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THE SITUATION ROOM
Paris Gunman Filmed Rampage with Body Camera; Surprise ISIS Attack on Major City; New Details on Female Bomber ISIS Wants Freed; Interview with U.S. Congressman Adam Smith of Washington; Report: Trouble For U.S. Drone Strategy In Yemen; Reports: Iraqi Troops Stood By During Massacre
Aired January 30, 2015 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now:
Terrorist's body camera. The Paris kosher supermarket gunman recorded video images of his deadly assault. We have new information on how he did it and what happened to those images.
New ISIS attack. After a series of American victories, the terror group launching a surprise assault on a key city vital for its oil reserves. There is fierce fighting under way as local forces strike back.
And drone attack after an unmanned aircraft flies over the White House. There are now new concerns about security at the Super Bowl.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: And we've got the breaking news.
Recording his own rampage, we are now learning how the gunman at the Paris kosher supermarket took what are called GoPro video of his deadly assault with a camera attached to his body. There is new information about what he did then with those images.
And ISIS launching a sudden and bloody attack on a major city. Gunfire echoing through the oil center of Kirkuk as security forces tried to drive the terrorists out. The ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Adam Smith, he's standing by along with our correspondents and our analysts.
But let's begin with our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, and our CNN terrorism analyst, Paul Cruickshank.
Paul, first of all, what do we know about the video?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST; Well, Wolf, we know the video was seven minutes long, that it's being seen by investigators and it features Amedy Coulibaly shooting dead three hostages as he stormed that grocery store, that Jewish grocery store in Paris earlier this month. And according to the technical analysis of the French, it was e-mailed from a computer in that store to some form of associate of Coulibaly, and the fear is that this is now going to hit the jihadi Web sites, it's going to be put out by a group like ISIS for propaganda purposes.
BLITZER: Jim, how significant would this be?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, just in some news, U.S. intelligence also aware of this video, that Coulibaly had a camera and filmed the attacks. How significant is it? It would provide really a minute by minute reel, in effect, of the moments of the attack as he went in there and sadly, as he carried out killings of those hostages there.
The fact is at this point, many of those details are already known. I think the bigger concern at this point would be the propaganda value of this attack, as it goes out -- presumably it does go out, which would have been his intention as a recruiting tool but also a demonstration of his powers. As you know, this is is' supreme focus, demonstrating that power as best they can.
BLITZER: And, Paul, that GoPro video camera, that was attached right to his chest, right?
CRUICKSHANK: It was attached to his torso so he was deliberately filming this. And according to eyewitnesses, he was even doing some video editing during this hostage situation in this Jewish grocery store in Paris before he was killed. The concern is he managed to send it out to some kind of associate.
He had actually already previously sent out some video to another associate featuring him declaring loyalty to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, and saying that he helped fund the Kouachi attack. He filmed from an apartment in Paris just after the "Charlie Hebdo" attacks. So, the worry is there's much more gruesome video that will hit jihadi Web sites, perhaps pro-ISIS Twitter feeds, soon.
BLITZER: So, I guess, Jim, the question is: why hasn't it hit those Web sites yet? It's been awhile, right?
SCIUTTO: It's a question -- a similar question as to, why haven't you seen word, for instance, with this Jordanian pilot hostage? The deadline has passed, why isn't there been a video, either proof of like or otherwise?
Sometimes this group takes their time. They have to produce it. They also have increasing challenge in getting this video out of there because, you know, it's difficult to transmit in a war environment. You've got U.S. planes overhead, et cetera. So, that's also can be a problem.
BLITZER: Do they have a clue, Paul, who the accomplices were that might have been on the receiving end of the GoPro video?
CRUICKSHANK: I think they probably know, but they are not revealing that yet at this point. They are investigating all of this. Of course, we do know that Hayat Boumeddiene, his companion, is now suspected to be in Syria, so that raises the possibility, was he e- mailing her?
BLITZER: Well, that's a possibility.
All right. Let me turn to Iraq right now. Jim, there is now word ISIS launching its own offensive against the Kurdish oil-rich town of Kirkuk in northern Iraq.
SCIUTTO: That's right. A coordinated attack, it was a surprise attack. It took advantage of a foggy morning as they moved in. It shows the level of coordination possible, and skill of ISIS, and also to project its power on multiple fronts at one time.
