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THE SITUATION ROOM
ISIS Raising Little Jihadis?; Missed Signals Before Terror Mastermind's Death; France Prime Minister Says Terrorists Exploit Refugee Crisis; New ISIS Video Threatens New York, Rome and Washington. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired November 19, 2015 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN: Jim Sciutto, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.
[17:00:03] That is it for "THE LEAD." I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Good-bye from France.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Expanding manhunt. A worldwide search for the eighth terrorist in the Paris attacks as France confirms the mastermind was killed in an extraordinary raid. And now shocking new video of the massacre emerging amid more raids and more arrests. Does it show the man who's become one of the world's most wanted terrorists?
New threat. ISIS vows a fiery attack on the White House. And a Paris-style massacre in Rome prompting a warning from the U.S. embassy there. Does a new ISIS video foreshadow the next attack?
Second mastermind. New details tonight about a senior French figure in ISIS whose voice is heard on the terrorist video claiming responsibility for the Paris massacre. How closely did he work with the cell that carried out the terror attacks?
And global coalition. As airstrikes continue on ISIS targets in Syria, France has now trying to assemble an international alliance to fight the terrorist forces. Can France unite Russia and the U.S. in the battle against ISIS?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. The manhunt for the eighth terrorist in the Paris attacks, Saleh Abdeslam, and this video of the attacks obtained by DailyMail.com, showing a gunman spraying a cafe with bullets and customers scrambling for safety. In one chilling scene, the gunman approaches a woman near the door and aims at her, but the weapon appears to jam, and the gunman walks off.
France has confirmed that the mastermind of the attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was killed in a raid in a Paris suburb. And now French officials say he appears to have been involved in as many as six foiled terror attacks since the spring. A counterterrorism source tells CNN that Abaaoud is believed to have
spent time in Syria working with a senior French figure in ISIS, Fabien Clain plotting attacks in France. Clain's voice is heard in the ISIS video claiming responsibility for the Paris massacre.
And terror fears are now spreading tonight with a new ISIS video warning of attacks in Rome prompting the U.S. embassy there to issue a warning. The same video threatens to burn down the White House in Washington.
We're covering all angles of the breaking news this hour with our guests, including Senate Intelligence Committee member Mark Warner. And our correspondents and our expert analysts, they're also standing by.
Let's go to Paris first though.
CNN's John Berman is on the scene for us. John, the manhunt and the raids, they clearly continue tonight.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, tonight the French prime minister told the people here it is probable. There are still active terrorist cells at work in this country. And in fact, we know there is at least one terrorist who was involved in the attacks here Friday who is still on the run, Saleh Abdeslam.
This comes as in Belgium there were a series of raids today, leading to the detention of nine people believed to be somehow associated to these attacks. And all of this taking place in the wake of the single greatest success since the attacks here: the death of the man believed to be the ringleader.
BERMAN (voice-over): Tonight Abdelhamid Abaaoud is dead. The architect, the planner, the mastermind of the terror attacks in Paris that left 129 people dead and scores wounded.
French officials confirmed he was killed in this predawn raid just outside Paris. Police and military commandos assaulted this building in Saint-Denis after a tip from Morocco that Abaaoud was not in ISIS- controlled Syria but inside France.
Wiretaps indicated that a relative was at that location, along with a possible terror cell plotting a new attack. New audio tonight of the moment police confront a woman later identified as Abaaoud's cousin inside the building.
Soon after, an explosion as she appeared to set off a suicide vest.
New information tonight about the scale of the assault. More than 5,000 rounds of ammunition fired during the melee. The explosive force enough to cause an entire floor to collapse. Abaaoud's bullet- riddled body only identifiable through hand and footprints.
Tonight, the investigation is far from over. With Abaaoud dead there is new focus on other attackers. Twenty-six-year-old Saleh Abdeslam, last seen headed toward the Belgium border in the hours after the attacks, is still on the run.
New raids in Belgium targeted possible associates of the attackers. And tonight nine people have been detained.
