It's a step but private encrypted messaging between members has not been affected.

For U.S. Intelligence Officials, encryption is of grave concern.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop blocking us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop blocking us.

SCIUTTO: But to privacy activists, it is a necessary reaction to the kind of mass surveillance programs former NSA staffer Edward Snowden revealed.


SCIUTTO: Director James Clapper says that Snowden's leaks have irreparably harmed intelligence gathering. CLAPPER: It did a lot of damage to our signal capability intelligence, particularly in the counterterrorism, regrettably. The terrorists really went to school on the revelations about our tradecraft, tactics, and techniques.

SCIUTTO: Encryption and mass surveillance will remain controversial issues but neither changes the fundamental fact that information in the U.S. flows freely.

LEDGETT: The thing that makes us so competitive and so powerful in a modern world, which is basically the networking of information and the way that we flow data back and forth, is also our biggest vulnerability.

SCIUTOO: In other words, for intelligence agencies like the NSA, the phones in our pockets, the computers on our desks, and the speed of our connection to a world of resources is simultaneously our greatest strength and most desperate weakness.

Coming up, a place you've probably never heard of.

We're approaching the mission ground station at White Sands, New Mexico.

And never seen until now.



SCIUTTO: ISIS, an enemy America and its allies are desperate to destroy. But fighting ISIS operatives means finding them first.

How does that work in layman's terms tracking ISIS' movements today in Iraq and Syria?

CLAPPER: Its tough problem now much more so it was five years ago because we don't have a presence physically in Syria.

SCIUTTO: With no country, capital or clear leadership, targets can be hard to come by. Late August 2014, this man became the face of ISIS.

MOHAMMED EMWAZI: Our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people.

SCIUTTO: In a terrifying series of videos, he graphically demonstrated the brutality of ISIS.

EMWAZI: You now have 72 hours.

SCIUTTO: He was nicknamed Jihadi John, and identified by his accent as British National, Mohammed Emwazi, fast forward to November 12th.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senior Pentagon official say they quote reasonably search him that Jihadi John is a dead man.

SCIUTTO: Jihadi John killed on a city street in the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, Syria, struck by two missiles from U.S. and British drones.

CLAPPER: It's a dangerous place human asset. As I say, when you're thwarted in one direction with one particular discipline, you try to compensate for it in other ways.

SCIUTTO: Like operating from the safety of space. Jihadi John tracked, targeted and taken out, all with the help...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five, four, three...

SCIUTTO: ... of spy satellites.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we have liftoff.

<21:35:00> SCIUTTO: Hundreds of spy satellites help American intelligence find, follow and fight terrorism. Of course, using spy satellites isn't new but what they can do will surprise you.

BETTY SAPP, DIRECTOR OF NRO: They can sense, you know, the same sense as your body has.

SCIUTTO: Betty Sapp is the Director of the National Reconnaissance Office or NRO, and the satellite or agency launches and operates can see and hear, sense heat, even feel vibrations.

SAPP: Think of what you used to do as a kid when you, you know, we used to play near railroad tracks. And you could feel the train coming before you could hear it. You're going to hear it before you can see it.

SCIUTTO: Today's satellites can detect the use of specific chemical or radioactive weapons. Critical capabilities when it comes to monitoring global hot spots, such as Syria and Iran.

SAPP: Whether it's following signals or whether it's tracing weapons, whether we're making sure that the treaties that the U.S. has signed are actually being enforced, we contribute to all of those missions.

SCIUTTO: I imagine the Iranian nuclear agreement falls into that category.

SAPP: We can contribute to that mission (ph).

SCIUTTO: To see where the data from Sapp's agency is collected, we came here. A place you've probably never heard of. A place you've certainly never seen, until now.

We're approaching the mission ground station at White Sands, New Mexico. The very existence of this ground station and others in the U.S. was classified until 2008. And we're the first reporters allowed inside.