You have this Jordanian pilot being held hostage presumably in Syria, in areas that ISIS controls in Syria. Here you have a coordinated aggressive bold assault in Iraq, even as ISIS has been under pressure there. The Kurds as you know have been pushing up against Mosul, which is really ISIS' main strong hold, Iraq's second largest city, trying to cut off supply lines there. Now, you have them doing an end-around, you might say, attacking another powerful city in the north and inflicting serious damage.
A senior Kurdish commander killed right in the center of town. This was a big deal and it shows their ability to project power on multiple fronts at the same time.
BLITZER: Certainly is. And further complicating all of this horrible situation in Iraq right now, there are these reports of a massacre that occurred, that a Shiite militia group, an Iraqi Shiite militia group, went and massacred Iraqi Sunnis, killing, what, 60 or 70 people, including kids and women -- no women, but children.
And the shock is they did this while Iraqi military forces were there surrounding all of them. The Iraqi military stood by and didn't intervene.
SCIUTTO: This is an alarming accusation. I have spoken to the State Department. They say an investigation is still under way.
They also say that the new prime minister of Iraq, he has said all the right things and promised to do the right things in terms of reining in Shiite militia. This has been a long term problem in Iraq, particularly under the previous prime minister, al-Maliki, that these Shiite militias were given free rein and many times they committed atrocities which helped fuel support among Sunni tribes for ISIS as it advanced across the country.
A key element of fighting back against ISIS has been getting Sunni tribes on the side of the Iraqi government, Iraqi security forces and the coalition. An attack like this, if it proves true, would go a long way in undermining that confidence. A serious allegation.
BLITZER: It would so inflame the passion, the anger which is already enormous to begin with, and the split between Shiites and Sunnis, it would be a disaster.
SCIUTTO: Exactly. Inflame the passion and also increase the support for people like ISIS.
BLITZER: And raise questions about that Iraqi military. Is it doing what it's supposed to do? Why didn't they intervene and stop what allegedly was a massacre.
Stand by. We're going to have more on this part of the story coming up.
Meanwhile, the surprise attack by ISIS comes as a prisoner swap has stalled. Jordan has been willing to trade a jailed female terrorist for one of its pilots captured in Syria, but without proof of life, the exchange has been on hold -- the fate of the pilot and Japanese hostage unclear.
So, why is ISIS so interested in gaining the release of this failed suicide bomber?
Brian Todd is looking into this part of the story.
Brian, what are you finding out?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one analyst says for the past several years, hardly anyone in Jordan or Iraq has paid any attention to this woman and, quote, even her own tribe didn't care about her.
Tonight, Sajida al Rishawi is one of the most important people in the world with ISIS, a key bargaining chip -- what one ISIS supporter calls an imprisoned sister.
TODD (voice-over): Tonight, this woman, seen in a suicide vest, is at the center of intense negotiations between ISIS and one of America's closest allies.
NIMMI GOWRINATHAN, CITY COLLEGE OF NEW YORK: This female suicide bomber becomes something that has generally captured the imagination when we talk about her in the media. There is this shock and awe.
TODD: The terror group wants Jordan to exchange Sajida al- Rishawi for this Japanese hostage. Jordan is looking for a deal. They want their pilot back, who was recently captured by ISIS.
A Mideast official tells CNN, ISIS is engaging in psychological warfare and it swirls around this woman who, until this moment, had been largely forgotten for nine years, languishing in a Jordanian prison.
November 2005, Sajida al-Rishawi and her husband are part of a band of suicide bombers who attacked three hotels in Amman, Jordan. By all accounts, al Rishawi had little or no romantic connection to her husband. They had married just days before to make it easier for them to get into Jordan from Iraq and sneak into a wedding celebration in Amman.
In a televised confession, al-Rishawi described the mission.
SAJIDA AL RISHAWI (through translator): My husband took a corner and I took another one. There was a wedding in the hotel. There were women and children. My husband executed and detonated his belt. I tried to detonate mine but I failed.
TODD: Al-Rishawi ran from the scene and was later captured. Her husband and their cohorts killed nearly 60 people in three locations. Sajida al-Rishawi had reportedly been motivated purely by revenge.
