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Terror Group Calls for Attacks on Malls; New Defense Chief Holds Urgent Summit on ISIS; Spy Chief Says Snowden Leaks Helped Terrorists; Interview with Rep. Peter King

Aired February 23, 2015 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, terror at the mall -- a heightened alert after an al Qaeda ally calls for an attack in the heart of America. Homeland security calls for vigilance.

How safe are you?

Growing threat -- a brutal new ISIS video shows prisoners being paraded in cages, as America's new defense chief convenes an urgent summit to review anti-terror strategy.

And ice emergency -- it's affecting millions across the South, knocking out power, making roads treacherous and grounding hundreds of flights.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Breaking now, a chilling new threat from a brutal al Qaeda ally aimed at America's heartland. A group responsible for the slaughter at a shopping center in Kenya is now calling for attacks on shopping malls in the West, including Minnesota's huge Mall of America. That comes as a top U.S. spy chief says there are now blind spots in tracking terrorists and the new Defense secretary gathers top commanders for an urgent huddle on combating ISIS.

As the parents ever slain hostage, Kayla Mueller, slam U.S. policy, I'll talk to Congressman Peter King from the Homeland Security and Intelligence Committees.

He's standing by live, along with CNN correspondents and analysts.

Let's get the very latest now from Brian Todd.

He's at the Mall of America in Minnesota -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this latest video from Al- Shabab has prompted officials here to really ramp up security. But it is a huge challenge. This mall, the Mall of America, has more than 80 acres for officials here to patrol, to monitor. More than a dozen entrances here at the Mall of America. Tonight, we have new details on the threat and on the heightened security here, both seen and unseen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): The masked Al-Shabab terrorist calls on men with firm determination to strike. His inspiration, this horrific 2013 attack on Kenya's Westgate Mall, where his group killed more than 60 people.

Now he calls on Shabab sympathizers to, quote, "hurry up," saying, "what if such an attack were to occur in the Mall of America in Minnesota or the West Edmonton Mall in Canada or in London's Oxford Street?

It prompted the Homeland Security secretary to say this.

JEH JOHNSON, DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: If anyone is planning to go to the Mall of America today, they've got to be particularly careful.

TODD: Jeh Johnson has since walked that back.

Johnson and law enforcement officials now say there's no specific credible threat to the Mall of America. But this is a massive so- called soft target, with more than a dozen entrances. Inside, shoppers have different perspectives on the Shabab video.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I'm scared because I have kids. You know, I have two little ones and I'm frightened. So coming in today, I was kind of like, I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm just like if it happens, it happens.

TODD: But security inside the Mall of America has been stepped up since the Al-Shabab video came out. We got a behind-the-scenes look at security operations.

MICHAEL ROZIN, SECURITY CONSULTANT, MALL OF AMERICA: We have protocols in place that as things happen, we can ramp up and we've implemented some of those strategies.

TODD: There are measures unique to this facility, according to Michael Rosa, a security consultant to the Mall of America.

ROZIN: They have dedicated -- dedicated explosive detection dog teams that are on active patrol in the Mall of America. They have uniformed and plainclothes officers. They have officers trained specifically in behavior detection techniques.

TODD: And Rozin says this Mall has its own intelligence branch.

The Shabab video is menacing because it's thought about two dozen Somalis from the Minneapolis area have been recruited to fight with al-Shabab. Some are now being recruited by ISIS.

We asked a Somali leader in Minneapolis how they'll stop potential lone wolf attackers within their community. (on camera): Can you prevent even just one of these kids from

maybe recruiting one other person, two other people, to go into that mall with guns and think that they're going to become some kind of a hero, some kind of a martyr?

ABDIRIZAK BIHI, SOMALI COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: We believe -- we think it won't happen because thanks God, we have the best men and women in the law enforcement that engage our community. And our communities are working with law enforcement.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

TODD: Abdirizak Bihi says one very important development in recent years is that more Somali-Americans in this community have joined local police departments. They are moving around in the community. They are talking to young people who could be targets for terrorist recruitment, trying to fend that off.

