Return to Transcripts main page
ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Gunfire in Belgium Police Raids on Terrorists; Analysis of Security Situation in Europe and USA; Interview with Chris Cornell's Parents; Source: Terror Raids Going on Right Now in Belgium; Families Pray As Divers Search for Bodies in Fuselage
Aired January 15, 2015 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news. Police in Belgium disrupt major terror attacks said to be imminent, believed to be ordered by ISIS. We have the plot, the raids and the connection to the Paris attacks. Plus, inside the home of the man suspected of plotting to bomb the U.S. Capitol. We're also learning more about his past and his interest in radical Islam. His parents speak to OUTFRONT.
And the mysterious disappearance of an insurance executive. He's been missing for a week. What happened to him? We'll speak to his wife. Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news. A major imminent terrorist attack disrupted. One that could have been deadlier than the Paris attacks. Our Paul Cruickshank is reporting that at this hour raids are going on in Belgium. Gunfire in different places across the country. Raids are going on. There were many raids throughout the day today across Belgium including one where police killed two suspected militants and arrested a third.
Gunfire, explosions could be heard during this raid on the suspected terrorists cornered by police in a small town in eastern Belgium. The nighttime assault targeting what officials call the operational cell. CNN has learned the Belgium authorities believe the militants that recently fought in Syria where they received instructions from ISIS to go home and carry out attacks.
Western intelligence sources now telling CNN the investigation into the Paris attacks may have helped trigger today's raids in Belgium. Although, again, we emphasize at this point, we understand that the attacks themselves, the planned attacks were not connected. European authorities have been on high alert for weeks amid indications that ISIS may have directed militants in their home countries to launch terror attacks. One Belgian official describes this as a significant shift in ISIS strategy. Something they've long feared. Phil Black is OUTFRONT tonight in Belgium in a town where you saw that video with those raids going on earlier today. And Phil, this is unprecedented what we're seeing. Paul Cruickshank is sitting with me saying that there're raids still going on across Belgium. As I said, unprecedented. PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, a dramatic evening in Belgium.
Certainly, Erin. In this town tonight, Verviers in eastern Belgium, it is quiet, but a very significant police presence just up the road behind me. Because that's where around 5:40 p.m. this evening local time police launched this raid on a property there against suspects which returned fire. The result, as you say, two dead. One injured taken into custody. They believe they have disrupted a major imminent terror attack.
One authorities here say they believe was targeting Belgium police stations.
BLACK: Heavily armed Belgium police launched an anti-terror raid on suspected militants believed affiliated with ISIS in the small town of Verviers.
THIERRY WERTS, FEDERAL PROSECUTOR SPOKESMAN (through translator): The group was about to carry out major terrorist attacks in Belgium imminently.
BLACK: CNN's Belgium affiliate reports the militants were jihadists. Armed with Kalashnikov automatic rifles. Two were killed in the raid. A third arrested at a nearby train station.
WERTS: The suspects immediately and for long minutes fired using war weapons and hand weapons before being neutralized.
BLACK: An eyewitness described the scene.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (speaking French)
BLACK: Belgium officials called the group an operational cell of terrorists. Recently returned from Syria. CNN has learned the group may have been instructed by ISIS to carry out attacks in retaliation the U.S. led air strikes in Syria.
The raid almost 250 miles northeast of Paris was one of many anti- terror operations across Belgium including in Brussels and said to have been in the planning for weeks and before the deadly attack at "Charlie Hebdo." At this hour no direct connection has been made between these actions and the Paris attacks.
BLACK: It is an obvious and important line of inquiry. Could it just be a coincidence that these attacks, potential attacks look set to go so soon after those events in Paris? The authorities here say at the moment no direct link, but that does not rule out the possibility that the events in Paris in some way motivated or altered the timetable for what was perhaps set to happen here. That's something the authorities here are also looking at, Erin.
BURNETT: A very important point. As you say, they perhaps saw that and decided to seize the moment or to go ahead with it. Perhaps, that is what happened. Thank you very much, Phil Black, as we said. Reporting live from Verviers where one of the major raids went down today. Deborah Feyerick is out front. And Deb has much more on this part of it. You're learning a lot more, Deb, about what triggered the raids. You know, Belgium said the terror attacks were not coordinated with the Paris attacks, but you have found out that there could be a link. An arms dealer that could have sold weapons to terror suspects in both countries.
