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Interview with Congressman Andre Carson of Indiana; Romney Tells GOP Donors He's Considering Bid; Inside Look Into Terror Cells; Looking at the Mind of Radical Islam
Aired January 17, 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.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: Good morning, I'm Michael Smerconish.
Breaking news this morning just one week after the terror attacks in France. Thousands of police and soldiers are now spread out across neighboring Belgium guarding government sites, schools and synagogues. And that high alert extends all over Europe amid frightening new evidence that terror attacks are planned across the continent.
We have new information developing on suspects in those cells that we'll get to in just a few moments with CNN's Deborah Feyerick.
But first, this map shows some of the country's Americans love to visit when they travel abroad, but intelligence sources tell CNN these are the nations where terror cells could be ready to strike, in France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. There as many as 20 sleeper cells and between 120 and 180 people said to be ready to attack. What does that mean here at home?
In an exclusive interview, CNN's Fareed Zakaria put that question to a man who would know, former CIA director Leon Panetta.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): It sounds like, Secretary Panetta, you are more worried based on what has happened over the last few weeks and particularly in Paris and you feel that this could happen in New York. This could happen in many, many places in the world.
LEON PANETTA, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I don't think there's any question. I think what we're seeing, as I said, is a much more aggressive chapter, and a much more dangerous chapter in terms of the war on terrorism. What has happened in Paris, what happened in Ottawa, what has happened in Belgium is something that we need to understand that these terrorists are now engaged in a much more aggressive effort based on recruiting, based on what's happening in Syria and Iraq and Yemen.
They are engaged in a much more aggressive effort to conduct violence not only in Europe but I think it's a matter of time before they direct it at the United States as well.
SMERCONISH: Right now we have the angles of these story covered by reporters all over the world. CNN's Ivan Watson in Brussels. Nick Paton Walsh in Yemen, where the French attacks were reportedly planned and Deborah Feyerick in New York with the latest on the investigation.
Let's start with Ivan Watson in Brussels where soldiers are patrolling in front of the Jewish museum. A scene of a deadly attack a year ago by a gunman suspected of having joined ISIS in Syria. Ivan, what is the very latest?
IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Michael, the Belgians have deployed, for the first time in years, really, decades, perhaps, armed forces on the streets of two Belgian cities, Brussels and Antwerp, guarding a number of installations, including the U.S. embassy, protecting a number of Jewish buildings - the synagogue here in Brussels, the Jewish Museum as you mentioned and different places in the Jewish district of Antwerp.
This is clearly a response to the raid that Belgian police carried out on Thursday night where the suspects opened fire on the police as they carried out their raid. It was in an eastern town called (INAUDIBLE) and two of the suspects were killed. A third captured. And the Belgian authorities say that they believe that these men were planning to attack Belgian police and they even say they found police uniforms in the possession of the suspects as well as weapons and explosives to back those claims.
So the Belgian authorities on the lookout right now. They say that this cell that they managed to stop does not appear to have been linked to the attackers who carried out the deadly assault on the French satirical magazine "Charlie Hebdo" in Paris. Michael?
SMERCONISH: Ivan, you've spent many years covering Turkey. So I want to ask a follow-up about the claim that the country is becoming a pathway for jihadists who are seeking to go back and forth between Syria and Europe.
Germany's head of domestic intelligence said recently that 90 percent of the jihadists in his country travel through Turkey. Turkey is one of our strongest allies, thought to have strong anti-terror operations. But I guess my question is how good is their intelligence?
WATSON: Well, there's no question that Turkey has been the main transit point for people, from fighters, wanna-be fighters going to Syria. It has a very long border, more than 900 miles long and ISIS controls a big chunk of that border. The Turks say that they've cracked down over the course of the past year, that they've been intercepting thousands of people trying to get into Syria. Some of them suspected wanna-be jihadists.
But it's clear that it's still an important transit route. If you look back to the beginning of this month, the kind of partner or wife of one of the "Charlie Hebdo" attackers in Paris, her name is Hayed Bumijean (ph). She actually traveled from Madrid to Istanbul, Turkish officials say on January 2nd and is believed to have since then traveled to Syria. So even though the Turks claimed that they are cracking down, they showed me some of the measures they've taken along that border to make it less porous.
There's no question that supporter and sympathizers of ISIS are still using it as way to get in, as are some of the enemies. Some of the fighters from militant groups that are combatting against ISIS. And that's going to be a major challenge still for the Turks to deal with. Michael.
SMERCONISH: Ivan Watson, thank you for an excellent report.
Now to Yemen, the remote and dangerous country that is the headquarters of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or AQAP. CNN is the only major news network that has made it into Yemen. Joining ne now from the capital of Sana is CNN senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh. Nick, I understand that you have breaking news for us.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We just heard in the last few minutes that according to one Yemeni official briefed on security matters, two French citizens have been detained in Yemen. There were detained on suspicion of offering logistical support to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, in the south.
