Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Two Hostages, Gunman Dead in Bloody End to Siege; Interview with Rep. Mike McCaul; 2 Hostages, Gunman Dead in Sydney Stand-Off; Urgent Manhunt after Rampage Leaves 6 Dead; Can Lone Wolf Attack Happen in U.S.?; NYPD Responds to Protests and Terror Threat
Aired December 15, 2014 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, deadly siege -- a bloody end to a stand-off, as police storm a cafe where a gunman, a self-styled Muslim cleric, was holding hostages.
Is the U.S. next?
I'll ask the Homeland Security chairman, Congressman Mike McCaul.
Armed and dangerous -- a manhunt underway for a suspect in the shooting deaths of six people at different sites near Philadelphia.
American in North Korea -- he says he swam across a river from China and now he's denouncing the United States.
Is his country obligated to get him out?
And Sony faces blackmail -- will the entertainment giant make changes to its upcoming comedy about North Korea's leader?
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news
BLITZER: We're following two breaking stories this hour. Explosions and gunfire, as police storm a cafe in the heart of Sydney's business district in a bloody end to a marathon hostage standoff. Two of the hostages are dead, along with the gunman, a self-declared Muslim cleric.
The siege began nearly 17 hours earlier, when the gunman, well known to Australian authorities, entered the cafe. As police surrounded the area, hostages inside were forced to hold up a flag with Arabic writing and to post the gunman's demands on social media.
A number of hostages escaped during the course of the siege. Police say they're still sorting out the details of exactly what happened.
And our other breaking news. A massive search is underway right now in Pennsylvania for a man suspected of killing six people at multiple sites near Philadelphia. Officials say all the victims have a familial relationship to the suspect. Homeland Security chairman, Congressman Mike McCaul, he's standing by, along with our correspondents, our analysts and our guests.
But let's get the latest right now on the bloody siege in Australia.
We begin with reporter Kathy Novak.
She's joining us from Sydney.
What are you learning -- Kathy?
KATHY NOVAK, JOURNALIST: Well, you said it right there, bloody siege. That is the front page of the paper today, "Bloody End to Terror Siege" -- scenes we do not see here in Sydney, Australia. Very dramatic developments overnight. Loud bangs heard throughout the city. And as we know, it ended in the deaths of two hostages and the gunman.
We've heard from Prime Minister Tony Abbott this morning, calling this event "tragic beyond words" and saying that it goes to show that even a country as open and free and generous as Australia is vulnerable to politically motivated violence.
He said it also goes to show that the authorities were prepared. This morning, we are hearing praise for the police who have been involved in this siege, even though lives were lost. They are saying that if they did not act at the time that they did, that even more lives would be lost. So they stormed this cafe to protect the hostages that were inside, as we know.
Earlier in the day, as you mentioned, some hostages were able to escape. And then overnight, at 2:00 a.m., we heard that more hostages escaped. And that is when all of this violence erupted and, tragically, ended in the deaths of two of those innocent people.
BLITZER: Are they saying, Kathy, what prompted them to move inside, to go inside that cafe and try to rescue the hostages?
NOVAK: This seems to have been a decision that they made after they heard gunshots. As I said, they were saying that the timing of this was crucial, that if they didn't move in just as they did, they were fearful that more lives would have been lost.
It had been a very long day, a tense standoff throughout the day. Police, we understand, negotiating. They had had contact with this man. And it wasn't until the middle of the night that we heard this step up to the next level, loud bangs ringing through the city, flashes in the middle of Martin Place, and then all of a sudden, police making this decision to move in, to storm the cafe and bring the people out that they could. We saw people being carried out an stretchers, some being carried out in people's arms.
And then we understand, as we know, two of them unfortunately passed away and others were injured, including a police officer.
BLITZER: Kathy Novak reporting for us from Sydney. Kathy, thank you.
The gunman, a self-styled Muslim cleric, originally from Iran, had a number of run-ins with Australian authorities.
CNN's Atika Shubert has been looking into his background.
Atika is joining us now.
What are you learning -- Atika?
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a man with a very long rap sheet. He was facing a number of charges, one of them accessory to the murder of his former wife. And, in fact, he was out on bail, according to the judge, because he posed no threat to society.
But now, people are wondering if that should be taken a closer look.
SHUBERT (voice-over): Long before he walked into the Sydney chocolate shop with a gun, 50-year-old Man Haron Monis was well known to Australian police. Various reports put his age at 49 or 50, originally from Iran. He settled in Australia, a self-described Muslim cleric and peace activist. He appears to have converted from Shia to Sunni Islam, and in 2013, he was convicted of posting harassing letters to the families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan. He was sentenced to 300 hours of community service.
MAN HARON MONIS: This pen is my gun and these words are my bullets.
SHUBERT: He became a fixture of sorts, staging attention-seeking protests, chaining himself to a Sydney court. His poster board in this video claims he was tortured in jail. Police have refused to comment.
