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Interview With Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy; Interview With North Carolina Senator Richard Burr; European Terror Threat

Aired January 18, 2015 - 09:00   ET


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: As many as 20 sleeper cells, 180 jihadis waiting to bring more terror across Europe. Is the U.S. next?

I'm Jim Sciutto, and this is STATE OF THE UNION.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

SCIUTTO: Good morning from Washington.

Breaking news this morning across the Atlantic, all of Europe under siege now, military and police deployed by the thousands across Belgium and France, as the chief of that continent's combined police force says he cannot guarantee anyone's safety.

CNN bringing you breaking coverage as it happens, as only we can, our correspondents embedded around the globe, Ivan Watson in Brussels, Nic Robertson in Paris, Arwa Damon in Istanbul, Turkey, and Nick Paton Walsh in Yemen.

First, we want to go to Ivan, where 12 coordinated raids first hinted at just how large this network of terrorists can be.

Ivan, Belgian officials this morning say parts of this terrorist cell are still active. What is the level of concern there? And do they have a handle on exactly who's still at large?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the level of concern is so high, Jim, that the Belgians took a very unusual decision to deploy troops in the streets of two Belgian cities, soldiers, for the first time in more than 30 years this weekend.

It's only about -- going to approach about 300 soldiers in all, but it's still a very symbolic gesture, putting them out to defend embassies, government buildings, as well as Jewish institutions, synagogues and so on, the Belgian prosecutor in charge of this investigation keeping his cards very close to his chest, so far not identifying the two suspects who were killed in a gun battle with Belgian police on Thursday, when police started their round of raids.

The Belgians say that they intercepted a cell that was planning to attack Belgian police officers and they found police uniforms in the custody, in the possession of these suspects. They have since pressed charges against five Belgian citizens, accusing them of participation in a terrorist organization. Three of them are currently in Belgian custody, two released,

we're told, under strict conditions. There are two more Belgian citizens currently in custody in France that Belgium is trying to extradite back to Belgian territory.

We do know that Belgium has a problem with jihadis. It has the highest per capita number of suspected jihadis who have traveled to Syria, joining the ranks of groups like ISIS, of any other country in the European Union -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Many hundreds there. Imagine the alarm in the U.S. if we had anything close to those sorts of numbers. Thanks very much to Ivan Watson. He's in Belgium.

I want to turn now to CNN international correspondent Nic Robertson. He is live in Paris.

Nic, we understand that French authorities have now released some suspects. When I was there for the last 10 days, it struck me that the French authorities did not have a particularly tight handle on who still remained from the cell responsible for these terrorist attacks. Has that changed in the last 48 hours?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, it doesn't appear to have changed, at least with the information that's being released so far.

These three people that have been released of the 12 arrested, they are all women. The nine who are still being held will be held, we're told, for at least the next 48 hours. They could be held for much longer. One of the things that has emerged in this investigation so far is that sometimes the operatives involved are using phones of friends, of close relatives to make calls to avoid detection because of the way that wiretapping is done here.

It's done through a specific phone, and not through any number of phones that one particular suspect may have or may have access to. So, we don't know why these three women were released, but so far, they have been released.

Also today, an Islamists-out-of-France rally that was -- had been planned to be held here in Paris banned by police, not gone ahead. That's something here that the authorities are keen to keep off the streets and keep the temperature down, given their current concerns about the potential for a full-on attack by groups -- by groups or a group that they're not yet aware of, Jim.

SCIUTTO: One thing that struck me certainly there, Nic -- and I'm sure you have seen it as well -- is just how the members of the public have continued to live their lives despite the level of threat. Very admirable.

Thanks very much to Nic Robertson in Paris.

I want to go now to Nick Paton Walsh. He's live in Sanaa, Yemen. It's the home base for the terror group U.S. officials have consistently said is one of the most threatening to the U.S. homeland. That is al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and also the group that has a direct tie to the Paris attacks.

Nick, what is the handle that Yemeni authorities have there? The fact is, isn't it, that they have been losing ground against AQAP in recent months, rather than gaining it.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, actually, the country has been in such turmoil generally for the past few years, that's what's enabled AQAP to have the foothold they have had here for years.

The most recent developments in the past few months actually involve a predominantly Shia movement here, militia tribesmen called the Houthis who have swept into the capital, Sanaa, behind me. Now, that has caused significant upheaval. They said they detained -- other people use the word kidnapped -- the presidential chief of staff just yesterday in the city center itself, obviously an escalation in that war there.

But al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, one diplomat told me, are in fact finding themselves benefiting, strangely, furthermore from this upheaval, because some Sunnis concerned with what they see as the Shia advance here, the Houthis' advance, are actually taking up arms and effectively making the local ground battle for al Qaeda, a Sunni group, slightly easier, because they have more men in numbers, allowing them to focus on external operations.

