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Terror In Paris; Could It Happen Here?; French Jews in the Grip of Terror
Aired January 10, 2015 - 09:00 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.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: Good morning. I'm Michael Smerconish covering breaking news this morning.
Frightening new evidence that the terror attacks in France over the last few days are the work of Al Qaeda. We've learned that one of the three terrorists killed yesterday Sharif Kouachi may have once lived with the infamous underwear bomber Umar Abdulmutallab. You recall that he is the Al Qaeda terrorist convicted of trying to blowup and airliner by putting explosives in his underwear.
Meanwhile, right now the search for the world's most wanted woman. French police are deployed all across France looking for Hayat Boumediene, she's the last surviving terrorist from yesterday's bloodbath. Her boyfriend, Amadei Kuwabawi (ph) was killed when police storms the kosher grocery store where he was holding hostages. Four of the hostages were killed as well. All four of the terrorists, the three dead hostage takers and Boumediene, the woman on the run, are said to be part of Al Qaeda in Yemen.
That group claimed responsibility yesterday with an e-mail to news organizations. I want to find out more about that deadly Al Qaeda cell. First let us go to Jake Tapper who is in Paris. I'm sorry, we'll go first to Isa Suarez who is at the kosher grocery store where police are still investigating. Isa, what can you tell us about the link to the underwear bomber?
ISA SUAREZ, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Good morning, Michael. We're hearing new details of the last few hours about the link between the eldest of the brothers and the underwear bomber. We're getting the information from a journalist in Yemen. I have to look at my Blackberry, don't mind me - don't find it offensive, I hope, because I want to get the wording right.
And what we have heard is this a Yemen journalist has told CNN that Umar Abdulmutallab actually met with one of the brothers back in mid January 2011. In fact, they shared a room, they shared a room back in Yemen. This is how they met. This is from one person I have to remind viewers, this is - we can't independently verify. We're hearing it from one witness alone.
But there is a connection that goes further back that many of us imagine. We have heard that they had strong links in Yemen, and to Al Qaeda here and now this just another element that is coming to the forefront in relation to these brothers.
We do not know at this stage how much the two brothers are connected to the gentleman who committed this heinous crime behind me but we know they were friendly. Had a walk around the city and that's how they came to know each other. They also worked together, very near one of the schools and that's how they met and became very good friends. We don't know the level of their relation or their friendship and they can exchange ideas between one another.
It goes to show how much, how well connected these two brothers were. And it raises so many questions, in particular, about why authorities here in France, while keeping a close eye on them. They had a record already. Both of those brothers. So why the split. Why during that period that authorities here didn't keep an eye on them and this is something that French police will come under intense amount of pressure because they have got a of questions to answer.
Of course, you know, what we saw yesterday things happened very quickly and they were applauded for the way they handled the simultaneous hostage crisis. Nevertheless, lots of questions remain and of course worth reminding our viewers that a woman is still on the run. There are so many questions about her whereabouts and people here are very much on edge.
SMERCONISH: Isa, what's the latest with regard the working theory as to how she got away?
SUAREZ: This is really interesting. And I've been trying to get this information from the hostages that are coming in. Look, this is what we know. We were told by various sources (INAUDIBLE) that she was in there. We do not know, we cannot confirm that ourselves but you know, we had in an interview between the gentleman, who gave an interview with our affiliate, CNN affiliate that he call up and this is who I am, this is my background and this is what my intentions are.
He never ever said we - even mentioned her name. (INAUDIBLE) girlfriend has been together since 2011. All of this, what is striking is, you know, we heard, we heard various accounts that she escaped as the police went in.
(INAUDIBLE) you're going to see that, the entrance, you're going to see bullet holes in that wall there. If it's such a huge demand to see and if the hostages knew who she was, how is it possible when she came out that no one pointed her out and no one said she's with him. So many questions being asked about exactly about what happened in those few minutes yesterday.
SMERCONISH: Isa, thank you. There is a lot more information on the Al Qaeda connection and I want to get to it now with CNN anchor Jake Tapper covering the story on the ground in Paris.