GOWRINATHAN: We do know that one of her eldest brothers was very close to an al Qaeda commander and was given charge of some part of the region and that her first husband was also a part of al Qaeda and two other brothers were killed, all killed by Americans in the operations in Iraq.
TODD: One of her brothers who was killed was a top lieutenant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the murderous leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, which morphed into ISIS. Analysts say that brother might have been of the same rank and been close to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the current leader of ISIS.
With its deep and personal connection to Sajida al-Rishawi, what would ISIS do with her if she's brought back into the fold?
MATTHEW LEVITT, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: She is probably not a great jihadi operative. I don't think they need her as a leader. There is no evidence that she has leadership qualities. What she is, is a propaganda piece. What she is, is someone you put in front of the camera and she says the right things and she praises ISIS for even nine years later, never forgetting about her.
TODD: Matthew Levitt says Sajida al-Rishawi has unwittingly achieved something for ISIS that it's really never had, something it's desperately craved, equal footing in negotiations with a top U.S. ally. She gives ISIS at least the appearance of some legitimacy as a state even if only temporarily, Wolf -- an extraordinary situation right now playing out as we speak.
BLITZER: But here's the question: if she is released by Jordan in exchange for the pilot, and say maybe the Japanese journalist, could she conceivably wants to become a suicide bomber?
TODD: The analysts we spoke to say it's possible but right now it's unlikely. Is has not really used women as suicide bombers, has not even placed them on the front lines of combat. What's interesting is the predecessor of ISIS, al Qaeda in Iraq, didn't hesitate to use women as suicide bombers, used several of them. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was notorious for doing that.
And the very day this woman and her husband launched those attacks in Amman, Jordan, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi sent another woman, a blond, blue-eyed Belgian jihadist, to kill U.S. soldiers, and she blew herself up and killed I think three U.S. soldiers the same day that this woman and her husband were launching attacks in Jordan.
BLITZER: In Amman, Jordan, at those hotels.
All right. Thanks very much, Brian Todd, reporting.
Let's go in depth on all of this and more. Joining us, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, the Democratic Congressman Adam Smith of Washington state.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. We have lots to discuss. Let's go through several issues.
First of all, this apparently new ISIS strategy trying to move into the oil-rich Kurdish town of Kirkuk in northern Iraq.
What's going on here?
REP. ADAM SMITH (D), WASHINGTON: Well, I mean, it's part of an ongoing battle. I mean, they are fighting against the Kurds, they're trying to protect Mosul, and I guess they are trying to open a new front to divide their opposition.
And I think the most troubling thing in your entire report there is the continuing inability of the Iraqi government to get a true power sharing arrangement between the Shia and the Sunni, so that the Iraqi military can become a more effective force. I mean, the Kurds are fighting and fighting well, but they are simply not large enough if they don't have the Iraqi security forces fully on their side. And we're still not there yet.
So, I think ISIS senses a vulnerability.
BLITZER: I spoke --
SMITH: Obviously, Kirkuk is oil rich, a place they'd love to control.
BLITZER: They already control Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. The Iraqi army simply abandoned their positions, ran away when these ISIS forces came in.
I spoke earlier today with your Democratic colleague, Adam Schiff of California. He's the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee. He seemed pretty alarmed by these reports of a massacre. Some Iraqi Shiite militia went into some Sunni town, massacred 60 people, if not more, while Iraqi military forces were standing by watching what was going on.
Have you heard about this?
SMITH: I've only heard what has been reported. I have not heard anything beyond that. And, gosh, if it's true it is a major, major problem and points back to the fact the Iraqi government simply hasn't made the changes necessary. Even after al-Maliki has left, al-Abadi, the new prime minister, has not made much, if any, changes that would bring the Sunnis across and get a true power-sharing arrangement. And if we are stuck with a Sunni-Shia civil war, that's exactly what ISIS wants.
BLITZER: How does all of this relate to Mosul? Would you recommend putting more U.S. military advisors near the front line? Because supposedly, the Iraqi military backed by the Kurds, ready to launch some sort of offensive to try to retake that city.
SMITH: I think we still have to continue to help them, train them and provide the air support that we have provided. I think it's just too important. We cannot allow a group like ISIS to control uncontested large swaths of territory. We have already seen that they will launch attacks against Western targets. They will launch attacks in Europe and they will try to launch them in the U.S.