But, Wolf, tonight the lone wolf threat is as heightened as ever. It's got officials here very, very concerned.

BLITZER: What are some of the drills, Brian, that they're doing as part of this ramped up security?

TODD: Well, today, Wolf, they did a lockdown drill at about 10:00 a.m. Eastern Central Time, 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time, just doing -- you know, locking down some businesses, moving around, doing some drills with law enforcement. That took some customers by surprise. They're apparently going to do another one later on tonight. They do active shooter drills here all the time. They're ramping up some of those activities. They are really kind of fine tuning their skills here just in case.

BLITZER: All right. Brian Todd in Minnesota for us.

Thank you.

America's new defense chief has hit the ground running from war zone to war zone. After a visit to Afghanistan, he's in the Middle East today, where he convened an urgent summit of key commanders and diplomats to review the strategy against ISIS.

Our Pentagon correspondent.

Barbara Starr, is tracking the story for us -- Barbara, what's the latest?

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Ash Carter wanted to find out what his commanders were thinking, so an urgent meeting.

But were there any urgent solutions?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): Just seven days on the job, Defense Secretary Ash Carter summoned his top commanders to talk ISIS war strategy. General Lloyd Austin, head of Central Command, who is running the war, joined by the head of Special Operations, top commanders from Europe and Africa, ambassadors and intelligence officials. The ground rules j no decisions, just a discussion. What the world saw is what the Pentagon wanted -- an image of a new Defense secretary fully in command.

ASHTON CARTER, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Lasting defeat of this brutal group can and will be accomplished. But I learned some things that will need to guide our effort to do so.

STARR: But do the generals and the new secretary have any new ideas to offer?

Can Carter make a difference?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, U.S. ARMY (RET.): He can put a little bit of energy. He can light a fire. He's pulling the leaders together in the field saying how do we do this better?

STARR: But what Carter says he learned isn't really new.

CARTER: Achieving a lasting defeat of ISIL would require a combined diplomatic and military effort.

STARR: Carter repeating calls that the U.S. has to deal with ISIS on social media.

CARTER: That the discussion indicated clearly to me that this group is hardly invincible.

STARR: Carter's biggest test -- will he recommend U.S. ground troops help Iraqis fight for Mosul?

CARTER: We need to be convinced that any use of our forces is necessary.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

STARR: So a bit more of the same of what everybody's been talking about for the last several months.

Now, Carter on his way back to Washington, expected to meet with President Obama, perhaps as soon as tomorrow. And we will see when and if this secretary of Defense has some new ideas to offer -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He convened this meeting of all of his commanders, the top diplomats in Kuwait. I take it the U.S. still has a lot of troops in Kuwait, still has significant military assets there, is that right?

STARR: Well, that's right, Wolf.

The Army keeps a brigade there at all times. That's a couple of thousand troops just on standby. But Kuwait has really emerged as the headquarters for much of the anti-ISIS operations going on in the region. They have the facilities there. They have the land there. They have the security. They're out of the sort of crosshairs of ISIS if they're back across the border in Kuwait. So this was truly the most convenient place for them to go -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. They could have gone to Qatar, too. I know the Emir of Qatar is going to be meeting with President Obama at the White House tomorrow. The U.S. still has 8,000 or 9,000 troops in various bases in Qatar, as well.

But you're right about Kuwait. There are still a lot of American troops in Kuwait.

Thanks very much for that.

Barbara.

ISIS, meanwhile, has put out new videos taunting its foes by displaying brutal images of caged prisoners and showing off what it says is a training camp for children, even as ISIS grows bolder. We're learning that U.S. intelligence has run into some serious difficulties in keeping tabs on terrorists.

Let's bring in our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.

He's got more on what's going on -- Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a fairly alarming acknowledgment from the head of the NSA, the National Security Agency, saying that as terrorists such as ISIS changed their communications in the age post-Snowden, that that's making it more difficult for counterterror agencies of the U.S. to track their movements, and, as a result, prevent new terror plots, which is, of course, a great concern for U.S. counterterror agencies, acknowledging, in effect, new blind spots in this fight against terror.