Jake, have the French moved beyond mourning to the point where they are now second guessing how individuals who were known to law enforcement, who were on the radar of law enforcement, could have perpetrated these attacks? JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: There are now questions, Michael, about that specifically, about the fact that of the Kouachi brothers, one of them had actually served time in prison for recruiting jihadis, to fight against America, I believe that he was in jail in 2008 in addition of course there was the trip to Yemen in 2011 where there was apparent training with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP, both of these individuals we had an expert, a French counter-terrorism expert on CNN earlier today, who noted that both the Kouachi brothers were on the no-fly list into the United States.
So they were known to be individuals that the United States would not permit to come in but within our borders. And then of course there is also a report that the same is true for the UK. So I wouldn't say that this is something that the people of France are talking about right now. Right now many people in this country are still in mourning. I'm of course right now outside the offices of the satirical magazine, "Charlie Hebdo" and a lot of people here have come to pay their respects, to leave flowers, to leave cartoons, to leave expressions of solidarity.
We saw a girl writing Je suis Charlie on a piece of paper to leave with the masses of other flowers and papers and cartoons that people have been leaving. But now questions from experts and people in media are starting to be asked about why there wasn't a closer tabs being kept on the Kouachi brothers given the fact that they were known to have trained and in fact in one case actually been in prison for their terrorist activism.
SMERCONISH: Jake, please stick with us.
TAPPER: (INAUDIBLE) looking for.
SMERCONISH: OK. I want to bring in CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank in Washington and here in New York, journalist Jeremy Scahill of the "Intercept," an investigative website. Jeremy, you were the first to receive information pertaining to the claim made by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Tell us more about what they said.
JEREMY SCAHILL, JOURNALIST "INTERCEPT": Well, first of all, there is a difference between an official claim from the leadership of AQAP which we do not yet have. The most credible statement that we've seen was from the senior cleric of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula who issued an audio recording yesterday praising the attack but he stopped short saying we did this.
I received communications from a well-placed AQAP source that I have received information from in the past that turned out to be very valid. That statement said that in fact AQAP directed this attack, that they did this to avenge the desecration of the image of the prophet Muhammad and in fact there are going to be more attacks coming in France.
They listed France as the number three priority for AQAP with the United States and Britain being the first two targets.
SMERCONISH: How credible generally are the claims when they say this is our work? Do they sometimes take credit for work that is not theirs just to enhance their own posture?
SCAHILL: Yes. If you go on sort of jihadist websites right now, everyone is scrambling to try to take credit for this. It's going to help with their fundraising. It's going to help raise their profile. AQAP has been in a turf battle with ISIS for some time now. So there definitely is a built-in incentive to say "Hey, this is us, we did this." What I would say though is in the past when an AQAP actually was involved with an operation like the underwear bomb plot they will follow it up by releasing photographs of that individual in Yemen at their training camp which they did with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. They will release some other video.
So you know, whether this was inspired by AQAP and Anwar al Awlaki, the American cleric who was killed in a drone strike in September of 2011, or they actually directed it, we don't know yet but there is a lot of smoke around Yemen, we're just not seeing the fire yet.
SMERCONISH: Jake Tapper in Paris, I know you have a question for Paul Cruickshank. Go ahead and ask it.
TAPPER: I do. But just in case you're hearing music behind me I just want to take a note to mention the fact that apparently there is a cello player here who has come to the site of Charlie Hebdo to pay his or her respect, I can't see from over here, and offer the crowd that's gathered here, a few hundred people, this beautiful musical tribute to the 12 victims of this terrorist attack.
But moving on, Paul, I do want to ask you about this report from a Yemeni journalist telling one of the CNN stringers in that country that he met one of the Kouachi brothers in 2011 and that brother told him that he had roomed with the so-called underwear bomber as Michael mentioned earlier, and Jeremy, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. How credible do you find that report? Do you think that is actually possible or even likely?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM: I think it's quite possible, Abdulmutallab arrived in summer, in the summer of 2009 and he trolled through mosques to try and get contacts with Al Awlaki. He also attended a language school. He roomed with a number of (INAUDIBLE) in the city. So it's quite possible that these two people shared a room at that time. But I think that was before and this is very important - that was before Abdulmutallab connected with AQAP.