DEBORAH FEYERICK: Well, according to Western intelligence source that I'm speaking with, the Belgium authorities already had a group of known extremists on their radar for quite some time. But according to the source the timing and the urgency of these raids was accelerated, because of new information that was developed. And there are two things that have occurred since the Paris attacks, not necessarily related to the Paris attacks, but one of them is a Belgium arms dealer. The second two men recently returned from Syria who arrived at the Belgium airport over the weekend. Now, the first, this arms dealer he is suspected of providing weapons that may have been used by the kosher market gunmen. This is man that's arms dealer was arrested. He was questioned. His belongings were searched.
And according to source, there were matching names found within the arms dealer's possessions and connected to other extremists already on radar. So, that's the first thing. The second component involves two men who were taken into custody upon their arrival at the Belgium airport. They were also just newly returned from Syria. They were questioned. They were interrogated. And some information that was developed during the course of that questioning also accelerated these raids according to the source that I'm speaking with.
Now, you have to keep in mind the context in which all of this is happening. There's a major Islamic militant trial going on in Belgium right now in Antwerp. A verdict was supposed to be given this week against 46 men who were either accused of recruiting young men to go fight jihad or who were fighting jihad in Syria themselves.
That verdict, the decision was actually delayed because of everything that was going on because of the Paris attacks but also because of these raids as well. Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Deb, thank you very much. And OUTFRONT now former Navy SEAL John McGuire, former CIA operative Bob Baer and our terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank, co-author of "Asian Storm: My Life inside al Qaeda and the CIA." Paul reporting that those raids are still going on in Belgium at this hour. Obviously, well into the early hours of the morning in Belgium.
And Bob, I know you have some sources talking to you about what the target might have been of what we're hearing was a major imminent terror attack.
ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Yes, Erin, this is preliminary. IT's a fast moving situation. So, we need this confirmed, but apparently American facilities in Brussels were going to be targeted. That's what's been heard at the State Department. And I'm sure we are going to get more confirmation on that by tomorrow. But that's preliminary report.
BURNETT: A preliminary report. American facilities in Belgium. So, that could have, Bob, I guess, that would include, you would think, that perhaps things like the U.S. embassy.
BAER: Yes. The U.S. Embassy. Specifically, again, but this is fast moving and this -- you know, could be very well wrong. But we'll find out.
BURNETT: Right. And again, as, you know Bob's saying that's what he's hearing. I know we do have to confirm but Paul, you've also been doing a lot of reporting today on what the targets might have been and how sophisticated the cell might have been.
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CO-AUTHOR, "AGENT STORM: MY LIFE INSIDE AL-QAEDA AND THE CIA": Yeah, I mean deep concern about the cell.
CRUICKSHANK: Because - a senior Belgium official said they've been in Syria and they've been with ISIS, and the Belgium have developed intelligence suggesting that ISIS directed this plot. That they wanted these people to go back to retaliate for these U.S. airstrikes. It's not just the U.S., though, bombing ISIS. Belgium is also bombing ISIS in Iraq. So, they may well have wanted to retaliate against Belgium. But European counterterrorism official saying that this is kind of a game changer. They're seeing ISIS pivot towards launching attacks in the West for the first time. They are using their very considerable resources in Syria and Iraq. All these training camps and all that money for these purposes.
BURNETT: And to your point, Paul, just to make this point, a lot of people when they have heard about ISIS linked attacks are hearing about a single person. A person who gets a hatchet. Or in Sydney is inspired by. This is different. These are people who are trained, who have been in Syria, who are coming back. Ad from your reporting with raids still going on now many hours after this began, it's not small.
CRUICKSHANK: You're absolutely right. You know, this is a network. And you've got to take the whole network down, otherwise there is a concern that some will be left out, and they will be able to launch attacks. And that's why we're seeing unprecedented number of raids. All across Belgium right now. This is the very first moving situation far from clear, but the danger is being neutralized. We're hearing reports every minute about new developments, gunfire in different locations. A very confused situation in Brussels tonight, very, very worrying for people in Belgium.
BURNETT: And Bob, to your point and again I'll emphasize for you, because you emphasize, this is what you're hearing from the State Department, it's not been confirmed, we don't know for sure, but that American facilities may have been targeted including the U.S. Embassy. You know, you keep hearing that this ISIS inspired and in this case ISIS targeted and organized is the right word, a possible attack in Belgium are not that well put together, in response for U.S. actions, but it's happening in other countries. Like Australia, like Belgium. But this would appear to be a game changer if U.S. facilities were specifically targeted, wouldn't it?
