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THE SITUATION ROOM
French Manhunt; Interview With State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf
Aired January 8, 2015 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're following the breaking news, the massive manhunt gripping France.
Over a force of 88,000 people, that force has now been mobilized in the wake of the country's deadliest terror attack in decades. We're also learning new information about the two brothers suspected of killing a dozen people in that massacre.
CNN sources say French officials have told the United States one of the brothers trained with al Qaeda in Yemen and other sources tell us the suspects have been on the U.S. terror watch list for years. And now another attack authorities are calling terrorism. A gunman dressed like the terror suspects shot and killed a female police officer in a Paris suburb. It's not known if the shooter is still at large. Authorities haven't connected it to the Paris attack at least not yet.
We're covering the breaking news with our correspondents, our guests, including the State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf. She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But first, let's go to Paris.
Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is getting new information about the manhunt.
What is the very latest, Jim?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're learning just now of what could be a crucial moment in the hunt for the gunmen behind this attack.
We're told police helicopters attempting to track them from the air using night-vision in a wooded area about 50 miles northeast of Paris. This is an area where police spotted them earlier today they believe from a helicopter abandoning a car they had hijacked and then running into that wooded area.
I was there earlier today. We were following the police as they went from town to town in that area, surrounding the town, setting up checkpoints in an attempt to locate them. This comes as French authorities have also significantly expanded the areas of France under high alert as they continue this manhunt, expanding that right up to the Belgium border, 175 miles from here in Paris, showing the difficulty as they try to tighten the noose on the perpetrators of this brutal attack.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): As the manhunt continues for the attackers in the countryside outside of Paris, a clearer picture is emerging of the gunmen behind the masks.
Authorities have identified brothers Cherif Kouachi, 32 years old, and Said Kouachi as the chief suspects. The two left behind a getaway car, and inside a key clue, Said's I.D. card, the gunmen's first mistake.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It was mistake, a single mistake.
SCIUTTO: Both brothers were known to French authorities and had been under police monitoring.
BERNARD CAZENEUVE, FRENCH INTERIOR MINISTER (through translator): As soon as the identity of suspect was known, where they might flee to, they were placed under surveillance.
SCIUTTO: Cherif, the younger of two brothers and a fan of rap music, was sentenced to three years in prison in 2008 for recruiting jihadis to fight in Iraq. And in 2005, he was arrested before traveling to Syria, from where he intended to travel to Iraq to fight against U.S. and coalition forces there.
Cherif's former lawyer claimed he was not an extremist.
VINCENT OLLIVIER, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR CHERIF KOUACHI (through translator): He was like a lot of young people. He just had a job that provided him money for an uninteresting lifestyle. When he got out of custody, he found a job, he got married, and when he arrived in court in 2008, he seemed to be getting back on the right path.
SCIUTTO: Much less is known about the elder Kouachi brother, Said, who had a lower profile.
CAZENEUVE (through translator): Said Kouachi lived in Reims, was unemployed, and was never condemned or accused, but he appeared in the periphery of some of these investigations in which his brother Said was involved.
SCIUTTO: Today, we found the mosque where the two were radicalized torn down. A neighbor who lived in the same building described Said.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): He lived here for a year-and-a-half. He used to leave in the morning and we never saw him. But if he really did that, it's disgusting, because what we saw last night, truly, we cried.
(END VIDEOTAPE) SCIUTTO: What's become clear today is that these two suspected
gunmen were well-known, both to U.S. and French authorities, for years before this attack that took place just behind me here.
We're learning that U.S. officials had both of them on what's known as the TIDE terror watch lists for known and suspected terrorists. They were also on a no-fly list for traveling to the U.S.
Here in France, French authorities knew of them. They had them under surveillance for some time. But , unfortunately, Wolf, they stopped that surveillance a number of years ago when those brothers went quiet, they went off the grid. It's a challenge they face all the time with 5,000, some 5,000 known or suspected jihadis here in France alone -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I assume security where you are outside the offices of this magazine "Charlie Hebdo" is intense still. They're planning on coming out with a new issue next Wednesday, right?
SCIUTTO: They are, indeed. They say they will not be cowed by this, which is really a message we have heard from so many not just journalists and publications certainly in France, but from the people of Paris as well.
