Return to Transcripts main page


12 Killed In Berlin Christmas Market Terror Attack; Berlin Police President: Person In Custody May Not Be Driver; Pulse Families Sue Social Media Giants; Violent Attacks In Berlin, Zurich, Turkey & Yemen. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired December 20, 2016 - 07:30   ET



[07:33:35] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We are getting a firsthand account of what it was like minutes after that truck slammed into a Berlin Christmas market. CNNInternational anchor John Vause spoke with eyewitnesses.


SHANDANA DURANI, EYEWITNESS TO TRUCK ATTACK: It actually looked like he jumped the curb and was going out of control -- lost control of the truck and swerved into the crowded market. It came -- it went so fast and sort of jumped the curb and went sideways from where I was at and people just started running and dropping their gluhwein which is, you know, such a big Christmas tradition here at the market, and started screaming and running and yelling things in German.

I'm an American and I've only lived here three months so I don't know much German, but I knew enough to run and I just ran in the other direction, and there's not much cover in these markets so there's really no place to run. We sort of had to hide behind a stall or, you know, just running. I heard some popping and I thought maybe there's a guy with a gun. You know, we see it a lot in America with these people going on a rampage with guns so I just tried to duck and cover and hid behind a stall with a bunch of other people until we thought it was safe to come out.

JOHN VAUSE, CNNI ANCHOR: Do you remember seeing much security at the market before the truck went into the crowd?

[07:35:00] DURANI: There's always security around these markets and around Berlin. They're not as obvious as what you see in the U.S. with the guys in the Army fatigues and the guns. They kind of are a little, you know, hidden. They're not so obvious but they're always there and they're always looking around.

But this is a very, very free society. It's a very open society so it's not like it's in your face. The people can come and go as they please, which they like to do at the Christmas markets because it is like your previous correspondent said. It is a tradition here in Germany and people really, really love Christmas here in Germany.

VAUSE: Do you remember how long all of this lasted before the truck actually stopped?

DURANI: It felt like 10 -- it felt like 10 hours but it was probably like 10 seconds. I was texting on my phone. I had stopped to respond to a text and if I hadn't responded I probably might have -- I might have been hit because it was only 20 feet away at that time. I looked up and people just started running, and scurrying, and screaming, and I saw this big, you know -- it looked like a gigantic UPS truck coming towards us and I just ran. I mean, it was -- it probably didn't last very long but it felt like I was in slow motion trying to get away from it. Very surreal.


CAMEROTA: So again, a terrorist using a truck as a weapon. What is being done to stop attacks like this here in the U.S.? Joining us again is CNN counterterrorism analyst and former CIA official Philip Mudd. Phil, thanks for sticking around. So, we've seen it here in Berlin now. We saw it so horrifically in Nice. We saw it three weeks ago at Ohio State University. We understand this was a directive from ISIS that people should begin using their vehicles to mow down infidels. What can law enforcement and counterterrorism officials do about this?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST, FORMER CIA OFFICIAL: Boy, I don't think there's much they can do. If you look at major events, we just had the Thanksgiving Day parade in New York. If you think about what happens in this country, for example, the Orange Bowl parade or the Rose Bowl out in California in contrast to when we started down this counterterror campaign 15 years ago.

Back then you had a defined space. You had a protected cockpit. You had to have people go through new scanners in airports. But that's a small space where you can control access by people. Think about those huge spaces we're talking about in places like California, Florida during their parades -- in New York.

How do you prevent vehicles in a multi-mile area from entering that space? I suppose you could put up concrete barriers. You could limit access the day before to only pedestrians. But I think as we look at this, what ISIS is trying to tell followers is to access locations that simply can't be secured by federal officials unless you shut down a city, and I don't think that's possible across America.

CAMEROTA: Look, I marvel every day at New York and how the law enforcement officers here --

MUDD: Yes.

CAMEROTA: -- keep things going in New York. I mean, there's something like eight million people who ride the subway. It's remarkable this, you know, melting pot of New York and that things have been safe. Virtually here, in fact, as we speak, there is a Christmas market -- a holiday market set up right across the street from us and look, these are soft targets. I mean, there's lots of these things. So how have U.S. officials, thus far, done it so successfully? More than just luck. MUDD: There's a lot more than luck. I think if you look at the past few years there's three basic ideas you have to prevent incidents from happening. Number one, take out terrorists before they get here in places like Afghanistan and Syria. That's why the conversation about what we do with Russians potentially under, a new presidency, to cooperate to shut down ISIS is so important. Stop them overseas.