Abdulmutallab eventually found a contact who had contacts with the group and he was able to travel to the tribal areas an meet with Al Awlaki. He was then groomed to carry out this underwear bombing attack. After that, he very quickly left the country. And so I think this meeting would have been before Abdulmutallab joins AQAP. So it doesn't necessarily further tie the brothers to AQAP in terms of direction.
SMERCONISH: Jeremy, on the issue of the level of support they received I heard the experts say they operated their weaponry with sophistication. And yet, it occurs to me as a lay person, they needed directions in order to get to the salon that housed the magazine? One guy left his I.D. behind. And apparently, there was no escape plan. What does that all say if anything about the level of sophistication and potential support that they had?
SCAHILL: Well, I think first of all it was a bit unusual that they sort of did this as a hit and run rather than actually staying there to be killed which is typical in many of these types of attacks. One possibility, and you know, I think speculation is very dangerous but one possibility if it's not AQAP directing this was that they received training and they essentially were sleeper cell, and that AQAP was aware that at some point these guys are going to do an attack in Paris but that AQAP wasn't necessarily running the show, maybe they gave a tip off to AQAP and said "hey, we're going to do this attack sometime in the next week so that AQAP could then capitalize on it.
There is a lot that we don't know right now. What we do know is they themselves have claimed that they did this in name of Al Qaeda near the Arabian Peninsula and also the Islamic state. And we do know that there is this travel pattern in Yemen and allegations that they met with Anwar al Awlaki, the most prominent person calling for the assassination of these cartoonists around the world including an American citizen in Seattle, Molly Norris, who had to change her name and go underground. Al awlaki is a major figure in inspiring these kinds of attacks even though he is now dead. His legacy remains.
SMERCONISH: Paul Cruickshank, would you go so far as to say this was an intelligence failure where these were known actors7
CRUICKSHANK: I think there are many questions. I mean, especially because the brothers traveled to Yemen over a number of years, one of them going in 2011, and getting training in Yemen with this group. I think that should have put them pretty near the top of the priority list.
I mean the French have got a lot of people they got to monitor, about 5,000 people that they've opened security surveillance files on, that's a huge number. You can't monitor all these people 24/7 so every day, every week you have to have a sort of priority list. It's possible that when the brothers came back they deliberately acted in a way to be less suspicious, kind of sleeper cell scenario. So that they were kind of taken off the center of that radar screen.
But there are a lot of questions for the French because they knew about these brothers for 10 years. It was in 2005 that one of them was convicted for wanting to go and travel and join Al Qaeda in Iraq, basically is, in Iraq in 2005. So, a long track record here.
SMERCONISH: Jake, do you have a final question for Jeremy Scahill?
TAPPER: Yes, Jeremy, I just wanted to ask you about the message of the cleric, Anwar al Awlaki, the American born killed by an American drone in Yemen in 2011. But his message to these radicalized individuals, whether Nidal Hasan, whether the Boston bombers and now it sounds as though the Kouachi brothers still seems to resonate. What is it about his message, his communication abilities, that seems to take hold in these terrorists who become radicalized in no small part apparently because of him?
SCAHILL: Well, look, if you listen to these sermons of Anwar al Awlaki he speaks the language of the streets. He talks to young people in a jargon that they understand. He makes comparisons with soccer, he makes comparisons with very recognizable cultural institutions and it's sort of this idea of popularizing the notion of fighting a violent jihad and making it kind of cool to be honest about it. I mean, that's really what the point of his message was.
He called in June of 2010 when "Inspire" magazine was first published, he called directly for the assassination of these cartoonists. They published a hit list with a 9-mm glock in their very glossy magazine and that went viral.
SMERCONISH: (INAUDIBLE) top of the list.
SCAHILL: Yes. That went viral around the world. And then in the most recent issue of "Inspire" magazine which just came out in December, again they - there was a big focus on let's go after people that are demeaning the prophet Muhammad.
SMERCONISH: Thank you. I've got to take a quick break. But when we come back, France's Jews are terrified, many are fleeing the country fearing they have jihadist target on their back.
And with more and more horrific attacks by jihadis what is the connection between Islam and violence? I'll talk to two people who know a lot about that subject. Don't go away.
SMERCONISH: Continuing our breaking news coverage.
The two brothers who attacked Charlie Hebdo were the sons of Algerian- Muslim immigrants who were born in France. In fact, an estimated five to eight percent of the population of France is Muslim, and many of those Muslims live in isolated communities where jobs are scarce and schools are poor. Unemployment is very high there as well.