So, frankly, no matter how bad it gets here in Yemen, that always seems somehow to benefit al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. They claimed that operation against the "Charlie Hebdo" magazine. That was the name that was shouted by the Kouachi brothers during those attacks.

The only thing investigators have to piece together now, Jim, is exactly what level of reality that corresponds to. How much of a real logistical and support link and command link was there between militants here in Yemen and the brothers, and did that sustain up until the moments before the attacks themselves, Jim?

SCIUTTO: Nick, is there any awareness of officials there as to the numbers of Europeans who are going to Yemen, perhaps to connect with groups such as AQAP, and then returning to Europe. Do they have a sense? Do they have good controls on their borders, even, to watch that kind of flow?

WALSH: In truth, I think, no.

I mean, we just discussed really how much turmoil is grappling them. And that effectively means so many of the institutions here are failing. It's been hard to get a coherent picture from Yemeni officials. There are some who are angry at the notion that Yemen is the hotbed of terror. They point out how much longer of their lives that the Kouachi brothers spent in France. Why would Yemen, they say, be the focus? There are others who simply yesterday offered up information

about two Frenchmen who were detained a few months ago trying to leave Yemen. They were accused of offering logistical support to al Qaeda in the south of the country. That would be anything from finance to possibly even I.T. support. Not clear they were here for a combatant role.

So, there's a sort of split personality really amongst Yemeni officials, some desperately keen to show they're on the ball assisting Western allies. But it does, it's best to say, seem a lot of their information comes actually from the West and is then reverse-tracked by them here.

And then another part of the Yemeni administration -- sorry -- we're just losing power here, another sign of how fragile this nation can be. The other part of the Yemeni administration absolutely keen to point out that they don't consider it fair to blame Yemen exclusively for the ills afflicting the West in those attacks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, sadly, they're not alone, other failed states as well breeding grounds for terrorism. Thanks very much to Nick Paton Walsh. He's in Yemen.

I want to go now to Arwa Damon. She's live in Istanbul, Turkey, Turkey, of course, a focus point, an entry point back and forth from Europe to the training grounds for terror, I suppose you could say, in Syria and in Iraq.

Arwa, I wonder if there has been any real progress you have been able to see on the ground there in stopping that revolving door, in effect, from Europe to Syria and Iraq and, sadly, back to Europe, where the concern is, of course, that they carry out attacks like we have seen in Paris this week.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, the Turkish authorities will continuously say that they are doing what they can.

And, yes, they have clamped down to a certain degree. They have tried to make it more difficult for people to cross from Turkey into Syria and vice versa. But despite their best efforts, they quite simply cannot control the entire border.

We are talking about a border that is hundreds of kilometers long. We're talking about individuals who are willing to wait for that one little gap to open up and then they dart across into Syria. And at that stage, it becomes just about impossible to try to track them.

Turkish authorities have also repeatedly told CNN that they're quite frustrated because they feel, on some occasions, they are alerting various European countries that some of their nationals are leaving Turkey whom the Turks believe could potentially be a threat. And they feel as if their intelligence is not necessarily being acted on the way that it should be. Turkey has emerged, yes, as a key transit hub for just about

anyone who wants to go into Syria. The airport in Istanbul, it's massive. If they are picked up, if an individual is picked up at customs, the way Hayat Boumeddiene even was -- that is Amedy Coulibaly, the third gunman's girlfriend.

Yes, the Turks then tracked her for a few days. But she just went about doing normal touristy things, so they took surveillance off of her and re-picked it up afterwards, once the news of the Paris attacks came out and once she had been associated with that.

So, the Turks are doing what they can. But they cannot control the situation, especially not without a greater level of cooperation between them and European and other Western nations, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Arwa Damon, thanks very much in Turkey, Ivan Watson in Belgium, Nic Robertson in Paris, Nick Paton Walsh in Yemen. Thanks very much for staying with us. And please stay safe, dangerous places, all.

I now want to bring in Senator Richard Burr. He's the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Senator Burr, thank you very much for joining us this morning.


SCIUTTO: I want to ask you, because I just returned from Paris myself, and one thing that struck me is that, to this point, from U.S. intelligence officials that I speak to, AQAP, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, had been seen primarily as a threat to air travel, a significant threat, concealed explosives, but primarily to air travel.

In light of the presumed, the perceived tie to those attacks in Paris, is that -- have the Paris attacks demonstrated a new capability for AQAP and a new ambition, frankly?

BURR: Well, Jim, I think the intent was always to carry out multiple means of terrorism from AQAP and others.

We have got to remember that this is not about an individual. It's about an ideology. And terrorism is now global. We don't know where it's going to come from. CNN this week broadcast from eight different countries around the world. So it's not like we can keep our eye on one thing. And this is a war that we have to win.