Here's what Admiral Mike Rogers had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADM. MIKE ROGERS, COMMANDER, U.S. CYBER COMMAND: I would say that it has had a material impact on our ability to generate insights as to what counterterrorism and what terrorist groups around the world are doing.

SCIUTTO: Do you have new blind spots that you didn't have prior to the revelation?

ROGERS: Have I lost capability that we had prior to the revelations?

SCIUTTO: Yes.

ROGERS: Yes.

SCIUTTO: How much does that concern you?

ROGERS: It concerns me a lot.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

SCIUTTO: Lost capability -- really an alarming assessment from him.

Now, when you ask him, when you ask him what do you do about that lost capability, of course, he hints that they make efforts to close those holes. I mean this is an agency that's constantly changing as the threat has changed. And you have to imagine that they're exploring new capabilities.

But this is an agency. This is a man who doesn't mince words, doesn't use words lightly. And it's a concerning effect of the revelations from Edward Snowden.

BLITZER: What else is a top concern right now for U.S. intelligence?

SCIUTTO: Cyber. Cyber attacks, no question. He's the head of the NSA. He's also the head of the U.S. military cyber command. He says that his concern is about an entity, a state or a non-state actor that can carry out an attack on the U.S. on critical infrastructure. I asked him which states are capable of doing that today. He identified specifically China and Russia, but not limited to China and Russia. Of course, another concern in that category, a place like North Korea.

And it's also interesting, as well, because he said he acknowledged that the U.S. ability to deter those attacks remains, in his words, today, immature. A long way to go to prevent those attacks, deter those attacks and also prevent the cycle of attack and counterattack. So that's another major concern of U.S. (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: Yes, it doesn't sound very encouraging if he thinks it's immature.

SCIUTTO: It's a big deal.

BLITZER: Yes, I'm sure it is.

All right, thanks very much, Jim Sciutto.

Let's get some more now from a key member of the House Homeland Security and Intelligence Committees.

Republican Congressman Peter King of New York is joining us.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

Have you been briefed on this al-Shabab terror threat against malls in the United States?

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Well, I have not been officially briefed. I will be tomorrow. I'll be back in Washington and I will be getting a briefing early tomorrow afternoon.

BLITZER: Well, when the Homeland Security secretary, a man you know, Jeh Johnson, who's a very smart guy, a lot of experience. He used to work at the Pentagon, as you know.

KING: Yes.

BLITZER: When he says Americans need to be, in his words, "particularly careful in malls," what does that say to you?

KING: Well, again, from what I know of these threats generally, I would say, first of all, Al-Shabab probably does not have the capability of carrying out an attack here by itself.

However, they have cooperated over the years with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which does have the capacity.

And I would just say that we should take it seriously.

But on the other hand, I would say Americans should continue to do what they've done before. If they were going to malls before, continue to do so. Just be more alert. If you see something, say something.

I would say the one area that has the most concern would be in Minnesota, because, first of all, Mall of America was there.

But secondly, that's where the largest Somali-American population is. And they've had well over 20 young men go from Minneapolis to Somalia to be trained, some for ISIS, even -- I mean actually two or three for ISIS, but more than 20 for al-Shabab. And a number have been killed. In fact, the gentleman I saw on your show there before, Mr. Bihi, he was actually a main witness of mine when I held the hearings on Islamic radicalization. And for a while, there was almost an assembly line of young men going from Minneapolis to Somalia, including his nephew.

But people like him have actually tried to turn the community to make sure they cooperate more with the police and with law enforcement. But if there's any area that I think could be vulnerable, it would be the Mall of America because, again, if you just have two or three from that community -- and there's been over 20 in the past -- then, you know, there is a threat.

BLITZER: We know that in this latest Al-Shabab video, they also made a specific threat against the Westfield Corporation malls in the U.S., in Europe, elsewhere, in Australia. And we know, we did some checking. There are two Westfield malls in your district out in Long Island.

KING: Right.

BLITZER: So what do you do about this?

What are you telling your constituents?