So, we need partners there locally who can fight them. The Kurds have done a pretty good job. We just need the Iraqis to step up and do a better job.
BLITZER: Well, do you think this new prime minister is doing the job? Are you confident he's going to be much of an improvement over Nouri al-Maliki?
SMITH: Not yet. You know, I am not confident. The problems run deeper than one person. From what I have seen, I think al-Abadi would like to try to make some of those changes but he still has a lot of people to answer to within the broader Iraqi government who don't seem willing to make those changes.
BLITZER: I want you to stand by, Congressman. We have a lot more to discuss, including the latest on a potential swap for that terrorist, that woman terrorist in Jordan in exchange for that Jordanian fighter pilot, maybe the Japanese journalist held by ISIS.
Much more with Congressman Adam Smith, right after this.
BLITZER: We're back with the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, Democratic Congressman Adam Smith of Washington State. I want to quickly pick your brain on Yemen right now.
As you know, the U.S. Embassy for all practical purposes has shut down there. These Houthi-Shiite rebels, they seem to be pretty much in control of what's going on. They are backed by Iran. They've got a slogan that says "God is great, death to America, death to Israel, a curse on the Jews, victory to Islam."
But here's the question. Is this a group the U.S. could be dealing with in order to continue launching drone strikes against al Qaeda targets elsewhere in Yemen?
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SMITH (D), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: That would be extraordinarily difficult. I mean, it is a confusing, confusing mess over there, obviously, because on the one hand, if you just described a group that we are diametrically opposed to and really, you know, good explanation of Iran's malign influence throughout that region.
On the other hand, they are opposed to al Qaeda. Al Qaeda has a presence in Yemen and is trying to launch attacks and we had been working with the Houthi government there to try and contain that. Now we don't have a partner.
You know, it's an extremely problematic situation. I don't imagine that we are going to be able to develop a partnership with the Houthi in Yemen. That leaves us very vulnerable.
BLITZER: Does that mean that al Qaeda, the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP in Yemen, which is probably the most serious al Qaeda threat out there right now, is going to only get stronger?
SMITH: At this point, that would appear to be the most likely outcome. But how do the Houthi handle the presence of AQAP? How do those two groups interact? That's the one thing that would be a problem for al Qaeda would be having a Shia group that is obviously hostile to them as well.
I'm sure we will look for other avenues to try to contain that threat, but it becomes much more problematic with the fall of the Yemeni government.
BLITZER: On the Bowe Bergdahl trade, as you know, five Taliban prisoners who were held at Guantanamo Bay were freed through negotiations involving Qatar. They were sent to Qatar. Bowe Bergdahl, the sergeant, is back here in the United States.
One of those now is suspected by U.S. intelligence and others of being at least in contact with Taliban militants in Afghanistan. Was it a mistake to do that trade?
SMITH: It was an extraordinarily difficult call. We had a U.S. soldier who was captured in the hands of the enemy. Throughout the history of warfare, there has been this type of prisoner swap. I don't know, it's a very, very difficult call.
I don't envy the president that decision. When it was obvious Sergeant Bergdahl was in very poor health at that time. They were concerned about his well-being and they made that swap. I can say that in the history of this type of warfare, these swaps happen.
Israel has traded as many as a thousand Palestinian prisoners in exchange for one or two Israeli soldiers. Those decisions are very, very difficult. The decision was not made thinking that these five Taliban weren't a problem. We knew they were a problem. The question was, was it worth it to get one of our own back.
BLITZER: You really can't blame the Jordanian government, a close friend to the United States, for considering releasing this female terrorist in exchange for that f-16 pilot, the Jordanian pilot whose plane went down over Syria.
BLITZER: You wouldn't have a problem with that, would you?
SMITH: Well, it's a difficult situation. Obviously you don't want to empower ISIS to go out and continue to kidnap people in exchange for ransom. But it is a similar situation for Jordan. It's just the lines are very blurred.
This is not a traditional war in the sense of World War II or the ones we grew up reading about. Terrorism and warfare blur lines and make for some very, very difficult decisions.
