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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

ISIS Plotting More Large-Scale Attacks From Training Camps Outside Syria, According To New Report; Lack Of Food, Supplies In War- Torn Syrian Town; Search Intensifies For Three Dangerous Fugitives. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired January 26, 2016 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:33:20] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back.

In our world lead today, an ominous warning from European intelligence officials. ISIS is plotting more large-scale Paris-style attacks from training camps outside Syria, according to a report released this morning.

The threat of terrorism across Europe is at its highest level in more than a decade, adding to that, a warning from the French that ISIS has created a fake passport industry making travel between countries for would-be jihadis theoretically even easier.

Let's get right to CNN's chief security national correspondent, Jim Sciutto, live in Washington.

Jim, where else are plots being developed, according to the Europol report?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the most severe threat, they say, is to France and to Britain.

But, in fact, European authorities consider the threat is Europe-wide and it doesn't stop there. Counterterror officials, both in Europe and here in the U.S., say ISIS is increasingly a global terror group with global aspirations, it has an ample supply of recruits, and certainly as well growing capability.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO (voice-over): A violent new ISIS video features the men who carried out the Paris attacks, purporting to show their final messages, and the video ends with an ominous new warning: The terror group will strike Britain next.

The terror threat to Europe, says Europol, is the most severe in more than a decade, ISIS and other terror group likely to attempt significant coordinated attacks to similar to the deadly rampage in Paris.

ROB WAINWRIGHT, DIRECTOR, EUROPOL: The Islamic State has a willingness and a capability to carry out further attacks in Europe. And, of course, all of the national authorities across Europe are working to prevent that from happening.

SCIUTTO: But, tonight, it's a different group that is sounding alarms in Washington, the al Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front.

[16:35:03]

A new report finds that Nusra has a greater capability to carry out catastrophic 9/11-scale attacks on U.S. soil, drawing on the resources of core al Qaeda in Pakistan and around the world. Like ISIS, al- Nusra controls swathes of territory in Syria and has attracted scores of foreign fighters.

Still, European and U.S. officials see ISIS as the more immediate threat, and the terror group is expanding its presence in the West with training sites inside Europe and the ability to manufacture their own passports at will. One alarming example, the ISIS-inspired man who attacked a police station in Paris last month.

VERA JOUROVA, EUROPEAN COMMISSION OFFICIAL: The person who intended to attack this police station had passports of seven countries, various alias names, and a criminal record in at least three member states under different names.

SCIUTTO: Now, with hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the crisis in Syria and Iraq, Europe is rapidly elevating its border controls to make sure that terrorists don't slip in, pretending to be refugees. The U.S. is aware that ISIS has the capability to make authentic- looking Syrian passports.

SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: Part of the territory they took over happened to have a building where the Syrians processed passports, so they have blank passports and they have the means to print them and fake them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: Now, a key and somewhat contrarian point from this Europol report is that Europe, it says, faces a greater military or militant threat, rather, from inside its borders than from terrorists posing as refugees.

The report says that ISIS has now established an external actions command, in effect, a military division for carrying out attacks abroad, in particular special forces-style attacks like the one, Jake, you and I saw in Paris.

TAPPER: Jim Sciutto, thanks so much.

Joining me now to talk about this and much more, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. He ran the Pentagon under both Presidents Gerald Ford and most recently, of course, George W. Bush.

Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for being here. You're unveiling a new app that you have developed called Churchill

Solitaire which I want to get to in a minute and I found very addictive.

But I do want to ask you a couple of questions about military matters.

Do you think ISIS can be defeated with the way the campaign is being waged right now by the U.S., that is, airstrikes, some special operations forces, 3,000 or so troops, largely in Iraq, serving as trainers and guide? Can ISIS be defeated with that U.S. force?

DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I think the answer's probably no, but it is certainly unlikely.

And if you think about it, the old saying is a terrorist can attack any place, any time, using any technique, and it's physically impossible to defend at every location, at every time of the day and night, and against every conceivable technique.

Now, the only way it will be defeated is to recognize that it's going to be a long haul, many, many years, that the old principle of economics, if you want more of something, reward it, if you want less of it, penalize it. And that means penalize it. The only way to succeed is to penalize it. And that means you're going to have to cut off the recruits that are coming in and begin to get a sense of how many are coming in, and interfere with their recruiting capability, and, second, to reduce their financing and interfere with the -- make it a penalty for financing terrorism.

And to the extent that a country is either ungoverned or creates an environment that is hospitable as a base to organize and train and equip terrorists, that kind of an ungoverned area or a hospitable area has to be eliminated.

TAPPER: There was a story in politics a few weeks ago that broke, and I wondered what you thought of it. Your friend Vice President -- former Vice President Dick Cheney was critical of it, the proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States.

Do you think a proposal like that would make America safer or less safe?

RUMSFELD: Well, it seems to me, in the last analysis, the problem is going to be dealt with certainly by people who are not Muslims, but it also has to be dealt with by people within that faith.