But I can tell you, standing on the street right now, yes, there is a police cordon at the front, but very easy traffic in and out at this point, really just frankly to allow some people to join the vigils here for the people who were killed. But around Paris today, and as we traveled up to the northeast of Paris today, I couldn't tell you how many police cars, with their sirens going that I counted, police checkpoints, armed policemen. This is a country very much on high alert tonight, Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Sciutto on the scene for us, we will get back to you.
I want to go to the Pentagon and our correspondent Barbara Starr is standing by.
You have breaking news over there. Barbara, you're looking into the suspects' ties to al Qaeda. Tell our viewers what you have learned.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Wolf.
Two U.S. officials tell me that the French authorities have informed the United States they have information that Said Kouachi, the older brother, traveled to Yemen in 2011, got weapons training there. Very concerning, because he apparently was there at the behest of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen, one of the most dangerous al Qaeda groups that has already tried to attack the United States and a group that had the French magazine in its crosshairs.
Now, the weapons training he apparently got there, according to these U.S. officials, included how to handle guns, potentially such as the Kalashnikovs that were used in Paris and potentially some rudimentary training in bomb making. This is concerning, because they don't know right now. Tonight, officials say they're scrubbing through databases, trying to figure out, could there have been others?
Said apparently returns to France at some point, is fairly quiet, as Jim Sciutto just reported. But he was essentially a sleeper cell, if you will, because he activated again and carried out this attack. Two things they need to know tonight, are there any others out there and, more precisely, what exactly were his ties to Yemen?
In 2011, did he ever meet with Anwar al-Awlaki, that American- born cleric that was killed later that year by an American drone attack? Who did he meet with? Was he carrying out this attack in Paris at the direction of al Qaeda in Yemen or for many years did he return home and did he just stew and was he inspired by al Qaeda in Yemen?
These are just some of the key questions right now tonight that U.S. officials say they have got to find answers to.
BLITZER: Yes, they have got to find them, they have got to find these answers quickly. I assume they will. Barbara, thanks for breaking that story for us here on CNN.
Let's go to our White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski. She's over at the White House.
The president has just returned, I take it, to the White House, Michelle, but he's got another little trip planned right?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. He returned to the White House just a few minutes ago and this is an unplanned, unscheduled trip.
We saw him get off of Marine One there and arriving at the White House. He immediately got into the presidential limousine and headed straight for the French Embassy, where we know he is now. We believe he's there to sign a condolence book that would be inside the French Embassy.
We did hear him give a strong statement yesterday, shortly after the attacks, calling them cowardly, evil and horrific, expressing the U.S. stands with France and that both countries stand for the same values, for free speech and freedom of the press. Also, on his way back from travel today from Phoenix to Washington, D.C., we know that he was briefed by his national security team, an update from his team on the situation as it stands as well as a look at the U.S. security posture currently in place to protect Americans both here and abroad, Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm sure we will be getting pictures of his visit to the French Embassy in Washington, not all that far away from the White House. Stand by for that. Michelle, thanks very much.
The Paris attack has U.S. counterterrorism officials scouring the U.S. list of terrorist suspects, going through all sorts of databases. Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, is here in THE SITUATION
ROOM working this part of the story.
What are you picking up, Pamela?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, federal U.S. law enforcement sources tell us the Kouachi brothers had been on the U.S. no-fly list for years. But even though there's no indication they ever traveled to the U.S., tonight, U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials are scrambling to figure out if any high-level targets in the U.S. had any connection to the brothers and how they may be impacted by the Paris attacks.
BROWN (voice-over): Following back-to-back attacks in Paris, the FBI, DHS, and intelligence agencies in the U.S. are scrubbing their databases and evaluating high-priority targets living in the country.
DAVEED GARTENSTEIN-ROSS, TERRORISM EXPERT: The U.S. officials are going to be searching for any connection between these "Charlie Hebdo" attackers and Americans, any sort of secondary or tertiary connections between them. BROWN: The high-priority targets include Americans who are believed
to have returned to the U.S. after fighting in Syria. Sources tell CNN, out of the dozens of Americans who have returned from Syria, a percentage of those are believed to have fought with terrorists.