The overall unemployment rate in France is about 10 percent. But for Muslims it's double that, an estimated 18 to 22 percent. And for young Muslims it's even higher. Estimated 30 to 40 percent, some say that's a partial explanation for why so many are attracted to jihad.
On the other hand there are about a half million Jews in France, and many of them are terrified about the rising tide of anti-semitism. Yesterday's hostage standoff at a kosher market made Jews feel like they have a target on their backs. Last night the Grand Synagogue of Paris did not hold Friday night services, its rabbi frightened for the safety of his congregation.
Few people know more about this subject than CNN anchor Fareed Zakaria who joins me here in New York and CNN terror contributor Samuel Laurent who joins us from Paris. Welcome to both of you. Samuel, it would seem like it was no coincidence that hostages were taken at a kosher market.
SAMUEL LAURENT, CNN TERROR CONTRIBUTOR: Well, definitely yes. Actually there are two things. First of all, for radical Muslim nowadays obviously Israel is one of the (INAUDIBLE) points and there is I would say there is a feeling that Jewish, as a whole, represent support Israel so therefore they are targets.
What we can see also is that France has I would say a self-bred culture of anti-Semitism despite what has been said on the government basis. So therefore, all this makes a very toxic mix towards the Jewish community in France, which is very, very often targeted. There has been some very minor assault in the same district, this 19 districts of France which is the place where this jihadi network originated from in 2005 and 2008. We saw a lot of us over the last months it came like an early signals. But actually, nobody taking them into account and nobody related them to a wider I would say terror threat.
SMERCONISH: And meanwhile, Fareed, the editor of the "Jewish Chronicle" says every French Jew I know is leaving France.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: You know, it's a tragedy what happened in Europe in general because what you've had is historically anti- semitism was a European disease and I think it is a disease. That in the Muslim world, in the Ottoman empire there was not a great deal of anti-semitism, that's one of the places where Jews went after the expulsion from Spain and found safe harbor. There were millions of Jews living in the Middle East in the 19th century and the 19 tens, 20s.
And so what's happened is this whole European disease which when France was very virulent, the (INAUDIBLE) in France (INAUDIBLE) virulent anti-semitism has fused with the passions of the modern Middle East. The issue of Israel, the issue of the occupation, and it has produced this combustible mixture of an ideology for these unemployed young men which you were talking about.
And it is probably true that many, many French Jews are leaving. And yet, you still see anti-semitism not just in the Muslim population, France, unfortunately also among right wing kind of neo-Nazi pro- nationalist, fascist groups so --
SMERCONISH: I want to ask you about that. What will be the political implications, not only in France but in Europe at large within those nationalistic parties. It would seem that for all of the wrong reasons they are about to get a boost, a shot in the arm.
ZAKARIA: Almost certainly. They have already been doing well even before this. And what's likely to happen is the party (INAUDIBLE) the right wing party in France, the parties in northern Europe, in Holland and Denmark will all do well the anti-Europe party in the United Kingdom will do well. And what strangely this does is this actually does the terrorist work for them. Because what Al Qaeda, ISIS, are trying to do is to create a situation in which France, Europe in general becomes more and more hostile towards Muslims.
Muslims then feel that they have to use violence -
SMERCONISH: (INAUDIBLE) self perpetuating. ZAKARIA: It becomes a strategy of conflict rather than integration. And in that sense you know, it's been very comforting to see how the French authorities from the president, the prime minister, have responded by saying we are going to try to maintain the sense of integration.
SMERCONISH: Samuel, on this same political dynamic issue, do the interests of working class whites who feel economically disenfranchised for a host of different reason, converge now with the interests of some young Muslim men who feel that economically they have been shut out? How does that all converge?
LAURENT: Actually that doesn't converge at all. The point is that obviously the reaction of unity in France that has been shown by the prime minister, by the president and so on, are wonderful because it's time for mourning.
Actually, France nowadays is the most fragmented, fractured country in Europe. We have basically we had some controversial books about Islam, about immigration over the last couple months that basically broke the society into different groups that has (INAUDIBLE) it. So we need a debate about Islam because Islam is taking a huge place nowadays in the national debate and there is absolutely no union on it, despite what he is saying the prime minister, and we can see it by the national forums - the far right party which is gaining the upper hand. And which is winning hard.