SCIUTTO: No question. I mean, you make the point that terrorism, global -- as a result, the response must be global as well.

But when you look at the run-up to these attacks in Paris, there was clearly an intelligence failure here, not just by the French. And, granted, it's a difficult decision to make, but the decision to surveil these suspects and then stop that surveillance six months before the attacks, but also in terms of intelligence-sharing, because the U.S. had the Kouachi brothers both on a no-fly list and a terror watch list.

Was that communicated -- was that information communicated to the French? And why did not the -- the French not respond accordingly, in light of the very close intelligence-sharing relationship that the U.S. and France have?

BURR: Well, I guess the question is, Jim, did we put the brothers on the no-fly list because of what we might have received from France or what we might have picked up ourselves?

And I'm not sure that I know the answer to that. I will just say this, that I think every country in the world today is probably looking back at the policies that they have got on surveillance for known fighters and trying to determine, is there a point where you just stay on them 24/7?

If it is, with over 20,000 globally that have really been fighters, these countries, as well as the United States, has got a real problem. We have got dozens of individuals that we know went to Syria. I would guess that we're surveilling 100 percent of them right now.

But that's in addition to everybody else that we may have reasons to suspect. As we saw, we have an Ohio man this week, though we don't take that with near the importance of somebody coming back from Syria.

SCIUTTO: You say dozens. You say it's likely that they're being kept under surveillance.

Are new measures being taken following the Paris attacks to put new suspects under surveillance to avoid missing one, as, sadly, the French did in this case?

BURR: Well, Jim, I think post-Paris, I think every law enforcement, every intelligence community official in the world went back to chapter one and began to write the new book as far as what we were going to do.

They have scrubbed information to figure out whether we have missed anything. But here's the important things. They have taken what we have learned from Paris. They have taken what we're going to learn from the raids in Belgium, and they're going to run those, that data, and create new dots on the map.

And then analysts at all the agencies around the world are going to try to connect those dots to figure out whether there are other individuals that we don't know about that we need to begin to surveil, that we need to look at where they are, what they do, who they talk to.

And I think we're in for weeks, if not months, of an unbelievable amount of data that is going to tell us what the next step is in defending this country, and, I might say, defending Europe as well.

SCIUTTO: There was an odd joint, in effect, claim of responsibility. You have AQAP claiming responsibility for the Paris attacks, but you had the attacker at the kosher market in Paris pledging allegiance to ISIS.

Is the U.S. aware of any increased cooperation between a group such as AQAP and ISIS?

BURR: Jim, we're not, but I think it's foolish to think that two groups competing for fighters and competing for money wouldn't go out and claim some degree of credit for this.

And I think that that's one thing that these groups all share, is they're pulling from the same pool of fighters and they're pulling from the same resources for financing from around the world, so being part of that spectacular attack.

And I might say that I think we have overlooked the fact that Belgium is an intelligence win. Individuals that we knew about, individuals that were watched, the Belgium government made a decision to go for a particular reason when they did.

And I think you have seen how seriously they take what they found, hundreds of troops in Belgium, never seen before, over 20,000 troops in France right now helping in the fight against terrorism, and a capture of over 20 in five or six different countries just in the last 48 hours.

SCIUTTO: The administration has argued that, as important as intelligence steps and military steps to fight terrorism, it's important to attack the ideology.

And let -- yet, this last week, we noticed that, in Saudi Arabia, a close U.S. ally, that a blogger flogged, sentenced to 10,000 -- to 1,000, rather, lashes simply for starting a debate online on his blog about extremism in his country.

At the same time, Pakistan, of course, another close U.S. ally, has sentenced to death a Christian woman for blasphemy as well. These are close allies.

Is it your view that these countries, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, through steps like this are, in fact, encouraging terrorism by helping to feed the ideology behind it?

BURR: Well, Jim, let me say, a week ago, I said this was a fight, a war against Western civilization.

And what I realized was my mistake in that sentence was that this is every bit the fear and the threat of average Muslims in Muslim countries around the world. This is a concern and a threat to us, to Europe, and every Muslim around the world that's not a fanatic terrorist.

And the reality is that we have got to reach out to those individuals because we should be as concerned about making sure that the world is safe for them as we do for our own children.

SCIUTTO: But are our allies doing enough as well? Because a country such as Saudi Arabia has enormous influence, Pakistan as well, against this sort of extremism. Are they doing their part, or, in effect, are they making the problem worse?

BURR: Well, Jim, as you know, they have been a contributor to the funding since al Qaeda was created. A lot of the Middle Eastern countries have.

And, hopefully, our administration is reaching out to them, as is the global community, and saying, things have to stop. You have to quit funding terrorism. You have to quit teaching this to your youth. We have got to make sure that we're after the same future that they are. And I dare say that if they're not willing to help us in that partnership, then there ought to be some type of ramifications from it.

SCIUTTO: Very strong points.

