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Prison Escape Warning?; Donald Trump Under Fire; Holiday Terror Fears; D.C. Police Chief on Steps to Protect July 4th; Matt Told Daughter: "See You on the Outside". Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired July 3, 2015 - 16:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN GUEST HOST: Police clamp down this holiday weekend.

I'm Jim Sciutto. And this is THE LEAD.

The national lead. With so much concern over terror threats, every embassy abroad and police departments here at home are taking extra security measures. We will ask D.C.'s top cop what she's doing to protect the tens of thousands of tourists in the nation's capital right now.

Also in nation, shortly before his escape, Richard Matt, one of the escaped prisoners, reportedly wrote to his daughter saying -- quote -- "See you on the outside." So, why did authorities have no clue that the prison break was coming?

Plus, the politics lead. One Republican candidate is telling his rivals to stand up to Trump. But if there's one politician who won't be kept in the shadows, it is the Donald.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto, in today for Jake Tapper.

And we begin with our national lead, an alphabet soup of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies on alert today, concerned about terrorists hell-bent on making their own violent statement this Fourth of July weekend.

Every tactical resource will be deployed from coast to coast, across small towns and large cities, to protect millions of Americans celebrating the nation's independence at parades, parks and fireworks show.

It's a difficult balance. Officials nationwide are encouraging folks not only to enjoy the holiday fare, but also to follow this simple rule, but crucial rule. If you see something, say something.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): Cities today ramped up security ahead of Fourth of July fireworks, the New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, announcing new plans to enhance monitoring of celebrations across New York State. This is the new normal across the country, increased security at July 4 events from Los Angeles to Washington to Philadelphia, as communities big and small respond to an FBI bulletin warning of potential lone wolf attacks timed to the holiday weekend.

SETH JONES, SENIOR POLITICAL SCIENTIST, RAND CORPORATION: We know, A, that there are a lot of travelers. B, transportation has been and is a target of some of these groups, and, C, that we're seeing an increasing number of attacks, especially at large crowd gatherings.

SCIUTTO: The state of alert extends to Americans overseas, the State Department ordering all diplomatic posts worldwide to review security. Behind the threat, a call to arms from ISIS to supporters around the globe to attack wherever and however they can, this during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan through the middle of July.

The terror group's lists of American recruits and sympathizers growing by the week, with nearly 50 charged since the start of the year.

JONES: All they're trying to do now is to inspire one or two or a small number of individuals to conduct attacks, and their propaganda begs people to do this in the West, in the U.S., in Europe, in North Africa. And people are now listening.

SCIUTTO: The U.S. is not alone in facing the threat of ISIS-inspired attacks. The U.K. carried out an eerily realistic counterterrorism drill with more than 1,000 emergency personnel early this week, this as the bodies of 30 British citizens gunned down by an ISIS supporter in Tunisia last week arrived home by military escort.


SCIUTTO: Here to talk about this ongoing terror threat are CNN terror analyst Paul Cruickshank, and Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

Paul, if I could begin with you, this is really for the help of our viewers at home. They hear terror threats all the time. Let's be honest. This one is different, I know from talking to counterterrorism officials. Why is it different? And just briefly characterize the real threat of an attack this weekend.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, Jim, terrorist groups have had a longstanding ambition to hit the United States on national holidays. They realize that could create additional psychological trauma.

Documents found at bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, show that al Qaeda was interested in these kind of attacks, even on the July 4 weekend. But the reason there's more concern this time around is because ISIS has called for a in terrorism during Ramadan. Their spokesman issued a fatwa last month saying that followers will be rewarded 10 times more in the afterlife if they carried out attacks.

And also there are an accelerating number of Americans who are getting involved in ISIS-inspired terrorism, 15 Americans getting implicated in ISIS-inspired plots just since March.

SCIUTTO: Right. And, Daveed, part of the issue here is that lone wolves are harder to

track. If you get a central organization ordering these attacks, you can intercept communications, you can track trainees going from training camps to the states, but lone wolves are anywhere. Right?


And, also, ISIS is particularly good at inspiring lone wolves. A lot of people have commented -- and justifiably so -- on ISIS' mastery of social media. If you look at terrorism in general, it's tended to be a group thing, because to get someone to commit an act of extremist terrorism, where you might lose your life, you will likely lose your freedom, it's tended to take a group to reinforce someone's extreme ideas and spur them on to action, and not allow them to back out.


And social media, which has this -- it has this basically illusion of intimacy, where you can have these feelings of deep friendship with people who you have never met who are in the battlefields of Syria or Iraq. It plays the role of that group. And that's why ISIS is so good at mobilizing.