I should point out that this official says this detention occurred as they were trying to leave the country a few months ago. So we are talking about someone that way pre-dated the Paris attack. That doesn't necessarily mean that these individuals had no connection or knowledge of what happened in Paris, but it doesn't mean this is a reaction to investigations happening inside Paris.
We are told these individuals were not (INAUDIBLE) a combatant form. They were offering logistical support. That could be anything from I.T. support to being a doctor to even funneling money, perhaps, and Yemeni authorities are trying to work out what to do with them next, whether they should be charged.
But clearly another sign that Yemeni officials are clear, desperate to point out at this stage that they're on their game, they say, in intercepting foreigners trying to leave here as you say the known hotbed of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and heading perhaps back towards the west. So it isn't known if these two men were headed at this stage, Michael?
SMERCONISH: Nick, why does Yemen seem to be the pre-9/11 Afghanistan? Why do all terror roads today seem to go through that country?
WALSH: Well, that and northern Syria, for obvious reasons, similar reasons here in Yemen. We are talking about a failing or failed state. The economy is on the edge of collapse. Soon the government would not be able to pay their meager salaries. It does need to pay and then, of course, there is the increasingly deadly and increasingly sectarian civil complex that has racked the country for years. Little complex but worth listening to.
The Hufi (ph) side that has swept in the past few months, they are close to the Shia side of the Muslim divide. They moved in and taken over the streets of this capital. And you see their check points in many areas. They are the enemies of Al Qaeda and Sunni tribes here, and some say, in fact, (INAUDIBLE) included that Al Qaeda have done quite well out of that because many have rushed to join them, to bolster their ranks because they're scared of the Shiite.
This is so volatile, this capital city, that this morning at about 10:00 the chief of staff of the Yemeni president was kidnapped in the city center itself. Now it isn't known precisely who did this. There are claims from supporters of the presidential administration that armed men closed to the Hufis (ph) were behind that and there are suggestions too that they Hufis (ph) in fact themselves say this happened as a move to try and prevent a new constitution being put in place that they do not agree with.
So a very messy situation there. You only gather the sense of what kind of a failing state this is. The second most powerful man, frankly, in the presidential administration get taken by armed men from his car in the city center. That's why Al Qaeda can find a home here, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Thank you for that exclusive report, Nick. Stay safe.
And now what we're learning from intelligence sources here. CNN's Deborah Feyerick has been working her sources to get new information on the terror cells in Europe. Deb, what are you learning?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We do know that U.S. authorities are very interested, Michael in finding a man by the name of Salim Bengalaim. He is on the State Department's capture list. He essentially is identified as an executioner for ISIS. He is a Frenchman.
And now we are learning that he does have ties to the suburbs with the two Kouachi brothers grew up, the so-called (INAUDIBLE). Now he's also tied to a man who was traveling with Cherif Kouachi when he tried to get to Iraq by way of Syria, nine years ago.
When you look at this plot, this is something that just didn't happen overnight. This is part of a much larger continuum. The Kouachi brothers were tied to a man by the name of Jamal Bagal. He was a known Al Qaeda recruiter. He was tasked by Al Qaeda Central with a plot to blow up the U.S. embassy in Paris.
So back in July of 2001, he was actually identified by the then CIA director George Tenant, and the CIA director then briefed the president at the time. So when you look at this and you hear Leon Panetta basically say that he is very - that this is much more aggressive, he's absolutely right. This is much more aggressive.
SMERCONISH: Did you just tell me that there is a two degree of separation between those horrific beheadings that we're all familiar with and the Kouachi brothers?
FEYERICK: Well, there's a Frenchman that they want to find who is directly connected to the suburb where they all grew up. This is a gang. This is a cell. This is an ideology that has extended over a period of time. The reason that we see this level of aggression right now is because of the fact you have an ideology that you can arguably in modern daytimes with Osama Bin Laden, who said look down the road. We're going to create a caliphate. We're going to create a world of political islam. A caliphate.
And now the way it has happened especially with a man like Anwar Al Awlaki - this preacher, this western cleric, born here in America, his message resonated so deeply with his young group of disenfranchised men that the caliphate is not decades or centuries in the future. The caliphate is now. And that really established with what's going on in Syria now with these young sort of thugs.
SMERCONISH: One quick followup because that intrigues me. Has the motivation changed? With Bin Laden, and I've read many of his writings, it was all about "the interventionalist foreign policy of the United States." Today it seems as if it's about economic despair among young Muslim men.