[17:05:08] The sheer terror of Friday's events evident in video from inside one of the targeted restaurants obtained by "The Daily Mail." You see debris, shattered glass flying. People run for cover, and a gunman points his weapon at two people on the ground, but it does not fire.
Tonight the United States and European governments trying to assess new ISIS threats, including a new video threatening attacks on Rome.
BERMAN: All right. We have breaking news here tonight, Wolf. Just moments ago, French officials confirmed the identity of the woman who blew herself up, apparently wearing some kind of suicide vest. The woman believed to be the cousin of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, her name is Hasna Ait Buolahcen. She had lived until recently, people say, in neighborhoods surrounding France -- surrounding Paris, I should say.
And tonight her mother and brother have been taken into custody by police. That just in from the prosecutor's office here in Paris, Wolf.
BLITZER: John Berman on the scene for us. Thanks very much.
Let's stay in Paris. Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is there.
Jim, you're learning more about this new ISIS video released today, the threats not only against Rome but right here in Washington, D.C., as well.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're seeing them churning out video, really, every day now since these attacks. They know that the eyes of the world are on them following the bloodshed here on the streets of Paris.
So you have two videos: one focusing on Rome, one focusing on the White House. The third to target a U.S. city or a U.S. target this week. And we see the U.S. embassy in Rome issue something of a general warning to people there, mentioning a couple of targets. They mention St. Peter's basilica, the Duomo in Milan. But then listen to this list: churches, synagogues, restaurants, theaters, and hotels in both cities.
You know, that's a very general warning. They don't have a credible or specific threat. They are talking about the kinds of things that a group like ISIS might target, based in part on what they saw them target here. And that's a difficult kind of information, frankly, for travelers to digest, I imagine, because it's quite a general warning. But really, these warnings being released in an abundance of caution.
Let's look now at this latest video from ISIS, threatening an attack on the White House. And I should add there's nothing to indicate they actually have something in the works to attack the White House.
But here's what they said in yet one more threatening video. France, we started with you, and we'll finish it with a so-called White House. And we'll turn it black from our fires, God willing. As always they're good with the rhetorical turn of phrase.
But the trouble is that, you know, with these, while there may be no evidence of a credible threat or a plot in the works, there's always the potential that you have lone wolves on the ground or in the U.S. or elsewhere in Europe who watch these videos, and they're inspired to carry out an attack on their own. That's the kind of threat that U.S. intelligence, that European intelligence is often facing oftentimes. It's sadly not specific, and it makes it very difficult to prepare for and to prevent.
BLITZER: And they also, in that latest warning, released today in that propaganda video, Jim, as you know they went on to say they wanted to blow up monuments in Washington. And they pointed to the fact that they had blown up archaeological treasures, museums, monuments in Syria and in Iraq, for that matter. They say they want to do the same thing to all sorts of monuments in Washington, D.C.
James Comey, the FBI director, just had a briefing. And he said what really concerns them right now -- and you know this -- is that there are these lone individuals out there who may be inspired when they go to social media and look at these videos. That's a real problem, isn't it?
SCIUTTO: Absolutely. Because, you know, a plot, while very difficult to prevent -- we saw that here in Paris. A very complicated international plot involving a number of countries, international travel. That's hard enough to follow.
But if an individual decides in his basement on a jihadi forum to go buy a gun and shoot up a target, that's virtually impossible to prevent or spot in advance. And that's the duel threat in effect that U.S. law enforcement, U.S. counterterror officials are facing right now.
BLITZER: Jim Sciutto in Paris for us. Thank you.
Let's talk about all of this and more. Joining us, the Democratic senator, Mark Warner of Virginia. He's a key member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Senator, I know you've just emerged from a closed door briefing there with the secretary of state, other U.S. officials. How serious are they taking these specific threats to Washington, D.C., and New York?
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: Well, I think we're all taking all of the threats very seriously. While officials have said there is no indication or validity of the specificness of these threats, what we've seen is the acts of violence. And now we're seeing, in effect, psychological warfare being waged by ISIS as they put out these threatening videos on the daily basis.