U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials are evaluating what kind of impact the Paris attack may have on those individuals in the U.S. and whether they should take any action against these targets by contacting them directly, a move that would disrupt intelligence gathering but potentially stop an attack on U.S. soil.
GARTENSTEIN-ROSS: Since 9/11, there's been a shift in the U.S. paradigm to much more of a preemptive paradigm. They're not just trying to arrest people after crimes have been committed but they're looking to prevent attacks. And part of that is looking at possible connections and possible dangers when something like this occurs.
BROWN: U.S. officials tell CNN the Paris attacks highlight the multifaceted terrorism threat facing the U.S. from highly coordinated attacks to lone wolf attacks, driven in some measure by terrorist groups.
GARTENSTEIN-ROSS: Al Qaeda and the Islamic state have both been trying for some time to encourage them to strike while at the same time aiming for larger-scale attacks because lone wolves keep law enforcement on their feet, they waste resources of the enemy, they keep the enemy scared, they keep you in the headlines, while at the same time you can prepare to do something larger.
BROWN: Tonight, cities like New York City are stepping up security out of concern for copycat attacks. SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: It reminds us that the terrorist
threat is still very real for this country as well as for other Western nations.
BROWN: Even though law enforcement here in the U.S. are still scrubbing their databases, I'm told that so far there hasn't been any connections found between the terror suspects and the high-level targets here in the U.S. and so far sources say there is no intelligence, no new intelligence indicating active plotting in the U.S.
But authorities are waiting more information on these subjects in Paris, Wolf, before they know anything definitive and really that may not happen until someone is in custody.
BLITZER: Yes. Let's see when that happens. Pamela Brown, thanks for the reporting.
The attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, will head to Paris this weekend to discuss terrorism and the threat of the foreign fighters with high-level Paris officials.
Our justice reporter, Evan Perez, is joining us from New York.
Evan, what are you hearing from your sources?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is going to be a high-level ministerial level between U.S. officials, the attorney general, Eric Holder. Possibly Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson might be going along on this trip.
He's been invited to join his European counterparts to discuss not only the issue of terrorism, but also foreign fighters and what to do about them, because, as you know, Wolf, the big concern for some time has been you have a lot of these European countries have visa- free travel rights to the United States. And the concern is, you have thousands, thousands of foreign fighters who have gone to Iraq and Syria and they have gone back home, some of them, and they could get on a plane and travel to the United States.
In the case of these two suspects in Paris, they were on a no-fly list. The French are known to share information very closely with U.S. officials. Not so with some of the other European countries. That, Wolf, has been a big issue for the attorney general. He's been having these discussions, both in Washington and in Paris in the last few months discussing this very issue.
The issue is the Europeans are concerned about privacy and whether or not, when they share the information with the Americans, whether that violates their privacy laws. And that's something that they're going to be -- going to be front and center at this discussion over the weekend, Wolf.
BLITZER: This meeting, this trip that Attorney General Eric Holder will take to Paris, I think it was not previously scheduled, it was added to his schedule as a result of this terror attack on this French magazine?
PEREZ: It was something that was added to his schedule.
And the interesting thing about this is, I was talking here in New York just a couple days ago with an official from a police -- the national police agency for one of these European countries. He told me one of the issues was the issue of privacy in Europe where there is so much concern about what information they can share with the United States.
And one of the things he said to me, Wolf, was that perhaps because of what has happened in Paris, perhaps there could be a change of mind in some of these countries.
BLITZER: Evan Perez reporting for us, thanks very much. We will get back to you.
Let's get some more on all of this.
Joining us, the State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf.
Marie, thanks very much for coming in.
MARIE HARF, SPOKESWOMAN, STATE DEPARTMENT: Happy to be here.
BLITZER: Are they any closer to finding these two terror suspects? What are you hearing?
HARF: They're certainly working as hard as they can. We are sharing any information we have with them that could possibly help. So hopefully for everyone's sake, certainly, they will find them soon.
BLITZER: Is there any sense though that these two guys who may be in the forest north of Paris, an hour outside of Paris, they're running around right now, do they have accomplices who might be helping them? Is that a fear?
HARF: Well, it's certainly a fear. And I know the French are looking very closely at that right now.
Again, if we have any information, law enforcement or intelligence that could help answer that question, we will certainly share it with the French.
