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Interview With Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii; Obama: 'We Are Not at War with Islam'; Inside the Threat of Prisoners-Turned-Jihadists; New Crew Joins Search for MH-370
Aired February 18, 2015 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, THE SITUATION ROOM HOST: Happening now, breaking news. Countering terror as ISIS launches a major new assault, officials from 70 countries gathering over the White House trying to find a way to fight back.
So what is the new U.S. strategy? ISIS recruiting, disturbing new information about the changing face of foreign fighters. Why are more wealthy and educated people join in the terrorist forces?
A new development in the search of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 almost one year after it vanished. The search for the missing plane -- the search zone is now narrowing. We'll take you behind the scenes.
I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in The Situation Room.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Let's begin with the breaking news. President Obama speaking out of the White House Summit on countering violent extremism telling a gathering of global leaders that full force of United States will be used to defeat ISIS. The president also defended his decision not to call the war against ISIS a religious conflict saying -- and I'm quoting him now. "We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with those with perverted Islam."
We're covering all angles this hour with our correspondents. Our guests including the Armed Services Committee member, the Iraq war veteran Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. She's standing by live.
But let's begin with our Senior White House Correspondent Jim Acosta. Jim, tell our viewers what the president just said. The main message he was trying to deliver.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I think the headline here no doubt about it is that president Obama defended his decision not to use terms Islamic extremism or Islamic terrorism at this speech before a Summit on countering violent extremism. President did not back down. He doubled down. Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Al-Qaeda, and ISIL, and groups like it are desperate for legitimacy. They tried to portray themselves as religious leaders, holy warriors in defense of Islam. That's why ISIL presumes to declare itself the Islamic State.
We must never accept the premise that they put forward because it is a lie, nor should we grant these terrorists the religious legitimacy that they seek. They are not religious leaders, they're terrorists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: During his speech that Muslims are many times the victims of ISIS and groups like ISIS more so than people of other faiths around the world. And the president also took note during the speech, Wolf, to mention the fact that these Muslim Americans who were killed down in Chapel Hill, North Carolina are from the Islamic faith and that there are Muslims in this country who are very much afraid because of the attention that's been focused on their faith during this war on ISIS.
Now, the president wants to take the lessons that we learned at today's events at the summer today which we really focused on these pilot programs that are taking place in cities like Boston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis where law enforcement in Muslim communities as trying to breakdown barriers, build up trust so they could work together to counter violent extremism. President wants to share those lessons with foreign ministers and other world leaders will be gathered at the state department tomorrow. There'll be another speech from the president tomorrow.
BLITZER: Yeah. We have live coverage of that tomorrow morning as well. Jim Acosta, stand by. So who are the people being recruited by ISIS right now? Top counter terror official tell CNN, "Increasingly they're not. They're not who you might think they are." Our Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto is joining us now with more on this part of the story.
We heard the president make a similar suggestion that these young recruits -- not all of them -- come from poor, uneducated backgrounds.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question. I've been speaking to a senior British diplomat who's handling the terror threats specifically who made a point reflected very much in then president's speech and the fact is today, there is not one single profile of the ISIS or the al-Qaeda recruit. There's a familiar one we talked a lot about. People who fallen on hard times, they don't have jobs, they don't have economic opportunity and that holds for the region in the Middle East. You see it in Europe. You see it in U.S. But the fact is I' hoped --
been told by senior officials that highly educated people even in the U.S. get attracted to this. More and more they are seeing -- counter terror officials are seeing women being attracted to the call of Jihad with groups such as ISIS and others. And you're even seeing people who are bringing their entire families -- women and their husbands bringing their children that really brought into the profile that counter terror officials tap to look out for is that they try to stop the spread of this threat.
BLITZER: The president was not only speaking to the people who were there at the White House. He was speaking to all Americans. He was speaking to all people around the world including ISIS itself.