He began posting online videos as Sheikh Haron, giving lectures on Islamic law. And last year, he was also charged with accessory to the murder of his former wife. Most recently, he was charged with sexual assault dating from 2002, when he was operating as a spiritual healer outside Sydney. Both charges he denies.
On his Web site and social media, Monis pledged allegiance to ISIS. But there is no indication so far that Monis had any direct communication with ISIS leaders in Syria or Iraq.
(on camera): Now, he had a number of Twitter profiles, Facebook pages, also a Web site, SheikhHaron.com. That has been shut down.
But one of the last things he posted was this -- an open letter denying all the charges against him, also claiming that he had been denied access to his children.
Now, it paints a picture of a man under increasing pressure from the law, facing yet another court case in February. He also makes clear in this letter that he is not a member of, quote, "any organization or party," suggesting that his decision to take hostages was his and his alone.
(voice-over): In the days ahead, Australian police will likely reveal more details of what happened and why this so-called man of peace turned to violence.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
SHUBERT: Now, a lot has been made about the fact that one of his requests -- one of his demands was an ISIS flag. He had another flag up there, but it wasn't quite the ISIS flag. But, you know, in all of his postings, he does sort of have a very radical Sunni ideology. But other than this one strangely worded pledge of allegiance to ISIS, there doesn't seem to be a lot of ISIS connection there -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Atika Shubert reporting for us from London.
While the gunman may have been inspired by radicals abroad, early indications are he acted alone. That's an area that may be the biggest concern of law enforcement officials in the United States.
Let's bring in our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto. He's working this part of the story -- Jim, what are you finding out?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this attack took place thousands of miles away from the U.S., but it is a supreme focus of U.S. counterterror officials because it appears to fit the profile of a lone wolf attack. That is a single attacker to date. No knowledge of his having any connection to a cell or larger plot.
That immediately captures the attention of counterterror officials here in the U.S., because they have told me consistency -- consistently, rather -- that such lone wolf attacks are the terrorists most likely to strike here on U.S. soil.
I spoke recently with the outgoing director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Matt Olsen, and here's how he described the threat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEW OLSEN, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL COUNTERTERRORISM CENTER:
I would say the most likely type of attack is one of these homegrown violent extremists or, you know, lone offenders in the United States. And the rise of ISIS and the number of people going to Syria, whether they're fighting with ISIS or fighting just in the conflict there against Assad, the likelihood, I think, does go up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: This threat grew more grave with a fatwa issued just in September by Abu Mohammad al-Adnani. He's a senior ISIS leader. And he called for lone wolf attacks against all the members of the current anti-ISIS coalition. That includes the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. And since then, police have traced the shooting of a Canadian soldier in Ottawa, a hatchet attack on police in New York, a failed plot to capture and behead a member of the public in Australia, back to this ISIS fatwa.
When you look at this operationally, lone wolves exceptionally difficult to both police and prevent. That's because they're radicalized on their own, usually on the Internet. Plus, they plan and carry out attacks on their own, taking advantage of the vast trove of information on the Internet. A favorite video is how to make a bomb in your mom's kitchen.
Now, they also don't enter the country from abroad, where they might be collected by immigration as they come in. And they don't have any co-conspirators that they're communicating with. Of course, the trouble here is that this assailant in Australia did have a history. The challenge for police is distinguishing between bad behavior like he had and bad behavior that might indicate an attempt to carry out a terror attack -- Wolf.
BLITZER: So what do you do?
What are the experts telling you, Jim, about policing these so-called lone wolf attacks?
SCIUTTO: A real focus now 1 for U.S. law enforcement, U.S. counterterror, is working within Muslim communities to help identify at-risk people. The U.S. currently learning a great deal from the U.K., because the U.K. has had years of history of countering this very threat at home. You also have the possibility of undercover operations, but also something we hear a lot here in the U.S., which is if you see something, say something, encouraging members of the public to report suspicious activity.
But the fact is, you know, frankly, it's impossible to know what's inside the mind of a potential ISIS or al Qaeda or al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula sympathizer until he or she strikes. And that's a real concern here, Wolf, because, of course, you cannot prevent all lone wolf attacks because they don't leave the same trail, often, that other attackers might.
BLITZER: That's why they're so worried about lone wolf attacks, potentially the number one terror threat in the United States.
Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.
Let's get some more now.
Joining us, the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Republican Congressman Mike McCaul of Texas.
Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for joining us.
Do you know of any evidence that this particular hostage holder, this man, Man Haron Monis, had been communicating with radical groups?
Any evidence he was part of a broader plot?
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX), CHAIRMAN, HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: We have no evidence of that at this time. That is clearly what U.S. And Australian law enforcement officials, homeland security are investigating right now.
We do know that he pledged allegiance to ISIS on his Web site. He called the United States, the U.K. And Australia terrorists.
So it's clear there is a radical Islamist bent to this individual. Whether he was directed by ISIS, we don't have evidence at this time. Clearly, he was inspired, though, by ISIS. I think that's very clear from his postings.