BAER: Absolutely. ISIS, it looks to me, is at war with the West and then particularly the United States. We're leading this coalition. The way they look at it, we're killing Muslims unjustifiably. They can't fight back in Baghdad, so they're fighting back in Europe. So, at some point, if this in fact was not an attack, wasn't going to be an attack on American facilities, they will turn to American facilities in Europe or even to American tourists. I think it's almost inevitable.
CRUICKSHANK: And think about - I'm told more than 500 extremists who are European back in Europe from fighting in Syria and Iraq. That's a huge and unprecedented number. Very difficult to monitor them all at once.
CRUICKSHANK: So, it's the huge challenges now for law enforcement officials right across the continent of Europe. BURNETT: It's pretty frightening what you just said about a tourist, Bob, I think, when you think about Europe. John, you know, the video that we've been looking at on YouTube showed part of the Belgium raid. And we hear it. The shouts and the gunfire can be heard. And Belgian authorities are saying the suspects immediately and for long minutes, I'm sorry, authorities, fired using weapons and hand weapons before being neutralized. We know two suspects were killed, the third was injured and taken into custody. When you see this video of the raid, what do you think about the raid and how it was executed?
JOHN MCGUIRE, FORMER NAVY SEAL: Well, you have to commend the efforts of the allied and the Belgium military and law enforcement. It's important that we have these folks being diligent. They stopped these attacks before they actually happened. That takes three things to do a raid like that. You have to have the element of surprise. That means we're going to do sort of thing when they least expect it. I guess that's the best advantage. And you have to have violence of action. I mean that the guys doing the raid have to be serious and prepared. And you have to have team work. They rely on the training and experience and guys working together to be confident. Because what they're doing is dangerous. But the fact that they killed two terrorists, no officers were hurt and they actually captured a terrorist is good. Because that could lead to other threats.
BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to all three of you as this breaking story continues. This is very much an ongoing story as Paul reporting raids still going on in Belgium at this hour.
And still, trying to figure out exactly what the targets might have been. "OUTFRONT next, the Ohio man arrested for allegedly planning a terror attack on the U.S. Capitol citing ISIS. He had 600 rounds of ammo. The FBI says he was ready to go. He bought the weapons. His parents are out front.
Plus tonight, a first look at the aftermath of the horrific terror attack that killed as many as 2,000 people. Nic Robertson is live in one of the most dangerous places in the world, northern Nigeria tonight. And it took first responders nearly 40 minutes, 40 minutes to arrive at a subway incident. Somebody died. What does this say about how prepared America is for a terror attack?
BURNETT: The Ohio man accused of plotting an ISIS inspired attack on the U.S. Capitol is expected in court for a detention hearing tomorrow. Christopher Cornell is his name, he was arrested yesterday. The FBI says he told an undercover informants about his plans to bomb the Capitol and then open fire on people as they fled. He then went ahead and actually purchased all of the weapons to carry this attack out. It turns out, we are learning tonight, that Cornell had a history of anti-American sentiments.
This is a picture of him when police say he disrupted a 9/11 ceremony in 2013. You can briefly see him in another video highlighting there with a sign that reads 9/11 was an inside job. Alexandra Field is out front in Cincinnati, Ohio with more on what we're learning about Cornell's past.
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christopher Cornell was a high school wrestling star. His parents said they once had high hopes for a bright future, but he didn't seem to find his path after high school.
JOHN CORNELL, CHRIS CORNELL'S FATHER: It breaks my heart. He had so much potential. He could have got a scholarship.
FIELD: Recently, there was reason to be hopeful again.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He just became a happier person.
JOHN CORNELL: And his attitude changed. He became a lot happier. He said when he prayed, he felt calm and he felt at peace with himself and with God. He became just happy go lucky.
FIELD: He grew out his beard and adopted Islam after reading a lot about it and his parents saw signs his beliefs had really taken hold.
JOHN CORNELL: He would come in at prayer time, say his prayers.
FIELD: At the same time, the FBI says, he was planning a deadly attack. On Wednesday agents raided the family's Cincinnati home, seizing a book Cornell had written in and the computer. Online, authorities say he told an FBI informant he wanted to commit violent jihad. Over several months, investigators monitored the plot as it was taking shape. Authorities say pipe bombs would be placed in the Capitol and people would be shot as they fled the scene.