If you can't stop them overseas, have new processes at the borders. Biometric passports, for example. Hardening of cockpit doors to ensure that people can't get into the country. And finally, when they get here you look at programs like the NYPD. Ensure that you have an intelligence process to identify people before they -- before they do something. I think securing locations is not going to be efficient. This is not about locations, it's about people. You've got to find people before they do this because you just can't secure everything.

CAMEROTA: And Phil, is it also about timing, in terms of do law enforcement and counterterrorism officials expect things to spike around holidays?

MUDD: I think that conversation about timing is not -- does not match what I saw when I was a practitioner. We talk about timing -- for example, Christmas markets. But if you look just at what's happened in the United States over the past year in San Bernardino and Orlando, I don't think trying to synchronize security responses to particular events or particular dates is effective.

Again, you've got to go back to this question about how do you balance civil liberties? Looking at Americans, looking at Americans' social media footprint. Who's talking about ISIS on their Facebook account, for example? And ensuring that you protect America by saying we can't wait to try to secure something as big as the Macy's parade. We've got to find the guy getting in the truck.

[07:40:10] One quick comment, Alisyn. I think that's one of the frustrations about what we'll see in Berlin -- that is this individual, evidently by the early reporting, has been in Germany for about a year. I doubt he was fully radicalized by the time he got to Germany. How do you find an immigrant like that -- a refugee -- if he's not even radicalized when he comes in your country? It's either keep everybody out or assume that there's going to be some risk to accepting refugees in your country.

CAMEROTA: Hey, Phil, one quick note of caution at CNN here. We are just getting a little breaking news. Berlin police president says suspect in custody may not be the driver. The Berlin president has just held a press conference regarding Monday's truck attack --


CAMEROTA: -- saying we have not finished with our investigation yet. We cannot confirm that this person -- this suspect -- in custody --


CAMEROTA: -- is the driver. So we will all hold off until we get more information throughout the program on this. But Phil, thank you very much for all of your expertise.

MUDD: Sure, thank you.

CAMEROTA: It's always nice to talk to you. Thank you. So families who lost loved ones in the Pulse nightclub shooting are now suing social media giants, so we're going to explain why they say that Facebook, Google, and Twitter helped in that attack.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: We're staying on top of breaking news. The Berlin Police Department now saying the person they have in custody in a terror attack may not have been the driver who plowed through a crowd killing 12 people.

CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen joins us live in Berlin with the latest details. Fred, the question is are they saying this because the man in custody denies doing anything or for some other reason? What can you tell at this point?

[07:45:12] FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, it seems as though they're interrogating the man that they have in custody and obviously they're saying that he denies all of this, but this certainly is a major development. I want to read to you from the statement from the chief of the Berlin police. He said, "We've not finished our investigations yet. We cannot confirm that this person, the suspect in custody, is the driver. We have many statements from witnesses. The truck is still being searched."

Now, the Berlin police has also just come out with a tweet just a couple of seconds ago really, Chris, saying that also the man in custody denies everything. And they're warning the population here to be alert and if they see something suspicious to not follow it up themselves but to notify the police instead. So certainly, they certainly believe that there could still be someone out there.

And we also have to keep in mind in all of this, Chris, that the man who was on the passenger seat of that truck -- the man who was found shot dead -- that weapon was never retrieved so certainly if there is still someone out there -- if the police does, in fact, have the wrong person in custody then there may, indeed, still be an armed individual running around Berlin who obviously is very dangerous if indeed it is the same person who plowed through this Christmas market with that truck.

So certainly the police cautioning them, saying they're not absolutely certain that the man they have in custody, this 23-year-old man from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region is indeed the person who plowed through that Christmas market. So right now it is a major development where the police is telling people essentially be very, very careful here on the streets of Berlin and, certainly, if you see something suspicious notify the cops but don't try to do anything yourselves.