BLITZER: Is there anything in terms of U.S.-French cooperation right now that you want to be happening that isn't happening?
HARF: Not at all. We have an incredibly close relationship with the French, especially on counterterrorism issues. We have had for a long time. And certainly on this, we are giving them any information we have. Anything they might need from us, we are happy to do.
BLITZER: How concerned are you about copycat attacks in the United States? HARF: We're always concerned about copycat attacks.
And to be fair, right now, our intelligence community, our law enforcement agencies are pulling every single thread that we know about this, where they might have trained, where they might have gone, who they might know. We don't have indications that there's any threats to the U.S. homeland that are related at this point, but we're always concerned, of course.
BLITZER: I have spoken to some members of Congress who are concerned that French citizens do not need a visa to come to the United States. They can just board a plane in Paris and fly to Washington or New York or L.A. or anyplace else, get off and walk around. They don't need any visas.
And some members of Congress want to reconsider that non-visa policy for close allies. Where does the State Department stand on that?
HARF: There are certainly regulations that govern those kind of issues when it comes to visas.
But separate and apart from that, if we have information, derogatory information about someone that may lead to them being put on some sort of watch list, it doesn't matter if they have a French passport. They still won't be able to travel to the U.S.
BLITZER: And so if these two guys had tried, for example, to come into Washington Dulles Airport from Paris, what would have happened to them when they landed?
HARF: Well, without confirming who is or isn't on any terror watch list...
BLITZER: We're told both of them have been on the U.S. terror watch list.
HARF: We tend to not always confirm that publicly.
But if someone is, obviously, there are ways of preventing them from entering the U.S. And, yes, if people are on a watch list, on a no-entry list to the U.S., they will not get in.
BLITZER: Marie, I want you to stand by for a moment.
Jim Sciutto is in Paris. He's getting new information on this brutal terror massacre that occurred yesterday.
What are you picking up, Jim?
SCIUTTO: Wolf, we're getting the first picture from inside the site of this shooting, really just -- and we should warn our viewers as we show this picture that it's a gruesome one, shows just signs of the bloodshed that took place when these two gunmen stormed the offices, just behind me here, about 50 yards down the street yesterday and killed those people, including the editors with this magazine.
As you look at this video, this picture now, as we have it up there, you really do get a sense of just how violent this was. Remember the eyewitness accounts we have, the gunmen coming into this building here, knowing who they were looking for, in fact, it appears knowing many of these key editors and cartoonists would be present at this time for a rare weekly meeting, calling them out by name, and then executing them one by one, separating in fact the targets that they had in mind from the women in the office, other people in the office, and executing them with high-caliber weapons.
And you get a sign of that from looking at this picture now, Wolf.
BLITZER: It's so chilling, this video. It's so disturbing, Jim.
Some of the eyewitness survivors pointed out they were specifically targeting cartoonists, including the editor in chief of this magazine, calling them out by names, asking who they were. And then if they saw a woman, they said, you know what? We don't kill women and they let the women survive. It's a brutal scene over there.
SCIUTTO: No question.
This gets to the point we talked a lot in the last 24 hours, that this was a sophisticated attack, they had information, they knew who they were going after. They seemed to know they would be gathered there on this day yesterday when they came. They knew the names and they came in and found them and killed them, killed only them, and then, of course, members of the police who they killed as they were leaving, one inside the building who had been assigned to protect one of the editors of this magazine, but also later that image we remember from the street, shooting that wounded policeman on the ground who as it turned out was a fellow Muslim.
He was a Muslim member of the French police. So you get a sense that they were prepared. They took these shots with control and discipline that shows training and really it just shows the brutality as well. And these images that we're seeing now from inside there really highlight that. Again, difficult images to look at, but give you a very strong, powerful indication of what exactly took place there.
BLITZER: All right, Jim Sciutto, stand by.
Marie Harf, the State Department deputy spokeswoman, is still with us.
The president is now at the French Embassy here in Washington paying his respect, his condolences. We heard your boss, John Kerry, the secretary of State, when this first came out speak in French to the people.
France is America's closest ally. You see pictures like this. It's so stunning and so awful. How does it impact the response presumably that's going to take place? HARF: Well, you're right, it's heartbreaking. And those are
incredibly difficult images to look at.