JOHN CORNELL: No, no, no. I don't think Chris ever wanted to hurt anyone.
FIELD (on camera): Then why say it? And why walk into the gun shop?
JOHN CORNELL: I believe he was forced.
FIELD (voice over): FBI agents arrested Cornell Wednesday after he bought two semiautomatic rifles and 600 rounds of ammunition at the Point-Blank gun shop and range in Cincinnati.
JOHN DEAN, POINT BLANK GUN SHOP: We had the forewarning that we was going to come in, but then also they had greased the skids a little bit, so that things would go smoothly as a part of the sale.
FIELD: Asked to help authorities in the sting, John Dean sold Cornell exactly what he asked for.
DEAN: I'm getting a lot of thumbs up today.
FIELD (on camera): Why did he strike you? Did he know what he was talking about?
DEAN: He did. He strike me as someone who had done some research, but hadn't actually had a lot of hands on experience with the gun.
FIELD (voice over): Cornell had never fired a gun according to his parents. They say he never talked to them about ISIS and he showed no signs of anger or violence. They say he spent much of his time alone.
(on camera): Did he have friends?
JOHN CORNELL: He had friends up until about a year ago. I think when he grew his hair out and his beard.
FIELD (voice over): On the day of his arrest, Cornell left a note for his parents saying we was going to live with a friend who would get him some work. Their son now behind bars, but his parents believe he'll come home one day.
ANGEL CORNELL, CHRIS CORNELL'S MOTHER: I feel that it wasn't him. It wasn't him.
FIELD: The owner of this gun shop says that Chris Cornell walked in with a big wad of cash, $20 bills, $50 bills. That's how he paid for the two assault rifles as well as the ammunition, but his parents have a lot of question about where he would have gotten all that money. They say he'd only have about $1200. Now, they want to know where he got the rest of the money and if somebody else had provided it to him. That's the questions they have not been able to ask their son. He's still in the county jail. Tomorrow, Erin, he'll appear in court for a detention hearing.
BURNETT: All right, Alex, thank you very much. A great report from Ohio. So many questions on this story.
Our CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem is with me tonight. Also, the former assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Juliette, you know, you just heard Alex reporting. And I spoke to Christopher's father. And he was really adamant, you know, and he's a father.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Yes.
BURNETT: But he was adamant, he tells the FBI set up his son. That the informants, you know, basically encouraged him and gave him the money. That was the feeling - Is that possible? And is that the way an informants would act?
KAYYEM: Well, I mean first of all, of course, the father is going to say this and of course, if he is someone who was going to do something -- Cornell was someone who was going to do something bad, his dad and mother would not know about it. So, they are his best defense in some ways. So, I take what the parents say with the grain of salt. On the other hand, this is clearly an instance where there was someone who was doing something that got law enforcement's attention. They may have aided him in getting to the point where they can make an arrest. Nothing's illegal about that. That's actually totally appropriate. And the one good news story about this is at a time when Belgium and France and these concerted organized terrorist events are happening this looks to be yet another sort of sociopathic loner- lone wolf incident. There is no -- there is no sense and no evidence yet that this was an orchestrated attack.
BURNETT: He mentioned ISIS and he said he was inspired by ISIS, but more ...
BURNETT: Inspired, opposed to coordinated.
KAYYEM: Exactly. Right. I mean when you think about the new world we're in since last Wednesday, you have the organized concerted attacks in France and Belgium and who knows where else and then we're always going to have these lone wolves. I don't mean to sound pessimistic about it, just in a world with billions of people, there're always going to be people who have access to weapons, who get radicalized online.
And who are finding a meaning in their life through ISIS or al Qaeda. So, that's the good news of the story, and, of course, it was thwarted.
BURNETT: And do you think, and to that front there was a heightened urgency to go ahead with something like that in the U.S. to show, look ...
BURNETT: We're on top of this.
KAYYEM: Yes. And I think -- and that our own law enforcement are under tremendous pressure, rightfully so, to thwart any attacks, to pick up leads or investigations that they might have thought were nothing two weeks ago, or in 2014, and now all of a sudden, they might be thinking let's look back at that guy. And that's clearly happening on the local, the state and the federal level. In this instance it's probably a combination of a little bit of a dance between the FBI and Cornell in terms of who was pushing whom. And that's what defense attorneys are for. That's what the trial is for. But nonetheless, the guy did buy a lot of weapons with the intention of doing something with them. And this is no mama's boy, you know, as to quote his father or his mother.