SCIUTTO: No question. This is the key measure for the president's speech. He's preparing the American public and ISIS on the other sides for a long war but a different kind of long war unlike the one we saw in Iraq because it is the president who makes clear just going to be military action. Although the fact is, when you speak to Pentagon officials, military officials, any member of the coalition, it's going to taker years of military action to stop the ISIS threat in Iraq and Syria.
But it is also a long war of ideas. This is about fighting to rest in effect the religion of Islam away from groups such as ISIS back to true Islam. And that's really his message that he gives into when the president again made his case. You can't call this Islamic extremism because by doing that you're going to affect granting to these extremists that they are Islamic.
SCIUTTO: And that is part of the battle here. One thing I would just add. I spent almost a decade in the U.K. which had a very similar actually frankly a much larger extremist problem on the ground. They had a very similar campaign in combating violent extremism which is the U.S. is drawing from. They're key partnering this.
The British officials have had some success but the fact is even after years of such a campaign, they still have a massive Jihadi problem on the ground -- hundreds of suspected cells (ph), thousands of suspected Jihadis. So even when you push back it's a difficult war to win this. It's a difficult fight to win this war of ideas.
BLITZER: All right. I want to get some more analysis. Peter Bergen our National Security Analyst is joining us, Jay Carney the former White House Press secretary and senior political commentator is joining us as well.
Peter, first you. ISIS -- I assume they're listening they were watching the president of the United States not only ISIS terrorists but AQAP, al-Qaeda and the Arabian Peninsula, Al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, all of these various terrorist groups, how are they likely to react to what the president of the United States just said.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: The same way they've reacted to every American president going back to Bill Clinton. They used to use pictures of Bill Clinton in Afghanistan photography (ph). So it's not like -- the speech is not going to be persuasive to ISIS and AQAP they will just be met with the difficult attempt they show to all American leaders.
BLITZER: So in other words, they're not going to be scared. They're not going to say to themselves, "We better stop this." Is that what you're saying? BERGEN: No. I mean actually they, you know, we launched a couple of thousand airstrikes and that hasn't seem to have stopped their momentum in a lot of places. So, you know, these people are not, you know, rationale actors who certainly going to decide with their views or somehow not write because of a presidential speech.
BLITZER: Yeah. And Jay Carney, my own sense is the president was also trying to deliberately address Muslims around the world, Arabs in particular saying you guys have to come on board saying. "You guys have to come on board. It's not just the United States who's going to go take the lead, you have to take the lead because ISIS and these other terror groups represent a much bigger threat to you, whether in Saudi Arabia or Jordan or Egypt or any of these other countries in the region than they do in the United states.
JAY CARNEY, FMR. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think you're exactly right and I think that what Jim was saying about the long war is definitely true. I think we're seeing from the president in the way he's been talking about the military effort up until now and now in the way he's talking about this ideological struggle. He's laying the groundwork for a fact which is inescapable. This is struggle against ISIS and other groups like it will continue well beyond his presidency and well into the next presidency and maybe beyond that.
The ideological component is not unlike in some ways what we saw during the Cold War, not as half of the globe against another half of the globe because we are talking about a segment of, you know, ideology growing out of one religion. But I do think the call for an awakening among Muslims around the world is important because the threat is really on them both the violence threat but also the threat to the sacred nature of their own religion.
You know, they're appropriating Islamism and perverting it for their own violent purposes and to gain territory but they're also trying to steal it away from the (inaudible) for the religion itself.
BLITZER: Let me get some more analysis. I want to bring in Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. She's a key member of the House Arm Services Committee Iraq, were a veteran herself.
Congresswoman, what do you think? What do you think of that message? And as you know, he is still not saying what he wanted to say, talk about radical Islam, Islamic extremism, he's making the case that that would be counter productive.
REP. TULSI GABBARD, (D) HAWAII: Aloha, Wolf. Yes, I think that if you look at some of the conversations that have happened during the Summit and the president's speech that we heard just a few minutes ago, still I think it is a diversion from where we need to be focused.