BLITZER: Is there any indication, anything we know about the timing, why this occurred, the hostage holding, right now?
MCCAUL: Well, I think it's important to note that after the airstrikes began in Iraq and Syria, ISIS began a very aggressive social media campaign calling for these types of attacks, these lone wolf attacks. And they have obviously connections with Australia, Western Europe and the United States. I think that's what makes U.S. Officials most concerned, is the idea of this type of thing happening also in the United States.
So I think it's a direct result of the September order, if you will, from ISIS to have people that are more bent toward radicalization to start conducting attacks. And that's what we saw, unfortunately, in Sydney.
BLITZER: This location in Sydney, right in the heart of Sydney, some are saying compared to New York, it would be right near Times Square in New York, this Lindt Chocolate Cafe. There's -- I understand, based on what experts are saying, that there was a specific reason he wanted this location.
MCCAUL: Well, it's in the business district. I think that's symbolic. I think, also, it's what we call a soft target. There's not a lot of security there. And it's also a place that average Australians, and, frankly, Americans would go to, a cafe. So it hits the psyche of the Australians and the Americans when you see something like this happen.
But remember, the prior plots that were ed in Australia, that led to the arrests of over 20 individuals and the plot to behead someone and posted on a video, that was also directed at this business district. And that's interesting if they go back to this site again.
BLITZER: And that was in September, that earlier plot, to supposedly go ahead and behead somebody right in downtown Sydney.
Mr. Chairman. I want you to stand by.
I have more questions, especially how this could impact here in the United States, copycat attacks, other inspirations.
Stay with us.
Much more on the breaking news, right after this.
BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news. SWAT teams stormed a cafe in Sydney, Australia. You're looking at the video of the self- styled Muslim cleric who had been holding hostages in a marathon standoff. Two hostages were killed. The gunman is dead, as well.
We're back with the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Republican Congressman Mike McCaul of Texas.
Mr. Chairman, this individual, his name is Man Haron Monis, he was well-known to Sydney police in Australia. He had been charged, with actually being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife. He'd been charged with sexual assault. He pled guilty to writing awful letters to relatives of Australian soldiers who were killed in war in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was obviously closely monitored but not close enough, right?
REP. MIKE MCCAUL (R), TEXAS: I think that's right. It's somewhat reminiscent of the Tsarnaev Boston bomber case where he's on the radar screen of authorities and somehow drops off. I think that's what happened in this particular case. In fact, he did harass families who had their sons killed in Afghanistan and was referred to as the hate sheikh.
Then, when you look at his postings on his website, they become even more disturbing, not unlike a Tamerlan Tsarnaev as well where we compares Australian servicemen to Hitler's soldiers and then pledges his allegiance to ISIS. So this is a classic case that we need to be able to prevent in the future, not only in Australia but here in the United States, as well.
BLITZER: How concerned is U.S. law enforcement in -- all over the country right now about a possible copycat attack in the United States?
MCCAUL: It's the No. 1 counterterrorism threat to the United States. And it's a dual threat, Wolf. There are two threats.
One would be the foreign fighters who traveled to Iraq and Syria and have trained in the art of warfare coming back to the United States. We know a similar amount have gone from the United States have also come from Australia to Iraq and Syria.
Then, of course, Western Europe has probably the most flood into the Iraq-Syria.
So it's that foreign fighter threat, direct threat. But there's also the Internet threat of radicalization over the Internet, which I think is probably going to be the case. We'll find out in this Sydney hostage situation, where you have an individual who can radicalize over the Internet and teaches you how to make bombs, how to go on acts of terrorism. And so that's the one that's most difficult to stop, because you don't
have a cell, per se, that you want to be trying to break up. It's really the idea of being able to monitor somebody on public Web sites and be able to stop an act of terror before it happens.
BLITZER: And this individual clearly wanted attention. He did this assault at this cafe directly across the street from a major television studio -- television station in Sydney.
Mr. Chairman, you've called -- you've said this should be a call to action for the United States. Explain what you'd like to see U.S. law enforcement -- local, state, federal authorities -- do?
Unfortunately, I think, we've lost our satellite with the chairman, Mike McCaul. We're going to try to reconnect with him, get some more. But clearly, he wants -- he wants action right now by the Department of Homeland Security on a national level, also state and local authorities to beef up their monitoring, potentially, as he points out of some sort of copycat, lone-wolf attack, which he says is the No. 1 threat facing the U.S. from terrorism right now.
Coming up, we're going to have a closer look at how U.S. police are being trained right now to know the right time, know the right place to move in in a hostage standoff.
We're also following other breaking news. In a rampage that has left six people dead near Philadelphia with an armed and dangerous suspect right now on the loose.
Plus, a new headache involving North Korea after an American citizen sneaks in and denounces the United States. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news in Pennsylvania right now. An urgent manhunt -- manhunt is underway for an armed and dangerous suspect in a rampage that's left six people dead and another seriously wounded.