BURNETT: That's not exactly what they said -- All right, Juliette, thank you so much. Juliette Kayyem and tonight, we're getting our first look at the aftermath of one of worst attacks by one of the worst terror groups in the world.
I want to show you this. This is satellite image of a town in northern Nigeria. The red is basically vegetation, homes, life. OK? Homes and trees highlighted in red. Then the attack happened. And as you can see, the homes, the life gone. According to some witnesses maybe 2,000 people more slaughtered. Nic Robertson is out front. And he's in northern Nigeria tonight.
Nic, Nigeria has failed, I think that is a very fair word, completely and utterly failed to succeed in the fight against Boko Haram. You are there now. Can you tell us why?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're learning here, we've talked to some of the soldiers in the Nigerian army. It was one of these places targeted -- (POOR SOUND) you saw the satellite -- there, was the -- they particularly targeted by Boko Haram. They overran it. The soldiers, some of the soldiers were killed. Some of them ran away. But the local residents or the soldiers flee in the battlefield. Now, we're talking to soldiers here who are telling us they run off the battlefield. And the reasons why they go into battle. They say with only small AK-47s with about maybe 60 bullets. They say they are facing up against Boko Haram that have big anti- aircraft guns capable of shooting from a range of maybe three quarters of a mile with accuracy and deadly force. Their little AK-47s are no match for that. There are more Boko Haram, they have more ammunition the soldiers say, and they're being pushed off the battlefield. The moral is low. Sometimes they told us, they have to pay for their own uniforms and even sometimes if they get injured they have to pay for their own medicine for their own treatment. So, they just don't have what it takes to hold Boko Haram back at that moment.
BURNETT: Just the incredible tragedy. Boko Haram who, of course, as we reported in the past week, has used at least three girls, children, strapping them with explosives and a militant from afar then detonating the girl killing her and scores of others in marketplaces.
Out front next, our breaking news, a source is telling us that anti- terror raids are going on at this moment with heavy gun fire. We are going to go live to Belgium where those raids are ongoing. It's been many, many hours. This is a huge operation and in an incident on the D.C. subway a car filled with smoke left a person dead and 80 injured. There was no help for 40 minutes. So, what if that had been a terror attack. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BURNETT: We're following major breaking news tonight. Our Paul Cruickshank telling us that anti-terror raids are ongoing in Belgium at this hour. Of course, the early hours of the morning in Belgium, 1:30 in the morning.
Police targeting terrorists they say were on the brink of launching deadly attacks. They are using the words imminent and major to describe those attacks.
Our Phil Black is OUTFRONT tonight in Belgium.
And, Phil, what can you tell us about this ongoing raid? I know you're in Verviers where, of course, there was a major raid tonight.
PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Just up the road behind me, Erin, is a road that's still locked down by police. That's where they launched a raid at 5:40 local time and where they say upon entering a property, suspects began shooting back straight away. There was a fire fight. Two of those suspects were killed. A third injured and is now in custody.
What is clear from the comments coming from Belgium authorities tonight is that they believe they had to act. They had received information pointing to, as you say, an imminent major attack. It follows an investigation that had been going on for sometime into a group they say includes people which have recently returned from fighting in Syria. So, this investigation predates the events in Paris.
At the moment, the investigators here say they have found no link directly between the plans here and those attacks at the "Charlie Hebdo" magazine in Paris, where we've come from just tonight. But it does not rule out the possibility that perhaps some motivation that has flowed from those events in Paris to the timeframe that is taking place, that was taking place here regarding that police believe they have interrupted, Erin.
BURNETT: And, Phil, of course, as Paul is reporting that the raids are ongoing across Belgium. You know, this indicates this was not something that was a couple of people. This was not something that was in one place. This was significant. This was coordinated. This was in multiple locations in Belgium.
BLACK: Yes, by all accounts. Everything we're hearing talks about multiple locations, multiple people, significant planning and some major fire power as well. Kalashnikov weapons were found. A lot of fire powers used to try to repel the police raid as they moved on the property up the road just behind me.