[17:10:18] So what I believe we need to do, one, our most important job is, of course, keeping Americans safe.
Two, it's formulating a strategy both around how we go after the terrorists in terms of enhanced intelligence collecting, better sharing with our allies. We talk about the tragedy of what happened on Paris.
But we do need to point out the French activities preventing another terrorist attack by swooping in on some of the folks around Paris, activities by the Belgium law enforcement officials, even activities in Honduras. So intelligence sharing is still our best weapon against these terrorists.
At the same time we do need to take a look at our vulnerabilities. There's a lot of focus now on refugees when, frankly, the issue ought to be the visa waiver program. We ought to look at how the terrorists are communicating and some of the questions around encryption. These are going to require some thoughtful responses, not some of the sound bites we've heard over the last couple of days.
BLITZER: So when they mentioned, though, in these videos, one released yesterday, sort of a remix of an earlier rap video they put out in April, but with some new material on it. Another video today. Yesterday they were going after specific locations, Times Square, Herald Square in Manhattan. Today they're going -- they say they want to burn the White House to destroy monuments in Washington, D.C.
Would that justify, from all the briefings you've received, Senator, a heightened state of alert in New York and Washington?
WARNER: Well, I think you're seeing local law enforcement increase their level of readiness. But we've also seen the FBI director say that they don't have credible information about the specificity of some of these threats.
Clearly, with social media now, ISIS can put out these kind of videos on a daily basis. And I suspect we'll see more.
And let's face it: we've seen since Paris, and appropriately so, the media has been wall-to-wall on this kind of coverage. And folks all across the country, I know across Virginia, are concerned.
And what I'm hopeful is that those of us who are entrusted with political leadership can be perhaps a little bit more thoughtful about how we are going to address some of these issues rather than kind of rushing to the canvas.
For example, we've got an enormous challenge around what's called the visa waiver program. This is a program basically allows Americans to travel to Europe and Europeans to travel here on a relatively easy basis. That's economically important. It's important for tourism. But you look deeper on that, and within Europe you see 10 million
folks with European passports travel to Turkey over the last year. A year ago I contacted the administration and said Turkey needs to do a better job of monitoring fighters coming in the region.
We don't know how many of those 10 million ended up on the beach versus ended up going into the war zone. And frankly, they can then go back to France or go back to Belgium and relatively easy climb on an airplane and come to America.
That's where we ought to be looking on things that we can tighten up and red flag those individuals who've traveled into the region and see where we can increase our cooperation with Interpol. That's really about making America safer against these threats.
BLITZER: Senator Warner, we have many more specific questions for you, because there's obviously heightened concern, heightened interest here in the United States, indeed around the world on what's going on. Much more with Senator Warner when we come back.
[17:18:18] BLITZER: We're back with the Senate Intelligence Committee member, Mark Warner. We're following the breaking news, France confirming now that the Paris terror mastermind, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was killed in that extraordinary raid in a Paris suburb.
But there's also grave concern tonight about his associates, including one of the top Frenchmen inside ISIS.
CNN's Brian Todd is digging deeper for us. Brian, these are very dangerous individuals.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are extremely dangerous, Wolf. Abdelhamid Abaaoud is said to have associated closely to them and possibly been mentored by them. Their names are Fabien Clain and Salim Benghalem. They are believed to be hiding in Syria, but their networks inside France are extensive.
TODD (voice-over): With the death of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, French officials believe a terrorist menace has been removed from their midst, but a new warning tonight. The French interior minister says authorities are investigating Abaaoud's links to several other known jihadists, top ISIS operatives who may have worked with Abaaoud on the Paris plot and who are still out there.
European security officials tell CNN one of them is Fabien Clain, a notorious French ISIS militant who's believed to have claimed responsibility in an audio message for the Paris attacks.