Do you think they should start avoiding those Westfield malls or should Westfield malls start beefing up security there?

KING: No, I don't, in fact. One is actually very close to my district office. No,

Wolf, they should continue to do what they've been doing. If they're going to go to the mall, go. I can tell you, the Nassau County Police, the Suffolk County police work with the NYPD, with the state police, the FBI, the Joint Terrorism Task Force. They are doing all that can be done.

And the reality is, Wolf, that, you know, the real security -- yes, we have to have more security at the mall, but it's going to be intelligence that stops this. We have to have intelligence, whether it's surveillance on the ground, whether it's the NSA, doing whatever we can to get the intelligence to stop it.

But malls, we've known for a long time that they are prime targets. They -- you know, they're harder to secure. But I know, for instance, police departments have done drills. They've gone through this before. They have -- you know, they are doing surveillance.

So I would -- again, we can't be giving into these type of threats. Now, if there's something more specific that comes, then maybe, you know, we'll have to adapt. But right now, I would say -- I would urge my constituents to continue doing what they've done before. If you're going to go to the mall tomorrow, go to the mall tomorrow. But I would urge them if they see something, say something. And be fully cooperative with the police and security. If they're asked to do something, do it.

BLITZER: Would you recommend doing what they do at big malls in Israel outside of Tel Aviv, for example, or parts of Europe -- have metal detectors, have police at the entrances going through handbags, checking to see if there's any metal coming in?

Is that necessary in the United States?

KING: Wolf, it's not now. Again, if we pick up intelligence saying that there are operatives in this country who are planning these attacks, that we may have to make, again, adapt in certain locations, certain cities. But I would say no. We can't just, based on one video, change what we've been doing. We've known since September 11, 2001 that malls were a prime target, department stores, anyplace you have Americans congregating in a relaxed setting, sporting events. We can go -- movie houses. Playhouses. All of those are targets.

Now what stops it is intelligence, having obviously surveillance but also getting that intelligence to see if there's anything unusual happening, whether or not anyone might be coming here, whether or not there has been any unusual purchases in the area, whether or not people who are suspect have been acting in a different way. That's why it's so important to have sources in the communities. That's why it's important to the police on the ground to have, again, sources of information so they would be tipped off if something like this.

BLITZER: Congressman, we have a lot more to discuss, including the latest ISIS videos. What's going on in Syria and Iraq.

Stand by. Much more with Congressman Peter King right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: ISIS has released shocking new images of prisoners kept in cages and a terror training camp for children. This comes as the top U.S. spy chief warns there are blind spots in tracking terrorists. We're back with Republican Congressman Peter King of New York. He's a key member of the House Homeland Security and Intelligence committees.

What's ISIS's objective in releasing this kind of video, Congressman?

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Wolf, I think this is part of their overall attempt to again, instill fear. I think it's also to try to scare off the Kurds, which I think is a mistake. I think the Kurds will react extremely violently if anything happens to any of those men in the cages.

I think it's to convince people in the region that they're going to win, that they're in charge, that they have the upper hands, and they can't be stopped, and to get more people to line up on their side, those who want to be with the winner and are afraid of what's going to happen if they don't end up supporting ISIS.

BLITZER: And this video of them really featuring a sniper, featuring children. Is it simply -- do they think this really generates support, brings in new recruits?

KING: Well, so far, they've been successful. We keep saying that when they show people being burned to death or being beheaded, it's going to turn off people in the region, but it must be working for them.

Again, the type of person that they're trying to recruit, the type of person they're trying to attract, they must feel there was enough of them out there. And I guess it's working for them, because everything you read is how their numbers are increasing and people are rallying to them, which is a very, very troubling sign.

You know, even under Hitler, the Nazis didn't disclose what they were doing to the Jews in the concentration camps. They tried to keep it a secret. And even after the war they were trying to destroy, near the end of the war, destroy records of what they have done.

In this case, you have ISIS actually bragging about it, showing the world how horrible and brutal and inhumane they are. So this is a whole different breed of enemy, a whole different type, and apparently, it must be working for them, at least from their weird, warped perspective.