Let's get the very latest from our national correspondent, Susan Candiotti. What do we know, Susan?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
Well, this appears to involve a 35-year-old divorced man. Child custody issues, a shooting rampage and a law enforcement official telling me that this appears to be a domestic dispute. And it's not over yet.
Victims scattered in three different homes in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia. And it all began around 4 a.m. this morning with shots fired. Police find their first victim, a woman. Our source telling me it's his ex-wife.
A neighbor telling our affiliate, WPVI, that she saw the suspect with his children wearing pajamas coming out of the house after this neighbor heard gunshots.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I heard the kids yelling, "Mommy! No, no. Mommy, no."
And he just said, "Let's go. We've got to go."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CANDIOTTI: Now, the children, I am told, are all right. The suspect is being identified as Bradley Stone, again, 35 years old. The district attorney says that the suspect, even though they say he sometimes uses a walker or a cane to get around, somehow made it to another location where more bodies were found and then a third location.
And, again, more bodies found there. And a serious -- another person was seriously wounded. Six dead in all.
Police now concentrating on another home, Wolf. A SWAT team is involved. They've been following him all day long. It is sunset now, and there appears to be no end in sight -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. If you get a development, let us know. Susan Candiotti, thanks very much.
As the Pennsylvania manhunt continues, our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is getting new information from her sources about the suspect's military record.
Barbara, what are you learning?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Bradley Stone was a former U.S. Marine. He was a reservist. He joined in 2002, and for about three months in 2008 went to Iraq, served with an artillery unit, essentially as a weatherman, predicting the weather for their precision strikes.
No indication in his military record at this point that he was wounded or that he had any specialized weapons training. This is someone who served for about three months in Iraq, came back and then basically completed all of his reserve service and eventually left the Marine Corps about three years ago.
So no indication at this point that any of the military training he got resulted in any skills that he might have used in this very deadly rampage today -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Barbara, thank you. We'll continue to monitor this story for our viewers. If there's a break, we'll of course, share it with you right away.
Let's get back to the other breaking news we're following right now, the Australian police storming a cafe right in the heart of Sydney, where a gunman held hostages in a marathon standoff. Two of the captives are dead, along with the gunman, a self-styled Muslim cleric.
Police are sorting out the details of the siege and the final assault.
Brian Todd is joining us now. He's been looking into the police tactics.
Brian, what are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this standoff and the assault that ended it played out in a densely populated urban setting, the Lindt cafe in the heart of Sydney's financial district, not far from the opera house right across the street from a TV station.
Now tonight police are examining whether that was a calculated location by the gunman, and they're looking at whether the decision to assault the cafe was the right move at the time.
TODD (voice-over): What police call a dynamic entry and a lethal outcome: two hostages and the gunman dead. Police say there was one breaking point after a more than 16-hour siege.
COMMISSIONER ANDREW SCIPIONE NEW SOUTH WALES POLICE: As a result of an exchange of gunfire inside that premises, police moved in.
TODD: Veteran hostage negotiators tell CNN police in Sydney likely did a lot of preparation before the final assault: getting into position, going over possible signs from the hostage-taker that he was about to get violent. They'd already gotten one indicator, a witness saying the gunman got extremely agitated when five hostages escaped earlier in the standoff.
CHRIS VOSS, FORMER FBI HOSTAGE NEGOTIATOR: He may have said, for example, "If another hostage escapes or makes a certain movement, at that point in time, I'm going to make everyone pay."
TODD: a national security source tells CNN police were concerned about the gunman's thick black vest and whether it contained explosives. Experts say before moving in, police would have also been very cognizant of this suspect's violent criminal background, which included reported sexual assault charges and being charged as an accessory to his ex-wife's murder.
WALLACE ZEINS, FORMER NEW YORK POLICE HOSTAGE NEGOTIATOR: He's also out on bail. So he's in a way thinking to himself, "I have nothing to lose. I'm here. I'm going to make my statement."
TODD: Part of that statement may have been suspect Man Haron Monis' choice of location, a busy cafe in downtown Sydney during the morning commute, across the street from a TV station.
ZEINS: He had the biggest bang for his buck in the sense that he had people inside the place. They were going to work. He had a location where there would be a lot of people. He also had people using social media. TODD: FBI veteran Chris Voss takes us inside that moment when hostage
negotiations have been exhausted and police are moving in.
(on camera): What is it like?
VOSS: Well, you're right on the edge the entire time. And you always think that you can continue to influence the outcome, even though it may be going down. You're trying to think of anything else that you might possibly be able to do. Maybe you can offer a distraction. But you never want to give up.
TODD: But Voss says there are other times a negotiator might have to tell an incident commander that he's got to use deadly force to end the standoff.
He says after this incident, investigators are going to be looking at whether this suspect was on what he calls a killing journey, whether the suspect went in predetermined to kill others, knowing that he would be killed in the process -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What are some of the indicators of whether this suspect did that, that he actually knew he was going to be -- that it was almost like a suicide mission for this guy?