Thanks very much, Senator Richard Burr, Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. We appreciate having you on this morning.

BURR: Welcome back, Jim. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, intelligence analysts across the globe jostling now to find the next terror cell before it can strike. But have American policies such as deploying drones and keeping detainees chained in Guantanamo Bay helped manufacture new terrorists?

We will answer that question after this break.


SCIUTTO: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington.

And with me now is Senator Chris Murphy. He's a Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator Murphy, thanks very much for joining us this morning.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Yes. Thanks for having me, Jim.

SCIUTTO: We were just speaking with the Republican Senate Intelligence chair, Richard Burr. And he made a point at the end of our conversation which I thought was very powerful.

I was asking him about, during the week of the Paris attacks, you have two close U.S. allies, Saudi Arabia flogging a blogger for just sparking a debate online about extremism. You have Pakistan, another close ally, sentencing a Christian for blasphemy.

And I asked him if our close allies here are doing enough to fight extremism. And he said, in these cases, no, they're not and that if they -- if that is -- if that holds true, that there should be consequences.

I wonder if you agree with him. MURPHY: I do agree with him.

And the reality is, just as Richard said, this is not a war between Christianity and Islam, between the East and the West. And I think he was very right to point that out. But when you have these kind of actions inside Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, it perpetuates this myth that that is indeed the fight that is going on.

And, of course, we know that, for years, for decades, the Saudis have been funneling money to Wahhabi clerical organizations that fund the very madrasas that train Islamic jihadists. We certainly know in Pakistan that, at the same time that they have been fighting radical elements, they have also been funding those radical elements, or at least being permissive of them.

So, we have got to have some hard conversations with our allies in the coming weeks and days. We have let it go on for far too long. And now that we have realize the reality, the danger, the immediacy of this threat to the United States and to our allies, I think Republicans and Democrats can come together and say, listen, time is up. We need to see some progress or, especially with a country like Pakistan that's the recipient of major dollars from the United States, there's going to be some consequences.

SCIUTTO: Fair point.

I want to ask you. You made some interesting comments this week talking about the perennial nature of America's wars and how that may contribute to extremism. And it echoes, to some degree, the comments made more than a decade ago by the defense secretary at the time, Donald Rumsfeld, who, in his words, are we creating more of them than we are killing, in effect?

And I wonder if you could make your point here. Are you saying that, by repeated military intervention in Iraq, in Afghanistan, drone strikes in countries such as Yemen, that there is a downside to that, that that helps recruit extremists?

And I might mention that one of the Kouachi brothers, in court papers, said specifically that it was the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the mis -- the abuse at Abu Ghraib that led him to want to go fight American forces there.

MURPHY: Well, here's the first and most important thing.

There is never a justification, an excuse, a rationale for these kind of murderous terrorist attacks. The only people to blame for these murders in Paris and other assaults around the world are the individuals who perpetuated them.

But my point has been simply this. We shouldn't be full of such hubris here in the United States that we don't have a conversation about the fact that there are things that we do, there are actions that we take that can create more terrorists, create more threats to the United States, and there are things that we can do, actions that we can create that will create less terrorists across the world. And I think that's a useful conversation to have. I have argued

-- and I think many others would agree with me -- that the war in Iraq, which became a recruiting tool for Islamic extremists all around the world, made this country less safe, not more safe.

I would argue that the way in which we have conducted drone strikes in some parts of the world have become bulletin board recruiting material for many of these terrorist organizations. That doesn't create a rationale, a justification for anything that has happened, but it just, I think, should create a conversation here in the United States about being careful about conducting a foreign policy in a way that ends up creating more of the very kind of people and organizations that we're trying to fight.

SCIUTTO: Now, would you say that the U.S.-led air campaign in Iraq and Syria is repeating that mistake, then?

MURPHY: No, my caution has been that we should not be sending in a new deployment of massive ground troops into that fight.

Robert Gates, the defense secretary under both Bush and Obama, said the next president that proposes such a thing should have their head examined. And there are many of my colleagues that are saying that we can't beat ISIS unless we put a massive number of new ground troops into that fight.

I think ISIS is so dangerous, their momentum was so clear that we had to put significant airpower and advisers on the ground. I support that. But I don't support essentially beginning a new U.S.-led ground invasion in Iraq, or in Iraq and Syria, because that would, I think, tip the balance in terms of what is necessary to protect American national security vs. what is going to, in Donald Rumsfeld's opinion or the way in which he phrased it, create more of the people that we're trying to eliminate.

SCIUTTO: I want to ask you about Boko Haram, because, last week, while we were focused on the Paris attacks, you had a horrible atrocity committed by Boko Haram north of Nigeria, perhaps as many as 2,000 killed.

CNN had its reporter on the scene as well. And I just want to show you a political cartoon here that made a point that was not unusual, focusing, of course, all the attention that there was on Paris, some would argue, ignoring what's happening in Nigeria.