And the number of extremist Islamists within the faith is a minority, but a minority that's not trivial, and it's well-armed, well-financed, and well-organized, and very successful on social media in terms of recruiting. So I can't see that banning people of that faith makes sense, because we're going to need to recruit them and we're going to need to engage them and we're going to need to have their support and cooperation if we are to prevail.

[16:40:00] Now, do we have to do a darn good job of vetting people? You bet.

And the report you just presented with the ease of people have of falsifying documentation too get in and out of countries is a terribly worrisome thing.

TAPPER: I wanted to get your response to this story in Politico quoting a 2002 memo that came across your desk.

You wrote, "This is big," and you forwarded it to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. It basically said that the intelligence about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction program was not very reliable, zero percent to 75 percent.

You posted it on your Web site, this memo, in 2011, but it's getting new attention.

RUMSFELD: Yes.

TAPPER: Do you think this is a memo that might have had an effect if it had been released publicly or the lack of knowledge...

RUMSFELD: Well, that knowledge wasn't -- there was no lack of knowledge. The Joint Chiefs were participant in all the intelligence discussions, all the intelligence gathering process.

The director of central intelligence had people in the State Department. He had people in the Central Intelligence Agency.

TAPPER: Oh, I mean the lack of knowledge about the WMD program, the idea that it was so unreliable, that maybe that didn't...

RUMSFELD: But that was one scrap of information along with all the other information that was presented to the director of central intelligence, who had the responsibility of taking all of that and then presenting it to the president and to Secretary Powell, who made the presentation to the United Nations.

All of that information was available.

TAPPER: Let's turn to Churchill Solitaire, your new app, which is the sixth most downloaded app this week, I believe, 150,000 people.

Let's just show this a little bit. Here it is. The cards are going right here. Explain to us. Explain to us what we're seeing here. This is the most complicated set of -- it's two packs?

RUMSFELD: It's two full decks, 104 cards. And it's got 10 rows and it's got six cards, the devil's row up on top.

And there's similarities to solitaire, but in fact it is vastly more complex. And it requires strategy, because you have choices you have to make. And you really do have to look three and four and five steps ahead.

TAPPER: I think that's the problem I have been having. I have been able to solve one game. I think I'm thinking two steps ahead. But you really have to think three or four?

RUMSFELD: You do.

TAPPER: And here's the thing. Now there are at least 150,000 of us who know the game. A week or two ago, it was, what, like 10 people knew?

RUMSFELD: Not many.

Winston Churchill a named Andre de Staercke, who taught me and several other people. And then I have taught some people over the years.

But I think it's a wonderful game. It's so challenging and difficult that it seemed to me it should not be lost to the ages. We found some folks who were very talented in making an app for an iPad. And I have enjoyed it a great deal. I think others will. You can also play it competitively. There's a way you can challenge other people on the Internet.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: I'm not there yet.

RUMSFELD: You will get there.

TAPPER: You think so? You have faith in me?

RUMSFELD: Yes, absolutely. It's a wonderful, wonderful game.

TAPPER: Other than saying I have to think three or four moves ahead, is there anything I need to know?

RUMSFELD: Well, there's a couple of things.

I think organizing black and red up above alternating helps. I think also that you have got to remember that on the devil's row, the upper six, what you need to do is to know you have got to get those cards. You can't play them down. You can only play them over. But you can handle it.

You're a Churchill buff.

TAPPER: I am Churchill buff, as are you, I know.

Thank you so much for being here. Good to see you again, sir.

RUMSFELD: Thank you.

TAPPER: Congratulations on the app.

RUMSFELD: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up, they broke out of jail, cutting through steel bars and shimmying down a five-story building. Police still have no idea where these ruthless inmates are, but one of them is now being compared to Hannibal Lecter, and he's fled the country before. Has he done it again this time?

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TAPPER: The World Lead now, CNN has new images from Syria that really illustrate the impact of the war in Syria and the impact that it's having on the people who live there. We want to warn you, some of the video's graphic and may be difficult to watch.

The videos from Madaya, Syria, it's been almost two weeks since the last convoy of food and emergency supplies entered. Now video shows adults and small children continuing to starve as they continue to live in the middle of a war-torn controlled by rebels.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh joins me now. Nick, this is an exclusive look at conditions. It's just depressing and stressing to see. I think the world kind of turned away from Madaya after they heard that supplies were getting in.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. The starvation continued. So many people suffering from such extreme malnutrition. They needed hospital care, 15 towns across Syria needing food, hunger, weapons of war by rebels and regime alike. This is what Madaya looked like in the past few days.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALSH (voice-over): Ice has now gripped the town of Madaya, adding to the siege and starvation, gnawing away of what's left of life here. Aid came briefly along with global attention, but now it's gone. The weak here are set to die.

This is the Dr. Mohammed, he shows us (inaudible), age 50. So malnourished he can't cope with food, only drip feeds. Held here almost a ghost, edging towards death.