TODD: Some of the indicators, Wolf, according to Chris Voss, that if the suspect might have selected the location of the siege, the timing of it in advance. Those are some indicators.
Chris Voss says those indicators are present here in his mind. But, of course, that's got to play out in the investigation.
BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Brian, thanks very much.
I want to alert our viewers that we're standing by now for a news conference in New York City. The police commissioner, William Bratton, is about to meet together with the news media, together with the deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism, John Miller. They're going to be holding the news conference, talking about what happened in Sydney, Australia, also talking about the demonstrations which have occurred in New York City over the past few days.
Once again, Bill Bratton, the New York City police commissioner, getting ready to answer reporters' questions on what's going on. We're going to have live coverage right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Stay with us for that.
In the meantime, let's get some analysis. Joining us now, our CNN national security analyst Bob Baer. He's a former CIA operative. Our CNN terrorism analyst, Paul Cruickshank, and our CNN law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes, a former FBI assistant director.
Guys, thanks very much.
Tom, was going in at that move, 16 hours plus, tactically the right thing if, in fact, it resulted in the deaths of those two hostages?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it may have been, Wolf. We don't know exactly what triggered the decision by the incident commander to say, "Go ahead and make the dynamic entry."
I've been an incident commander in hostage situations. It is one of the most difficult situations you can be in. You rely on your professional team, your negotiators to tell you what's going on inside. And if they hear shots fired or if they believe this person's about to harm the hostages, you have to make that decision to save as many as you can.
BLITZER: So the suspicion is they heard some shots, they heard something which prompted the move right in. And unfortunately, two of the hostages were killed. The shooter himself was killed, as well. But I assume they're going to be reviewing all of that to make sure that they did, in fact, hear shooting which prompted the assault, right?
FUENTES: Yes, they absolutely will be reviewing it. And they'll also have recordings of all of the dispatch traffic between the tactical teams, the SWAT team, the negotiators, the negotiator leader, everybody that's relaying information to the commander about what's going on and what they're seeing, what they're hearing. So they'll absolutely -- they'll have recordings; they'll have documents; they'll have logs. They'll be able to do an extensive review of what occurred.
BLITZER: And they will be able to determine pretty quickly whether the two hostages who are dead were shot, in fact, by the hostage- holder with that shotgun, as opposed to inadvertently, accidentally by the police who came in, right? That shouldn't be that difficult to determine the cause of death...
FUENTES: It could be difficult, because shots fired in an enclosed brick structure could ricochet around, and the lead would be deformed when it hits a brick wall. And then it goes into a body, maybe hits a bone. So they should be able to do it. They should be able to match up whether it was a gun -- you know, who it was fired by. But we don't know that. That will be difficult to determine right now.
BLITZER: Paul, even if there was no direct link to ISIS, these kinds of lone-wolf attacks, this is precisely what ISIS likes, right?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Wolf, that's absolutely right. Back in September, ISIS's spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, issued a fatwa issued calling for these lone-wolf attacks in Australia, the United States, and other western countries.
Since then, we've had a string of terrorist attacks in North America, but also a plot in London in October. And in that plot in London, the suspects were absolutely devouring this fatwa. It was a real game changer, really has increased this threat from lone-wolf terrorism.
BLITZER: Bob Baer, I want you to listen to this Barbara Starr interview of the homeland security secretary, Jeh Johnson. He expressed deep concern about a scenario just like the scenario that seems to have played out in Sydney, Australia. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEH JOHNSON, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: The new phenomenon that I see that I'm very concerned about is somebody who's never met another member of that terrorist organization, never trained at one of the camps, who is simply inspired by the social media, the literature, the propaganda, the message to commit an act of violence in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is this really a new phenomenon, Bob, and is the U.S. prepared?
BOB BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It is new. And Wolf, I'd like to point something out. This man had been a Shia Muslim, apparently was raised one. Not only that, he was Iranian. Iranians do not engage in martyrdom attacks since the Iraq/Iran war. This is highly unusual, this self-conversion, crossing that sectarian line.
I, frankly, I just can't remember a case when this happened before. So he went from Shia to Sunni. Sunni radical, self-recruited. That means to me that almost anybody could make that leap, you know, from Christianity to Sunni Islam, as well.
And keeping track of all these people that sit on the Internet and convert themselves is impossible for law enforcement. You just don't -- and on top of it is the vulnerable target. Think if he'd have had an automatic weapon in the United States or easier access to explosives or he'd even linked up with one person. They could have done a lot more damage in that mall than happened in Sydney.
BLITZER: The -- this individual was born in Iran. He was 49 or 50 years old, this Man Haron Monis. And you're right, he was an Iranian Shiite. But he -- the word on the street was over there in Sydney he converted and became a Sunni and sympathized with ISIS, if you will. What you're saying, Bob, is that this is highly unusual for an Iranian Shiite to convert to become a Sunni Muslim, is that right?