FABIEN CLAIN, ISIS MILITANT (through translator): Paris shook under their feet, and the streets were tight upon them. And unto Allah is all praise and gratitude. TODD: Fabien Clain, analysts say, was born on the French island of
Reunion, settled in the southern French city of Toulouse and developed an extraordinary talent for persuasion.
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Somebody who was extremely manipulative, somebody extremely good at brainwashing youngsters in the Toulouse area, somebody ten years older than Abdelhamid Abaaoud. So someone likely that Abdelhamid Abaaoud would have looked up to within the ISIS hierarchy.
[17:20:05] TODD: Clain was a close associate of Mohammed Merah, the gunman who killed several French soldiers and Jewish schoolchildren near Toulouse in 2012.
Another militant who may be linked to the Paris plot: Salim Benghalem, about 10 years older than Abaaoud.
Salim Benghalem seems to have been the person to whom Abaaoud served an apprentice, an individual who is affiliated with the external operations network amongst French speakers. He's known to be a fairly skilled operative.
TODD: Benghalem, once convicted of murder in France is, according to the State Department, an ISIS executioner. Analysts say Benghalem had close ties to the Kouachi brothers who stormed the "Charlie Hebdo" offices in January, killing a dozen people. In an ISIS video made shortly after those attacks, Benghalem had a warning for the west.
SALEM BENGHALEM, ISIS EXECUTIONER (through translator): We have also come to strike you. And we are already there to attack you.
TODD: Analysts say Benghalem and his associates are good at training their French operatives quickly.
A number of French speakers who join ISIS are individuals who only spend a couple of weeks in Syria learning to do something, whether it's to prepare for a suicide attack, learning basic arms training and so forth. And then go back.
TODD: And experts say they have ambitions beyond France and the ability to travel. They say many of the French ISIS militants have European passports without visa restrictions and can easily come to the U.S., Wolf.
Brian, one of those men actually plotted to attack that Bataclan concert hall before last Friday night.
TODD: Apparently, yes, Wolf. Analysts say this man, Fabien Clain, plotted to attack the Bataclan in 2009, because he believed its owners were part of a Zionist movement. That attack never materialized.
Then Clain was convicted of recruiting young militants to join al Qaeda in Iraq. He served jail time then. It could be that he and his circle wanted to attack the Bataclan on Friday because of that previous failed attempt at the theater six years ago.
BLITZER: That's where that theater, that concert on last Friday night, an American rock band was performing there, and nearly 100 young people were massacred by those terrorists.
All right, Brian, thanks very much.
Senator Warner, does the intelligence community here in the United States have any idea where this guy Fabien Clain, the co-mastermind, shall we say, of these Paris attacks is right now?
WARNER: I'm not going to comment on what the intel community knows about specific terrorists. I do know that, in many ways, that I believe that part of the reason some of these activities have taken place, part of the reason we've not had some of the information sharing over the last few years, at least partially is attributable to the revelations that Edward Snowden made a number of years ago.
We saw after that incident European allies, many of them pull back from information sharing. We saw whole move in the technology space, the move to encrypted communications.
Again, there are so many causations around this tragedy, around this kind of both violent extremism and psychological warfare that, frankly, when we even show some of these videos is being waged upon all Americans.
But what we ought to get to as policymakers is how do we get to the root causes? How do we increase intelligence sharing? How do we make sure that we look at these vulnerabilities like the visa waiver program, not in a way that curtails travel between America, and Europe and the economic ties but puts an appropriate red flag if people have traveled into the war region.
Look at areas where we can engage with our not just communication or technology companies. I was a tech guy before I was in politics. This can't be solved in America only in terms of encryption now. You're adding 1,500 mobile apps a day, many of them with encryption, many of them based out of foreign countries.
These are the areas that are going to require, I think, serious policy review. And frankly, if we can move away from some of the shrillness and get onto these issues, I think it would be appropriate.
BLITZER: A fair point indeed. Senator, as you know, residents of that French -- that Paris suburb, Saint-Denis, they have told CNN that they actually saw this so-called mastermind, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, in the neighborhood following the attack, following the Friday night attack before that raid, which eventually saw him wind up dead.