If you look at this broad focus on countering violent extremism which is very hard to define, it's a diversion away from the actual threat coming from this radical Islamic ideology that exists not only for the United States but really around the world. And I think one of the things that is important to note is that the administration is misidentifying the enemy and their motivation by saying that they're motivated out of materialistic aspirations, that they're motivated out of poverty, of lack of jobs or education or opportunity.
And as a result, the courses of action that the administration is proposing are also materialistic in nature saying that well, if we just go and alleviate poverty, if we go if we go and create jobs and increase opportunity and institute this western style of democracy that somehow this is going to solve the problem when really that's not the case.
We can look to the past and see many different examples of where this has occurred, whether you look at Libya, you look at Egypt, you look at what's being proposed with Syria, and each of these different instances a dictator has been removed. There has been an attempt to institute western style democracy and each of these cases. ISIS and Islamic extremists are more powerful and presenting a greater threat than they did before.
So that's why it's so important that we recognize that these people are being motivated from different parts of the word by a spiritual -- theological motivation which is this radical Islamic ideology.
BLITZER: I know it's not easy for you a fellow Democrat to criticize as strongly as you have criticized the president for refusing to use those words but what do think the president now needs to do? He's given a speech. He's going to give another speech before the Summit meeting countering violent extremism tomorrow morning. But to follow up, what do you want him to do to crash ISIS and these other terror groups? And I ask you as a veteran who served in Iraq.
GABBARD: Well, you know, Wolf, the way that I look at this is from a strategic stand point and this is why I feel so strong that it's important for the president, important for the White House, the administration, the leaders in Congress as well in both parties to recognize that we got to learn from the mistakes of the past in order to effectively defeat this enemy that's threatening us and threatening the safety of the American people.
And the first step that must come to do in order to do that is identifying and understanding who they are and what's driving them and executing a simultaneous military and ideological strategy to defeat them. If we don't do that, then, we're going to continue to find ourselves in this endless cycle. This as you've seen has occurred in the past over and over again.
BLITZER: What difference would it make if it actually used the words you want him to use -- radical Islam or Islamic extremism? In practical terms what would the difference be?
GABBARD: By identifying this ideology which is a theological one that's driving them, then you can look at where they're recruiting. What are their methods of recruiting? You mentioned earlier in your piece that they're recruiting not only from places where people are poor but also from very rich democratic societies in this foreign fighters.
So by identifying who they are they need to look at their tactics, you can look at why they're doing what they're doing, the method they're using to recruit and grow their support and then, understand, OK. Well, this is what we need to do to defeat them in a way that is militarily as well as ideologically. And send that strong message to people who are looking to what ISIS has to offer and say, "If you join them, number one, we will defeat you militarily, you will be killed."
"And number two, the spiritual promise that they're selling that somehow this is pleasing to God is absolutely false that you're not going to heaven, that you're going to hell if you follow that path and commit these atrocities."
BLITZER: Congresswoman, I want you to stand by. We have more questions for you. We have more questions for our experts. We'll take a quick break. Much more analysis, much more reaction to what we just heard from the president of the United States right after this.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, President Obama speaking just moments ago over at a White House summit meeting on countering violent extremism, defending his decision not to call the war against ISIS a religious war, if you will, saying the U.S. is not at war with Islam.
We're back with Democratic Congressman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. She's a member of the House Armed Services Committee, also an Iraq War veteran.
Congresswoman, the last few times you've been with me here in THE SITUATION ROOM I've asked you, since your initial criticism of the president for refusing to call it radical Islam or Islamic extremism or any of those phrases, whether anyone from the White House has contacted you, communicated with you, had a chance to speak with the president. The last time you told me no one has. Has that changed?
GABBARD: It hasn't changed. And I haven't had the opportunity to engage with him directly on this issue, but it's an issue, obviously, that I feel strongly about, primarily because I've seen what can happen, as has the rest of us across the country when we don't clearly identify who our enemy is and, really, the danger that that poses, not only in the fact that our enemy will increase in their strength and in the threat that they pose to us and to others around the world, but also what happens when the leaders in our country, both in Congress as well as in the White House, we see back with the Bush administration and now with this administration, that they end up getting us into conflicts and waging war against people who have not waged war against us.