Inside this ground station, the place the NRO calls its brain. From this room, the NRO watches over the agency satellites, checking their systems, receiving their data and troubleshooting any problems.


JEFF CRIDER, ADF-SW OPERATION SQUADRON COMMANDER: It's a piece of hardware with electronics on it and just like anything can go wrong with your cell phone or your television set that can go wrong.

SCIUTTO: Each satellite on Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Crider radar has an important job to do.

CRIDER: Everyday, we have a plan what that satellite is going to collect. And if we get a call in realtime where a crisis is happening we have a capability to retest those satellites.

SCIUTTO: And how often does that happen? Is that a regular thing where you get a call to say, I know you're looking over here but I need you to look here?

CRIDER: I would say as often CNN gets a breaking news story over there.

SCIUTTO: Satellites don't just collect critical data, they send it back to those who need it most. Whether investigators in Paris or soldiers on the front lines.

SAPP: I don't think there's a single American troop in harm's way that we are not watching over.

SCIUTTO: For every U.S. military unit deployed in harm's way, one or more guardian angels in the sky is watching.

How quickly can you warn a war fighter on the ground if you see something threatening him or her?

SAPP: We talk near realtime and it really is near realtime.

SCIUTTO: Warning for instance of an IED or ambush up ahead.

I'm walking down a road in Iraq and you see somebody approaching, you can communicate immediately?

SAPP: We can get information to units. We can get it to tactical vehicles as well.

SCIUTTO: To disable satellite, sophisticated adversaries, like China and Russia, may use missiles and lasers. But ISIS operatives use a much simpler way to circumvent spy satellites. They disappear completely.

CLAPPER: Instead of communicating electronically they use couriers or some other means of communication we haven't detected, or they just went silent.

SCIUTTO: Is it recoverable? Can you fill those holes?

CLAPPER: Well, no. I mean if they don't communicate, no.

SCIUTTO: That must keep you up at night. CLAPPER: That's a concern. There's no question about it.

SCIUTTO: Coming up, finding the terrorists is like finding a needle in a haystack.

ROBERT CARDILLO, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL GEOSPATIAL-INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: Trying to find the pattern in the noise is the real trick.



SCIUTTO: Before Paris, before ISIS, the U.S. had a different target, Osama Bin Laden.

After 9/11, U.S. Intelligence shifted search efforts into overdrive. They found him briefly in the rugged mountain hideout called Tora Bora. Then, Osama Bin Laden vanished for years.

MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: The trail was quite cold.

SCIUTTO: Former CIA Director Mike Hayden didn't have much to go on.

HAYDEN: Most of what we had felt more like Elvis sightings and they did substantive intelligence.

SCIUTTO: Until U.S. Intelligence zeroed in on this compound.

HAYDEN: An unusual compound, unusual in its security, unusual in its size, and frankly unusual in its location.

SCIUTTO: Its location, a half a mile from Pakistan's Premier Military Academy in Abbottabad. From miles and the sky, American's spy satellite we're watching.

Robert Cardillo is the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, here in the NGA Operations Center they make sense of the data that U.S. spy satellite being back.

CARDILLO: We've move from special resolution to what we called activity resolution now.

SCIUTTO: Translation, it's not just about satellite photos anymore. Now the patterns of behavior they reveal are much more telling.

CARDILLO: When I worked in this business in the '80s, patterns were developed, weeks at best, months, years more likely.

<21:45:00> Patterns these days are days at worst and hours more likely. So, trying to find a pattern in the noise is the real trick.

SCIUTTO: And when we speak about patterns, it's how often does this terrorist leader visit this compound...


SCIUTTO: ... that's what we're talking about?

CARDILLO: That's right.

SCIUTTO: Or in the case of the mysterious compound, it was about normal things that were not happening.

PETER BERGEN, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: They didn't seem to do anything very ordinary, like going to see a movie or going out grocery shopping. They seem to be staying in the compound. That was mysterious.