BAER: It's -- it's very, very rare. I can't think of another case, Wolf, where this has happened. And also the whole idea this was probably what they call a martyrdom operation. He knew he was going to die and didn't put down his gun when the police came to the windows. And that is unusual, too, because Iranians just don't do that.
And so this phenomenon of self-conversion and turning to jihadi Islam seems to me to be getting worse and not better.
BLITZER: Tom, this individual, Man Haron Monis, he was well-known to law enforcement in Australia. He had been charged -- actually charged as an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife. And she was murdered in a brutal way, assaulted and then burnt. He's charged repeatedly with sexual assault. He pled guilty to writing awful letters to relatives of Australian soldiers who were killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was being monitored. But obviously something went horribly wrong
there, Tom. What -- looking back, what are the lessons we should all be learning from this?
FUENTES: Well, the lessons learned are to, you know, have our security services try to be more vigilant. But the fact is, whether it's Australia, the United States, the U.K., we just don't have the resources to follow every person, identify the bad person. You know, there he had criminal conduct, more so than -- than before indicating terrorism, even writing the letters.
But you have somebody like that that appears to be really just, you know, mentally challenged and a criminal. And the authorities there -- the Australians don't have the number of people that it would take to follow everybody like that around the clock.
BLITZER: Yes. In the 1990s, he fled Iran. He came to Australia. He sought political asylum. He was granted asylum, allowed to live in Australia. And we see what happens right now.
Paul, let's talk a little bit about that. What's a bigger threat right now: this home-grown terror, this inspired lone wolf, or individuals looking to come to the United States and conduct attacks along the lines of what happened on 9/11?
CRUICKSHANK: Wolf, I think the most immediate threat is from individuals who are already here, lone-wolf kind of terrorism. But I don't think we should discount the threat of terrorist attacks being orchestrated by ISIS itself.
This is an organization that's said very clearly now that it's coming after the United States. They have 1,000 westerners in their ranks. They have a lot of money. They have training camps. In many ways, they have everything they need to launch carnage on western streets. There's also in Syria and Iraq, particularly in Syria, the Khorasan
group, an al Qaeda A-team plotting attacks against U.S. aviation. And one of their key bomb-makers, it turns out he's still alive, a Frenchman, David Drugeon, Wolf.
BLITZER: Bob, you know, some U.S. law enforcement authorities have said to me they're really worried about what they call copycat attacks, someone inspired, if you will, by what just happened in Sydney, getting all that publicity for 16, 17 hours. You can imagine what would happen if in the United States, if that were to happen near Times Square, something along those lines. How worried should U.S. law enforcement be about a copycat?
BAER: They're terrified of it. I'm in touch with the FBI and police, and they're worried about that very thing. And you know, it could be attacking a school under the banner of ISIS with an automatic weapon. Think what it would do to this country in terms of where it would take our foreign policy and our rights and the rest of it. I think there's nothing they can do about it.
These people are working around the clock. They're looking at social media. They're looking at data analytics. Everybody who leaves the country is being tracked, you know, where they go, and if they go to Syria, if they come back they're being tracked. But unless they commit a crime, there's not much you can do.
BLITZER: You know, Tom, it looks like the enormity of this mission is really expanding and expanding. Here's the question: Does the U.S. have the manpower to get the job done?
FUENTES: No. Nobody does. You hope, you analyze all the information you have. You make your best choices about who is worthy of electronic surveillance or physical surveillance. Both are very resource-intensive. And, you know, you can't follow everybody. We have hundreds of thousands of people on our terror watch list in this country.
And if I could add one more thing, you know, Australia does not have assault rifles in the hands of the public like we have in this country. So if we have people that decide to do this here, they have much easier access to assault rifles, military-grade weaponry, armor- piercing shells, body armor. Then we'll see why the police here have militarized type equipment.
BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much. Don't go too far away.
We're standing by, once again, for this news conference in New York City. The New York City police commissioner, Bill Bratton, getting ready to make a statement and answer reporters' questions. He's going to be joined by John Miller. He's the deputy commissioner for intelligence counterterrorism, also well-known to our viewers. They're going to be answering questions about what happened in Sydney, the lessons learned for New York and others -- other places in the United States. Live coverage coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Also, new details emerging right now about an American who managed to sneak into North Korea, saying he had valuable information for the North Koreans that they would appreciate. Stand by. We'll share what we know.
Plus, Sony Pictures faces new blackmail threats and may change some versions of its upcoming movie about the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un. We have new information for you.
BLITZER: We're waiting for the New York City Police commissioner, Bill Bratton, he's getting ready to hold a news conference in New York City. There you see live pictures coming in from the NYPD. He's going to be joined by John Miller. He's the deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism.
They're going to be speaking about what happened in Sydney, Australia, the hostage situation, 16, almost 17 hours hostage crisis right in downtown Sydney, Australia. What it means for New York and elsewhere. They're also going to be talking about the latest demonstrations which have occurred in New York City reacting to the Staten Island, Staten Island grand jury decision, the Ferguson, Missouri, grand jury.