FEYERICK: There's no question. That is a huge motivator that's going on right now. But rather than go elsewhere to fight the war. What they're now being told is go elsewhere. Get a little bit of training. Really doesn't take a lot to pick up a gun and fire it and then come back and carry it out against the countries where you are living. And so it is a very different kind of war. It is a ground war going on in Europe.
SMERCONISH: Deb Feyerick, thank you as always for your report.
Intelligence agencies in Europe, the United States and other countries are working around the clock to track down connections to the Paris attacks and Belgian cells. It's a formidable job. A major manhunt to find and shut down terror networks. I want to drill down on just how you do it with an expert, Lt. Col. James Reese. He's a counter terrorism expert and former member of the Army's Delta Force. He joins me now from Raleigh, North Carolina.
Colonel, I understand that the other night there was an unprecedented telephone conference call among FBI field offices. What can you tell us?
LT. COL. AJME REESE (RET.), CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ADVISER: Michael, good morning. You're right. The FBI met at the Washington field office, and by the director of the FBI had an all-hands video teleconference saying to all of the joint terrorism task force throughout the U.S., all of the FBI offices throughout the U.S. and the intel fusion centers around the U.S. to make sure everyone was on the same sheet of music. That everyone had the foundational logic and the after action of what happened in Paris, what was going on. So everyone is on the same sheet. That's great for us. It's interesting to see in 2015, it's the first time that we have done it. But good news are all around. SMERCONISH: Well, I'm glad that we're all on the same sheet domestically. It begs the question, who is calling the shot internationally? We put that map up a few moments ago so that CNN viewers could see the worldwide implications. Are those efforts being directed from Washington? From somewhere else? And who is calling that shot?
REESE: Well, Michael. You have what I'll tell you is you have an inter agency task force that works with Interpol, with the other country's security services. We literally have FBI, you'll have CIA agents that are posted to these places here and so everything works back to the national intel service back here in D.C. and then links up with the different countries where we are right now, in France and these joint terrorism task forces.
But there's not one place internationally that you would think that everyone comes back to in one place. It would be too difficult. But I will tell you this, from my experience in working with these all throughout my years, these folks do this pretty well and they work it really hard.
SMERCONISH: Colonel, it would seem to me, you just answered my question from a law enforcement perspective. It would seem to me this also puts an increased burden on our diplomatic efforts. Can you speak to the importance of that?
REESE: Yes, I can, Michael. We all look at things what I call the elements of national power. And whether they're diplomatic, informational, military intelligence and economic, right now, all we really see, you know, all our viewers are watching right now, they're seeing the intelligence and the military or law enforcement security aspect. Or more really the kinetic piece of this whole thing.
I think what we're really missing right now is the diplomatic and what I call the informational or the counter propaganda to what the Islamic jihadists are doing, and we see this, but I just don't think it's in parallel and as much of the gas pedal going on the diplomatic end to counter propaganda.
SMERCONISH: Colonel Reese, thank you for your report.
REESE: Thank you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: We're going to take a short break and then come back with a radical islamic cleric. A chance to really understand what motivates Muslim terror. You want to hear this guy.
And I'll talk one on one with a brand new member of the House intelligence committee. The first Muslim to serve in that role. An appointment that sparked some controversy.
Plus the first we heard from Mitt Romney on his plan to run for president again. Is the third time the charm?
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN: This week "Charlie Hebdo" published a defiant response to Islamic radicals who massacred much of their staff. Another cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad on the cover. CNN is now showing that cover because of security concerns. It's a decision with which I disagree, but I certainly respect.
The cover shows a tearful Prophet, holding a sign that says, "Je suis Charlie." It sold out quickly, a statement of defiance by readers as well.
But my next guest says publishing that cartoon is an act of war. Anjem Choudary is a radical Muslim cleric in London, who was arrested just a few months ago on suspicion of encouraging terrorism. And British Prime Minister David Cameron has called Choudary "absolutely despicable and appalling."
Anjem Choudary joins me now from London.
I appreciate your being here. I hope we can have a good conversation because I've watched a number of your interviews and they quickly devolve into shout fests. And that's not where I'm coming from. All right?
ANJEM CHOUDARY, RADICAL MUSLIM CLERIC: OK.
So you describe this as an act of war. An act of war to me is the murderous act of killing 12 people who make their lives with pens and pencils.
CHOUDARY: Well, the French government together with your government and the British as you know are engaged in a war in Syria and Iraq, before that in Afghanistan, and this war is not just being prosecuted by people on the ground. It has propaganda.
And I think that this particular provocation is designed on the one hand to undermine the ideology of the perceived enemy; in other words, to say your values are less than our values, that we will continue to insult the thing which you hold dearest to you, which is the sanctity of the Prophet Muhammad, (speaking Arabic.)
SMERCONISH: This is satire. This is taking kernels of truth, growing them in proportion and trying to make a serious political point. And the serious political point is that people have been killing in the name of the Prophet, something that they have exposed through those cartoons.