CAMEROTA: OK, Fred, this is a critical development. Please bring us any breaking details you have and we will report them out. Thank you for that. On to another terror attack, the one that was in Orlando, Florida. The families of three of the Pulse nightclub shooting victims are taking three social media companies to court. They are suing Facebook, Google, and Twitter for making it "too easy" for ISIS to spread its message. CNN's national correspondent Deborah Feyerick is live with more. What have you learned, Deb?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, basically what they are assuming -- is they're alleging is material support and the families of three men killed inside the Pulse nightclub say that Twitter, Google, and Facebook knowingly and recklessly provided ISIS with accounts which ISIS then used to spread extremist propaganda, raise money, and also attract new recruits.

Now, the lawsuit says that this amounts to material supportive terrorism and it accuses these social media giants for helping ISIS expand its reach by recruiting some of the 4,500 Westerners and 250 Americans believed to have joined ISIS. Among them, they say, Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen, who pledged allegiance to the terror group while he was inside that nightclub during the rampage and massacre.

Now, the lawsuit says "Without defendants Twitter, Facebook, and Google..." which is -- which owns YouTube -- "the explosive growth of ISIS over the last few years into the most feared terrorist group in the world would not have been possible."

Now, we did reach out to Twitter, Facebook, and Google. We have received no response yet. Lawyers representing the Pulse families have sued these giants once before to no avail. Twitter has in the past made efforts to shut down known ISIS accounts. But right now they're saying were it not for the access that these individuals have to all of these different social media sites then perhaps ISIS would not be as strong as it is today. That's their allegation.

CAMEROTA: That's a fascinating development, Deb. Thank you very much.

CUOMO: All right. So the most recent attacks bringing new urgency to the global battle against terror. What can world leaders do to make good on their promise to be strong against this threat? We discuss next.


[07:52:40] CAMEROTA: German authorities say a driver deliberately steered through a crowded Christmas market in Berlin on Monday killing 12 people and injuring 48. That crash is being investigated as terrorism. That was just one of several attacks shaking many countries over the past 48 hours.

Joining us now is our old friend, Bobby Ghosh, editor-in-chief of "Hindustan Times". Bobby, it's great to have you with us here in the studio. Sorry it's under these circumstances.

BOBBY GHOSH, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, HINDUSTAN TIMES: I know. It's always under these circumstances.


GHOSH: I hate it. Just once, I'd like to come on and talk about puppies.

CAMEROTA: OK, we'll try to do that but first, you have to give us the global view on what's happening. So let's just go through it for people because in just the past 24 hours there was this attack on a mosque in Switzerland. There was the truck attack that we've been talking about in Berlin. There was a Russian ambassador who was assassinated in Ankara, Turkey. There was a suicide bomber who killed 50 people in Yemen. Are we looking for a connection here that doesn't exist or are these connected, in your mind?

GHOSH: Well, I think it's natural to look for a connection because this is the world we live in now and the politicians and people on social media who are seeking these connections. There are no pressing connections except to say that the atmosphere of fear, distrust, and hatred is what you have in common across the board.

What's going on in Yemen is completely different from what's happening in what happened in Berlin last night but there is an atmosphere that connects the two. And as we sort of -- there's been -- there's also more. This is also taking place in the backdrop of Syria. There was a terrorist attack earlier today -- or in the early hours of this morning in Jordan where ISIS attacked a small town and maybe 15 people were killed. This stuff is now coming at us so fast that you have to look for patterns even when they don't exist.

CUOMO: So, you've been out of the country for a while.


CUOMO: We just had the election that was very much on the issue of terror decided by then-candidate, now-president-elect Donald Trump saying enough with the complexity. These Muslims are trying to kill us. There's a problem within Islam. They have to deal with it but we have to deal with the outcome. And there's a division in this country where suggesting those arguments to our experts this morning will get the political left to blame me for owning those arguments, but that's the reality in this country right now.


[07:55:00] CUOMO: How does that play internationally? How does that compare to what you're dealing with in India?

GHOSH: Well, the fear internationally is that America may become -- may take an all too simplistic view of these things. This is an incredibly complex set of situations, not even one complex problem. There are multiple complex problems around the world. And I'm not suggesting that politicians in India are naturally better at doing this, but they've had to deal with this for a longer period of time. They've had more practice at this. And so, whether you agree or disagree with their political positions you know that they're applying some thought that is informed by experience.