SCIUTTO: They had no internet connection, burned their trash and rarely left. But patterns also showed someone pacing in the garden.

BERGEN: They could see a guy dressed all in white. He was taking what looked like prison walks around the garden. There were multiple children, there were multiple wives and all of that pointed to the possibility of him being Bin Laden.

SCIUTTO: At last, the U.S. had found its mortal enemy, living in a compound that looked just like this model, built by the NGA six months before the raid.

CARDILLO: It was built to support decision making. And by the way, how else could we find out more information about the compound.

SCIUTTO: For one thing, satellites took photos both by looking straight down and by pointing at angles that showed doors, windows and wall heights. And then, the NGA mined its archive, countless satellite images stored long before the compound was ever constructed.

CARDILLO: In this case, because, let's face it, we did not suspect this facility or no one this house was being built when it was being built, but our ability to have that library coverage enabled us to go back and to rebuild essentially over time.

SCIUTTO: Building a scale model accurate to the centimeter.

CLAPPER: The tracking down and taking down of Osama Bin Laden was kind of a classic example of successful use of intelligence.

SCIUTTO: James Clapper coordinates the efforts of all American intelligence agencies.

CLAPPER: That was a huge moment for me and a lot of us in the intelligence community, particularly those of us who lived through 9/11. It was closure. It really was.

SCIUTTO: Since 9/11, threats to the U.S. have grown more sophisticated. And so have the tools to combat them. Today, the cardboard model of Bin Laden's compound has evolved into this.

I'm looking at this and I'm thinking for the Bin Laden raid, something like this would have been really helpful.

MARC BOYSWORTH, NGA PROJECT SCIENTIST: It would, yes. SCIUTTO: Marc Boysworth is showing us around the NGA'S immersion lab where the model surrounds you, providing more information than ever before.

BOYSWORTH: What would people look like if they were walking around, what would this place look like in this lighting or this time. Where are the shadows?

SCIUTTO: That's incredible. I mean, down to that level of detail?

BOYSWORTH: Down to that level of detail.

SCIUTTO: In this lab, data from satellites and other sources is used to immerse you in imagery. It is virtual reality for the intelligence community, virtual reality that can save lives.

BOYSWORTH: Some of the other demos that have, have buildings color coded so that you could understand that I'm walking past a chemical plant and pulling in other sources of information like if the wind is blowing towards me.

SCIUTTO: But what about a soldier caught in a fire fight with no time to load up a laptop or an image this detailed?

BOYSWORTH: They just may need to know danger from this direction and have it flash up on their apple watch.

SCIUTTO: The U.S. Intelligence Community is using satellite images, human intelligence, and drone footage to bring the obstacles and the solutions directly to the front line of an ever changing war.

Coming up, terror too big to track.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, TERRORISM ANALYST: We're talking about tens of thousands of people that have become radicalized.



SCIUTTO: In the early hours of a Washington, D.C. morning, a briefcase begins its journey to the White House, inside, a world of spy secrets and security threats. The president's daily brief, the PDB. It is an early-warning system for crises across the globe.

Deputy Director of national intelligence, Michael Dempsey is the man who personally briefs the president.

MICHAEL DEMPSEY, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I get up, you know, before 5:00. And then go into the White House.

SCIUTTO: He has just a few hours to prepare to meet with president Obama.

DEMPSEY: We usually meet with the president mid-morning. It's probably, you know, a 10 minute or 15 minute or so discussion. SCIUTTO: 15 minutes to cover a world of threats.

DEMPSEY: There's a figuring out what is the story he needs that day, four or five main articles. A couple of situation updates. He is very engaged in the intelligence process.

SCIUTTO: The PDB is the product of all 16 intelligence agencies, an enormous force with a staff of more than 100,000. A yearly budget in excess of $66 billion and it present in a classified number of countries across the globe. In a growing world of threats, how to choose which four or five demand the president's immediate attention?

DEMPSEY: Let's go around the globe and try to...