A number of months ago, when those girls went missing, Boko Haram, the White House focused -- you will remember "bring back our girls" was a popular Twitter hashtag. There was talk of U.S. military cooperation there, particularly intelligence and surveillance to help locate the girls.

Is the U.S. helping fight Boko Haram? And are we minimizing -- because this, of course, is another terror threat -- are we minimizing the terror threat emanating from Boko Haram?

MURPHY: Well, I do think it's unfortunate that there hasn't been as much world attention as there should be on this increasing threat from Boko Haram.

We're seeing literally thousands of deaths due to their terrorist activities. Twelve deaths in Paris is an atrocity, but it shouldn't excuse us from paying attention to what's happening in Africa. I know that we will have conversations in the Foreign Relations Committee in the coming weeks about some new assets that the United States can provide to those fighting Boko Haram on the ground.

It deserves an equal amount of attention from the United States. Now, I think the reason which we have seen more attention on Paris is that the organizations that are claiming responsibility, whether it be al Qaeda or ISIS, are making more credible and have a history of more credible threats against the United States. That's why this deserves a good degree of American attention.

But Boko Haram, unchecked, is a threat not just to the region, but the entire world. And it deserves our attention as well.

SCIUTTO: I want to ask you about Ukraine now, because there is, when you look at the evidence on the ground, a low-level war under way in Eastern Europe.

And I just want to, for the sake of our viewers, show some drone video over Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine, which, when you see this area from the air -- and I have been to this airport in Donetsk before, just a number of months ago -- this looks like a war zone, and the deaths on the ground and the Russian troops on the ground indicate a war is under way there.

The administration's position has been that economic sanctions will lead to de-escalation. Meanwhile, on the ground, Senator Murphy, we're seeing escalation in recent weeks. Is the Obama administration policy failing with regards to Russia and Ukraine?

MURPHY: Well, listen, ultimately, the United States is not going to fight a proxy war against Russia inside eastern Ukraine. And so long as the United States is not fighting that war, the Ukrainian army which has been undermined (ph) over the last 10 years by corrupt generals is going to be at a disadvantage against an invading Russian army or Russian supported army.

But I have come to the point where I believe now that the United States needs to start sending more significant military assistance to the Ukraine. That was not a position I held initially in this debate. And I've been pressing the administration to support that view.

Right now economic sanctions are not in a short run convincing Russia to pull back. You've seen some significant improvements in terms of central governance out of Kiev with the new President Poroshenko taking the reins of government. But I think the administration has to start looking at some more serious levels of defensive armaments being sent to the Ukrainians. I think that would help in a fight that we have to admit is not ending anytime soon.

SCIUTTO: More military to Ukraine. Thanks very much, Senator Chris Murphy. Great to have you on (ph). MURPHY: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Around the world Muslims are protesting finishing their morning prayers and then flooding the streets to call for jihad, but over what? And why does the Pope say they might have a point? We'll talk about that after this break.





SCIUTTO: Protests erupted across the Islamic world this week after "Charlie Hebdo" published its latest issue again depicting the prophet Muhammad on its cover.

Joining me now around the table Imam Yahya Hendi. He is a Muslim chaplain here at Georgetown University. Father Edward Beck, he is CNN religion commentator. And we have Rabbi Matt Gewirtz of the Congregation B'nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, New Jersey. Thanks very much for all of you for joining. Great to have three faces represented around the table.

I will start if I can with you, Imam. The Obama administration has became an issue of contention this week reluctant and (ph) others (ph) to call what we saw in Paris Islamic terrorism. Do you agree with that?

IMAM YAHYA HENDI, MUSLIM CHAPLAIN, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: You know, for me, terrorism has no religion. Terrorism is terrorism. It's an act of terrorism by individuals, by organizations, by groups against people, against individuals. Islamic terrorism for me -- Islam is a religion of peace, is a religion of compassion and goodness, and cannot in any way shape and form be in support of terrorism.

SCIUTTO: And no question whatever it is they represent is a bastardization of the religion.

HENDI: Absolutely.


HENDI: For me the terrorists are kidnapping my name (ph), using my name (ph), my beautiful religion.

SCIUTTO: And it becomes personal -


HENDI: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: But they do use religious justification. They are steeped in the text. They quote the text. You see that often by not calling it Islamic terrorism. Does that deny - if (ph) not responsibility, deny the need for a debate within the faith to call these guys out and say, this is not - this is the real Islam. This is not real Islam.

HENDI: By the way, they are misquoting the text. They are not using the text. They translate it in their own way, misinterpret it to justify their own violence.

However, (INAUDIBLE) in the Muslim community to have a very clear voice against them? Yes. And we do -- we are doing that. Believe me what's (ph) (INAUDIBLE) in our mosque, in our colleges across the world were training our imams to go out and say no to those people in order to undermine any possibility of these people becoming the voice of Islam.