BLITZER: We just heard the head of the National Security Agency tell our own Jim Sciutto that there are, in his words, blind spots in the U.S. ability to track these terrorists. What are the biggest vulnerabilities out there? What concerns you the most?

KING: Well, I can't go into it, but I know from being on the intelligence committee, there are blind spots. It is because of Snowden. And for those Americans, including some in the Congress who thought Snowden was some kind of hero, this is one of the inevitable byproducts, inevitable results of what he did.

The enemy has tracked what he made public, and they have been able now to change their method of communication. So I say he was a traitor to the country, and he's going to cost lives. And the fact that there are blind spots, and not just with ISIS but with other terrorist organizations who have adapted based on what they learned from Snowden, and it does put more people at risk.

BLITZER: That American humanitarian aid worker who was killed in Syria, Kayla Mueller, her family says the swap for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for five Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, at the prison there, actually made the situation worse for their daughter. You think those comments are fair?

KING: No. I mean, I was obviously opposed to the deal for Sergeant Bergdahl, but again, I -- I don't know enough of the details. And listen, I understand why the family would say that. I can't imagine what it must be like to be in that situation. But I don't want to be second-guessing the president as far as this.

Again, I was opposed to the deal, but -- that whole arrangement, but as far as this effect coming from it, I'm not going to make that connection. Whatever policy difference I would have with the president is a matter of policy. I don't think, based on what I know, that he would have anticipated this happening to that poor woman.

BLITZER: I'll ask you a question that have been asked other Republicans who are thinking of running for the Republican presidential nomination. And I know you're thinking of running yourself. You visited New Hampshire a few times already.

What did you think of the former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani's suggestion, his blunt statement that the president of the United States does not love America?

KING: Rudy Giuliani is a friend of mine. I would not have said it the way he said it. But when Rudy and I discussed this with Rudy, I was actually with him earlier that evening, he made the statement. He is so frustrated and angered at what he sees as a policy, which is hurting the U.S. and the president's lack of intensity when he describes it.

The point he was trying to make, I believe, is that the president seems reluctant to show the type of emotion that other presidents have shown and that type of actual dedication. And I believe the president does want to get the job done.

But again, he does show to me a lack of intensity. He almost discusses these things in an academic way, and I find that -- it's certainly disturbing. Because I would not have said what Rudy said, but again, where he was coming from, I know what he was trying to say, because he's very, very concerned that the president's lack of really emotion, failure to show emotion and somehow this desire the president has to show a certain equivalency, Rudy saw 9/11. He finds this very disturbing, and I would not have used that terminology, but I understand where Rudy was coming from. And he's again, as far as I'm concerned, an outstanding American.

BLITZER: Well, give me a yes or no. Do you believe the president loves America?

KING: I think he does, but he has a different level of intensity than I would or Rudy would or others. But does he love the country? Sure. He's the president of the United States.

BLITZER: And so it was a blunder on his part, Giuliani, to make an assertion like that? You believe that?

KING: No, I wouldn't say it's a blunder. I'd say Rudy expressed it the way that I wouldn't have said it. But on the other hand, I know what Rudy was trying to say. And I have too much respect for Rudy to say that it was a blunder. I just say I would have said it differently.

BLITZER: Should he apologize to the president?

KING: No. I think Rudy has explained what he meant. I think that's enough.

And again, when I think of all the things that were said about George Bush and how Bush lied and people died and somehow President Bush didn't care, or even President Obama himself or Senator Obama then back in 2008, when he said that President Bush was unpatriotic.

No, listen, again, Rudy has said it. He's explained what he meant. I thought today's op-ed in the "Wall Street Journal" laid it out pretty well. And I hope maybe we can use this as a kickoff to a debate about what has to be done and why the president should show more intensity and emotion.

BLITZER: We'll have more on this story coming up later. Congressman, as usual, thanks very much for joining us.

KING: Wolf, thank you.

BLITZER: We will ask our security experts if it's time to put up metal detectors at entrances to shopping malls in the United States.