At the same time radical Islamists are gaining heart of the entire Muslim community. And nobody wants to put this debate on the table. The point is that what are today the limits of expression. What is today the limit of Islam? Should we start to criminalize the radicalization, the radical Islam, actually the interior minister says no. At the same time the prime minister say yes. So we see that we have a very - a government that is basically crippled by contradiction, crippled by internal dissension between its right wing or its liberal wing, and the left wing that want to keep tolerance at the center.
So basically we are very badly and poorly prepared to face the challenge in terms of security, in terms of politics and in terms of social unity in France nowadays.
SMERCONISH: Fareed, you wrote a very important column in the aftermath of all of this saying that the Koran prescribes no punishment for blasphemy. Why all of the confusion on this?
ZAKARIA: Well, because for a long time there have been politicians and recent clerics who want to claim that they represent religion and that they are going to purify it and cleanse it. It's very convenient for politicians because they ally themselves with these very puritanical religious forces, come across as holier than thou often their opponents are the liberals, the Democrats and things like that.
The funny thing is the Bible, the old testament has lots of things about blasphemy and actually says repeatedly blasphemers must be stoned to death. SMERCONISH: Bible yes, Koran no.
ZAKARIA: The Koran has no, the word blasphemy doesn't appear. There is no punishment meted out. There are many instances where people ridiculed the prophet Muhammad. He doesn't do anything about it. So it's a truly bizarre case where the religion where the book says nothing about blasphemy has become this poster child for violent against blasphemers.
SMERCONISH: And as you make the point, governments have embraced that perspective and need to be called out in that regard. It was a great column. Thank you for writing it.
ZAKARIA: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Fareed Zakaria. Samuel Laurent, we appreciate you.
After a quick break, I want to talk about violent Islam, beheadings, mass killings, attacks, on a newspaper all in the name of Allah. Hard to avoid what seems clear that in the hands of some, Islam is a violent religion. I'll be right back.
SMERCONISH: Welcome back.
Continuing our breaking news coverage, the leader of Hezbollah in Lebanon of all people is actually condemning the horrific attacks in Paris. He says Islamic extremists have insulted Islam and the Prophet Muhammad more than those who publish cartoons mocking the religion. That's pretty astonishing, coming from a man considered a terrorist by the U.S. and Israel.
Wednesday's massacre at "Charlie Hebdo" joins a long line of horrific attacks carried out in the name of radical Islam. Most Muslims say that Islam is no more violent than any other religion but that's getting harder to believe and understand in light of these events.
Joining me now, Rula Jebreal, a journalist and analyst who is also a Muslim.
What do you make of the leader of Hezbollah coming out and adopting that mindset?
RULA JEBREAL, JOURNALIST: I think everybody is concerned. There is a war within Islam between ideology of extremists' fanatics and who wants a different kind of Islam. You know, there is 114 Sura of the Koran start with "peace on you".
What he wants to do about that, I think the majority of Muslim community around the world, they apply the interpretations. They don't go directly to source, but there is one state that go directly to the source, and that's our ally, Saudi Arabia.
We don't do anything about them. They condemn the attack in Paris, in the same time they whiplash 50 times one of their cartoonists. SMERCONISH: If I'm not mistaken, someone today is scheduled to be
lashed 1,000 times and to be sent away for 10 years all for the same time of behavior that precipitated this.
JEBREAL: Exactly, exactly. For me, the first ISIS state is Saudi Arabia. I keep repeating this over and over. After September 11th, after that country gave us al Qaeda, bin Laden was Saudi, 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi, we didn't do much about them. We never pressed them to reform, to go back to the centuries of interpretation of the very schools of Koran that interpret every verse.
They don't want to do that. They think they are the protector of Islam. They are exporting more extremism than bread and oil.
SMERCONISH: And nor have we seen the 28 pages from initial congressional investigation of potential linkage between the 19 and the Saudi royal family.
JEBREAL: This is outrageous. We need to stand up to these people.