We saw just the other day the unfortunate incident of the beheading of these 21 Egyptian Coptic -- Coptic Christians in Libya. And it is an opportune moment for us to look back at Libya and look and see what happened and why are we -- we is our country in this position today, that if our leaders at that time had not made that decision to go and overthrow and conduct a regime change with Gadhafi, who was actually working with us to fight against al Qaeda, then we would not be in this position where ISIS continues to grow and gain territory within Libya. BLITZER: You know, what's stunning to me, Congresswoman, as someone
who has covered Washington for a long time, is that no one from the White House, no congressional liaison, no National Security Council official, forget about the president or vice president, but no on -- you're a fellow Democrat. You're an Iraq War veteran, member of the House Armed Services Committee. No one has gotten in touch with you and said, "You know what? Let's have lunch. Let's talk about this. Maybe there is some common ground. We can discuss this."
It's stunning to me that no one has bothered to pick up a phone and even discuss these issues with you. Isn't that surprising to you?
GABBARD: Yes, I mean, I don't know what to think about the operation in the White House or why or why not. My focus has really been on trying to convey the importance of this, trying to have this conversation with people, both here in Hawaii in my community and in other parts of the country, with my colleagues in Congress so that we understand the importance of it. That this is not just about whether someone uses one word or another word. There are very real consequences to this misidentification of who our enemy is, because it's directly linked to the strategy that must be put in place in order to defeat them and to alleviate this threat from - to the safety of the American people.
BLITZER: Congresswoman, because I'm stunned by the fact that no one from the White House has contacted you, I want you to hold on for a moment.
Jay Carney, the former White House press secretary, is with us. He's now a CNN senior political commentator.
Jay, what's going on over at the White House? Why wouldn't someone pick up the phone, talk to this -- she represents a huge military district in Hawaii. A lot of veterans live in Hawaii, as you know. She's got strong views. She's -- she's a fellow Democrat. What's going on over there at the White House?
JAY CARNEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Wolf, I have to say I'm surprised, and I'm disappointed. I think that this is a perfect opportunity for the kind of conversation that you talk about to take place.
And if I -- if I were that representative from the White House, if I were still there and working in the appropriate shop, I think the conversation I'd want to have with Congresswoman Gabbard is to explain to her, I think, the president's view, which is it's clear from his speech and from his views that he believes that the attempt to radicalize Muslims is key to the problem here, and that that's creating the enemy.
And he talked very clearly about the perversion of Islam. He didn't shy away from using that word.
But I think his view is that, in order to succeed in that ideological fight, as well as the military fight, we need allies; and we need allies in the Muslim community. And we don't want to alienate Muslims who might want to help us, both here in the United States, in western Europe, and in the Middle East and other Muslim parts of the world.
And I think that's the reason for that separation. It is more semantic than anything. I don't think he ignored in his speech today the fact that the root of this extremism is within the attempt to pervert Islam itself.
BLITZER: You want to weigh in, Jim?
SCIUTTO: Well, the counterpoint you'll hear from critics of this policy is that, yes, this is not a problem of the religion of Islam, but it is a problem within the religion of Islam. And you will often hear calls for louder voices, from within the Islamic faith, when you have crimes like we see, atrocities like we see calling out those groups in public, taking a risk. And frankly, it is a risk to do that but still calling out in public folks who abuse the name of Islam. And that's a fair criticism.
BLITZER: All right. I want to give Congresswoman Gabbard last word in this segment. Congresswoman, tell us where the United States of America needs to go right now to not only degrade but to defeat and destroy ISIS.
GABBARD: Well, just to respond to a couple of the comments that were made before, I think you can point out the difference between the tone, the words and the ideas that President Obama is putting forward, and contrast that with the comments and the words that we've heard and the direction that we've seen from moderate Muslim leaders like the king of Jordan, like the president of Egypt, people who are within the region who have directly called out this radical Islamic ideology that's fueling this terrorism, and directly addressing the fact that it must be defeated militarily, as well as ideologically.