BLITZER: Well said. Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
SMITH: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up, a surprise attack by ISIS on a major city, a desperate, bloody battle under way as security forces try to repel the assault. Our experts are standing by to tell us what this means.
Plus, are there any credible threats against the Super Bowl on Sunday? Our own Pamela Brown asked the FBI's top counterterrorism official during an exclusive visit to the government's command center for the latest assessment. You'll hear it right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: An ISIS attack on a major city and word of an alleged massacre carried out by Shiite forces as Iraqi troops simply stood by.
Joining us now are CNN global affairs analyst, James Reese, retired U.S. Army Delta Force commander, our national security analyst, Peter Bergen, and the former United States ambassador to Iraq, James Jeffrey, a deputy national security advisor to President George W. Bush. He is now with the Washington Institute. Guys, thanks very much for joining us.
Ambassador, you have seen these reports, survivors say Iraqi forces watched as an Iraqi Shiite militia executed 72 Sunnis. If this is true, that is so going to inflame the passions that are already inflamed between Iraqi's Sunnis and Shiites.
JAMES JEFFREY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: This is a very bad development, if in fact as you said, it's true. We have seen similar reports several times earlier this year in that same area and, of course, we saw this all of the time in 2006-2007.
But again, I have also seen reports that have been exaggerated and turned out not to be true. I think we have to wait a bit. But I wouldn't be surprised if something like this did occur.
BLITZER: What is so shocking, you know this because you were there, you were the U.S. ambassador, the U.S. spent billions and billions and billions of dollars training these Iraqi troops. A, they simply abandoned their positions as soon as some ISIS guys started coming in from Syria. Left their weaponry, their tanks, armored personnel carriers, simply abandoned a city of Mosul with nearly two million people. If this is true, they were simply observing a massacre. What's going on here?
JEFFREY: Several things. First of all, they did abandon Mosul but actually, many units have held up pretty well since then. We haven't had any kind of flight like that since June. Secondly, I look at the bottle is half full. The first thing is, we don't have Iraqi troops themselves killing civilians and I have seen that before at times. But these militias are bad news under any and all circumstances. They are quite capable of doing this and it's quite possible the Iraqi troops --
BLITZER: Let me get Colonel Reese's reaction.
What's your reaction when you hear about these kinds of reports, Iraqi troops simply standing by and watching an alleged massacre?
COL. JAMES REESE (RET.), FORMER U.S. DELTA FORCE OFFICE: Yes, Wolf, I agree with the ambassador. I have seen it both sides, from all my time in Iraqi fighting and now with the company there, I've still seen it. And so we have to -- we have to kind of sit back and wait to see what happens. But I also believe this could be an opportunity by ISIS with their propaganda machine to show this type of thing and dwell and cause that turmoil in there.
So I'm going to stand back. But we have seen it. So we have to watch very closely and see what comes out in the next couple of days.
BLITZER: Peter, I think the colonel is absolutely right. If in fact this is true, ISIS will exploit this.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Of course. Because Al Qaeda in Iraq which is the parent organization of ISIS, always exploited these things. A, we may not be the nicest guys in the world but at least we will defend you if you are a Sunni civilian. That's been their message consistently in Iraq.
BLITZER: And the fear is that something like this could really generate a lot more volunteers, Sunni Iraqis, to join ISIS.
BERGEN: Yes. Well, we've seen reports from the head of Special Operations Command that a thousand fighters are still coming into Iraq now, today, just last week he said this. So, you know, unfortunately, CENTCOM may be killing 200 fighters a week as we've heard from General Lloyd Austin, the head of CENTCOM, but if you've got 1,000 foreign fighters coming in, that's pretty much a wash.
BLITZER: What's your analysis, Ambassador Jeffrey, of this latest battle that's going on in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, which has a lot of oil and supposedly the Kurds are in charge but ISIS is trying to move in right now.
JEFFREY: Right. In the end I think the Kurds will hold it. But here's the point, Wolf. This is a propaganda strike by ISIS just like the hostage situation with the Jordanians and Japanese, and just like the way they will exploit, as Peter said, these reports of a massacre whether it occurred or not.
We're dealing with a foe that is very, very savvy on public relations and propaganda and they strike back in various ways. Kirkuk is under dispute by Sunni Arabs, even some Shia Arabs up there, the Turkmen, and two factions of the Kurds and this is a very sensitive point for many, many Iraqis, and the Kurds are going to have to hold this. And they're going to have a lot of explaining to do.