What does that say about how much these individuals, they can move around? Clearly, the French apparently didn't even know that this guy was in France until a few days ago.
WARNER: We've seen the French intelligence services stretched so dramatically. Because again, as I mentioned by your earlier colleague, literally, folks with French passports can travel over land into Turkey or into the region and oftentimes travel back. And the French services actually had a number of these people on their potential watch list, but they hadn't triggered anything that would actually cause their arrest.
I think a lot of that is going to be reviewed at this point. I think if we had increased sharing between French, Belgian, American, German, other intelligence services, you're better able to build the case in advance of these terrorists acting, as opposed to what, unfortunately, we've seen now in France, coming in after the fact.
But I do think we need to bear in mind that the French services did go ahead and preclude by the raid yesterday something that was potentially another imminent attack that could have even been greater.
BLITZER: Senator, as you know, the House of Representatives today overwhelmingly approved legislation with significant Democratic support, as well, to effectively pause the processing of Syrian refugees into the United States by insisting no refugee be admitted without certification by the secretary of homeland security. Will you support this bill when it comes to the Senate?
WARNER: Wolf, I think this bill is an overreaction. Clearly, we have to keep Americans safe. But let's look at the facts. None of these terrorists, in terms of their proven identities, that have been arrested or killed in France, have been identified as migrants.
Our process right now takes about two years for someone to go through a series of screenings. If there are ways to improve that process, I'm absolutely believe we should improve the process, but we ought to let the law enforcement and intelligence professionals give us this guidance. Not a series of actions that may or may not result in increasing safety for Americans.
Let's do look at where there are clear vulnerabilities around, for example, as I mentioned before, this visa waiver program, which we shouldn't throw out, by the way. That is important to economic relations between us and Europe. But we should re-review at this point, because if you're a terrorist, you can use that European passport and potentially have much more freedom of travel as opposed to someone who's going to potentially wait in line for two years, whether he or she may or may not be then admitted as a refugee.
BLITZER: Senator Warner, thanks very much for joining us.
WARNER: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up, still on the run. The expanding manhunt for a surviving attacker, possibly the gunman seen in this frightening security camera video released by TheDailyMail.com.
Also, a top French official complains that terrorists are exploiting Europe's refugee crisis and sneaking into the continent unnoticed.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:31:40] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're following today's fast- moving developments in the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks. A new ISIS threat not only includes New York but also Rome and Washington, D.C. where the terrorists are promising to burn the White House and, in their words, turn it black.
Belgium arrested nine people today as the manhunt continues there for plotters. And the only attacker who escaped possibly the gunman seen in this dramatic security camera video obtained by thedailymail.com showing people dodging gunfire in a Paris restaurant.
Also new questions are being asked about the missed signals that allowed the now-dead mastermind of the latest attacks to slip into Paris undetected. Our justice correspondent Pamela Brown has the unsettling new details -- Pamela.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, tonight we're learning from sources that the mastermind of the Paris attacks had been on a U.S. watch list based on intelligence given to the U.S. from European counterparts. But the concern tonight continues for any of his associates who may still be in Europe including one of the Paris attackers still at large.
BROWN (voice-over): Tonight dramatic new images of French and Belgium police in battle just moments before the mastermind of the Paris attacks is killed in a predawn raid in Saint-Denis.
Abdelhamid Abaaoud's body riddled with bullets was identified by police through fingerprints.
BERNARD CAZENEUVE, FRENCH INTERIOR MINISTER (Through Translator): In the operation of Saint-Denis there was a target. It was reached. Abdelhamid Abaaoud clearly played a definite role in the attack on Paris.
BROWN: Abaaoud was hiding out with multiple well-armed men and a female cousin who could be heard in this video screaming back to police just seconds before she blows herself up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is your boyfriend?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's not my boyfriend.