CHOUDARY: Well, you know, things like satire and speech are euphemisms for something which is quite ugly which lurks underneath. If you actually have a look at what has been drawn and what they try to depict of the Prophet Muhammad, (speaking Arabic), there's not one Muslim on this planet who will not be outraged.
Now you know, people turn to violence for many things. For us to defend the honor of the Prophet is a matter of life and death. And this is something you may not understand. But for us, under the sharia in an Islamic state, this will carry capital punishment.
SMERCONISH: Well, I'm trying to understand that. But my colleague, Fareed Zakaria, reminded me on my program here a week ago that nowhere in the Quran itself is this type of a depiction prohibited.
Is that true?
CHOUDARY: Actually no, because the Quran whatever the Prophet did, do it. Whatever the Prophet forbade, forbid it. And basically the Prophet himself sent many people to assassinate others. A very famous example is Ka'b bin Al-Ashraf, who the Prophet said has harmed me by dishonoring me and the companion of the Prophet killed him.
SMERCONISH: If I understand you -- and I'm not talking about the Hadith; I'm talking about the Quran itself. And I haven't heard the specific reference that I've been seeking.
But you're telling me that your view is that the Prophet Muhammad would want those 12 individuals, those cartoonists, executed.
CHOUDARY: Well, no, what I say to you is that I'm not someone who's going to take the law into my own hands. I don't believe that you should execute these things without due process. And therefore I believe these people should be put through a court.
If it is proven that they drew those cartoons, which have been passed to me, then, of course, I think that they are dishonoring. But it will be up to a judge to decide the punishment.
SMERCONISH: Would you do something for me? Will you condemn the murderous act against those who killed 12 people at "Charlie Hebdo"?
CHOUDARY: Well, I think that the cause has an effect. If I need to condemn, I need to condemn the provocation which led to that particular --
SMERCONISH: You've made that clear. But now I would like you to condemn the murderous act. You've condemned the cartoon. And I have given you ample opportunity to do it.
Now I would like to hear if you'll condemn the murderers?
CHOUDARY: I cannot condemn them because I believe that they have a juristic (ph) opinion, which they are following. And there are examples of this throughout history, where people have done this. And even in the time of the Prophet and the Prophet praised them. So I cannot say that I can condemn them. I can say that I differ with them. I wouldn't do it myself. I would advise them differently. But I cannot condemn them.
SMERCONISH: Will you agree with me that the net effect of this attack is that there will be more isolation, there will be more discrimination against young Arab males in particular? That will be the net effect of what just transpired, right?
CHOUDARY: I think there's a bigger picture. The mistake that the French authorities and this magazine have made is that they think that the Muslims will be divided. The one thing that all of the Muslims worldwide love is to honor the Prophet.
I was at the mosque, you know, on Friday, and people are outraged. People I never met before, coming up to me and saying, how could they do something like this? The old, the young; I think what will happen is that they will galvanize the whole community against them.
We saw it before with the Danish cartoons. I don't think it's going to have a detrimental effect on the Muslims --
SMERCONISH: Let me tell you what I think.
CHOUDARY: -- definitely on the --
SMERCONISH: I think that the real intention here is to cause the economic deprivation of Muslims, so as to foment more dissent with the non-Muslim world.
CHOUDARY: Well, I think this is one of the results. I think that there will be repercussions; there will be many repercussions on many levels. But I think that the wider picture as we saw with the Danish cartoons is that the embassies and the foreign interests of countries like the French, the British and the others who are supporting them will become more isolated.
They will have less connection with the Muslim world. And if you want to prosecute wars in Muslim countries, then you need the support of the Muslims.
SMERCONISH: Your prime minister --
CHOUDARY: -- ultimately you will be drawn out.
SMERCONISH: -- your prime minister, David Cameron, was with our president on Friday in Washington.
By the way, why are you still in London?
People wonder online and I wonder, why haven't you joined the Islamic State?
CHOUDARY: Well, first of all, I was born in London. And I'm almost 48 years old, in a couple of days' time. My passport has been taken away from me. But I can tell you something, even if I had a passport and I tried to
travel, in this country you are guilty until proven otherwise if you're a Muslim. You're a terrorist until they suggest otherwise. They would raid not only myself, but my whole family. This is the kind of apartheid system that we live in in Britain at the current time.
SMERCONISH: David Cameron was far more apt to describe these acts as being committed by Islamic extremists than our own president.
Which is right? David Cameron to describe this by tying it to the Islamic faith or our president here in the States, who goes to great lengths not to identify the religion that's behind some of these murderous acts?