SMERCONISH: Here's what occurs to me. These terrorists in Paris just caused further economic distress for young Muslim men. They will be looked at with suspicion. They will be further isolated. Is that part of the plan? Is that actually what they seek to do? Why?
JEBREAL: Yes, this is typical al Qaeda strategy. This is what they did everywhere in Afghanistan, and Iraq. Separating Afghanistan for example, the various communities, this is how they thrive. By building a political identity around grievances, whether it's political -- that's why they explode the war in Iraq, they explode the Palestinian under occupation, all of these grievances are exploited.
And, obviously, there are kids that are borderline. They are ignorant. They have a crisis of identity. These people are explosive easily.
Look at the Christmas bomber. Who was he? He was a student in London, inspired by al-Awlaki in Yemen, trained in Yemen, then he took a plane from I think Holland to attack America.
You have an issue today with these extremists that inspire people through the Web, and also the charismatic preachers unfortunately. We need to counter that narrative with other Muslims and tell them, you're not martyrs. You are criminals.
SMERCONISH: You're making an important point. You're saying this is not only a military strategy by apparently --
JEBREAL: It's a political strategy.
SMERCONISH: It's a political strategy and let's carry this out, because I just asked Fareed Zakaria a moment ago what will be the implication for the politics of Europe, and we agreed this will give rise to nationalist policies and parties. You're saying and that's very deliberate, they -- they did, because they want to exacerbate these tensions and draw further wedge. All at the same time further penalizing young Muslim men.
JEBREAL: They don't care. Otherwise, they wouldn't kill them in Iraq and Syria. They don't care. Who are killing more Muslims than ever? Look what happened in Peshawar in Pakistan. They killed young children, babies, simply because their parents were part of the military or were in the army.
So, what they are doing? They try to divide the communities. And by dividing them, they polarize and radicalize. It's a deliberate strategy.
This is how Petraeus understood -- this is what Petraeus did. This is success of Petraeus. He went to Iraq, he separated extremists from the Sunni tribes and he managed actual to have an American surge together with an Iraqi surge, and together they fought al Qaeda.
Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, was killed because Muslims reported on him, collaborated with Americans, and they hammered al Qaeda together. They actually decimated al Qaeda. This is a model we need to apply internationally.
SMERCONISH: You and I had a number of conversations previously about Israeli-Palestinian relations. Much of what just took place in Paris seems driven by anti-Semitism. There was no coincidence I don't think it was a kosher market that was seized as a spot for hostages by one of these individuals.
JEBREAL: They want -- this is the same strategy. For them, the police who was shot, Mohammed and also one of the cartoonists, Mustafa Arad, who was a Muslim as well, for them they are as enemy as any Jew in Paris.
The strategy is bigger than if you are Muslim or not Muslim or Jew or not Jew. The strategy is clear: al Qaeda wants to put foot in Europe. They want to strike.
This is how they get major financement. The financement of al Qaeda will rise with this attack because it's a success for them. They are trying to break the communities, exasperate relationships, the more communities are segregated, ignored, isolated -- listen, last night, I watched at "Selma". For me looking at "Selma" and what used to happen in the '60s, we need to understand that some people will use this tragic event to be radicalized more. Other people will be more pacifist today.
SMERCONISH: Rula Jebreal, thank you as always. We appreciate you being here.
JEBREAL: Thank you for having me.
SMERCONISH: Just ahead: could it happen here? We asked that question all the time. But now, the U.S. government is warning that it's more than just a possibility. You want to hear this. Please don't go away.
SMERCONISH: Back now with more breaking news coverage.
The State Department has issued new terror bulletins in the aftermath of the Paris massacres and they are frightening. They warn Americans traveling abroad at risking of attack or kidnapping. U.S. officials say there is no hard intelligence about any impending attacks. The question remains, why are the warnings so dire?
Lieutenant Colonel James Reese is a global affairs analyst, a counterterrorism expert and former member of the Delta Force. He joins me now from Raleigh, North Carolina.
Colonel, what's the threat level now to the United States?
COLONEL JAMES REESE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Michael, good morning. Right now, the threat warning has gone up. It really needs to take a look at in the U.S. and especially for U.S. citizens abroad. What we're doing and what's going forward.