BLITZER: One of the problems, though, Colonel Reese, the Kurds completely -- always complain about this is the U.S. isn't really directly supplying them with weaponry. It's got to go through the Shiite-led government of Baghdad. Some of it might get to the Kurds, some of it might not. Yet they're certainly seem to be so frustrated. And as you know, the Iraqi Kurds they're very good fighters and they want to do the right thing but they're so frustrated.
REESE: Yes, Wolf, I mean, I fought with the Kurds and I've been to Peshmerga and I know some of their leadership. And they are very good from their infantry tactics but, you know, the ambassador were right. The sovereign nation of Iraq, that's the diplomatic side of it, and so the Kurdistan is part of Iraq. They have a vice president for those pieces. So we're trying to do the right thing.
But we also need to understand is the Peshmerga are getting weapons from other places, too. So they might be lashing out at the Americans but they are getting from other places. So, you know, they are trying to play both hands sometimes.
BLITZER: Let's get to this other story. It was our lead, Peter, this Amedy Coulibaly, he's the terrorist who went into that kosher supermarket, killed all those people over there, those four Jews in the kosher supermarket.
He was wearing this video camera on his torso, on his chest, this GoPro video, and it was actually feeding the video to someone on the outside, and there is great fear now that video is going to be posted on some ISIS or some al Qaeda Web site for propaganda purposes.
Give us an explanation of what's going on here.
BERGEN: Well, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if it was true, Wolf, because, I mean, if you go back to the Westgate Mall attack in Kenya, remember the Twitter feed that al-Shabaab, which did the attack, had -- some of the most accurate information. And so the fact that terrorist organizations are using Twitter and Facebook, and we've seen this with ISIS isn't really surprising.
They tend to be young guys who are computer savvy, reasonably smart, and they are going to use whatever's available to get their message out.
BLITZER: You agree, I assume, that this could be a propaganda bonanza for a group like ISIS or AQAP. JEFFREY: Combined with everything else we have seen, look what you've
presented to your viewers this last half an hour, Wolf. This is really very troublesome because it multiplies and it adds up and it makes people think things are out of control.
BLITZER: What do you do about this, Colonel? What can the world do about what's going on right now?
REESE: Well, Wolf, the whole GoPro thing is something that's come up over the last couple of years. And the other thing ISIS will do is they'll use it for themselves to after action review if they can get ahold of it to look at the different techniques and procedures the security forces are using against them to counter them.
And this is a tough one. You know, we have some technology out there, some electronic jamming that we can use when these type of aspects go but this is a -- this is a whole other side. You know, and I heard the congressman say before, we've got to get our minds out of our box and start thinking outside the box because ISIS is sure doing it to us.
BLITZER: Yes. All right, Colonel Reese, thanks very much,.
Ambassador Jeffrey, Peter Bergen, guys, appreciate it.
Sunday's Super Bowl is also a security nightmare. Coming up, what's being done to make sure nobody flies a drone over the stadium in Arizona.
Plus, are there any real credible threats against the big game? Our own Pamela Brown, she just sat down with the FBI's top counterterrorism official during an exclusive visit to the government's command center. Her report coming up.
BLITZER: The FBI is going all out to prevent any kind of terror attack at this Sunday's Super Bowl.
Our justice correspondent Pamela Brown is just back here in THE SITUATION ROOM. She had an exclusive look inside the FBI's counterterrorism center, met with the head of that.
What did he have to tell you?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: We talked about a range of issues, Wolf, including that the threat of lone wolves, ISIS, foreign fighters and of course, I asked him about Super Bowl and how the FBI prepares for such a big event, given the terrorism landscape that we live in today. And basically, he said it's all hands on deck. They prepare months in advance. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL STEINBACH, FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERTERRORISM: The Super Bowl, like any large public event, the FBI starts planning along with local law enforcement, authorities on the ground and DHS months and months beforehand, looking at venues, looking at the situation, identifying threats, mitigating those threats.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: So of course I asked him, Wolf, are there any threats, he said there has been an increase in chatter leading up to the Super Bowl similar to what you see at other big events but that there are no credible threats at this stage.