SCIUTTO: Rabbi (ph) Gewirtz (ph), I want be to ask to see if you agree that there has been the level of debate necessary -- and I just want to bring up a point because I asked Senator that brings up a point, I asked Senator Burr and Senator Murphy about this as well, that some of America's closest allies you can argue convincingly are not doing enough. This week in Saudi Arabia lashing a blogger who tried to start this very debate online. Pakistan another close ally sentencing a Christian woman to death for blasphemy.

Do you hear the volume maybe we could describe it as of voices within the Islamic faith countering this violent message?

RABBI MATTHEW D. GEWIRTZ, CONGREGATION B'NAI JESHURUN: Volume, no. But sitting next to the imam who just expressed himself as beautifully as he did is really encouraging to me and the members of our community.

There is a great rabbi from the Talmud (ph), the greatest body of Jewish law, Rabbi (ph) Haninah (ph), who was under the hand of his oppressors and he died a very cruel death. They took the Torah scroll, the ancient scripture, and they rolled him in it. And that's how they were going to murder him. And they lit it up.

And as he and the Torah scroll went on fire, he said, I'm going to die but my words, my ideas are never going to die. We always have to stand up for our ideas, what we're about, who we are, how we want to express those ideas, but never through violence.

SCIUTTO: Let's talk about ideas and I'll turn to you, Father Beck, because the Pope, Pope Francis, entered this debate this week, and while he talked about the importance of freedom of expression, he in effect made the point that there are limits, that if you insult someone's religion --he used the metaphor of saying if someone punches you in the face - if somebody (ph) insults your mother you might want to punch them in the face, that kind of thing. Was the Pope saying in effect that "Charlie Hebdo" went too far by depicting the prophet Muhammad in those cartoons?

FATHER EDWARD BECK, CNN RELIGION COMMENTATOR: You know, my mother, Jim, always had a famous adage and she would say, just because you have a right to do it doesn't make it right to do it.


BECK: I think what the Pope is trying to say, yes, you have a right, but there has to be limits to freedom of expression. And the limit needs to be self-imposed, that cultural restraint has to come societally. As religious leaders we have to say to our people, you know what, 300,000 copies of that magazine needs to be printed. Now they rant and put Muhammad on the cover again and we have 5 million --

SCIUTTO: Yes, 7 million.

BECK: Seven million. Don't show up for that. Don't feed it. I think we can't limit it legally perhaps but morally, culturally we have to say it's wrong to do it.

SCIUTTO: Judgment call. Do you agree, Imam? Do you think that this went too far?

HENDI: I think they went too far. I think they have to stop it because it is not helping what we all want to do. We want to have a civilized dialogue between the east and the west. We want to have a civilized dialogue between Judaism and Christianity and Islam and other religions to move forward. Publication of such thing does not help feed into that. Actually, it helps terrorism. It (INAUDIBLE) more people (INAUDIBLE).

SCIUTTO: Let me ask then, who sets the limits? Because this is the difficult part.

I've got a copy of "Charlie Hebdo" and I was in Paris. And I read through, and yes, the cover has Muhammad. But there were other cartoons in there. There was one that mocks the attackers faith that they're going to have virgins, you know, the 70 virgins afterwards. Some of them are not that far off what you would see in some U.S. publications.

So, who sets the limit -- that's the difficulty here because who is going to be the authority? Because, you know, anything can be offensive to anybody, right? And a huge gray area in the middle

GEWIRTZ: We set the ethical limits. And we could (ph) (INAUDIBLE) the (INAUDIBLE) because we're against this. Don't buy it. Don't line up for it.

But we live in democracies which allow us to express opinions that in many other places in the world we don't. So, I would not shut down. I don't think it's the religious leaders place to shut down these places for speech because if you do the line may go the other way which will limit me from expressing myself in the ways that I want to.

The mother comment, this is such a great pontiff. I think we all love this pontiff. The mother comment says to me that if you are raised by a good enough mother, you want to defend her and you're inclined to punch someone to defend her but you don't because of the values that she gave you. And I would say the same thing applies to Muhammad, and to Jesus, and to Moses, that these are extraordinarily great figures that have lasted all of these years. Our inclination is to want to be violent to defend them but their teachings are great (INAUDIBLE) we don't. And on the end what we do is we are grounded religious people in their names but never with violence at all.

SCIUTTO: So you're saying don't set the limits in effect, let people make their own choices, is that right?

GEWIRTZ: Listen, there was a -- the Jewish -- there was a Jewish lawyer who defended the Nazis in Skokie. And the reason he did it is because he felt so strongly not just about the first amendment but about the rights of Jews to express themselves. And he said, you know -- obviously he hated what they were saying but wanted to be able to allow them to speak so that all of us could be able to live in a country where any of us could speak.