CHOUDARY: Well, I think they all -- they both have an agenda to pursue. But I can tell you something after the Lee Rigby case, the report that was published, of which David Cameron approved, said that Islamist extremism are those people who call for the sharia.
Those people (INAUDIBLE), those people who believe that British foreign policy is against the Sama Muslims. You know, for him, I'm afraid, all of the Muslims feel the same way. So we're all categorized as extremists. This is a stick with which the British government used to beat the Muslim community.
SMERCONISH: Am I accurate -- am I accurate if, as a journalist, I describe these actions as the actions of radical Islam?
CHOUDARY: There's nothing called radical Islam. There's Islam, Islam of the Prophet, Islam of the Quran. This idea of --
SMERCONISH: Right. But I don't believe that the actions that you and I are describing speak for the faith of 1.6 billion people. I refuse to accept that. This speaks to the aberrant belief of a handful of individuals trying, I think, to paint with a broad brush for the entire faith.
CHOUDARY: Well, the difference between you and me, I guess, is that I've studied and I've been teaching Islam for over 20 years. And I can tell you something to have a juristic (ph) argument, although I talk about (INAUDIBLE) security, as you may know, the life and wealth (ph) of the Muslims is protected.
And therefore, they do not target the life and the wealth (ph) of the people with whom they live. This is not the only opinion. Al- Shabaab, Al Qaeda, the Islamic State, as you have seen in the video clips recently, have a completely different idea based upon divine text. I cannot condemn them because they have a difference of opinion.
SMERCONISH: A final question for you. Do you yourself desire martyrdom?
CHOUDARY: You know, the best death is one of martyrdom. I would love to die defending myself and my community. But of course, death is in the hands of God. You know, our lifespan
will end when He decides. And I will continue to struggle where I am; if I'm prevented from traveling abroad, one day, Inshallah, we'll bring the sharia to Britain and to the whole of Europe as it was indeed therefore by 800 years in the heart of (INAUDIBLE) Spain before. And incidentally, we can live together, Jews, Muslims and Christians, side by side.
SMERCONISH: Would that include your participation in a "Charlie Hebdo-like" attack?
CHOUDARY: No. As I said, I don't believe that this is something that I am permitted to partake in. But I understand the reasoning behind it. But I can engage in a political and ideological struggle. I can expose the policies of the Western regimes. I can support my brothers around the world and liberate our land because sometimes the propaganda and the verbal jihad is even stronger than the jihad of assault.
SMERCONISH: Anjem Choudary, thank you.
CHOUDARY: Thank you very much.
SMERCONISH: You know, I want to say something. I find this man's views and beliefs to be repugnant. But I think it's important to show you, the viewers, how he thinks and what he believes so that we can have a better understanding of what drives this irrational behavior.
Another very interesting conversation coming up. A Muslim on the House intelligence committee privy to our country's greatest secrets. He says American Muslims can be a big help in fighting terror. I'm going to ask him how.
And he's back, maybe. Mitt Romney gave an important speech last night to Republican leaders. So what was his pitch? Stay with us.
SMERCONISH: Welcome back to the program.
A Muslim congressman is now privy to America's biggest intelligence secrets. Congressman Andre Carson of Indiana has been appointed to the House Intelligence Committee. Many in Congress hailed the decision as a victory for multiculturalism and cited Carson's experience in making the appointment. But when the news appeared online, Twitter erupted with protests, complaints of exposing American secrets to a Muslim.
Congressman Carson joins me now from Indianapolis.
Thank you for being here, sir.
I think you just watched this interview with this cleric, Anjem Choudary. And I wonder what does it feel like as a Muslim to watch someone who espouses such hatred and claims at the same time to be speaking for your faith? REP. ANDRE CARSON (D), INDIANA: Well, I can say this -- as a Muslim,
we are a monolithic group, but we are not -- we're not monolithic, we're monotheistic.
I can say this: America, we won't win the war against terrorism without getting help from Muslims. There are, as you know, sir, many terrorist attacks, attempted attacks that are thwarted because of help from Muslims. We'll never hear about them on television.
So, I think it's critically important that we are working with the Muslim community in a way that isn't transactional. I met with law enforcement agencies quite recently, and I think I'm the only member of Congress who has ever served in the Intelligence Fusion Center and now more than ever, law enforcement agencies have to be cooperative and share information. We have differing views, but we're not the same, clearly.
SMERCONISH: Does it gall you when you're watching the monitor and he makes different references to the faith, and I think he was attempting to quote from the Hadith, not from the Koran. But do you find yourself sitting there saying, that's not true, how could he say that?
CARSON: Well, I mean, there are many things that are said in the Hadith. Prophet Muhammad said that after one eats and relieves him or herself, he or she should wipe themselves with smooth three stones. That has a seventh century context.
If you would bypass Charmin and Kleenex now and wipe yourself with a stone, I think it would be quite absurd.