BROWN: Police use interviews, wiretaps and bank records to zero in on the safe house. CNN has learned it was Moroccan that tipped them off Abaaoud was in France, not Syria.
DAVEED GARTENSTEN-ROSS, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: There aren't a whole lot of terrorist operatives who would be able to move back and forth between Syria and Europe, passing through security along the way at multiple points.
BROWN: French authorities say Abaaoud played a role in four of six foiled terror plots since the spring. Included the attack on the train in which three Americans helped wrestle the gunman to the ground.
Also tonight chilling video from DailyMail.com shows a scene from the Paris attacks playing out in real time inside a cafe, glass shatters after a gunman opens fire outside. He can be seen pointing his gun at two civilians, but they escape.
Belgium authorities say they just arrested nine people tied to this man, one of the suicide bombers who blew himself up at the stadium in France. But French officials say at least two of the alleged attackers are still on the run including Salah Abdeslam, the 26-year- old brother of one of the Paris attackers.
GARTENSTEN-ROSS: The fact that Abdeslam is on the loose is worrying. It seems that European authorities do have trouble with people who are able to travel about even when they're wanted at top levels by European law enforcement.
BROWN: And after a thorough review of intelligence shared from the French with the Americans including information from the cell phone believed to belong to one of the Paris attackers, Director James Comey saying today that there is no U.S. nexus as of now.
[17:35:09] Of course the director of the FBI also, Wolf, saying that there is no credible threat against the homeland -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Pamela, thanks very much.
Also today France's prime minister revealed some of those linked to the Paris attacks took advantage of the chaos surrounding the ongoing refugee crisis to sneak into Europe.
Let's get some more from our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto. He's joining us from Paris once again.
What are you hearing, Jim, on this front?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It's the French prime minister who said that some of the attackers might have slipped in via the influx of refugees to really get back and forth from Europe to Syria because the fact is that all of the attackers that have been identified so far we know to be Europeans themselves. They're French and Belgians. So the fact is they were already here -- they were from here. In fact, the evidence is they were radicalized here, already joined the cause in effect here in Europe.
But we also know that they went to join the fight, at least six of the attackers, in Syria and then returned here and were certainly trained it appears in Syria. And you can tell that from just the way they used their weapons, how quickly they moved and reloaded so that Syria training making a difference. And it is believed that some of them to get back to Europe from their fight in Syria might have come through with those crowds of refugees. But the truth is, and you hear this from European security officials
frequently, is the problem is here. They've got a major jihadi problem in this country. And one revelation of these attacks on Friday is that regardless of their movements to Syria and back, they're having trouble just tracking them moving around Europe. And communicating in Europe.
A senior U.S. law enforcement official told me the two problems are, one, volume and encryption. And that's something you hear frequently. But just the numbers here, Wolf, really almost impossible to manage.
BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, stand by. We're going to get back to you.
Joining us now in THE SITUATION ROOM our national security analyst Peter Bergen, our law enforcement analyst, the former FBI assistant director Tom Fuentes, and our CNN contributor Michael Weiss, a senior editor for the "Daily Beast," the co-author of the book "ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror."
Gentlemen, please stand by for a moment. We're getting some more information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll take a quick break. More on the breaking news right after this.
[17:42:00] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news late this afternoon. The director of the FBI urged all Americans to be aware of potential threats and let law enforcement know if they see anything suspicious.
New ISIS video not only threatens New York City, but also Washington, D.C., Rome and other world cities.
We're back with our terrorism and law enforcement experts.
Michael Weiss, there's new ISIS video out today which they say they want to target the White House. Yesterday they said they want to target New York City. Is ISIS really capable of these kinds of attacks within the United States?
MICHAEL WEISS, CO-AUTHOR, "ISIS: INSIDE THE ARMY OF TERROR": I'd be very surprised if they could get the White House, Wolf, although then again, you know, given the number of people who've been able to jump fences over there and drive cars through checkpoints, so you never know. But they absolutely do have the intention to strike in the U.S. homeland. I mean, this has been, you know, part of their strategy from the very beginning.