So, a significant operation, one that had clearly been in planning for some time and as the authority say here, they had been monitoring. They were onto this group, onto some of these people that had just recently returned from Syria. And some piece of information they have received. We don't know what
precisely just recently pointed to an imminent threat and that is why they have moved tonight, Erin.
BURNETT: Phil Black, thank you very much, reporting live from Belgium tonight.
OUTFRONT now Frederic Hausman, the man who filmed the video of the raid that we have been showing you. He joins me now on the phone.
Frederick, thank you so much for being with us. I know it's so late in Belgium.
What did you see?
FREDERIC HAUSMAN, SHOT VIDEO OF TERROR RAID (via telephone): Oh, I was in my house. I heard first two detonations, really big ones. I go to the window and I can see policeman. A lot of policemen near the wall, in the street level and the fire with assault rifles or something like that inside the house. They put another big grenade, a big explosion. Smoke and something like that, windows broken, of course. They go inside the house. And I suppose they do what they have to do. I can't see what's happening in the house.
BURNETT: What did -- did you know? You're watching this happen. Did you have any idea what was happening that these were counterterror police who are going on a raid or did you know?
HAUSMAN: Of course. It's a little bit intention. I directly think about what's happened in France and what's happened in many places in the world and --
BURNETT: How long did this last?
HAUSMAN: How long did this last? Oh, between five and 10 minutes. I don't know. Something like that.
BURNETT: All of that happened in five or ten minutes. You also said they had heavy weapons. They also had grenades you mentioned, the police.
HAUSMAN: Yes, yes. I can hear it. Everybody can hear it. In this little city, everybody can hear the sound, you know? It wasn't just flash bomb or something like that. I think it was little -- little munitions. I don't know, really.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Frederic, thank you very much. We appreciate your sharing that video with us so everyone can see exactly what happened in Verviers today.
As you heard Frederic just say, it was something in their little town that absolutely everybody heard.
I want to bring in our counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd, former senior official with the CIA and the FBI. Phil, you know, Frederic was -- as he said, lived nearby, actually saw
this happening. Got his phone out and filmed the raid. When you hear what he had so say, how heavily armed they were, they thought it was more than flash bombs or may have been grenades. And you also hear now that Paul Cruickshank is reporting these raids are still going on at this moment across Belgium. This is not a small terror cell with a couple of guys.
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think what we're seeing is something that helps to put the Paris raids in perspective, Erin, that is we had worried about what we call the intelligence business -- bleed out for years. That is when you get these Islamic insurgencies in places like Iraq that recruit a lot of foreign fighters, how many of them will go home?
In the past, the magnitude was relatively small. The groups were small, the number of people were small. We're seeing a couple of things that are now unique, in both Paris and in Belgium. That is the numbers coming back a large. Typically, people like that go out to the battlefield like Iraq, they participate in the fight and they die.
And second is the capabilities that they are bringing back with you just heard about in that interview are more extensive than you would typically see in the kind of terror plots I witness in the United States at the FBI.
BURNETT: Now, the other thing we have heard, the Belgians are describing this, our Paul Cruickshank is reporting, you heard Bob Baer talking about it, that this -- they were trying to prevent a major, imminent terror attack. That's the way that they've described. When you hear the word imminent, what do you think that means?
MUDD: That has a meaning for a practitioner. That is when you look at a terror cell or a cluster of individuals involved in plotting, you want to own the plot. That is you want to ensure there's no threat to public safety while you map out the nervous system of the plotter so that you ensure you understand where's the money from? Who recruited them? Where they travel to?
You do not want to leave information on the cutting room floor so that other elements of cell you didn't see can regenerate themselves. When I hear imminent, that is a security service saying we can't guarantee we own the plot anymore. That plotters, for example, might be telling an informant, we got all the weapons, we're about ready to go.
BURNETT: Right. OK. And then that leaves to the question which is, we're about ready to go and then, all of a sudden, they say, wait, we knew these guys were planning but we may not knowing what they were planning to attack. There had been reports that we heard they were planning to attack police stations. You heard Bob Baer say and we're trying to figure out more and confirm this as is he, but sources at the State Department told him they were targeting American facilities perhaps the U.S. embassy.
We don't know that's the case. It is something that brings this into a very U.S.-focused way which is something ISIS has tried to do which is be retaliatory for American strikes in Iraq and Syria.
MUDD: I think there's also another lesson I will take away from that, Erin, and that is -- if you look, if those targets are correct, either in American facility or police station, we've seen people talk about in al Qaeda attacking police stations, those are not what I would call soft targets.