SCIUTTO: And then, when you mobilize a lone wolf, the thing about a lone wolf, doesn't take a lot of planning. Right? You can just go pick up a gun. Your car is even a weapon, right? And that's more difficult to stop.

CRUICKSHANK: That's absolutely right.

And ISIS has basically told its followers in America, attack any way you can, kill anybody you can, and they're directly instigating these kind of attacks now on social media. We saw that with the Garland, Texas, attempted attack against that cartoon drawing contest just a couple of months ago.

Well, in recent weeks, evidence has emerged they're also now directly grooming people in bomb-making techniques over these online messaging apps.

SCIUTTO: Ratchet up the ambitions.

But it's interesting. Al Qaeda was always interested in big spectacular attacks, a lot of planning, years, et cetera. It seems like ISIS will kind of take whatever it can get in a way, right, Daveed?


Al Qaeda actually increasingly moved toward a lone wolf model later on, around 2009, 2010.

SCIUTTO: Partly because of the pressure that they were under.

GARTENSTEIN-ROSS: Because of the pressure. But, also, the other reason is that, in their view, the U.S. had spent so much in the war on terrorism, that it was much more fragile than it was in 2001. But they released an entire issue of "Inspire" magazine, which is published by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which was dedicated to a plot that was a failed plot.

And to them, it was a success, because they got bombs on board FedEx and UPS planes. And even though they didn't blow them up, they either required the U.S. and its allies to spend billions of dollars, or else, as they said, they could try again.

SCIUTTO: Bleed them dry.

I wonder, Paul, though, there is particular attention to Ramadan. We're in the Muslim holy month. You have had this ISIS call you will get 10 times the rewards in heaven, the rewards in heaven, plus added to that July 4, but the lone wolf threat is something counterterror guys talk about all the time. Is the fact that this is the new normal?

CRUICKSHANK: This is absolutely the new normal facing not only the United States, but a threat much bigger in Europe, almost exponentially bigger in Europe, places like the U.K. and France.

There's a lot more radicalization there. A lot more of these radicals have gone off to Syria and Iraq to fight. And one of the big concerns as well is that at some point ISIS itself may direct terrorist plots against the West. In fact, just last January, we saw a plot in Belgium which Belgian officials believed was directly by the ISIS leadership.


SCIUTTO: And it's interesting you mentioned those numbers. We saw that in France today, the interior minister saying there are 650 people in France currently under legal proceedings. Here, we talk about 50. So, that's 13 times as many in Europe. You imagine they have got a bigger threat even than we do.


You can see that even in foreign fighter numbers, where about 4,000 Western Europeans have gone over to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS and others jihadist groups.

SCIUTTO: You can imagine what kind of level of threat we would be at if we had those numbers.

Finally, Paul, just very briefly, you have the State Department having ordered its diplomatic posts to reevaluate security around the world. Were there any specific threats against those posts or is this part of the general threat posture right now?

CRUICKSHANK: I think they're particularly worried about this Ramadan period, another two weeks more to go of Ramadan, with ISIS specifically calling on its followers around the world and its fighters to launch attacks. There's been a spike in terrorism in the Middle East. We saw that in Tunisia and Kuwait, Yemen and other countries, hence these new concerns.

SCIUTTO: Yes, any sense that ISIS is purely a presence in Iraq and Syria has been lost in the last few weeks. You see Kuwait. You see Tunisia. You see this attack in France, Garland, Texas.

Daveed, Paul Cruickshank, great to have you, as always.

Here in Washington, police also on high alert, as the Fourth of July approaches. Law enforcement is especially concerned about so-called soft targets. I speak with Washington's chief of police, Cathy Lanier, right after this.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto.

And our national lead, authorities working behind the scenes to make sure July 4 celebrations across the country go forward peacefully and safely. The deadly violence from an ISIS-inspired gunman last week on a beach in Tunisia resonating here on the U.S. homeland.

ISIS is encouraging would-be terrorists around the world to attack, claiming the rewards in heaven for doing it during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan would be tenfold compared to any other time.

But is law enforcement here doing enough to prevent ISIS sympathizers in the U.S. from answering that call?

Want to bring in CNN's Rene Marsh.

Rene, what is law enforcement doing to protect what is considered the most vulnerable targets, so-called soft targets?


As you know, by definition, these so-called soft targets are virtually unprotected. They're very vulnerable to attacks. We're talking about bridges, tunnels, train stations, ferries. So they're very difficult to protect, essentially because thousands of people at any given moment are going over or through these sites.

But as we approach the holiday, we are seeing a ramped-up presence of law enforcement and canines have also been deployed.