They mentioned Rome I think for a very clear reason. Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS or the self-appointed caliph, mentioned in one of his sermons about a year ago that, you know, if God is -- if God wills it, one day we will conquer Rome. So for them -- by the way they describe their enemy in the West as rather loose consortium of atheist, seculars, Jews and Christians as the armies of Rome. This is part of their apocalyptic vision. They think the army of Islam will fight the armies of Rome in the suburbs of Aleppo and this will usher in Armageddon.
So they're picking these targets in this latest video, or picking these, you know, sort of aspirational targets with a clear intention. And of course, look, they're trying to traumatize and terrorize. And the proper understanding of the word, the U.S. electorate. I mean, travel in this country has slowed down significantly. I just came from Detroit, Michigan. There were incredible delays, people are going through all the security checkpoint theater that you associate in the wake of a devastating attack.
And, I mean, look at the track record thus far. Ankara, more than 100 people dead, the Metrojet Sharm el-Sheikh bombing over 200 people dead, Beirut, the worst terror attack in Lebanon since the close of the civil war there in 1990. And now this atrocious attack on the streets of Paris. So they could already have something planned and we just don't know what it is.
BLITZER: Tom Fuentes, you're a former assistant director of the FBI, something very, very disturbing, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, he's now dead, but he was the so-called mastermind of this. He's a Belgian citizen of Moroccan ancestry. He went to Syria last year to fight with ISIS. But somehow until Monday French authorities didn't know he was actually back in France even though apparently neighbors in that area where he was hiding out spotted him.
How do you explain that?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: You can go anywhere in Europe without going through passport control. When you get to Turkey, if you can get smuggled into Turkey, which is not hard. They have a giant network of people to get you there. There's large part of the Turkish border that's uncontrolled. It's not guarded. They could go across into Syria. Nothing is going to be stamped on your passport that you ever went to Syria.
So you go back, you can either go by boat from Greece or through Turkey. Go back into Greece, get on a bus or train, go all the way back to France or Belgium, no one's ever going to know. It's not going to be in any of your documents. You don't need travel documents to move across Europe. How would anybody know?
[17:45:12] BLITZER: Here's what worries French officials and U.S. officials for that matter is that he may have had a network of supporters out there. There's a cell still at large in Paris or in the suburbs there that had been helping him. They're trying to figure out who these people are.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think it would be very unusual if there wasn't a cell or a network or some -- you know, we still don't really know who the bomb maker is. We still don't really know who was financing this. There are a lot of unanswered questions.
BLITZER: Presumably there are suspects still at large.
Michael, you interviewed a man who was identified as an ISIS defector and he told you that ISIS shifted tactics after losing that battle for Kobani, and encouraging attacks all over the world. Explain a little bit more what he told you.
WEISS: Well, ISIS has already -- always had two sort of objectives. One was what they refer to as remaining and expanding, that is the construction of their caliphate. If you look at the latest issue of their propaganda magazine "Dabiq," they refer mostly to remaining not expanding. So as the borders contract, they're losing terrain in northern Syria. They've lost some terrain -- some significant terrain actually in Iraq in the last few weeks.
The latest -- the second strategy has been amplified or escalated, and that is to conduct these foreign operations, these spectacular terrorist attacks abroad. The guy that I interviewed was a member of Amn al-Dawla, the state security service of ISIS. This is the -- one of the intelligence arms that Muhammad Emwazi, Jihadi John, had also belonged to. And the problem they're facing now is it's harder for people to make the immigration over to Syria than it used to be.
There's really only one border crossing that ISIS now controls. So what they're doing is they're saying just stay where you are in Europe. And if you pledge allegiance to us, you can create your own network, you can create your own sleeper cells. We'll give you financial aid, we'll coordinate with you, make contact with you or, you know, in some cases dispatch our trained operatives from Syria into Europe to link up with you. But you don't have to -- you don't have to come here to be a willing executioner of the caliphate.