SCIUTTO: Father, you -- (INAUDIBLE).

BECK: We just buried Mario Cuomo. And I remember when he went to see "The Book of Mormon" with his wife Matilda. He said he was a little off centered when it began, wasn't sure exactly why. And then it went on and it came to a song "F.U., God" in that musical. And he turned to Matilda and he says, we're out of here. She said, I was ready 15 minutes ago. And they left.

And he said, Matt Stone, Trey Parker, they have every right to make that musical. I don't have to give money to it. I'm not going to support it. If you depict Jesus steeped in urine, you remember that...


BECK: Do you have the right to do it? Sure. Should we show up at the museum to see it or Mary in elephant dung? No.

So, I think as religious leaders we say, look, they have the right to do it but we are not going to support it. We want to raise the cultural conversation beyond that.

SCIUTTO: That -- please, go -

HENDI: I want people to know that we need to set this moral campus within us to design those limits. That's number one.

Number two, I want the people to know, and I'm speaking to CNN worldwide here, that I am not saying that the publication of this cartoon means or justifies violence in any way, shape or form. As I speak for not publishing that specific magazine or picture, I also say to Muslims, wake up. Engage people with the prophet of Islam in an intellectual, spiritual way. That is what Muhammad would have done.

SCIUTTO: Well, this gets to a practical question because there is -- there is the philosophical debate here about whether, you know, we should err on the side of freedom of expression or on taste, good taste, et cetera, but there's also a practical argument. By doing this do you give ammunition, in effect, to the attackers, give them, you know, prod them in a way as some have made the point that you're prodding them to attack? Is there a practical argument against this, against exercising, you know, airing on the side of not offending despite -- this is a country, freedom of expression which is a bedrock principle.

GEWIRTZ: The more we close these things down, I think the more we give them ammunition.


GEWIRTZ: So, that means I can go into any place and I can do anything I want and the response from a Democratic society with free religious expression within that society is to narrow it. And I think it's huge mistake.

BECK: And actually (ph) -- don't we do it all the time? We don't print certain words in newspapers because we're going to offend. "The New York Times" would not put the cartoon that was just published.


BECK: Right. So, we self-center all the time for the sake of a larger good.

GEWIRTZ: So, that's a journalistic choice based -- in my mind (INAUDIBLE) what the constitution lays out and that's screaming fire in a movie theater.

So, we think it's going to incite a mass riot, that's different than allowing fundamentalism to widen its reach.

BECK: But there are laws that protect the common good.

You can be protesting something but you can't do it at 3:00 in the morning with a bull horn. It's against the law. There are common understandings that we have that do limit free speech. And so I think it's a misnomer to say, oh, there's no such thing.

GEWIRTZ: Just where (INAUDIBLE) stop this.

SCIUTTO: Imam, you get the final thought.

HENDI: I think we have to morally censor for the sake of the common good

And number two we do not want to help terrorists recruit more people and publications like this will, believe me, undermine my ability to speak a voice of sanity but it will also help the terrorist recruit more people to their lines.

SCIUTTO: Do you get the sense that this is the very debate we need to have more broadly in the country and in Europe? I know from being there -


HENDI: And in the Muslim world -- and in the Muslim world.

SCIUTTO: And inside the Muslim world.

GEWIRTZ: And between all of us.

SCIUTTO: And we'll -- let's keep up the conversation. Fantastic today. Rabbi Gewirtz, Father Beck, Imam Hendi, great to have you on.

GEWIRTZ: Good to be here.

SCIUTTO: Where there is smoke there is normally fire, and Mitt Romney providing a lot of kindling now. Will there be a former Republican nominee's magic number will three be his magic number? We're going to get into that right after this break.



MITT ROMNEY, FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The most frequently asked question I get is, what does Ann think about all this? And she believes that people get better with experience.




...heaven knows I have experience running for president.


SCIUTTO: That was Mitt Romney just on Friday hinting that just maybe he might give this running for president thing a third shot.

I want to bring in now Congressman Jason Chaffetz. He's a Romney 2012 supporter. And Ken Cuccinelli, he's president of the Senate Conservatives Fund.

I wonder if I could begin with you Representative CHERNOFF:. You've had conversations recently with Mr. Romney. I wonder what he has told you about running. Has he said he's going to do it?

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Well, he did call and we did speak. And he said that he's seriously considering it. He wanted some advice and input.

But the rumors that are out there were true. And certainly for him to appear at the GOP event that was there in San Diego recently, you don't do that if you're just putting your ball cap down and going to Sea World for the afternoon. So yes, I think he's very seriously considering it.

SCIUTTO: What does he say will be different about this time around that's going to make this run successful?

CHAFFETZ: Well, he does have the experience.