MARSH (voice-over): In the nation's capital alone, 600,000 people are expected to take subways, while two million flyers per day are also traveling to Fourth of July celebrations.

But, as Americans move from point A to point B, law enforcement remains on high alert for terrorists on U.S. soil. LT. ALAN GRIFFITH, U.S. PARK POLICE: We prepare for worst-case

scenarios, and we have contingencies in place should they occur.

MARSH: Those reassurances being echoed ahead of celebrations across the country.

EVERETT GILLISON, DEPUTY MAYOR OF PHILADELPHIA: Philadelphia is already part of an enhanced security network

[16:15:03] MARSH: Despite the assurances, there's only so much authorities can do to secure so-called soft targets.

JONATHAN GILLIAM, FORMER NAVY SEAL: What I fear the most is what we saw in Tunisia last weekend, which is one or two people with automatic weapons, and they simply go into a place where it's really crowded, or they go to a bridge where traffic is stopped or a tunnel, and just simply taking out 40, 50 people. That would be as effective as any large-scale bomb.

MARSH: And ISIS has been encouraging followers to launch attacks wherever they can.

GILLISON: Look behind me. It's the most iconic image of America. And so, we know it is something that people who don't like us would want to do something, and maybe even try to make a statement.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: These kind of targets are soft targets. They're very easy to go after if you've got a gun and you're willing to die for your beliefs.

MARSH: Authorities say the best thing is to be aware of their surroundings, and if they see something that doesn't look right, alert authorities immediately.


MARSH: And at the airports, we're seeing a high volume as well. Rank-and-file TSA officers told me their supervisors have warned all of them to be on their P's and Q's. So, if you're flying out, you should expect random spot checks. That's happening at airports as well, because, of course, there are still groups still very much obsessed with making a commercial airplane blow up midair. Behind me you will see this setup that you're looking at, that will be the site of the Fourth of July concert.

Of course law enforcement here in full force watching that. I to just really hammer home, Jim, you know, they are warning people, but they do want people to come out. They say they just want people to be alert.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: It's such a tough balance there. Enjoy the holidays, but keep your eyes open. But, I suppose, is the new normal.

Thanks very much to Rene Marsh, down on the National Mall.

A number of security measures will be in place at July 4th festivities across the country, including radiation detectors, bomb-sniffing dogs, uniformed and plain clothed officers. Here in the nation's capital, nearly 1 million spectators are expected to pack the national mall for spectacular fireworks show on Saturday night.

Earlier today, I spoke with Washington, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier about preparing for the event and whether the threat is truly real.


CHIEF CATHY LANIER, WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN POLICE: It is. It's very real. I mean, you think about the significant of the holiday, the significant of Washington, D.C., and honestly -- in all honesty, we think about that every single day. It's not just on Independence Day, July 4th. This is the nation's capital.

So, with what's been going on around the world and the -- you know, radicalization and some of the other instances we have seen, this is something that we don't take very lightly.

SCIUTTO: And is it ISIS specifically that you're most concerned about, or ISIS sympathizers?

LANIER: Yes, it's really -- I mean, the bottom line is it's becoming so prevalent that people that live in your own community can radicalize now without ever leaving their home, in a basement on a computer. So, really, the way that is most of these folks are being discovered is somebody close to them in a family or friend saying, hey, something doesn't seem right.

My family or friend has changed, and something is not right, and then turning that information over. So, a lot more difficult for us to do that.

SCIUTTO: And that's that something you hear in D.C., but also law enforcement around the country, is asking the public to do -- if you see something, say something.

LANIER: Oh, absolutely. I mean, there's a fine line between trying to encourage people to be security conscious and trying to have fun events without scaring people. I think the bottom line is just -- this environment we live in today is that everybody is response for our collective safety. We want people to just pay attention, be aware what's going on. It's tough, because people walk around these days with the handheld devices, the mobile phones, iPhones, not really paying attention.

But, you know, when you're coming down to enjoy your hole at a big holiday event like this, you know, if you see something that looks out place, let us know.

SCIUTTO: And just to be clear, because I'm getting questions from friends and family, I'm sure you are as well. You're not telling folks to stay at home. You're telling to enjoy themselves, but in fact keep their eyes open.

LANIER: Sure. There's so many events here, not just the big events across. There's multiple parades starting early in the morning, going through the day, the fireworks down on the mall, but there's all kinds of block parties and things like that in the neighborhoods. So, there's going to be hundreds of thousands of people having a great time.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this, there's particular attention now because of the this ISIS call to arms around the world, Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and then even more so July 4th, falling within that period, a big date.

But the lone wolf threat is something that I get from counter- terrorism officials aim time is their chief concern now.