SCIUTTO: This is part of the team that produces the PDB.

DEMPSEY: Gets us up to speed I think on key battle field trend in Syria...

SCIUTTO: We are the first reporters allowed inside one of their daily meetings.

DEMPSEY: Are there any trend, national trend that we need to update on?

DEMPSEY: Obviously anything -- any threat to the homeland, any place where U.S. forces are deployed, any issue where U.S. personnel could be at risk.

<21:55:12> SCIUTTO: From agency to agency we heard a consistent list of threats and adversaries.

CARDILLO: I won't surprise you by mentioning, you know, Russia, China, North Korean, Iran.

SCIUTTO: NGA director Robert Cardillo was President Obama's briefer for four years.

CARDILLO: It's a high-pressure job.



SCIUTTO: What is the toughest moment you can remember?

CARDILLO: There is a number of occasions in which, you know, I was in there on a Friday morning and was briefing about here's the intelligence communist assessment about the weekend activity, or the likelihood of a threat and then coming back in on the Monday morning and going, well, here's what we missed.

SCIUTTO: Or seeing this happens on a Friday night, Paris under attack by ISIS gunmen and bombers. Some of them French citizens, several of the attackers and the alleged mastermind, Abdelhamid Abaaoud were previously known to European and U.S. Intelligence. How did they miss an attack of this scale?

CRUICKSHANK: The share scale of radicalization in Europe is like nothing they have ever dealt with before. We're talking about tens of thousands of people who have become radicalized in some way, shape, or form. So, there's just too many people for them to watch intensively.

BERGEN: There's not that many takers for the ISIS ideology here in United States compared to what you're seeing in Europe.

SCIUTTO: Peter Bergen co-authored the new report "ISIS in the West: The New Faces of Extremism", those that are recruited in America are young and active online. But there is no single ethnic or geographic profile.

BERGEN: This is one of ISIS' sort of classic propaganda videos which is beautiful shot on high depth. The message here is that, you know, you can come to ISIS hell territory. You can bring your kids, you can have a normal life, it's actually a paradise. And look, you know, here is the ISIS fighter, swing, smiling and swinging his kids and.

SCIUTTO: Express an interest, and step two, ISIS recruiters begin to chatting online with their potential recruit, enticing him or her.

BERGEN: We've have case in the United States where a 23-year-old female potential ISIS recruit, she was online with ISIS, sympathizers, followers, fan boys. She was online them for thousands of hours. They sent her chocolates. They sent her religious books.

SCIUTTO: Step three moves the recruit to encrypted communications. By step four the recruit is committed and ISIS begins to provide operational advice including this travel guide.

BERGEN: And, it's basically everything you need to know about how to get into ISIS territory, what you should pack, it has a checklist here, you know, pills, band aids, smaller LED flashlight, particular kind of backpacks that you should bring.

ANDREW HALLMAN, CIA FORMER PDB BRIEFER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Their adversaries are exploiting the digital domain to shape perceptions in their favor. And no terrorist group has been more prolific in this space.

SCIUTTO: America's enemies are evolving which means intelligence gathering must do the same. Director James Clapper.

Clapper: We try to maintain a robust set of capabilities, whether it's overhead, terrestrial, maritime -- collection by aircraft, collection by human, whatever it is. So the trick is, how do you make all the cylinders work together and in harmony, so.

SCIUTTO: The seemingly limitless number of adversaries, threats and questions require in involving absolute tools and tactics and sometimes a stiff trade.

SCIUTTO: So tell me how inundated with all this threat intel, how do you unwind?

CLAPPER: When I was in the Pentagon as the Undersecretary of the Director of Intelligence. Maybe six, eight weeks or so on a Friday night, I have a few people in and have a beer or a glass of wine, I would have a martini, this job every night.

SCIUTTO: It is a daunting challenge. Combatting both the enemies you know and those you don't on battlefields and in the shadows. On land and at sea, in outer space and cyberspace, never knowing for sure what's next.