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U.S. Officials: Paris Attacker Could Have Traveled to U.S.; Third Body Found at Mastermind's Hideout; American Among 21 Killed in Hotel Terror Attack; Woman in Paris Attacks Did Not Blow Herself Up. Aired 7-8:00p ET

Aired November 20, 2015 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:10] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. And welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Erin Burnett.

And OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news. U.S. National Security officials telling CNN that at least one of the eight Paris attackers could have traveled to the United States. His record clean enough to avoid raising red flags in the U.S. screening system. This comes as the massive international intensifies for the man you see here. The Paris attacker on the run. Authorities across Europe searching for Salah Abdeslam. One of the most wanted man in the world.

And we are also learning new details tonight about the bloody raid on a Belgian apartment building targeting reported mastermind Abdelhamid Abaaoud. Investigators now say a third person in that apartment detonated a suicide vest triggering this explosion.

It was believed that a woman, Hasna Aitboulahcen, was the suicide bomber. The prosecutors now say a man detonated the bomb in Saint- Denis, a Paris suburb killing her in the blast. We have a lot of late breaking developments to get to tonight.

But we begin with Pamela Brown. And Pamela, U.S. officials are admitting to you that at least one of the Paris attackers could have evaded the U.S. screening system. I mean, that's pretty shocking. What more can you tell us?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We've been speaking to officials from agencies across the board from intelligence from law enforcement. And we are learning according to some of these officials, they are very concerned that, as more becomes known about these Paris attackers, the various U.S. watch lists and other measures may not have been good enough to stop at least some of the attackers from traveling to the U.S. and we've learned that at least one of them had a clean enough background that he likely wouldn't have even raised red flags and could have come in through the visa waiver program.

Now, four of the Paris attackers were on the broad watch of known or suspected terrorist's suspects called tied. That has about 1.1 million names and at least one of them was on the no fly list before the attacks. But part of the issue here, Erin, lies in the incomplete information that European countries have on their citizens who are suspected of radicalizing or who have joined terrorists groups. Earlier this week, we reported that none of these attackers were on any U.S. watch list maintain by law enforcement to check against traveler manifests. Officials say that's because early on they had incomplete information on them, no indication that they were on the list. Now it turns out that some of them were. But Erin, I have to tell you, there's a lot of disagreement between law enforcement and counterterrorism officials about whether the watch list system would have prevented these attackers from coming in, whether we have enough security layers in place, especially with the visa waiver program.

BURNETT: Well, especially in the visa waiver program, I know Pamela, it allows people from countries, like Britain, like France, like Belgium to come easily, right, into the United States, right? They can come in and they don't have to go through extra screening. Of course, these individuals now, this incredible threat from ISIS, have those passports.

BROWN: Yes. And that is a concern that officials are going to be speaking to. In fact, it's a sign that the Obama administration agrees that there are gaps that need closing. One official we spoke with said that in the coming days the administration will be announcing a plan for additional steps to be taken with European countries that participate in the visa waiver program. As you point out Erin, citizens of 38 countries, mostly in Europe, participate in the visa waiver program that allows travel to the U.S. for up to 90 days without visas. These travelers are still screened against U.S. security databases and in the past year the Department of Homeland Security reacting in part to the increase in the number of European foreign fighters traveling to Iraq and Syria. If they had added new data requirements, but the concern continues tonight, especially in light of the fact that at least one of the attackers could have easily slipped into the United States.

BURNETT: I mean, that is -- it's a pretty incredible and stunning thing. Pamela, thank you very much. And along with that development now, new raids as they desperately try to track down Salah Abdeslam. One of the most wanted man in the world.

Nic Robertson is OUTFRONT. And Nic, what are you learning about this manhunt? We are now one week after the attacks and still they do not know where he is.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: They don't. In France alone in the last five days, we're told, there have been close to 800 different raids. More than 100 people arrested, more than 174 weapons taken into police custody. But Salah Abdeslam, the most wanted man here right now, whereabouts unknown. Now authorities here have said that it was actually three people that were killed in that raid in Saint Denis in the early hours of Wednesday morning. It's raised a question, well, was Salah Abdeslam, was he that third man? Unlikely maybe because he was last seen heading towards the border with Belgium but another new detail has emerged today. The ringleader, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, he was spotted on closed circuit cameras at a subway station in the minutes after the attacks finished.