Once Bill Bratton and John Miller show up there, we'll have live coverage. Stand by for that.
Bob Baer is still with us, he's our national security analyst, former CIA operative. Tom Fuentes is with us.
So, Tom, you're a former director -- assistant director of the FBI. The cops in New York City, they see what happened in Sydney. They immediately start to draw some lessons potentially, what this could mean for New York, right?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think, Wolf, it just means that it could happen and it could happen anywhere. So that's the problem, is, you know, the so-called soft targets. And it also shows that if it's a change of tactics of ISIS and other terrorists -- you know, before they were calling for people to attack people in uniform, soldiers, police officers. And we saw the attacks of soldiers in Canada, the NYPD officers in New York City, the guy with the hatchet attacking them.
But now if the attack plan for this past September in Sydney was just take an innocent citizen off the sidewalk and behead him on camera, put the video on the Internet as an ISIS recruiting tape -- and that's a whole new thing.
You know, most terrorists don't get -- I mean, most citizens don't get immediately terrorized. If they see a journalist in Syria or Iraq being beheading, they tell themselves, well, I'm never going to be in Syria or Iraq. Nobody in my family is over there. They see some another incident, I'm not -- I don't work in the Pentagon. I don't work here, I don't do that.
But when you see innocent people off the sidewalk or in a coffee shop or in a restaurant, then people say to themselves, wait a minute, that could be me, I do that activity in my daily routine, I could get caught up in a terrorist act. That becomes more terrifying.
BLITZER: And, Bob Baer, I just want to remind our viewers we're waiting for Bill Bratton, the New York City police commissioner, to walk into that room. You see the live coverage we're going to have. There it is right there. He's going to be coming in with John Miller, who's the deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism. Looks like they're getting ready to open with a statement.
And then answer reporters' questions, responding to what happened in Sydney, Australia, as well as some of the demonstrations in New York over the past few days.
This is a pretty terrifying thought that what happened in Sydney potentially -- we all hope it doesn't -- could happen in New York City, right, Bob?
ROBERT BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Wolf, you know, I can speculate on this. Of course I don't know. But this man in Sydney was a lunatic and the chances of a lunatic in this country seeing in and mimicking it in some way, I think, are pretty good. I can't tell you for certain because there's no central organization to ISIS controlling this. I think it's a good chance it's going to happen here and I think this
is what the police commissioner of New York is going to be talking about.
BLITZER: All right. They're now walking in. So I want to immediately listen to their opening statement.
Bill Bratton, he's joined by John Miller. Let's listen in.
COMMISSIONER WILLIAM BRATTON, NEW YORK POLICE: Chief of Patrol Carlos Gomez, Chie of Department Jim O'Neil. To my right, chief of detectives for our boys, and chief of Manhattan detectives, Bill Aubry.
As you're aware, on Saturday, we had an extraordinarily large march here on the city, 25,000 to 30,000 demonstrators. And by and large, the events of that day went off as we would expect, without incident, large crowds.
Police role was to facilitate and ensure that the services were kept to a minimum and they were. But on Saturday evening, on the Brooklyn Bridge, a small group sought to change the dynamics of that day, a peaceful protest by tens of thousands of New Yorkers and others. And instead chose through their own selfish to and make it all about them.
In the course of that, they attempted to also assault and significantly injure potentially both police officers, as well as other demonstrators, who were proceeding over the Brooklyn Bridge. The demonstrators being escorted by members of the NYPD. Fortunately for those below on the roadway, two of our officers, two lieutenants, Lt. Chan, Lt. Sullivan, assigned to our Legal Affairs Bureau, wearing civilian clothes but with police rain jackets, clearly identified as New York City police officers, encountered an individual who was attempting to lift -- and you're very familiar with these -- baskets that weigh 45 to 50 pounds. You see them on every street corner in New York.
Kind of an individual who's attempting to throw one of those baskets off the footway onto the bridge below. The Broadway. And fortunately, they were able to intercede. Those baskets are normally chained on the bridge to prevent just that type of incident. And fortunately they found on the perpetrators that was unchained.
But I want to publicly applaud the actions of Lieutenant Chan and Lieutenant Sullivan for the actions that they took that evening, putting themselves at great risk that ultimately ended up in them being attacked and beaten by that group of agitators on the bridge.
I want to ask Chief Aubry to give you a briefing. I just have come from a briefing upstairs. We've reviewed the videos and reviewed some of the still photos that he will walk you through. We are looking for six additional individuals, three women, three men. Tomorrow we will probably have enhanced photos for you along with significant rewards that we will seek to identify them. We do not take attacks on our police officers lightly. Never have,
never will. So will seek endeavor to identify and arrest anybody who attacks a New York City police officer. Thankfully, we have so many characters out there looking to post their exploits on YouTube, we're greatly assisted by YouTube and social media. And so in that regard, I want to thank them for providing us with the evidence that will ultimately result to arrest and hopefully successfully prosecute them.