And that's really the direction that we need to go in working with allies and partners like Jordan, like Egypt, like others who are within the region and around the world who recognize that we've got to address both of these issues, militarily and ideologically, head on.
Congresswoman Gabbard, thanks very much for joining us.
GABBARD: Thank you very much, Wolf. Aloha.
BLITZER: Thank you. Tulsi Gabbard's a member of the Armed Services Committee.
Up next, an inside look at why young criminals become radicals in prison and they come out as potential terrorists.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, President Obama speaking out just a little while ago over at a White House summit on violent extremism. He said the full force of the United States will be used to defeat ISIS, a group he says has perverted Islam, insisting the United States is not at war with the Muslim faith.
Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. Barbara, you have some new details on the latest intense battles going
on against ISIS. What are you picking up?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, we've seen a lot of talk in Washington today on how there is no single military solution to ISIS, but make no mistake: ISIS and the U.S. military are already making their next moves on the battlefield.
STARR (voice-over): In northern Iraq, Kurdish fighters pushed back an ISIS offensive after more than five hours of firefights across several villages near the strategic Kurdish city of Erbil. Because of so many civilians in the area, it was some time before coalition airstrikes could be launched.
U.S. officials say Erbil, where dozens of U.S. military advisors have been located, was never at risk of being overrun. But this area had been relatively quiet until just a few days ago. The new skirmishes underscore the U.S. view that ISIS is trying to divert attention from Mosul, the next big battle.
LT. COL. JAMES REESE (RET.), CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: They will always want to see where their -- where their enemy is to protect Mosul, which is their key. But again, it would not surprise me if ISIS continues to move people into Mosul and even if they lose people and have them killed on these skirmish battles.
STARR: In Syria, U.S.-backed operations against ISIS are growing. The U.S. will provide moderate rebel forces with trucks, small arms and radios; but in a potentially risky scenario, the U.S. may decide to have rebels help call in airstrikes.
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Could we possibly get to a point where they might be able to help with spotting from the ground in Syria for coalition airstrikes? Yes. That is a possibility. But it's only a possibility.
STARR: In the fight for Kobani, the U.S. used trusted Kurdish fighters on the ground to locate ISIS targets. The risk this time? The rebels' intelligence won't be solid enough.
REESE: If we decide to teach the Syrian rebels how to call for fire, the critical issue we have to be aware of is clearing those fires with the people on the ground. And if we start getting collateral damage, the blowback will come against the coalition.
STARR: The Pentagon also considering perhaps providing air support for those Syrian rebels on the ground.
KIRBY: We have an obligation and responsibility. The nature of that hasn't been decided, so I can't tell you what it would look like right now.
(END VIDEOTAPE) STARR: Now, U.S. military officials are emphasizing they would never rely solely on Syrian rebel intelligence on the ground to launch U.S. airstrikes, that they would have to have some corroborating information. It's one way they say they will lower that intelligence risk -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Barbara, thank you.
Those deadly terror attacks in Denmark and Paris, they're adding new urgency to a problem faced all around the world, including right here in the United States. Why do some young Muslims sent to prison for crimes come out as jihadists?
Brian Todd is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He's got some new insights into what's going on -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tonight we're getting some new information about the seemingly growing number of lone-wolf terrorists who've spent time in prison.
The gunman in Copenhagen had just been released when he launched his attacks. We dug into what goes on behind bars that radicalizes young criminals.
TODD (voice-over): He pledged allegiance to ISIS, then attacked a Copenhagen cafe and a synagogue just two weeks after leaving prison. But Danish intelligence tells CNN Denmark's prison service had warned last year gunman Omar Abdel Hamid al-Hussein was at risk of radicalization. His path to jihad was a key focus of the investigation.