So this is part of -- this is the new plank. And I think this is what's really sort of bedeviling Western security forces or intelligence services. You're fighting two wars. You're fighting conventional military one in the Levant and Mesopotamia. And now you're going to have to exhaust yourself fighting a national security crisis in the streets and cities of major European and Western capitals.
And that's exactly what ISIS wants. It wants to discombobulate us and make us, you know, sort of unable to essentially walk and chew gum at the same time.
BLITZER: One thing ISIS does have is billions of dollars, oil revenue, gold, banks, they've stolen a lot of money. They can spread that around.
All right, guys, stand by. We have more to assess including the possibility that the U.S. and Russia could team up in this war against ISIS. Stay with us.
[17:52:21] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, a new ISIS video not only threatens New York but also Washington, Rome and other world cities.
We're back with our terrorism and law enforcement experts.
Tom Fuentes, the French prime minister, he was very blunt today and he said this, and I'll read the quote directly. If there -- he says that he's not sure if there are more groups linked directly to the ISIS gunman still at large. He suspects there are. I assume you do as well.
FUENTES: Absolutely. Absolutely. These cells have been ongoing in Europe, virtually al Qaeda cells for the last two decades. Now they've just changed flags to ISIS recently, and, you know, this is a large group of people that have been networked to each other. We saw that with "Charlie Hebdo," the people that coordinated "Charlie Hebdo" were involved in the potential attack on the U.S. embassy in 2001 in Paris. So they went to jail six years, got out, went right back to work as originally al Qaeda, now ISIS. So yes, there is a lot of these cells out there. We don't know them all.
BLITZER: Peter, as you know, the French president, Francois Hollande, he's going to be in Washington on Tuesday meeting with President Obama at the White House. He says he's coming to Washington to form a new coalition to go in there and crush, defeat ISIS, and he wants Russia to be part of that coalition. Is that going to work?
BERGEN: Well, I mean, you saw the huddle between Obama and Putin just recently where they're having half an hour intense conversation and suddenly their interests somewhat aligned. You know, so it might work.
BLITZER: Well, let me ask, Michael, if there is a World War II like alliance, bringing the United States, Russia, the Western powers, all the allies together, can they go out there and defeat ISIS even as Bashar al-Assad's regime in Damascus stays in power?
WEISS: Well, you wouldn't even need a World War II style alliance to defeat ISIS. I mean, you know, the first thing Russia would have to start doing is bomb ISIS. In fact, I mentioned the magazine that ISIS puts out, "Dabiq." In their latest issue they actually mocked Russia and say, you guys have been hitting the U.S. backed Syrian rebels, not us, which is, you know, counter of course to the kind of propaganda you're getting from the Kremlin, and this is a kind of global war against, you know, the hardest core, talk fury terrorists.
Look, you know, the U.S. could do this with French, Great Britain. The current coalition could do this. This isn't a question of dropping more bombs from the sky. I mean, how -- and we've been a year and change of an intense aerial bombardment campaign in Raqqa and the parts of Aleppo where ISIS has set up shop in Deir ez-Zor and Palmyra. What has it achieved? You know, they've lost terrain only where there has been a sizable ground force.
Typically, Kurdish militias in the north of Syria, in some cases Iraqi Security Forces led by the Shia militias in Iraq. But you can't do this just from the sky. We learned that lesson after a decade of occupation in Iraq.
[17:55:10] Look at second Fallujah in 2004, Wolf. We bombed the hell out of that city and they just moved to Mosul.
BLITZER: I was there in Fallujah in 2005. I remember vividly and now it's hard to believe it's under the control of ISIS right now. All right. Guys, don't go too far away, we've got more breaking news
coming up, new information about the global manhunt for the fugitive. Eighth terrorists from the Paris attacks with a new series of raids coming up. Police, are they closing in on them?
[18:00:03] BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news, terror dragnet. Nearly a week after the Paris attacks at least one suspected killer is still at large. Despite hundreds of raids in France and beyond.