You don't have one off terror saying let me shoot up, for example, some sort of fast food establishment. So, that's people coming home with some training saying, maybe I have the capability to go against a higher level target that will have more resonance back home and across Europe.
BURNETT: My question to you is, how many more? All of a sudden this happens in Paris and there's two brothers. Then there's another guy who sympathizes with them who attacks a grocery store.
You got now nearly 20,000 police and troops policing France. France is worried about more attacks. Belgium is having raids across Belgium across Belgium to try to stop terrorists. It makes feel very insecure that this is, suddenly -- all of a sudden, they we're seeing it everywhere when a week ago we weren't seeing it anywhere.
MUDD: Well, I think you've got to put two and two together here and you're going to come up with a number, in this case four, that's really concerning. This is why -- you're talking about half the story. That's the number of people coming home from the battlefield, Iraq and Syria, who are potentially conspired to conduct an attack like this.
The numbers are very high for a practitioner like we're missing half the story, and that is, if you're a terrorist group, you need leadership that focuses on targets overseas and not just local targets. That's Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, and that group has to have the time and space to plan the attack.
ISIS has been around for a while. They own a lot of geographic space. With this number of recruits, that gives them the time to plot attacks.
So, that combination of the number of recruits and the fact that Baghdadi has the leadership and the time and space to plot gives you a future that's going to be ugly.
BURNETT: All right. Phil Mudd, thank you very much.
BURNETT: Next, terror in the U.S. Washington subway riders were confuse and panicked when smoke filled a car. Why did it take so long for first responders to arrive? What if it was a terror attack?
And divers are searching the fuselage of AirAsia Flight 8501 tonight. Officials believe the bodies of more than 100 people still missing will be there.
BURNETT: An investigation is under way to learn more about a tragic situation in Washington, D.C. -- a subway incident that left somebody dead and sent more than 80 to hospitals. It was a frightening scene. Six passenger cabins filled up with smoke incredibly quickly after a train came to a halt, 800 feet beyond an underground metro stop, right? So, there was nowhere to go.
It took nearly 40 minutes for paramedics and firefighters to reach the people who were stuck in those trains. An electrical malfunction caused this, but the emergency response raises serious questions about what would happen if somebody terrible happened in a major transit system in the United States.
What if, in light of what we've been seeing in Europe, this had been a terror attack?
Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Less than a mile from the Capitol, the afternoon commute is starting and suddenly smoke is pouring through a metro tunnel.
UNIDENTIFIED MAEL: First thing you thought was terrorism. You know, everybody thought that.
FOREMAN: Authorities say the smoke came from a faulty electric wire. But as the smoke grows the response seems to lag -- 3:14, the first warning of trouble comes and emergency teams respond but not to a train full of people trapped in a tunnel. 3:33, passengers call to say the train is filled with suffocating smoke. Many say at various times they are told to stay put.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was no oxygen. People start panicking and people start hitting the floor.
FOREMAN: 3:45, a half hour in and choking passengers are still calling pleading for help while the rescue efforts seem confused and uncoordinated.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had no idea what was happening. We're all so scared.
FOREMAN: Many eventually walk out over the tracks. Dozen are sick or injured. One woman dies. Faced with so many people trapped in darkness and heavy smoke and more than 80 needing to be sent to hospitals, D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Chris Geldart says the response was solid.
CHRIS GELDART, DIRECTOR, D.C. HOMELAND SECURITY & EMERGENCY MGMT. MANAGEMENT: To pull out 200 people do an event where we go through mass casualties, assess the folks and get 84 people transferred all in the amount of time that they did it, that's a good response. FOREMAN: Still, the incident raises serious question about readiness
in cities and towns everywhere for something bigger especially something aimed at the transportation infrastructure.
In 2009, for example, the so called underwear bomber was trying to blow up a plane over Detroit. Threats to bomb New York subways were discovered that same year and also in 2006 and 2004. All of which makes those who feel the system is work ask what incident may be coming next.
GELDART: What if we have one that's much larger and much more spread across the district, what do you do?
FOREMAN: Some witnesses say they had the sense police were not able to coordinate their radios together with fire and metro workers here. There's also questions about when the power was cut to the tracks and the train.