A sociologist who met the gunman says the feeling of alienation in his own community may have led to his radicalization.
AYDIN SOEI (Ph), SOCIOLOGIST WHO MET DENMARK GUNMAN: They have a feeling society is against them, they are suppressed, that they're not being accepted, religion is part of that story. We're not being accepted, because we are Muslims.
TODD: But was El-Hussein radicalized in prison where he served time for a stabbing? Anne Speckhard says it's a good possibility. She was in Iraq at the U.S.-run Camp Bucca and wrote a program to de- radicalize militants. Camp Bucca, now best known for holding ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
ANNE SPECKHARD, WROTE DE-RADICALIZATION PROGRAM: People who are in prison are very vulnerable. They can be attacked by other prisoners. If they are already a Muslim or convert, they suddenly get into a group, if it's a radicalized group and that group attracts them. They offer them a meaning and an identity.
TODD: Cherif Kouachi, one of the brothers who killed a dozen people in the "Charlie Hebdo" attack in Paris, was also radicalized in prison under terrorist leader Djamel Beghal. Amedy Coulibaly, the Paris gunman who conspired with the Kouachi brothers, was in that same circle.
Experts say militant recruiters like Beghal prey on the condition of young criminals in prison.
MUBIN SHAIKH, FORMER JIHADISTS: Detainees, you know, people who are kept in cages, it radicalizes you. It makes you angry; it makes you mad. So these are perfect individuals to be recruited.
TODD: U.S. officials are now faced with a massive challenge: how to prevent prisoners from becoming radicalized. Experts say prison officials have to use surveillance and spies to figure out who the radical leaders are, then ask them and their followers some hard questions.
SPECKHARD: Is this going to end good for you? Is this going to work? Are you going to get to where you want to get? Because right now you're sitting in prison, so it doesn't look like it's working for you. And how could we direct you on a path that would be useful?
TODD: Now, could de-radicalization programs have turned the ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi around? That is not clear, and it's not exactly certain when he turned into a radical. Some believe his radicalization could have started at Camp Bucca. U.S. officials we spoke to say that facility was not a turning point for Baghdadi. They believe he was already on a path to radicalization when he was apprehended.
BLITZER: He might have been, but others presumably were not. Even a lot of these rehabilitation programs, they don't work for these guys, right?
TODD: That's right. A lot of experts we talked to say that many of these young radicals in prison, if they're put through these rehab programs, they go along with them. They make their captors think that they're being reformed, but it's all a ruse. Some of them go right back to jihad as soon as they're out. And they say they've got to have some better tracking programs to track them when they get out of these places.
BLITZER: All right, Brian Todd, thank you.
Let's get more insight now from our experts. Joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM, our CNN national security analyst, Peter Bergen; and our CNN law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes, a former assistant director of the FBI.
These individuals who are in prison and being radicalized, presumably, inside prison, they're released for whatever reason. They're released, they're free. Why is it not more done to monitor them after their release?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, the problem is, first of all, there's too many, Wolf. And second of all, you don't know if it's actual radicalization. Many
people go to prison and, while in prison, end up joining a gang. They end up joining outside street gangs while they're in, Latin American drug cartels, the mafia, when organized crime was stronger in the U.S., and join Islam. Now, some may be legitimate, and they find a new religion. And they're going to be, you know, devout when they get out, but some use that to later become radicalized. You don't know what they're thinking. And that's the biggest problem.
BLITZER: It's a huge problem. Peter, how powerful a recruiting tool is this prison radicalization for groups like ISIS?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think it depends which country you're in. I mean, in the states, actually it's a very limited problem. I've looked at something like 250 cases of jihadi terrorists since 9/11, and very few of them radicalized in the American prison. It was a concern in the years after 9/11, but it's one of those things that didn't happen.
But you know, in France, where 10 percent of the population is Muslim, yet 70 percent of the prison population is Muslim, I mean, those facts sort of speak for themselves. So I mean, the overwhelming number of prisoners in France are Muslims; and it's a disadvantaged group, and that's why you see the Kouachi brothers and others coming out of this system very, very angry.