[16:20:04] Is this the new normal for the nation's capital, for Americans?

LANIER: Well, if you think about it, because this is commonplace in the terror world right now, that this is the lone wolf, self- radicalized without a lot of trip wires for security to pick up on, this is the number one image we see when we talk about terrorist threats right now, but in reality, hasn't that always been a very present danger? And that's one of the things we have to ask.

If you look at active shooters and person with mental health issues that, for whatever reason, decide to take some sort of violent action, the message is the same. The threat is a bit different in terms of what's motivating it, what's behind it.

But we need people to do, if they have a loved one or friend that they know something is not right, please alert authorities. And then, if you're out in public and you're somewhere, and you see something that's just odd -- it's odd enough to get your attention and make you think about it, then it deserves a phone call.

SCIUTTO: Better safe than sorry, and everybody shares in the responsibility.

Chief Lanier, thanks very much for joining us.

LANIER: You're welcome.


SCIUTTO: Coming up next, another missed clue that two men were about to escape prison. A new report says Richard Matt wrote to his daughters just days before his escape, telling of plans to see her on the outside. So, why didn't anyone catch it?

Plus, this incredible video. A kayaker knocked out of his boat by a shark. How he managed to get away, right after this.


[17:25:36] SCIUTTO: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

In other national news, even more information is coming to light on Richard Matt and David Sweat, the convicted murderers who escaped last month from Clinton correctional facility in Upstate New York. Sweat was shot and wounded on Sunday and is now in police custody. He's been talking to authorities seemingly nonstop.

But new details are emerging on Richard Matt, who was shot and killed last Friday. "The Buffalo News" reports that he mailed a letter to his daughter, writing, quote, "I always promised you I would see you on the outside. I'm a man of my word."

CNN's Deborah Feyerick has been covering this story. She joins me now from New York.

What more do we know about this letter, Deb? It looks like a pretty clear sign that he was trying to send a signal he was going to head out.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting, because it appears that Richard Matt was so confident he would actually elude escape certainly in the early days that he thought he might be able make it 350 miles from where he was at Clinton correctional all the way to Buffalo. There's no indication that his daughter had any idea that her father was planning this escape.

As a matter of fact, according to "The Buffalo News", she actually asked for protections because she was very concerned. This was a man who largely was not in her life for the last 20 years.

We do know that the family has decided to claim the body of Richard Matt. Initially, they had said no. They have said, though, there would be no private or public services. His body on the way there.

SCIUTTO: So, to be clear, no one is reading mail coming out of this prison?

FEYERICK: Well, no one is reading mail going out. Mail is searched on the way in for contraband effectively, according to an official I spoke with. But content going out, they don't do that unless there's some sort of reason, and the inmate would have to be put on a mail watch. It does not appear that Richard Matt was on a mail watch.

But also, keep in mind, this letter arrived to the daughter three days after he escaped. We know that inmates can buy stamps inside the commissary. So, it's unclear where he mailed it inside or whether he carried it with him and then mailed it once he was out, because he did it to the town. They were post office boxes. So, it's unclear just who mailed that letter and where it was mail dropped.

SCIUTTO: It would be incredible if he had time to mail a letter as he was running from police.

Just a final thing here -- I mean, this talk about an intimate relationship between one of the guard and were on two of the escapees. It seems like we talked about walls and barbed wire, and solitary confinement, but it seems the real weakness here was the guards themselves. FEYERICK: Well, the correction officers were not doing technically

what they were supposed to be doing. And we're not talking about all. We're talking about a handful.

They're supposed to do a daily random cell checks, looking for contraband, and then confiscating the contraband. They're also supposed to be doing weekly security inspections and what that involves is going cell by cell, checking the bars, checking the walls.

This is a maximum security facility, but you talk to any correction officials, the think they'll tell you they are most afraid of are riots, but also escape.

And, clearly, the second half and ironically, Jim, there had been a riot a couple days before. There was the request for a lockdown, a partial lockdown was granted, because when they analyzed the information apparently 30 inmates out of 2,700 were involved. It happened in the yard, no one was hurt, only one person, I think, and no weapons were found.

So, I don't know whether a full lockdown would have prevented this. They don't do full lockdowns all the time. What would have help is if correction officers were following the rules and whether the deputy superintendent of security were, in fact, following through on that as well.

SCIUTTO: The key would have been, do they search the cells? They might have found the holes that those guys cut in their walls.

Deb Feyerick in New York, thanks very much.

Beachgoers still getting in the water despite several shark attacks along the Carolina coast. But this man barely got away after a shark knocked him out of his kayak. That's coming up next.