But I must say is that the Koran is the foundation for Muslims and the Hadith serves as commentary, and not all Hadith is validated. There's great dispute among scholars about the validity of many Hadith.
SMERCONISH: I know you just received your first briefing as a member of the intel committee. I also know that you're not going to tell me what was said or maybe you would have to kill me. But I want to ask this question -- were you alarmed by the report? Did it exceed your expectations?
CARSON: Well, I certainly want to thank Leader Nancy Pelosi for her vote of confidence in appointing me to the committee. What I will say is this -- it is very clear that our country has a lot of misperceptions about Muslims in this country. My father-in-law happens to be the first elected Muslim judge, Judge David Shaheed. There are many Muslim who are on city councils and state legislatures. And they are making positive contributions to American society.
I think me being on the committee has caused a stir with some, but for the most part, the Democrats and Republicans have been congratulatory. And now that I'm looking at these reports and working with my colleagues on the other side, it's time to get to work and keep the American people safe.
SMERCONISH: Congressman, our program today is largely dedicated to these alarming developments around the globe. Should we Americans take some solace in the fact that at least the reports are overseas and these events are not taking place here at home? Or would you say, don't accept a false sense of security?
CARSON: Absolutely. We can never be secure. I mean, there are attacks from those who claim to be Muslim but they misrepresent the religion very clearly. But there are other attacks for racial supremacist groups we have to be mindful of, and particularly in rural parts of the community and other parts as well.
But we're saying in law enforcement is that, let's create relationships built on trust, not a transactional relationship. Not a relationship where law enforcement shows up at the last minute wanting information, but a relationship where Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Jewish brothers and sisters, Christians, Catholics, can attend citizens academies and really feel a part of the law enforcement process in helping to report any suspicious or terrorist activities.
SMERCONISH: Final question, sir. Did "Charlie Hebdo" go too far in publishing those cartoons?
CARSON: Well, I sport free speech, no matter where it is. I think that even though we have free speech, we have to make sure that our free speech or display of free speech doesn't become distasteful or disrespectful, but I support their right to express themselves quite freely. I don't think they should become other than who they are with trying to attack people for expressing themselves.
The best course of action is to remain a Muslim in the true sense of the world and act like a civilized human being, because that is the form of Dawah and that is the best way to demonstrate that the faith is a faith of peace.
SMERCONISH: Congressman Andre Carson, congratulations on your new position, and thank you for being here, sir.
CARSON: Thank you, sir. Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Just ahead, the very surprising views of Pope Francis on the "Charlie Hebdo" attacks, and Mitt Romney is thinking about running for president in 2016. But many Republicans are slow to jump on the bandwagon.
SMERCONISH: Pope Francis is in the Philippines this morning. He was forced to put on a slicker to conduct an outdoor mass for hundreds of thousands who gathered Saturday morning as a typhoon approached.
And he also stirred up some controversy on his way to the Philippines. On the papal plane, he condemned the killings at "Charlie Hebdo" but then he went further.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POPE FRANCIS (through translator): One cannot provoke. One cannot insult other people's faith. One cannot make fun of faith. (END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Let's be clear, the pontiff condemned violence against those who offend those, but he hinted that there was a limit to free speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POPE FRANCIS: But if Dr. Gaspari (ph), a great friend, says a swear word against my mother, then a punch awaits him. But it's normal. It's normal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: My next guest agrees with the pope.
Joining me now is Bill Donohue. He's the president of the Catholic League.
He was channeling you, because we had this conversation a week ago, the two of us. I disagree with you. Now, I disagree with the pope, because when you hear him say that, hey, if you curse my mother, a punch is coming your way. You say yes.
No. That's battery.
BILL DONOHUE, PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC LEAGUE: Well, somebody bail me out, after being beaten up --
SMERCONISH: Higher authority, my gosh!
DONOHUE: Can't get much better than that.
I think if you would read the actual transcript, it does make you wince a little bit. If you see it, though, you know, he's standing up. He's got the mike in his hand. To his right is Dr. Alberto Gasperi (ph).
And he's saying, you know, he's got that Latin -- the Irish can identify with it. You know, he's got that feisty, he's saying, listen, it's not only want to insult another religion. If somebody curses my mother, look out for a punch.
I think what he's saying, first of all, it's a gist. That's clear. Second thing, I think what he's saying is this -- when people provoke people in a serious manner, don't act like a little virgin when people get upset.
SMERCONISH: OK. But wait a minute, now you're reminding me of when you said the guy who died who was a publisher was a narcissist. You also said too bad he didn't understand the role that he played in his own death. That sounds like you're blaming the victim.