Right now, as you know, a lot of the federal buildings have hardened positions. But, unfortunately, those are easy to do and that's not soft targets. It's the soft targets we need to be taking a look at, and really doing a good after action review of what we've seen in France over the last couple days and see what we can improve here.
SMERCONISH: Colonel, on Monday, I visited the British parliament and had a conversation, one day before the attack, two days before. I had a conversation with a member of parliament in the U.K. who said on the subject of terror, that MI5 had informed him that the greatest problem they face is one of resources because it takes more than 20 individuals to properly surveil one terrorist who is deserving of being watched and these lists have grown exponentially of individuals who are deserving of being watched do.
Do we have the same problem in the United States?
REESE: Michael, unfortunately we do. And all of these countries that are doing this have issues with resources and what the priorities are. I think right now somewhere about we have over one million people on our watch list.
Unfortunately, it comes down to budgets, people and what we can do. And at the end of the day, you know, right now being on a continuing resolution does not help our intelligence and law enforcement agencies do these type of things.
SMERCONISH: I want to ask you a question as a former member of Delta Force. It appears that the 26-year-old woman was able to get away -- we don't know -- when the hostage situation was interrupted.
Talk to me what it means to isolate a target and potentially what might have gone wrong here.
REESE: Well, Michael, on any type of hostage rescue aspect, the most important thing you can do on a target is isolate the objective or target area. Bottom line that means is put a circle around it. Don't let any one in, don't let anyone out until the assault is over with. It looks like that happened at some time.
I believe after everything we've been looking at right now is she was initially in the target area, and as the law enforcement, as the raid element of the French police started getting into position, they did not isolate that place quick enough and she was able to what we call squirt the objective area.
SMERCONISH: And, Colonel, the fact that as of this moment she remains on the run, does it suggest to you that she's operating with the benefit of a cell?
REESE: Michael, I believe so. I do believe there has been a cell, I believe that cell probably doctrinally what we've seen of watching al Qaeda and they build their cells, anywhere 10 to 12 because the smaller element gives good information and operational security.
So, I think there are probably a couple that could help her move along and stay underground.
SMERCONISH: Will you speak, Colonel, to the level of sophistication or lack of sophistication that you see in the underlying incident at "Charlie Hebdo"? I ask that because experts, people like you have made the point that they operated their machinery with a technical skill.
And yet, as a lay person I look at it and say they apparently need directions to get to "Charlie Hebdo." One guy left his ID behind and they don't seem to have had an escape path.
What do you make of that?
REESE: Well, just like a lot of things is you know, missions and plans sound great on a white board but once there's contact or the first issue comes up, it starts to crumble. That's where long term training and long term thinking through the problem set and having second and third order plans, what we call branches and sequels set inside helps people execute.
I would tell you the initial operation I believe they had some help planning it, there was reconnaissance done on it. They had a pretty good plan set up in place.
But once they had the car accident, once they dropped the shoe, they started to get nervous and making mistakes. And once those happened things start to crumble and they did not have enough experience to rebound from those mistakes and keep going, and thank god for us and for the law enforcement agencies, that's usually where these folks make problems that help us find them and catch them.
SMERCONISH: Colonel, thank you for your expertise.
REESE: Thank you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: When we come back, Jake Tapper joins us again from Paris. He'll be joined by a Jewish student and his very real fears for French Jews.
And all of this violence in Paris was over cartoons. If everyone is standing up for free speech, I'm wondering why very few big media outlets are exercising that right and reprinting cartoons.
SMERCONISH: Continuing our breaking news coverage.
We talked earlier in the program about the crisis that French Jews are facing right now. They fear the rising tide of anti-Semitism in France.
Last night, they even feared going to services at synagogues.
CNN anchor Jake Tapper is standing by in Paris to talk more about this and has breaking news -- Jake.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Michael, just a few minutes ago the four victims at the kosher supermarket where the terrorist attack was were identified by the French Jewish news service, JSS News.
We have pictures of Yohan Cohen, he was 22-years-old, and Yoav Hattab, he was 21 years old. And the other two are Philippe a Braham, and Francois-Michel Saada, we do not have their ages or images.
Paris officials say they can confirm that Amedy Coulibaly, who was 32, the terrorist gunman in the hostage stand off who killed the four hostages before police stormed the market, now turning back to the fears of anti-Semitism in France.