What you have in the U.S. now is thought that is not informed by experience and that is informed much more, in the case of President- elect Trump, by a desire to simplify. To cut through what he would regard as complexities. Let's talk about -- let's be simple here. This is not a time for simplicity.

The world's never been more complicated than it is now and the most frightening thing I think, looking back home from abroad, is this desire for simplicity. It is not simple. Let's not make it simple. It is complex. Embrace the complex, apply our minds to the complexity. Trying to simplify things is not always the best way and certainly not in this instance.

CAMEROTA: Look, obviously we see 'exhibit A' in Syria and how complicated that is. But, you know, complication leads to paralysis --


CAMEROTA: -- and complication can lead to not knowing how to solve it. What are the -- part of the reason that I think simplicity is satisfying --


CAMEROTA: -- is that in some ways these different hot spots and conflagrations, they're being perpetrated by one person at a time. The war is one person at a time. One person wreaks havoc in Berlin, one person wreaks havoc on a mosque. And so it's -- it feels somehow simple to say stamp them out.

GHOSH: Yes, but the -- but the war is -- the battles are with one person at a time. The war is about a war of ideas -- the war of ideologies. There's one ideology that is attacking everybody. Let's remind ourselves, Muslims are the ones being killed by an enormous margin over any other community. So, there's --

CUOMO: In Switzerland, it was an attack on a mosque.

GHOSH: That's --

CUOMO: One of the attacks you're highlighting.

GHOSH: That's right. And so the vast number -- the vast majority of people -- like 95 -- 98 percent of the people who have been killed by this kind of terror are Muslims. There is a -- there is a war of ideas that need to be -- that we need to be fighting.

You asked the question before we went to break, how -- what should world leaders do in this war? Well, Angela Merkel did a couple of things right in her first speech today, which is you first try to protect the weakest, and the most innocent, and the most vulnerable, which includes minorities in your community.

Secondly, very important -- very, very important -- you protect your values. If you allow your values to be overtaken by these events then you -- it may be a stretch to say you've lost but you're going down that path. If you cannot hold onto your values then you are -- then you are losing an ideological battle. That is crucial. That is crucial and that is what smart leaders around the world are beginning to understand. That you cannot allow yourself to succumb to the rage, to succumb to the desire for simplicity and just go out there and beat somebody up.

CUOMO: That said, the German police aren't sure about who was driving that truck --

GHOSH: That's right.

CUOMO: -- in this murder attack. But if it does turn out that the guy they got is a refugee from Afghanistan and Pakistan who's responsible for this, Angela Merkel is going to have to deal with it in these upcoming elections --

GHOSH: Absolutely.

CUOMO: -- in a very bad way.

GHOSH: Already, the right in Germany are already attacking her. She allowed nearly 900,000 refugees in last year. Remember how much we celebrated. I was in the studio celebrating when she did that. We called her -- you know, this was a statesmanly -- a stateswomanly, if that's such a thing -- thing to do, and it was. That was the right expression of liberal German values. If at this point she comes under pressure and abandons those values, then Germany has lost something far, far more important than we can fathom right now.

CAMEROTA: Bobby Ghosh, great to see you. Thanks so much for being here.

GHOSH: Good to be back.

CAMEROTA: Come to visit anytime. We're following a lot of breaking news for you this morning so let's get right to it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The truck came barreling through and nobody knew what was happening.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had an event (ph). Christmas lights were being torn down.

CUOMO: The person they have in custody may not have been the driver.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: German authorities are investigating this as a terrorist attack.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It didn't, no. It didn't feel like it was an accident.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The assassination of Russia's ambassador to Turkey.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The attacker, quite clearly, says we must remember Aleppo. We must remember Syria.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN HOST: The gunman identified as a 22-year-old Turkish police officer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With the rise of ISIS and the catastrophe in Syria we are going to see attacks like this all throughout the world.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, December 20th, 8:00 in the East. We do have some breaking news for you. There are developments on the attacks in Europe and the Middle East. Berlin's police president now says they cannot confirm that the man they have in custody is the driver who plowed through the crowd at a holiday market.

CUOMO: Part of that is because he's supposedly denying involvement.