DONOHUE: The reason I called him a narcissist, Michael, is he said Muhammad is not sacred to me. In other words, it's all about me. And I'm saying, well, Muhammad is not sacred to me either, but I don't want to disrespect the prophet, because that's unfair to Muslims, mot of who are good people.
Now, I'm trying to make to an explanation, an observation. The analogy I've been using more often now is there's a guy selling apples across the street from "Charlie Hebdo" headquarters. He's still alive. Now, why is that? And how come they're dead and he's still alive?
SMERCONISH: Because he wasn't singled out by some lunatic fringe coating themselves in religion --
DONOHUE: Listen, I provoke people on my own, I don't -- I had nonviolent demonstrations in the street against what I consider to be anti-Catholic art. So, I am in no way going to justify this at all. Look at the context.
SMERCONISH: You first came on my radar and radar screen of many people back in the late '90s, on Mayor Giuliani's watch. It was the Brooklyn Museum, right?
DONOHUE: '99 and '98, Corpus Christi.
SMERCONISH: They desecrated a painting with elephant dung and worse, as you pointed out to me. People say it was the dung. It was actually worse.
DONOHUE: No, there was pornography on it.
SMERCONISH: So what is going on with both yourself and the Holy Father, the Catholics have gotten picked on. Finally, it's somebody else, and you're saying we know what that feels like.
DONOHUE: It's exactly right. And, look, I think it's wrong not to put the cartoons out there because most of them are inoffensive. However, some of them, I call it toilet speak, just a little abbreviation here, for the stuff really filthy and scatological.
And I'm not saying because I'm with you, Mike. I have more respect for Zucker -- for Jeff Zucker here at CNN who says, we're not going to put them up there because I don't want to endanger the lives of my own people than I do for the guys over here at "The New York Times" who say, no, we're not going to put them up there because we don't believe in religious insults. Oh, really? "The New York Times" did a great job insulting my religion over the years.
SMERCONISH: CNN has boots on the ground everywhere. So, I too understand that. Although I said to Jeff Zucker myself, there'd be strength in numbers if everyone were to follow a CNN lead.
And, by the way, Bill, I'm not -- some of these things were God-awful. DONOHUE: Yes, exactly right.
SMERCONISH: Some of these things, I wouldn't want to put on television.
DONOHUE: That's what I'm objecting to.
SMERCONISH: OK. But I'm worried that if you don't give a public a little taste, then they have no idea what we're talking about. I don't want to yield to these guys.
DONOHUE: I think we can graphically describe it. I think people are adults. They can understand what's going on. When you talk about scatological commentary -- I mean, I don't want to get too explicit. But that's the kind of stuff I think is unnecessary, not just for Muslims, but for everybody. Why do we have to do that?
See, I don't these people have created a great Jeffersonian champions of democracy. When you thrash somebody's religion relentlessly, don't ask me to think, you're like the Statue of Liberty. You're abusing freedom. I'm not going to cheer them on. I am not "Charlie Hebdo". I'm proud to say it.
SMERCONISH: All right. I know the pope has the big guy's number. You must have the pope's number, because as I say, he took a page --
DONOHUE: Thank God, somebody likes me.
SMERCONISH: -- right out of your book.
Bill Donohue, thank you.
DONOHUE: OK, Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Coming up, Mitt Romney makes a campaign speech to Republican movers and shakers. He says he's got the White House on his mind.
SMERCONISH: Late last night, two-time Republican presidential hopeful and two-time loser Mitt Romney spoke to the Republican National Committee meeting in San Diego. Despite losing twice in his bid for the White House, it sounds like Romney is thinking very hard about 2016.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS: I'm giving some serious consideration to the future. But this I know, we can win in 2016 as a party in the House, in the Senate, and in the White House if we communicate a clear vision of where we're taking this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: To help us figure out if the third time's a charm or a curse for the GOP, I'm joined by Mark Preston, CNN's executive editor for politics. He's with us from San Diego.
You know, Mark, it sounds funny to say this was an important speech when it's only January of 2015, but for Mitt Romney, I think this was an important speech because it seems as if his toe in the water has drawn feelings of ambivalence from the Republicans.
MARK PRESTON, CNN EXECUTIVE EDITOR FOR POLITICS: Yes, no question, Michael. And there's no such thing as that statement. Mitt Romney, soon after he lost in 2012 said he would never run again. And just last night, he indicated for the first time publicly that in fact he is thinking of doing so.
You know, there's a lot of intrigue from Republicans that he's actually made the decision to seriously consider it. But as you said, there's a healthy dose of skepticism from a lot of Republicans who thinks that, you know, his time has passed. They're looking for a fresh face. And Mitt Romney right now, people, for many people, they don't think he is the fresh face.