And joining me is Noam Meghira, the vice president of the French Union of Jewish Students.
Thanks so much for being here. I appreciate it.
So, you had heard of one of those students before he was killed, you heard about him before.
NOAM MEGHIRA, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNION OF FRENCH JEWISH STUDENTS: Yes, we have heard about him because --
TAPPER: Which one, Yoav?
MEGHIRA: Yoav and Yohan, we have heard about both of them because -- yes. Because a lot about students, we met him. I don't know him personally.
TAPPER: Right, but you heard his name before.
TAPPER: How scared are Jews in France?
MEGHIRA: Yes. Jews in France, I don't think that they are scared. I think they want to protest, they want to be heard and they want to be protect.
I think that today Jew are not scared, they want to think about their death and to tell the world that anti-Semitism is everybody issue, not just Jewish issue, not just Jewish issues, but issues for everybody, very French people.
TAPPER: And you are having a rally tonight in that assembly at the kosher supermarket this evening at 7:00 France time.
MEGHIRA: Yes, we want to pay tribute to these victims, and we want to celebrate their memory, and to be together. We have Jewish people on the -- French, too, because everyone have to commemorate this terrible attack.
TAPPER: All right. Well, I hope it is a safe and peaceful event. Thank you so much, Noam.
Back to you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Thank you, Jake.
Just ahead -- why CNN and other news outlets aren't reprinting the "Charlie Hebdo" cartoons? Is it fear or responsibility?
SMERCONISH: On Wednesday, while hosting my radio program, I sent the following tweet. I said, why am I seeing fabulous cartoonist reactions at CNN, but not the cartoons? I singled out CNN only because I was monitoring CNN, as I always do while I'm on the radio air.
CNN's decision not to just the controversial cartoons is the norm in the television media. According to the CNN President Jeff Zucker, safety is the reasons. He said, "Journalistically, every bone says, we want to use and should use the cartoons. But as managers, protecting and taking care of the safety of our employees around the world is more important right now."
And Zucker told me personally that the second to last night that he wants to do is give terrorists a victory, but the last thing that he wants to do is imperil any of its employees. And, of course, I'm sympathetic to the safety argument. And I don't want to jeopardize colleagues.
But what if all media published the cartoons as a show of solidarity against terror? That would not only send the right message, but there would truly be strength in numbers, at outlets with conviction like "Charlie Hebdo" wouldn't be outliers, but rather reflected of the status quo.
On Thursday, "The Washington Post" did print on its editorial page the controversial 2011 "Charlie Hebdo" treatment of the prophet Muhammad, which preceded the bombing of its office. The image showed a cartoonist likeness of Muhammad saying, 100 lashes of the whip if you don't die laughing. The editorial page editor said, I think seeing the cover will help readers understand what this is all about. Some of the cartoons by "Charlie Hebdo" had been far worse, so grotesque that I can't describe them for you here. The attackers who killed 12 innocents in Paris proclaimed that they, quote, "avenge" the Prophet Muhammad while they were conducting their mayhem.
Meanwhile, "The New York Times" did not publish the cartoons this week in print editions. "The Times" called them intentionally offensive content.
I think it's important that some of the offensive cartoons be published. To do otherwise is to reward terror, to say that your rational thought wins out over reason, and that moving forward, media scrutiny and public debate will be skewed.
We'd also be treating Islam differently than other religions. The Catholic Church, for example, has certainly never been showed such deference. I remember well when in the late 1990s, Mayor Giuliani battled the Brooklyn Museum of Art over an image of the Virgin Mary that was dotted with the elephant dung which I found despicable.
Still, nobody deserves to die for wielding a paint brush or a magic marker.
Many are quick to point out that terrorists despite acting in the name of their religion are unrepresentative of the Muslim faith and certainly that is true. But similarly, logic dictates that any censorship of the satire that spurred the gunman's violence suggests all Muslims are the same as the perpetrators when plainly they are not.
It offensively assumes that murderous is the norm when clearly it is not.
So, who should decide what is reasonable and permissible? I say certainly not the two whose judgment was so impaired that they were willing to execute in response to obvious satire.
I'll be right back.
SMERCONISH: Thank you so much for joining me.
CNN's live breaking news coverage continues with Christi Paul and Victor Blackwell.