BLITZER: Can more, Tom, be done in prisons, not only in the United States but in Europe, elsewhere, to prevent this kind of radicalization from even beginning?
FUENTES: Well, you can't, I think, because you would be keeping them from learning anything about another religion or associating with other prisoners, whether they're talking about joining Bloods and Crips or MS-13 from Latin America or whichever group it might be. But I think you'd have to keep them apart, not let them talk to anybody, not let them even have a chance to join a religion. And that includes Christianity or becoming a Jew or becoming a Muslim. And I don't think we can do that. And the next thing is how to keep them from going too far to become radicalized and become legitimate members of that faith.
BLITZER: That's a good point. All right. Stand by. I want everybody to stand by. We'll have much more. We're getting more reaction to the president's speech on terrorism. He just delivered it a little while ago. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: you have to address the grievances that terrorists exploit, including economic grievances. Poverty alone does not cause a person to become a terrorist. And more than poverty alone causes someone to become permanent.
What's true, though, is that when millions of people, especially youth, are impoverished and have no hope for the future, when corruption inflicts daily humiliations on people, when there are no outlets by which people can express their concerns, resentments fester. The risk of instability and extremism grows.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We're back with Tom Fuentes and Peter Bergen. Tom, what do you think of the point the president's trying to make there?
FUENTES: Well, I think if he's going to raise a point about what makes them angry, the terrorists, how about the fact that we're there? You know, we've heard this since bin Laden talked about it in 1991, when we assembled and led a coalition to kick Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. That started the whole argument "all of these infidels are on sacred soil" and we haven't left. We continue these wars. We continue -- continue it again with Iraq, invading in 2003. We're on their soil, shooting their people, allegedly, you know, bad people. But we're there. And they don't like it, and they're never going to like it.
BLITZER: But Peter, you know, the argument that these al Qaeda/ISIS guys make all the time is that the Americans, they're the crusaders, the infidels. They went into holy territory in Saudi Arabia, for example. They had military bases there, and that's why they have to lead this jihad against America.
BERGEN: Well, that is their argument, but, you know, they are silent on issues, for instance, when the United States helped hundreds of thousands of Indonesians during the terrible tsunami and the United States would play a critical role in the relief efforts.
They are silent when, you know, President Clinton belatedly, it's true, intervened in Bosnia to prevent the massacre of the Serbs. So the point is it's a very kind of one-sided part of the story.
And going to the issue of does poverty cause terrorism, you know, the president was careful not to say it but the fact is, you know, how does that explain Major Nidal Hasan, who is an army major from a middle class family in Virginia, and also a medical psychiatrist. I mean, he's an empowered individual, not a dispossessed individual.
So we are going to hear a lot of, I think, factually incorrect assertions over the next 24 or 48 hours about what really causes terrorism, and the data, you know, it's a very complicated problem but the idea of it, it's always about people who are somehow impoverished or who have been disadvantaged.
You know, Osama bin Laden, after all, was the son of a billionaire. It doesn't get any more advantaged than that. So this is something to do with an ideology more than to do with people's circumstances.
BLITZER: And, Tom, Mohammed Atta was well educated, one of the 9/11 hijackers. Ayman al-Zawahiri, a medical doctor.
FUENTES: A doctor.
BLITZER: So these aren't people who just came from the street, if you will.
FUENTES: No, that's true. They had some disagreement or hatred of the regime. Zawahiri in Egypt and bin Laden against us and Saudi Arabia and other countries and then fighting the war against the Soviets when they were in Afghanistan. So, you know, they always come up with a cause but it doesn't mean because they're poor or dispossessed, as Peter said, he's right.
BLITZER: What's the background of al-Baghdadi, the ISIS leader, Peter, as far as you know?
BERGEN: I mean, that is one of the great mysteries. I mean, we know very, very little about him. We do know that he claims to be a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed which is rather important because it helps underline his claim that he is, you know, the caliph of all Muslims, the leader of all Muslims. But, you know, his biography is, really we don't really know quite little about him.