And our response, if what these terrorists wanted to do was make us afraid and take away our resolve, they have done the opposite. There are more people around the world that have seen that cartoon over the past 24 hours than ever saw it before. So, what they tried to accomplish, they haven't accomplished.
And we are going to stand closely with the French hunting down, helping find the people responsible and also working with the French to try to prevent something like this from ever happening again. We know there are threats out there, but we are going to help fight them together.
BLITZER: Marie Harf, I want you to stand by. We have more questions for you.
We're following the breaking news out of Paris. We will take a quick break. We will be right back.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: A tale of two photos. The first one we're going to show you, the awful, awful, bloody magazine office attack.
These are the first pictures that have been released from inside the office of "Charlie Hebdo," the magazine which was attacked yesterday. There was a massacre there, a terror massacre, 12 people were killed, brutally, 11 others were injured, several of them remaining in critical condition right now. This is a brutal picture.
Take a look at this other picture that's just come into THE SITUATION ROOM. This is the president of the United States. He's at the French Embassy here in Washington. Shortly after arriving back to the White House, he drove over to the French Embassy to express his condolences, pay his respects to the people of France. He signed a condolence book there.
He stood somberly, very, very solemn at the French Embassy for a few moments. There was a marble statue nearby, including a painting of the Battle of Yorktown. France is the oldest U.S. ally, and clearly the president wanted to express his deepest, deepest condolences to the people of France. We will get that videotape from the travel pool shortly.
But let's talk about what's going on. Marie Harf is still with us, the deputy State Department spokeswoman.
The whole notion of action that the U.S. may be considering now, especially since Barbara Starr broke the news that at least one of these brothers trained in Yemen for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, one or both of them may actually have been in Syria, you say that the U.S. and its allies, France and others, will respond. Does that mean drone strikes, targeted killings? What are you talking about?
HARF: Well, I don't want to get ahead of where we are right now.
What we're doing right now, our intelligence community, is going through every bit of information we might have known about the individuals responsible, where they might have gotten training. Clearly, they were well-trained. You can see that from that awful video.
Where were they trained? Who were they working with? Who were they trained by? And once we have all of that and know all of that, I think we will talk more about what a response might look like. But we have been very aggressive in going after terrorist affiliates around the world, including in Yemen, which Barbara Starr mentioned, for many years now, and we have had some success there, but clearly a huge threat remains.
BLITZER: Is the U.S. stepping up security at diplomatic outposts around the world?
HARF: We're evaluating that on a post-by-post basis. At many of our posts in the Middle East, for example, we already have very, very high security. If we need take any additional steps, we will. But people are watching. And if we have to do anything, we will do so.
BLITZER: What about the U.S. Embassy in Paris?
HARF: The U.S. Embassy in Paris is open. It was open yesterday doing diplomatic business, as you said, with our oldest ally in the world. And if we have to change anything there, we will, but at this point, we haven't.
BLITZER: And will there be more preventive measures taken in the United States in anticipation of potential other operations or copycat operations?
HARF: Well, this is something that DHS and the FBI and law enforcement have looked at for many years. This unfortunately isn't the first kind of attack like this that we have seen. We're always worried about copycats.
We have seen people try to bring terrorism to our own shores, if you look at Times Square, if you look at the Christmas Day bomber. So this is something we have wrestled with for a long time. And we are on very high alert around targets in places like New York, L.A. And we will continuing watching.
BLITZER: I know the secretary of state, who speaks fluent French, has spent a long time in France and he feels very close to the people of France.
This must really be hitting him personally. Talk a little bit about that.
HARF: Absolutely. And you saw him come out yesterday, right as this was still all
unfolding, and speak in French directly to the French people to show solidarity with them. You're right. I have been on many trips with him to Paris. He last summer went and visited a town that his family came from in France to see the mayor and to see people that were still in that town.
So he has very strong personal ties to him. And I think it hits him very hard, but, again, only strengthens our resolve to work with the French, to help them in any way and to ultimately defeat these kind of horrible, barbaric terrorists.
BLITZER: I know the president went to the French Embassy to pay his respects in Washington. Will the secretary of state, is he considering a trip to Paris right now?
HARF: I think it's probably safe to say the secretary is always considering a trip to Paris, no matter what day it is. We have a trip coming up soon to India and some other places. And who knows, but he always enjoys visiting there and has spoken to his counterpart several times.