I really think that Mitt Romney checks three boxes that the rest of the -- the rest of the candidates don't necessarily do.

Number one, he's vetted. We know exactly what we're going to get. There won't be that October surprise that Republicans are -- would naturally be worried about.

I think he has been proven right on so many of the issues. Certainly domestic policy. With (ph) foreign policy, I mean, he almost looked prophetic there talking about Russia and talking about the war on terror and those types of things. So we know he was right on the issues. And then you've got to have somebody who can raise the $1 billion that it's going to take in order to beat Hillary Clinton. And certainly Mitt Romney can do that as well.

SCIUTTO: Ken Cuccinelli, there's experience -- and there's experience of losing. Does he have the right kind of experience?


I mean, he is -- he was correct with respect to foreign policy related -- compared to the president. I don't think any of the other Republicans would have been wrong on that.

You know, he didn't get the nomination in 2012 until he essentially outlasted with money all of the other choices and they all had to fall away effectively until he could bring his money to bear sufficiently before he could get a majority of whoever was voting left in the Republican nomination. So, he wasn't an inspirational character. He doesn't bring a philosophy that he can articulate well.

And if you look at the last three election cycles 10, 12 and 14 and two of them the Republicans did spectacularly well. And what was the main issue? They were fighting back on Obamacare.

And what was the one we lost? The one where the guy who invented Obamacare in Massachusetts and didn't say it was a mistake. He doubled down on it, lost.

SCIUTTO: This is an argument that he's putting his name out there so that all that money doesn't get committed earlier (ph).


SCIUTTO: Does he damage though an eventual Republican nominee by keeping his name and (INAUDIBLE)?

CUCCINELLI: No. Look, we're very early in this process. This is going to be very competitive 2015 and then the 2016.

Mitt Romney is very similar frankly to some other potential candidates, via Jeb Bush, via Chris Christie, via John Kasich. A lot of what we might analyze with him with the exception of him having run the last two go rounds as the congressman pointed out is very similar, frankly, to what a lot of others bring to the table.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you, Representative Chaffetz, you heard the (ph) message. His message is about bringing wider opportunity to the American middle class which is a message that might surprise some who -- you know, whether fairly or not portrayed him as the campaign -- as the candidate of the -- well, the opposite of the candidate with 47 percent.

How does Mitt Romney sell the message he is the man to bring opportunity to a greater number of Americans?

CHAFFETZ: Well, I think as American look at this, if you want to grow jobs in the economy, if you actually want to defeat poverty and make sure that people's income and opportunity is swelling in this country, that entrepreneurs have the atmosphere to grow and thrive, there is nobody that's going to beat out Mitt Romney. That's what he's done his entire life, his entire career is help take something from nothing and make it into something and empowering people to do that.

That is Mitt Romney's strong suit. And he can run circles around, I think, a lot of people because he's actually done it. He hasn't just been in politics, this is what he's done in his career. And it's going to be a great strong point for him.

SCIUTTO: Were you surprised, Ken Cuccinelli to hear him portray himself as sort of the candidate of the 47 percent?

CUCCINELLI: Well, it's clearly -- it didn't work in 2012 the way he approached this.

And I would agree with the congressman in one respect, what the congressman just said is what he should -- what Mitt Romney should have done in 2012 but he shied away from it. He coward from it.

Mitt Romney has had great success in business, as the congressman alluded to, but he did not defend capitalism. He didn't make the moral case for capitalism. He didn't make the moral case to inspire the grassroots to go and say why we should reduce the power of government in the economy. What it means for your freedom and your opportunity at your own kitchen table. He didn't make that case. And I think Republicans have concluded that he can't.

SCIUTTO: Representative Chaffetz, just ask you other issues in the news, President Obama unveiling a new tax plan, $320 billion largely derived from bigger taxes on the wealthy, banks in particular. You have a Republican controlled Congress as we well know.

Is this tax plan DOA?

CHAFFETZ: It's a nonstarter.

We're not just one good tax increase away from prosperity in this nation. This nation had its all-time highest, the record number of receipts coming into the treasury. Are you going to actually grow the economy and jobs? Are entrepreneurs going to be better off or small businessmen going to be better off with more taxes and more government? No.

We've got to make sure that we get a regulatory environment that's predictable, that we bring those tax rates down and then we quit spending this money that we don't have. More government, a 300 plus billion dollar tax bill from Barack Obama is not the formula for this country to succeed.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Jason Chaffetz, Ken Cuccinelli here with me in Washington, thanks very much for joining us...

CUCCINELLI: My pleasure.

SCIUTTO: Sunday.

CHAFFETZ: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: We'll be right back after this break.


SCIUTTO: Thank you for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington.

Make sure to watch CNN on Tuesday night for President Obama's State of the Union address. Our (ph) coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. eastern.

Fareed Zakaria, "GPS," starts right now.