Like his granddaughter, (inaudible) just 9 months old. She seems dazed. We were told two people died in Madaya Monday from hunger but can't confirm independently.

[16:50:02]For more than seven months we've not had electricity explained by the doctor but nearly run out of wood. Now plastic is often burned. The weakest and mobile, Abdullah shows us --

ABDULLAH, MADAYA, SYRIA ACTIVIST: This child is very ill. He eat leaves and get sick and ill and his stomach is really hurting. He needs immediately go to hospital outside Madaya.

WALSH: With little food here, probably won't save the acutely malnourished who need urgent medical help, but it is handed out slowly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bring food for people. The people will die for starvation.

WALSH: Here in a makeshift hospital, struggling to keep lights on where they come, hoping to find help. In the past ten days, since the arrival of relief supplies, the doctor says there would be ten deaths.

Scores of people have arrived at the clinic unconscious. We have around 500 sick people in the town that need hospital treatment. Syrian rebels have said they won't talk peace until sieges like these by the government are lifted.

But rebels, too, are besieging other towns in the north, hunger, a weapon of war, leaving 400,000 Syrians without the feed they need either truly alive or dead.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALSH: Now because rebels and regime are both accusing each other of using food as a weapon of war, the images you see from towns starved are very politicized, for our bit we tried to be short to verify these by getting the people who filmed them to show us home pages from American newspapers over the weekend to prove the images were new, not old.

We spoke to aid workers who recognized some of the people in those images from their own trips to Madaya. We can't verify the medical conditions they have specifically but it's pretty clear, Jake, from seeing those images they have severe malnutrition. The attention away from Madaya but people still starving -- Jake.

TAPPER: Nick Paton Walsh, thank you so much. They are accused of murder, kidnapping and torturing someone with a blowtorch. Now they are on the run after a daring jail break. The new clues from their past about where they may be headed, next.

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[16:56:31]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. In our National Lead today, the manhunt for three inmates who escaped a Southern California jail has now entered its fifth day. Today we are learning more about just how dangerous these convicts are.

This man, Hossein Nayeri, is accused of attacking a man pouring bleach on him, torturing him with a blowtorch and then castrating him. He even had fled the country before to avoid prosecution.

Then there's Jonathan Tieu, a known gang member. He was in jail waiting to be tried for murder and Bac Tein Duong, also a Vietnamese gang associate is accused of attempted murder.

Let's bring in CNN correspondent, Paul Vercammen, in Sta. Ana, California. Paul, is there any progress on the search for these dangerous men?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The sheriff now reporting any sightings so far. One of the concerns, Jake, that they might try to flee the country, especially Nayeri, because as you alluded to, he successfully escaped from the U.S. to Iran once before.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VERCAMMEN (voice-over): The bounty on the heads of three extremely violent jail breakers jumped $50,000 for each fugitive. Orange County supervisors raised the reward to $200,000 total.

The prosecutor handling the terrifying torture case of escapee, Hossein Nayeri, wonders why this ex-con with a history of escape and his fellow fugitives with gang affiliations were not somehow isolated.

HEATHER BROWN, ORANGE COUNTY DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I'm not in charge of the jail and I don't want to second guess what they do, but it's disconcerting to learn they were with other, you know, hardened criminals who could collaborate and conspire to escape.

VERCAMMEN: The Orange County district attorney chastises the deputy in a statement saying her comments were, quote, "inappropriate, uninformed and rash, and do not reflect the position of the OCDA."

LT. JEFF HALLOCK, ORANGE COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: I will say that he was housed at central jail, a maximum security jail, there's many other inmates with similar charges to Nayeri. There's a very sophisticated classification system that every inmate that comes into the jail goes through. He met the criteria to be housed in that particular location.

VERCAMMEN: Little clues keep trickling out about how the trio escaped last week. Authorities say clothing may have been intertwined with linens in their makeshift robes. The three apparently cut through steel bars, made their way through plumbing tunnels, and rappelled off the roof.

And perhaps a big clue as to why, Nayeri, Jonathan Tieu, and Bac Tein Duong, escaped, they all faced long sentences potentially the rest of their lives in jail.

HALLOCK: When they get out into the street, there's some desperation that they will lean on as far as where they'll go, what means they go to evade law enforcement. It was evident by their attempt and eventual success to escape.

VERCAMMEN: CNN has learned that Duong was almost sent out of the country to his native Vietnam. Immigration and Custom officials say a judge ordered him removed for unspecified immigration violations.

But after an appeal and a year in incarceration, officials say Duong remained in the U.S. on an order of supervision. In just a short while, the spokesman will address the media, and perhaps we'll learn more where these escapees may be. Back to you now, Jake.

TAPPER: Paul Vercammen, thank you so much. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @jaketapper or tweet the show @theleadcnn.

That's it for THE LEAD today. I am Jake Tapper. Turning you over now to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.