BLITZER: That's the French ambassador to the United States.
And the president -- now we have the videotape of the president at the French Embassy. There he is signing a condolence book, paying his respects to the people of France, the president clearly moved by what has happened and we see him there as well.
This is really a shock, what has happened, to the United States government, isn't it?
HARF: Well, absolutely.
All you have to do is look at that photo that you just saw or look at the videos. This is an attack, a cowardly attack on people that just wanted to publish cartoons. They wanted to participate in this great, free society that France has, that we have. And these cowardly attackers -- that's the only word for them, I think.
There's nothing brave about what they did, even if terrorists online try to say that, going in there, picking people out with assault rifles, wearing masks, and then fleeing. It's just horrific.
BLITZER: Yes. We're showing more video of the president at the French embassy here in Washington, D.C., paying his respects to the people of France.
Your conversations with the Muslim world, in the aftermath of what's going on -- I know U.S. diplomats in Arab countries, in Muslim countries, they're talking about this attack on this French satirical magazine. What's the basic message that the U.S. is sending to the Muslim world right now? HARF: What we really want is for Muslim leaders -- you see some
of them in Paris already -- but Muslim leaders around the world to step up and say, "This is not our religion. This does not represent our religion."
We've talked about this kind of public relations message over the past several months when it comes to ISIS. But in this case, to step up and say, "This isn't who we're about."
And I firmly believe that these terrorists are on the losing side of history, that in the long-term, the moderate forces within Islam will prevail, we will prevail. But the losing side can be very dangerous, and I think that's what you've seen over this last 24 hours, that they resort to these kind of tactics.
But if Muslim leaders, religious leaders, civil society leaders can stand up and say, "This is not who we are," and you may hate those cartoons with every fiber of your being, but you don't deal with that by killing people.
BLITZER: And as far as someone taking responsibility, claiming credit for this terror operation, I haven't heard anything publicly. I've heard a lot of expressions of support from terror groups, saying, "You guys did the right thing," but has anyone claimed responsibility yet?
HARF: Not yet. There have been, as you said, a lot of messages of support from other terrorist groups but not yet. We haven't seen anything. Again, we're looking at every single thing we know about these guys, to see maybe who they were inspired by, trained by; and I'm sure we'll be talking about them more.
BLITZER: The president at the end of the signing of the condolence book there at the French embassy in Washington. We're told he signed the words, "Viva la France." A good way to end it here. The president and the French ambassador of the United States, paying their respects to the people of France.
All right. They -- they're leaving the French embassy. Marie Harf, thanks very much for joining us. We're going to continue to follow the breaking news right after this.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, the massive manhunt under way right now for two brothers suspected in that deadly Paris terror massacre. Our justice reporter, Evan Perez, is joining us. He's got some disturbing new information he's just picked up.
What did you learn, Evan?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I've been talking to intelligence officials here in the United States, and one of the things that there -- there's an emerging concern about is these signs of a link between the Paris attack and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. As Barbara Starr has reported, French officials have passed on
information that one of these brothers did travel to Yemen for some training, and this is -- they really -- they believe this is the realization of a fear they've long had, Wolf, which is that the more -- the more attention the United States and everybody else pays to ISIS, ISIL, whatever name you want to call them, the group that has been fighting to create a state in Syria and Iraq, the more attention we pay to that group, the more that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or other al Qaeda groups will try and carry out some kind of spectacular or some kind of very big attack in the west. And they believe that this might be what this is.
Now, the concern there, obviously, is that they're not going to stop in Paris, because this is really a fight for recruits. These groups are competing with each other. You know, they're not only trying to strike against the west, but they're competing against each other for recruits to -- really, for their lifeblood.
And so the concern here is that we might have more of these types of incidents as these -- as these two al Qaeda groups, these two terrorist groups compete against each other, Wolf.
BLITZER: Some very, VERY disturbing developments. Evan Perez, thanks very much.
Let's get some reaction to that. Our counterterrorism analyst, Philip Mudd, is joining us. What's your response to what Evan just reported, Phil?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Boy, this changes the game, Wolf, in one fundamental way. The question we had last night was connectivity: did these guys do it independently, or were they connected to a broader network?