With that, I'd like Chief Aubry to give you a discussion of the events of Saturday night, the investigation going forward, and what we hope will be public support and identification of the six people that we're looking for. Chief Aubry?
DEPUTY CHIEF WILLIAM AUBRY, NEW YORK POLICE: 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night, Lt. Chan and Lt. Sullivan were on the walkway of the Brooklyn Bridge. They were on the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge when they saw an individual who he arrested with a garbage pail and they ended up grabbing that individual before he threw that garbage pail over the railing and onto the roadway.
Previous to that, there were officers that were on the roadway, and there were bottles and cans being thrown down on. When officer -- when Lt. Chan approached the individual to arrest him, there were other individuals that came over and they attempted to prevent Lt. Chan from apprehending the individual that we arrested.
In reviewing video and witness statements and the evidence that we have, there are six individuals that we're looking for. There are three females and three males. The first male is a male with a mustache. And as you can see in the pictures over here, he attempts to prevent Lt. Chan from apprehending the individual. He pulls Lt. Chan off of the individual and he elbows Lt. Chan. Lieutenant Chan then tries to pursue that individual and then comes back.
There's also three females. Female number one, she has a red scarf on and she grabs Lt. Chan, as well, trying to prevent him from making an arrest. Then there's female number two, she has a multicolored skirt, she grabs Lt. Sullivan. And then there's the third female, and she attempts to grab the officers, as well.
As the incident goes on, the individual that we arrested proceeds further onto the bridge, followed by the crowd, and Lt. Sullivan and Lt. Chan. There's an individual that you could see kicking Lt. Sullivan while he's on the floor, trying to apprehend him. Then there's a third male who clearly punches Lt. Chan, knocks him, and then punches him again and knocks him.
So those are the three males and the three females that we are going to provide closer images and clearer pictures of tomorrow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Questions on this issue?
AUBRY: Yes, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) AUBRY: Charged with the assault that night at 3:00 a.m. There was --
yes, there was another arrest of another individual for being on a roadway, yes, for disorderly conduct, obstructing traffic.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)
AUBRY: Not that we can say right now.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)
AUBRY: This incident goes over a two-minute period. So when Lt. Chan first puts his -- tries to handcuff Linsker. It's a two minute period that goes by where there's individuals that are punching and kicking our two lieutenants. Linsker clearly is resisting, and there's video evidence that he does throw a punch.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The criminal complaint yesterday, identifies the officers at Gallagher and Chan?
AUBRY: It's Sullivan and Chan.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Bill Chan and --
AUBRY: It's Patrick Sullivan and Philip chan.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)
AUBRY: There is video evidence that clearly shows Linsker resisting arrest and throwing a punch. I'm not going to comment any further on that.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Yes. (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And with this video clip (INAUDIBLE), they come from stills from a YouTube video?
AUBRY: They come from stills from a YouTube video, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)
AUBRY: Yes, that night Lt. Sullivan and Lt. Chan were calling for assistance and you could see the radio in Lt. Sullivan's hand and you could clearly see that they're grabbing at him while he is -- was attempting to call for help.
Lt. Chan has a broken nose. They both have contusions throughout their body, necks, head. And when you see the video, you can see as individuals are punching them and kicking at them.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)
AUBRY: Yes. They're in a rain jacket, plain clothes with a raid jacket on. They're police officers, so they have a radio, they have firearm, they have everything that you would have as a plainclothes officer.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)
AUBRY: No, they clearly were in an NYPD raid jacket. And they were representing the Legal Bureau to ensure the rights of the protesters.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)
AUBRY: I'd rather not comment on that.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)
AUBRY: They oversee and observe the actions of police officers and demonstrators.
BRATTON: We have quite a few -- during these types of demonstrations, we feel quite a few of our department attorneys, most of whom are police officers also. And so the Deputy Commissioner Larry Burn, deputy commissioner for legal affairs, will give you some sense of their responsibilities.
But let me point out, they were police officers, they were clearly identified as such. They were clearly wearing police raid jackets. You all have access to the same videos that these still were taken from. They were in the course of making a lawful arrest. They were interfered with. They were beaten. And in an attempt to rescue that prisoner, who was able to flee but we fortunately were able to arrest him later in the morning.
And our intent is to arrest all six of these individuals, the three men and the three women. I would anticipate good cooperation from the public. And we announce tomorrow the rewards that will be announced for the arrest as well as clear images of their faces that we announce seeking to enhance.
Larry, you're on.
On Saturday evening, we had 23 lawyers and personnel, uniformed members and service and civilians deployed at various protests throughout the city throughout the day. I was out with them, as well, starting at Washington Square Park. The Legal Bureau has been very active since the most recent round of protests began after the decision in Ferguson and has for many, many years has played an important role in these large protests.
The Legal Bureau goes out to ensure the peaceful protesters --
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.