[19:05:06] The significance of that is, the subway station he was spotted at was very close to where one of the cars was dumped. The black Fiat (ph) car used in the shootings at the cafes on the streets, that car was dumped very close to that station. It times out that the car could have gotten from those attacks to that location close to the subway station at around about the time that Abaaoud is seen getting in the subway system. So that kind of points investigators to the direction of, well, maybe he was in that vehicle. Maybe he was a gunman in the attack as well. Not just the ringleader. Now, this car was rented by Salah Abdeslam, the most wanted man right now still on the run. This connects those two men together. Did they flee that attack scene together in that car, dump the car together? So for investigators, these are going to be very, very important details as they try to figure out where he is, where he is on the run right now -- Erin.

BURNETT: Nic Robertson, thank you very much. In Paris tonight.

I want to go straight now to the former CIA counterterrorism official Phil Mudd, our terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank. And Seth Jones, director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at RAND. Phil, let me start with you. The breaking news, at least one Paris attacker could have traveled to the United States under the visa waiver program, you know, coming from one of those countries that so easily links to the U.S. when you're talking about Belgian and French passports, that is pretty frightening.

PHIL MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: The frightening part here is not the visa waiver program. The politicians in this country, I believe, will raise that in the coming days. The question you need to ask though is the quality of information we had about him and whether he should have been denied a visa. This is what it's going to boil down to and I predict the coming days will be pretty ugly. Did the Europeans, in particular the French, the Germans, the Belgians, did they have information about these individuals that was not passed to the Americans that would have led the Americans to deny a visa? The question here is, if you're going to deny the visa, you have to have information that's good enough to deny. It's not clear to me that information sharing between the Europeans and the Americans was good enough in this case.

BURNETT: Paul, in terms of this manhunt, a week since the attacks, Salah Abdeslam has not been seen since he was stopped by French police and he was questioned in the hours after the assault as he was driving back towards Belgium. Do they have any idea where he might be? As we're now hearing, maybe he was sighted in Spain. Maybe he's gone to the Netherlands. It seems that there's absolutely no sense as to where he truly is.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, the last time I checked in with Belgian investigators, they had no idea at all where he was. He was last sighted obviously when they stopped him driving at 9:00 in the morning on a Saturday, driving towards the French border. But he was let go because they didn't know he was a suspect, the French at that point. He may have gone to Brussels, he may not have gone to Brussels. He could perhaps be going back to Syria. If he's moving around, he's going to be much more vulnerable. He's the most wanted man in Europe at the moment, Erin.


CRUICKSHANK: And I think that may point to him trying to go to ground somewhere he knows. I don't think it's impossible that he's in Molenbeek, his home turf, hiding out in a cellar somewhere with somebody who is sympathetic to what he's done. I think that's a possibility. I know the Belgians are very worried about it. They are on edge tonight.

BURNETT: Of course. You know, his brother has said he's worried, he could go out in what he would see a blaze of glory. I mean, there's a lot of fear about that. Amazing though, Phil, that what Paul just said, that he could be hiding in a cellar in Molenbeek. It's a small neighborhood, it's amazing to think that if he's there, they couldn't find him. But yet when I was in Saint Denis, in that suburb, there were many neighbors who told me that Abaaoud had been there the night before. They knew his comings and goings at the mosque. They knew all these things but they did not know to fight (ph) police. They knew that he at that time was the most wanted man in Europe. Is it possible that people are not turning him in?

MUDD: There's a couple things to think about. First, I do believe it's possible, to my mind -- and I've lived in Paris, it's not clear to me if he's doing that. It's people who are sympathetic with what he's done.


MUDD: You're talking about disenfranchised communities in the suburbs.


MUDD: I think it's most likely that they mistrust the security forces, and they think somebody -- they are harboring he's done the right thing. It's about distrust in the French suburbs and Belgium suburbs.

BURNETT: And where do you think he could be, Salah Abdeslam?