They have a command post here in D.C. and also in Phoenix and it's really a big sort of partnership that takes place not just with the FBI but other law enforcement agencies.
BLITZER: And he took -- he showed you the center, the counterterrorism center there. You had a chance to discuss a whole bunch of issues, terror-related issues with him.
BROWN: That's right. I mean, there was so much to cover, Wolf. Like I said, we talked about the threat of lone wolves and, you know, even if they are under 24/7 surveillance can you prevent a small scale attack.
There were a few things that really jumped out at me. First of all, just the role social media plays. We know that ISIS is using that as a recruiting tool but he said kids in America as young as 15 years old are online talking to ISIS militants. And it's a big concern that, you know, there is this -- such a big volume now of Americans online interacting with them. And he also talked about sleeper cells. Of course a big question, are there sleeper cells in the U.S.
Of course, we'll have more of his interview coming up next week. And also, why haven't authorities arrested foreign fighters who have come back from Syria after fighting with ISIS and are now on U.S. soil. I asked him why haven't they been arrested, why haven't they been prevented from coming back to the U.S., he gives us the answers that we'll hear next week.
BLITZER: Or maybe you can give us a clue. What did he say?
BROWN: Well, we're going to have to wait and see but basically he talked about how the bar is so high before you can, you know, bring a prosecution. Prosecute someone.
BLITZER: So they're monitoring these people --
BROWN: So with --
BLITZER: -- watching these, the surveillance, but they don't have enough yet to go ahead and actually arrest them?
BROWN: Well, that's what -- you know, the challenge of Syria as an intelligence black hole. How do they know for certain this person was fighting with ISIS? They might have an inkling, they might have certain clues but do they have enough to really build that case to prevent that person from coming back to the U.S. And he talked about how it's impossible to keep track of all the
Americans going back and forth. His biggest concern, he said, Wolf, is what he doesn't know. Those Americans that aren't on his radar.
BLITZER: We're looking forward to more of this interview next Monday.
Thanks very much, Pamela Brown. Good work.
BROWN: Thank you.
BLITZER: Be sure to tune in tomorrow for CNN's Super Bowl special. Rachel Nichols and special guest Dan Marino, they co-host "KICKOFF IN ARIZONA," Saturday afternoon, 4:30 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
Up next, we saw the lights come on in a surprise when a drone flew over the White House this week. In a moment, you're going to see what's being done right now to stop anyone from flying a drone over the Super Bowl.
And at the top of the hour, a new front opens up in the war with ISIS.
BLITZER: Something disturbing that happened over at the White House this week points to a potential danger at this weekend's Super Bowl in Arizona. The latest forecast calls for good weather, so the stadium's retractable dome almost certainly will be open to the sky and potentially to drones.
Let's get the latest from our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh -- Rene.
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we know the Department of Homeland Security will have choppers monitoring the airspace and other safety and security agencies are also playing serious defense to protect one of the largest sporting events from rogue drone operators, threatening arrest and hefty fines for anyone who violates the Super Bowl no drone zone.
MARSH (voice-over): Law enforcement and the NFL on alert for something that could be hovering above the Super Bowl Sunday.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Keeping a no drone zone.
MARSH: The Federal Aviation Administration warning rogue operators to keep drones away from the big game. It's a major safety and security concern.
FRED ROGGERO, FORMER AIR FORCE CHIEF OF SAFETY: Somebody could just plane flat fly that drone into the crowd and injure a few people. Perhaps there is something on the drone that, you know, that's kinetic, that could cause -- you know, even if it's just an explosion, but enough to cause a small panic or a panic on the ground. MARSH: The Secret Service scrambled to ensure a drone that flew over
the White House was not a bigger threat. Sporting events are not immune either. Like this drone that flew over a European soccer match.
Big league stadiums are a big attraction for drone enthusiasts in the United States, too. This one flew over Wrigley Field during a game in Chicago. Law enforcement is threatening an interception if anyone tries it this Sunday.
CHIEF DEBORAH BLACK, GLENDALE, ARIZONA POLICE: If we do see somebody operating a drone or in preparation of operating a drone, we'll make contact and address the individual up to and including arrest.