BLITZER: All right. I want all of you to stand by. We're going to have a lot more on what's going on. We'll take a quick break.
When we come back, we're also getting a new behind-the-scenes look at the hunt for any trace of that Malaysian airliner that vanished nearly a year ago. Searchers, we are now told, they have not given up.
BLITZER: New developments tonight in one of the world's great mysteries, air mysteries, the disappearance of Malaysia Flight 370 almost exactly one year ago. The new crew has just joined the search, which has -- which has narrowed but still covers an area almost the size of West Virginia in conditions that could hardly be worst.
CNN's Anna Coren is working the story for us. She's in Perth, Australia for us right now.
Anna, what's the latest?
ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's hard to believe that it is almost a year since MH-370 disappeared. With 239 people on board, no debris, no clue, as to what happened to this plane.
The search continues. It's happening 24/7. And where we are here in Freemantle, Perth, is where the ships come in to switch crews and resupply before heading back out to the search area, which is about 1,000 nautical miles from where we are standing. Now the crews say that if the plane is in this search area, that they are scouring, they will find it.
COREN (voice-over): Among the massive container ships and live export vessels at Perth's Freemantle Harbor is a boat that's just arrived at port.
This is Discovery, a former Norwegian coast guard vessel, that's taking part in one of the most challenging searches in history.
CHRIS MORRIS, FUGRO DISCOVERY SURVEY CHIEF: If there is a plane down there, you know, we will see it. It will show up in our records. But it takes time.
COREN: Chris Morris and his survey team have just spent the past 42 days looking for MH-370 in the remote southern Indian Ocean, 1,000 nautical miles offshore.
JAMES KENT, DATA SUPERVISOR: See Australia here. We've got the whole survey area with we started with the Seventh Arc. We're looking at this southern section down here.
COREN: The Boeing 777 with 239 people on board disappeared almost a year ago. And according to satellite data, experts believe it's somewhere here on the ocean floor.
After an initial search zone roughly half the size of the United States, it's been narrowed down to a priority area of over 23,000 square miles. But the conditions are horrendous. Trenches, volcanoes and underwater mountains are part of the terrain. And for this sonar equipment that's towed six miles behind the ship and two and half miles below, it's a logistical nightmare.
As for the conditions above the surface, search crews recently weathered three cyclones and waves of up to 52 feet high.
(On camera): If MH-370 is in this Southern Indian Ocean, then the Discovery is one of four ships that is going to help find it. They've already covered one-third of the priority search area and are on schedule to complete the zone by May. But what they are looking for, the debris field on the ocean floor, is quite literally a spec on a map.
KENT: We're looking for small features similar to something like this pixel.
COREN (voice-over): It's a slow and meticulous process. The vessels travel up and down strips of the search area referred to as mowing the lawn.
MORRIS: We can't leave a gap. You know, if we were to go along and there was, say, 100 meters missing here, then the plane could be in that 100 meters. So we've got to -- we've got to be 100 percent certain that we are covering the area.
COREN: Discovery's new crew has just arrived and spirits are high. They're used to working in the North Sea where conditions are not nearly as harsh.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've asked specifically to come on this job because it's a very exciting opportunity to do something that will potentially help a lot of people.
COREN: Most of all, the suffering families whose loved ones were on board. (END VIDEOTAPE)
COREN: Now, Wolf, the families are fearful that once this search is completed of this priority zone that if nothing is found then the operation will be called off. They are quite literally terrified. They know that this search can't go on forever. But they believe that Malaysia Airlines has a moral obligation to bring their loved ones back home -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Anna Coren, reporting for us from Australia. Thank you very much.
Coming up, is ISIS now harvesting human organs for cash? We're digging into some disturbing new reports of new terrorist brutality.
Plus details of the U.S. Justice Department's plans to sue the Ferguson, Missouri, Police Department. We're learning new information tonight from our sources.