Also, an update on the massive ice storm hitting Texas and the Deep South and turning highways and air travel into a slippery mess.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Back to our top story, a new threat aimed at westerners, including the American heartland from al Qaeda's ally in Africa, the al-Shabaab group behind the bloody 2013 siege on a shopping mall in Kenya is now calling for attacks on malls here in the United States as well as in Canada and Britain.

In this country, the group singled out the giant Mall of America in Minnesota.

Let's go in depth with our national security analyst, Fran Townsend. She was homeland security advisor to President Bush. And our law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, a former FBI assistant director.

Fran, does al-Shabaab have the ability to actually carry out a coordinated attack on a mall or malls here in the United States?

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: You know, Wolf, I think when we talk about do they have the capability, we ought to define what we mean.

So if the question is do they have the ability to launch an attack like the Westfield [SIC] Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, that we saw them execute, I think the answer to that is no. Our intelligence, our law enforcement, our warning system is just better now in the United States than it ever has been, and while nothing is perfect, we have the sort of intelligence capability that that large scale an attack with that large a group to execute it would likely be, I think, detected, both by state, local and federal law enforcement intelligence agencies.

On the other hand, we also know what a couple of guys with guns can do in terms of chaos and terror and murder, that they can visit upon a mall. A mall is an open environment, very difficult to control. And so in that instance, could they carry off a smaller, sort of lone-wolf type or smaller scale cell attack? Probably. Not just in the Mall of America but at any sort of open event here in the United States.

But that's, again, why you have training, you have prevention, you've got resiliency, and you've got intelligence information that's shared between federal authorities and state and locals.

BLITZER: That mall, by the way, in Kenya was Westgate Mall. No connection to Westfield, although this latest video, they are going -- they are saying they're going to go after Westfield Malls in the U.S., the U.K., elsewhere, as well. So there's a little confusion on that.

But that's the concern, though. By singling out, Tom, that they want to go after this Mall of America outside Minneapolis-St. Paul, the suggestion is they're trying to inspire, let's say, Somali- Americans or others there to go ahead and do some sort of horrible terror attack.

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, something like that can always happen, and don't forget, we have enough psychopaths in this country that don't need any help. We've got the Aurora, Colorado shooting, Sandy Hook Elementary. We've had attack after attack conducted by this -- you know, our garden variety people in this country, not even connected to terrorism. The fact that they might inspire somebody, as Fran mentioned,

that is really, in my mind, the only real worry that they have, that that could happen.

BLITZER: Fran, this latest video that al-Shabaab put out, some are suggesting was more a public relations move. They seem to be in some sort of crazy competition with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or ISIS. They want to dominate the terror dialogue. They want to get some attraction out there. What do you make of that?

TOWNSEND: Wolf, I have to say, you have heard me say this before. ISIS has got probably the slickest propaganda machine we've seen ever from a terrorist group.

These Hollywood productions, multiple camera angles and edits, you know, professional-style graphics, it is intended to appeal not just to people in the region, but to people around the world. Right? You can send these videos around the world as a recruiting tool, and you don't ever have to cross a border. You don't ever have to pick up a phone where an intelligence service might be able to intercept you and identify you for targeting.

And so we have to view these for what they are. These are propaganda meant to recruit and inspire people well outside the battlefield to either come to the battlefield or act in the countries where they reside.

BLITZER: Should we expect to see, Tom, metal detectors, or at least security personnel at entrances to malls in the United States, as we see at Verizon Center, you go to a sporting event, or Madison Square Garden, you go to a sporting event? Are we going to see that kind of enhanced security at entrances to malls in the United States?

FUENTES: I don't think it's anywhere near as practical for a mall as it might be in a more confined area like a stadium or a sporting event. And also, you know, if you're going to do the malls, you know, we see our reporters out in front of this mall in Minnesota. The wind chill's ten below zero. Are we going to have citizens with their little children lined up out into the parking lot in the middle of winter, waiting to go through the security to get into the mall? That's one aspect.

Secondly, these malls, you know, when you have an event that's a limited number of hours at Verizon Center, but these malls, the employees start showing up at 8 a.m. in the morning, and then the malls open until 10, 11 at night, and the employees are still there until midnight. So you would have to have that kind of security practically 24 hours in all.