The reason that's significant is pretty straightforward: If they're connected to a broader network, is that network using the same training, the same travel routes, for example, the same ways of masking travel to send people elsewhere in Europe and the United States?
So if I'm sitting in the chair tonight, and I realize we're not just talking about Paris; we're also talking about Yemen, I want every bit of data about things like these guys' travel to overlay against my data in the United States and see if we have the same thing here.
BLITZER: I want you to stand by, Phil, because there's more we need to discuss, but I want to bring in Tom Fuentes, our law enforcement analyst. I want to show our viewers some of these images that we've been watching. And because you've been studying it very closely. These are still photos. These are the two suspected terrorists, their getaway vehicle. We see a police car there. Walk us through what you see here.
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, at this point in this photo, they've exited after murdering all the people inside the magazine offices. They've come out to the street to their getaway vehicle. They see a police car cross up the street, and they might not have been able to see, with the glare, the reflection in the windshield, whether there was an officer in it. But there is one.
And what you see in the next photo after this, which I don't want to go to yet, is that these two shooters are shooting what looks like at each side of the front of the vehicle as if there might be two officers inside of it. So -- but you see, you know, almost just a nonchalant casual aiming stance.
BLITZER: They're dressed in black, and they've got the black hoods.
BLITZER: That's the vehicle they initially used to escape.
All right. Let's go to the second image over here, because this is the police vehicle we just saw, but we see all the bullet shots in this vehicle.
FUENTES: What's significant about this is the shooting discipline or the shooting training. Normally, when you're operating a fully automatic weapon.
BLITZER: An AK-47.
FUENTES: AK-47 or any of the -- you know, the other type of weapons that are fully automatic, you know, we see the terrorist training on the monkey bars, al Qaeda in Afghanistan, places like that in the past. Or we see them with their machine guns, and they're spraying, you know, is really for a fray, and what happens when you shoot a fully automatic weapon, the recoil and the torque of the rifling in the barrel causes the pattern to rise, to go up and to the right.
And when you have an inexperienced shooter, that's what happens. So it would go bap, bap, bap, bap, bap, up the windshield.
When you see groups like this, and then probably here and maybe a few strays, but when you see tight shot patterns, that indicates that if they were in fully automatic mode, they knew to just do two- to three-round bursts, regain the aim, another two- or three-round bursts, regain the aim, and keep a very, very tight pattern.
And we saw in the picture before that, they are a pretty significant distance back from this police car, to be able to shoot that tight -- tight of a pattern.
BLITZER: And I'll show another image right now, because this is very disturbing, very worrisome. And we've discussed it before. But take a look at this.
This is the I.D. of one of the brothers, one of the suspected terrorists, that was found inside that vehicle. I thought these guys were disciplined. They sounded like they were professional. How -- how does he leave his I.D. inside that vehicle and there is the picture that the French has released?
FUENTES: That is a great question at this point. You know, they've had such a disciplined attack to this point, what seemed to be professionally planned and carried out, executed, and now all of a sudden, you have this card, this identity card left in the getaway car. Were they that stupid and careless to all of a sudden make that big of a mistake? We don't know.
You know, it could be that this is his way of taking credit. You know, we don't have another terrorist organization yet that's taken credit for the attack. Maybe he's taking credit and leaves his I.D. and says, "I did it. Come get us."
BLITZER: So it's possible they deliberately left the I.D. in the vehicle for whatever crazy, sick reason?
FUENTES: The only other problem that goes back to that they might just be stupid is we have the armed robbery that they commit at the gas station later on after this incident here. And, you know, now it speaks to their lack of planning. They need to rob a gas station, show their faces to get gas, to get food. You know, and what are you going to get at a gas station? They're going to get half a dozen croissants? That's going to -- they're going to be able to survive overnight in midwinter in the woods on snack food?
BLITZER: Just want to be precise: the French authorities, they have not officially said these two guys were part of that robbery. An eyewitness there at the gas station says he believes they were the two, but the French authorities have not yet said that, so we're not 100 percent sure they were there. But obviously, you make a good point.
I want you to stand by, Tom Foreman [SIC]. We've got our experts standing by, as well. There is a lot to discuss as far as the breaking news is concerned. You're hearing it unfold right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll be right back.