SMERCONISH: But what just went on here? Because for the past several months I've been looking at polls. This is a town hall survey that -- this is before he said he was serious, that Mitt Romney was at the top of the pack in Iowa. Republican leaders are saying, we hope Mitt Romney gets into it. And then the minute he says okay, despite all my denials in the past, maybe I will take a shot. It seems as if there was a sea change and people are saying, whoa, hold on. Not so fast.
PRESTON: Yes, no doubt. Obviously, the critics are going to have the louder voices, an that's what we're hearing right now. It's no surprise Mitt Romney would be at the top of the polls because the field is so unshaken. We're looking at, you know, more than 12 Republicans are thinking of running for president.
What is really interesting is that if Mitt Romney does decide to get in it shakes up part of a field that seems more solidified than the other part of the field. And when I say that, you have Jeb Bush who would be the establishment candidate, Chris Christie potentially the establishment candidate as well, it would be a race between those two. Mitt Romney getting in shakes that up.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the political spectrum, you have a big fight among social conservatives, several of them thinking of running.
So, the field right now looks like it's going to be a little bit more confusing, but certainly a lot more interesting, Michael, if he does get into this race.
SMERCONISH: Very quick final question, give me a name, who are they buzzing about that's not getting the attention? Who's the buzz in that room?
PRESTON: Great question. Scott Walker the Wisconsin governor spoke on Thursday night to folks here. He gave a very strong speech and he talked about conservatism, he talked about the need for Republicans, Michael, to look outside of Washington and for Republicans and specifically conservatives, it was Scott Walker who took op the public sector unions. He beat back a recall challenge back in 2012 and he just won re-election.
Look at Scott Walker to rise to the top of the pack soon.
SMERCONISH: All right. Great insight. Mark Preston, thank you. We appreciate it.
Just ahead, one of the top members of Team Romney in 2008 and 2012, I'll ask him if Mitt should run.
SMERCONISH: Governor Romney's already getting pushback on a possible third run for the White House.
I'm joined now by Kevin Madden, CNN political commentator, who was Romney's senior communication strategist in both 2008 and in 2012.
Hey, Kevin, the front page of "The Times" points out that it's not only Mitt who had a change of heart, Ann Romney once the one who said we are done, done, done -- what's going on with her?
KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, she's very supportive of anything that Mitt has done, whether it's the Olympics, whether he wanted to run for governor of Massachusetts, or run for president the first two times. So, if Governor Romney believes it's the right thing to do, Ann usually right behind him.
SMERCONISH: Do you think it's the right thing for him to do?
MADDEN: Well, you know, I think if you have the burning desire and passion, a deep-seated passion and belief that you're the right person for the job, then you should do it -- you should run for president. The great thing about campaigns, Michael, is that ultimately, the voters get to decide whether or not it's a good idea. So, in that sense he ought to put himself up for the test.
SMERCONISH: There's a suggestion that this time around he will be more forthcoming about his Mormon faith. I believed at the time of the last convention that greatest mistake is that there were these tremendous Mormon testimonials, but that they didn't run in prime time. Instead, we saw Clint Eastwood with the chair.
Do you think if he takes another shot at it, he'll handle his faith differently?
MADDEN: Well, you're right, Michael. It was a legitimate criticism. In order for people to really vote for you for president they have to get to know you. And a lot of the personal stories would have gone a long ways towards getting people to know who the real Mitt Romney was.
And I think you saw a glimpse last night. If there is going to be a 2016 campaign, you're going to see more of the personal stories. He talked in his brief remarks last night about how he was a Mormon pastor, how he worked with lower income and poor people inside his parish. And actually, Ann's introduction, I think you're going to see a lot
more of her, because she's somebody who knows him the best, knows what he believes, the passion he has for the country. So, you will see a lot more of that. This window into what they believe is the real Mitt Romney that not enough people saw in 2012.
SMERCONISH: Hey, one other observation -- he said in his speech last fight that this is not going to be a campaign about the Obama record. As I was watching I was thinking, that's not how you fire up the base. The base wants to hear all about the horrific Obama record. That's how you get those primary and caucus voters out to the polls.
MADDEN: Ultimately, the base I think is already convinced that Obama has not been a good president. And fundamentally, elections are, particularly presidential elections, they're contests for the future. I think the best place for Governor Romney to go, if there is a 2016 campaign, is to tell people exactly what he would do to address some of the economic anxieties that the middle class has. To address some of the opportunity issues that folks who are in lower income brackets, that's the type of campaign that he has to run, one that's much more future oriented, one that's much more vision-oriented.
SMERCONISH: Nice work, Kevin. Thank you for being here.
MADDEN: Great to be with you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: When we come back, a final thought.
SMERCONISH: Hey, thanks so much for joining me. I will see you Tuesday night as part of CNN's State of the Union coverage and back here next Saturday.
And don't forget you can follow me on Twitter if you can spell Smerconish.
See you next week.