What about the trucks that bring in all of the supply of goods that get sold in malls, the food for the food courts? It would just be an unbelievable task. And if one mall could do it, how could we do it across the country?

BLITZER: We're going to have much more on this part of the story coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Guys, stand by. Still ahead, temperatures plunging across the south just as a

massive new storm hits. At the top of the hour, we'll get back to our top story. The nation's top intelligence agencies admit there are now new blind spots preventing them from tracking potential terrorists here in the United States.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We'll have much more later this hour and next on the new terrorist calls for attacks on shopping malls in the United States and Canada, but we're also watching a very dangerous ice storm hitting 33 million people in Texas and across the Deep South.

Take a look at these live pictures from Oklahoma City, where traffic has stalled on icy roads. Near Dallas, one driver had some fun sliding across an empty parking lot, but roads, highways and airport runways, they are very, very slippery. Look at that guy slipping and sliding.

Let's go to CNN's Martin Savidge. He's joining us just southwest of Dallas with more. What's it like there, Martin?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is the second time in a week the south is dealing with weather. They're certainly not accustomed to it. In Dallas it wasn't feet of snow they woke up to. It was about a quarter of an inch of ice. But that is incredibly treacherous, and it made the morning commute downright dangerous for many people.

In Amarillo, Texas, there was a large pileup of vehicles this morning, and that's just one example of what it was like trying to get around.

On top of that, if you were flying into, say, Dallas-Ft. Worth or into Love Field, there were hundreds of flights that were canceled in and out of there today. The roads, of course, were very hard to pass on.

And then there was just the job. Many people decided it wasn't worth the risk. There were a lot of businesses closed. Government offices in many cases were shut down, as were most of the schools in the affected area.

Here's the problem. It warmed up OK today, got very close to freezing, somewhat of a thaw. Now it's getting bone-chilling cold again tonight. That means tomorrow morning, look out. It is going to be another tricky commute.

And by the way, it even canceled court here in Stephenville, Texas, which is the site of the "American Sniper" trial. It will resume, hopefully, weather permitting, tomorrow morning -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Martin Savidge, thank you very much.

Let's get the latest forecast now from our meteorologist, Jennifer Gray. She's at the CNN severe weather center. Jennifer, what is the forecast?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, the good news is most of that ice has pushed out of the Dallas area, but like Martin said, be careful. All of that slush that's on the roadways will freeze overnight, and so it is going to make a dangerous commute again tomorrow.

Now all of that sleet and freezing rain is pushing along the I-20 corridor in north Louisiana from Shreveport, Monroe, and right around Jackson, Mississippi, that's where we're seeing a mix. We're seeing that freezing rain on the south side of Jackson, seeing just straight rain. And so it is dangerous all along I-20. Still getting snow anywhere from Oklahoma City to Little Rock, Memphis even getting a little bit of that, as well.

We also have those winter storm warnings in effect, even for Colorado, Utah. Ski resorts very happy about the snow. Of course, to the south, not the case. Dallas dropped their winter weather advisory, then reissued a winter storm watch. And this is for tomorrow night into Wednesday. We have another winter storm right on its heels. They could see one to three inches in the Metroplex.

In the meantime, the storm that we're talking about now could bring freezing rain to places like Charleston, South Carolina. So as we move forward in time, we could get a little bit of a mix for northern Alabama and Mississippi as well as Georgia. We could see some snow north of Atlanta, could get a little bit of a mix right around the I-20 corridor as we go through tonight into tomorrow. It is going to push offshore very quickly.

We're also going to be talking about very cold temperatures, Wolf. We could see temperatures 30 and 40 degrees below average for Texas, north Louisiana into Arkansas, Oklahoma as well. Twenty to 30 degrees below average for portions of the Midwest and that does include the northeast.

We are going to see wind chill values very, very cold tomorrow. We could see temperatures feeling like five to 15 degrees below normal. That does include Boston. Your morning temperature will feel like 15 below tomorrow. New York City will feel like five below, Wolf. So this bitter cold is not going anywhere any time soon.