But here's the thing, Erin, even if the investigation finds all of that was managed, as well as it could be, the incident that sparked all of this was actually very small compared to all of those terror threats we just talked about a moment ago. It's a question that will be there even when the investigation is done is if something that small can cause a problem this big, what might the future hold? Erin?
BURNETT: Pretty scary. Thanks very much, Tom.
And next, divers down searching the fuselage of AirAsia Flight 8501. They've been down throughout the daylight hours in Asia. We're going to tell you, so far, how that is going, what they're finding.
Plus, two American climbers, first to free climb the rock face of El Capitan in Yosemite, talking today, telling reporters about what's been called the most difficult climb ever made.
BURNETT: Families are waiting and pray as divers search at this hour to recover those who died on AirAsia Flight 8501. A majority of the plane's fuselage found at the bottom of the Java Sea.
It's a major development. That is believed to be the final resting place for more than 100 people who remain unaccounted for. The A320 was flying towards Singapore when it crashed with 162 on board.
Our aviation analyst Mary Schiavo, former inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation, joins me OUTFRONT.
Mary, obviously, this is a huge development. Divers now are going to be going -- trying to recover the bodies. That is the most important thing that they will do.
How certain do you think at this time it is that those bodies are in that core part of the plane? Obviously, they did find some bodies that were not, but do you think the majority of them are there in the center part?
MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: I do and I think that the investigators think that, too. The section of fuselage that they found was 26 meters, according to report. As manufactured, the cabin is 27.5 meters. So, they believe they have most of the cabin. And other than the bodies that have been already recovered that were floating, this would really contain the bulk of the cabin, the passenger cabin.
And with the indication that they have the 174 hours of flight data recording parameter information and the full two hours of the cockpit voice recorder, they think they have an awful lot of the data there.
BURNETT: Now, when you talk about the significant part of the body of the plane they have, as you say, basically all of it right now.
BURNETT: However, the cockpit, right, we haven't heard whether it's attached or what kind of condition it's in. Obviously, that's crucial to figuring out how this plane crash and how these people died. What do you think likely happened?
SCHIAVO: Well, I think probably what happened is the cockpit separated from the aircraft. In a lot of crashes, that is exactly where it separates. The cockpit separates from the fuselage or the passenger cabin, and the tail comes off. So, we haven't heard yet about the cockpit and we haven't heard about the engines.
But because they have the full parameters of this, it's literally thousands of pieces of data on the flight data recorder and 174 hours worth of data. They can go ahead and solve the mystery without the engines and they certainly want the cockpit to recover the crew, the captain and the copilot, but they can do that without the cockpit. They will have that information on the flight data recorders to be able to do that.
BURNETT: And what are they going to be able to tell from the bodies, which is so important to the families and to the flying public? What are they going to be able to tell when they find them about how they died, what they may have been aware of, how quickly they died?
SCHIAVO: Well, lot is going to depend on the condition of the remains. Now, the early recovered bodies would have been able to tell the most. Some had autopsies, some did not. But from those, they'll be able to tell like water in the lungs, if they had survived the time the plane came in the water.
With the remains that they will recover now, it's, of course, very important to recover them for the families. That's their first priority.
SCHIAVO: But it will be much more difficult to tell about the cause of death and the crash sequence from those remains. BURNETT: All right. Mary Schiavo, thank you very much for joining us
And next an uplifting story: Two Americans celebrating their successful climb on the sheer face of El Capitan.
BURNETT: It took two American rock climbers 19 days and a lot of ibuprofen to scale Yosemite's 370 foot El Capitan. And they did it without anything but their hands.
Anyway, when they made it to the top, relief celebration set in.
Today, the two climbers spoke with reporters describing what the conditions were like on their fingertips.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN JORGESON, SUCCESSFULLY CLIMBED YOSEMITE'S EL CAPITAN: We used sanding blocks to file down the shavings of skin that would catch on the rock.
TOMMY CALDWELL, SUCCESSFULLY CLIMBED YOSEMITE'S EL CAPITAN: Your skin is harder when it's cold, so it doesn't rip easily, although it doesn't heal as quickly either. So, that's one of the reasons it took us a while to climb the route.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Pretty incredible. You know, they had the ropes just for safety. I mean, they literally without any help using their fingers. President Obama recognized the men and made history tweeting, "So proud of Tommy Caldwell and K. Jorgeson for conquering El Capitan. You remind us anything is possible."
You'll see them on Anderson, next.