MARSH: The NFL says the league is increasingly finding drones at stadiums. In the past year, 12 drones have landed around stadiums on game day. The NFL will have explosive teams ready to swoop in if a drone makes its way on to the playing field. During last year's all star game, Major League Baseball used a drone detection system scanning the sky above the packed stadium. But it wouldn't be able to stop a drone from flying over.
Fred Roggero is the former chief of safety for the Air Force. His company now makes drone detection systems.
ROGGERO: Benefit is you can tell that it's there before it becomes a threat. So that you have time for the decision makers to decide on what they do with it.
MARSH: Well, authorities and the NFL are being very tight lipped about whether they are using so-called drone detection systems around the stadium on Sunday.
You do know that drones have sparked safety and security concerns. The FAA has received dozens of reports of drones nearly hitting planes. And after a drone landed at the White House, the president said the incident only highlighted the need for stronger regulations. But the FAA has been delayed in issuing the long-awaited rules for this growing industry -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. It certainly is growing.
Rene, thank you.
With us now here in THE SITUATION ROOM our law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes. He's a former assistant director of the FBI. And our justice reporter Evan Perez.
Guys, thanks very much. We've got -- they're very simple, these drones. You can go out and buy one for $500.
But potentially, Tom, these could be pretty dangerous, can't they?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: They can be extremely dangerous, Wolf. They go from $50 to a couple thousand, depending on how large the aircraft is. I mean, we've had ones that are models of aircraft that you could attach 50 pounds of explosives to and send it in there.
Another problem is they're trying to develop a way to jam the electronic signal. But you can imagine at a Super Bowl, if you are jamming signals, you've got TV, feeds, electronics, law enforcement has to be able to talk to each other, use their cell phones, use their radios. God forbid if the quarterbacks couldn't hear those signals from the sideline. You know, so there is a concern of how they can stop these at a crowded event like this.
BLITZER: And there could be 70,000 or 80,000 people at that stadium.
What are you hearing about this potential very serious concern, this no-drone zone, as they're saying?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, we know that the Homeland Security Department is working with the local police department there and the National Counterterrorism Center. Now we know that they're going to have certain capabilities. Like for instance, we know that they can jam the signals -- the communication between an operator and one of these drones, for instance, to try to make it crash immediately.
We know that they have these detection systems. We don't know what exactly they're going to be using at the Super Bowl. But they do have them. The problem is, as you said, you know, what do you do, how do you find the people who are operating these?
BLITZER: Well, let's say there's a drone coming in, Tom. And they did spot the drone. What, do they just shoot it? What do they do?
BLITZER: I mean --
FUENTES: I think that's a good question, Wolf.
BLITZER: And let's say that drone has some sort of plastic explosives or anthrax or some horrible device on board.
FUENTES: The problem is if they shoot at it, those bullets are going to be raining down on the people at the stadium. If they fire a rocket, it's got to come down somewhere. You know, if they can't put 100,000 people out there with butterfly nets and try to catch it, so I think that jamming a particular signal if they can detect it is going to be the only answer in the long run or we're going to face this for a long time.
BLITZER: Yes. And you see how simple these drones are. I mean, this is lightweight. It can fly.
PEREZ: Fly. Right.
BLITZER: You can control it from your living room or whatever. PEREZ: Right.
BLITZER: And it flies around. We saw what happened at the White House. Apparently the guy who was monitoring this drone or conducting it was, what, 10 blocks away.
PEREZ: And the biggest problem, Wolf, is that, you know, these things -- even, you know, as popular as they are becoming, the communication system is very flimsy. So sometimes someone loses control of it without even knowing what they're doing.
FUENTES: And I saw online a company that made the drone that flew into the White House lawn has received hundreds of complaints about them flying away and getting away.
FUENTES: This guy is controlling it and suddenly it's off on its own and they can't bring it back.
PEREZ: It's like losing your Wi-Fi signal. Basically. I mean, that's the --
PEREZ: The potential thing that happens.
BLITZER: It's a serious problem. We know security as all Super Bowls are concerned, security will be tight. Right. This is not new to the FBI.
FUENTES: It's not new.
PEREZ: That's for sure.
BLITZER: They've got a game plan in mind. Let's hope we all enjoy the game.
BLITZER: Quietly, peacefully. Good luck to both teams.
All right, guys. Thanks very much.
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