BLITZER: Yes. Too bad.

All right, Jennifer, thanks very much.

Coming up, soft targets. Security officials from coast to coast, they're looking for potential problems after the latest terror threat to shopping malls.

Plus, today's startling admission that the nation's top intelligence agencies have, quote, "blind spots" preventing them from identifying and stopping potential jihadists before they strike.

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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm in the fourth quarter of my presidency, or as some of you might call it the kickoff for your campaign season.

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BLITZER: President Obama welcomed the nation's governors to the White House today with a little jab at the Republicans in the audience who want to move in after the 2016 election. Some of them, like the Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, have a problem that apparently won't go away so quickly -- the former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's attempts at damage control after saying the president of the United States doesn't love America.

Dana Bash is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. She's got the latest on this story which doesn't seem to be going away.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It doesn't. You know, the way that potential Republican presidential candidates reacted to this really turned into a test of what kind of campaign they intend to run. And for most of it, it was not a welcome test.

Now that Giuliani is trying to clarify his comments, it's opening up the debate all over again.

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BASH (voice-over): "My bluntness overshadowed my message." The title of Rudy Giuliani's new 760-word "Wall Street Journal" piece. But none of those words were, I'm sorry. Giuliani did try to put out the fire he ignited by questioning the president's love for America, saying he was really questioning Obama's willingness to talk about American greatness.

"I hope the intention behind those words can be the basis for a real conversation about national leadership," he wrote.

Giuliani means President Obama's leadership, but his comments actually shined the light on the leadership of Republicans who want to be the next president, exposing an early divide in the GOP field. Those looking beyond the Republican base --

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I believe the president loves America. I just think his ideas are bad.

BASH: And those whose silence appeals to the base.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: I'm not going to comment on what the president thinks or not. He can speak for himself.

BASH: For Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker who catapulted in the polls after a strong speech last month to Iowa conservatives, that non-answer is now part of a pattern. Over the weekend, he said, I don't know to a question from "The Washington Post" about whether Obama is a Christian. "I've never asked him that," he added. "You've asked me to make statements about people that I haven't had a conversation with about that."

But Obama's religion has been part of the national political conversation for years, with some opponents questioning his Christianity despite his own talk about his Christian faith.

OBAMA: And certainly strengthened me with the power through his spirit as I've sought his guidance, not just in my own life but in the life of our nation.

BASH: The fact that Walker left any lingering doubt about something as politically sensitive as Obama's Christianity left Walker open to criticism he's pandering to a powerful group of presidential primary voters.

Walker tweeted he's just trying to avoid, quote, "the media's gotcha game."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: And I've learned from a Walker source that the governor intends to hit that theme again in a speech tonight in Nashville. I'm told he plans to say he refuses to engage in what he calls manufactured crises of the media.

And, Wolf, he is saying that he doesn't want to answer questions about manufactured crises of the day. We're not going to play that game. That and more tonight.

BLITZER: We're going to have more on this story coming up in our next hour.

Dana, thanks very much.

Coming up, also an ISIS released video, a brazen new video. A U.S. spy chief says there are blind spots in tracking terrorists. And an al Qaeda ally calls for an attack in the heart of America.

Plus, the new CNN Original Series "Finding Jesus" blends science and archaeology to offer fascinating insights into ancient artifacts that could be linked to Jesus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An unprecedented CNN event. He didn't vanish. Without leaving a trace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the first time in history, we're able to place these relics.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And grasp something that changed the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is really the moment of truth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the story of Jesus. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The rock upon which the church is built.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An icon of scientific obsession.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is extraordinary to find an archeological piece.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do we really have here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did Judas betray Jesus?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If somebody chose to write this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The science does matter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this the shroud of Jesus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are the clues he left behind?

Faith, fact, forgery. FINDING JESUS, premieres Sunday night at 9:00 on CNN.

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BLITZER: Happening now, malls targeted. A terrorist group that's massacred shoppers now calling for new attacks, including right here in the United States.

Are you at risk at your local mall?