MUDD: I think every day that passes in my mind, and obviously I don't have any information here, increases the likelihood that he's found a smuggling network back to Syria. The chances of discovering him in Europe is just too high. If he gets back to Syria, I believe we'll know eventually because he's going to be celebrating that back there and they are going to want to put out a video that rubs the French noses in it, he escaped and he's back with the brothers in the heartland of Syria.

BURNETT: Seth, where do you think he could be?

SETH JONES, DIRECTOR, RAND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY AND DEFENSE POLICY CENTER: Well, Erin, I think most likely right now he's probably in Europe still. It's possible, as Phil noted, he's gone back to Syria. But I think what is interesting here is at some point he's probably going to have to come up, communicate with someone, electronically, by phone, by e-mail or someone is going to spot him and so the question, from a technical standpoint or human standpoint, a human intelligence standpoint, this is where I think a lot of the effort is going to be to identify him right now, particularly if he's still in Europe.

[19:10:28] BURNETT: Seth, you know, one thing that surprised me on the train ride from Paris and Brussels and back, there were no checks at all, there was no passport check, there was no bag check, there was nothing. It was business as usual. And if know that, you know, everyone is showing these signs of Salah Abdeslam. You know, the wanted signs but they really weren't, at least just before yesterday, visible throughout the streets of Paris. It wasn't kind of the way that you'd expect a manhunt to be.

JONES: No, it's not, in many ways. I mean, you know, the Europeans in several cities do have a pretty sophisticated CCTV apparatus. So, they are checking people's imagery but I think you're right. We haven't seen a lot of visible law enforcement out on the streets.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much.

Now, OUTFRONT next, a terror attack on an American hotel. One hundred seventy hostages, more than 20 dead. And OUTFRONT exclusive interview with someone who was there inside. A witness.

Plus, in Paris officials now say a woman killed in the raids did not detonate a suicide bomb. New details breaking tonight about who she really was.

And ISIS' other weapon. A report tonight on the drug some ISIS fighters are taking to make them feel invincible.


[19:14:50]BURNETT: Breaking news, we are just learning that a U.S. citizen was among the 21 killed in a deadly assault on a popular American known hotel in Mali heavily armed gunmen storming the hotel this morning. U.S. Special Forces along with troops in Mali descended on the capital launching an all-out counter assault. One hundred seventy people held hostage in this hotel, a Radisson Blu. And tonight, an al-Qaeda-linked group ISIS taking responsibility for the attack. A group which possibly is pledging allegiance to ISIS. In a moment, I'll speak to someone who was inside that hotel. An exclusive interview.

But first, Robyn Kriel is OUTFRONT live in Nairobi tonight. And Robin, what are you learning about the American killed?

ROBYN KRIEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not a lot known about the American killed in the Mali siege, Erin. However, we know that around 12 Americans, we're hearing from the State Department were somehow involved in this attack and were rescued. Six U.S. personnel were told, were also assisting that those are from special operations from U.S. Africa command. But what we can tell you is that the Malians eventually entered the siege after a number of hours. Some horrific tales coming out of that hotel siege. Here's what we know. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KRIEL (voice-over): Gunmen stormed the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako at around 7:00 a.m. Friday morning firing automatic rifles and taking dozens of hostages. As many as 170 people were inside of the hotel at the time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two to three people entered the hotel with AK-47s. They came and immediately they started shooting at people before entering the hotel.

KRIEL: The hotel is popular with foreigners with guests from France, China, India, Turkey and the U.S. staying there at the time. Witnesses reported hearing gunfire and explosions coming from inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw bullets on the floor in the lobby.

KRIEL: A Chinese tourist shot this video from a window of the hotel as Mali security forces surrounded the building. With the help of U.N. troops, they launched a counterassault to rescue hostages. At least two U.S. military personnel assisted outside the hotel. A State Department spokesman says about a dozen Americans were rescued. By late afternoon, all the hostages had been freed or escaped.


KRIEL: What we can tell you is that we have heard that one al Qaeda-linked group has taken responsibility for this attack, Erin. However, as far as we know, this has nothing to do with ISIS. Perhaps if anything, it could be some kind of propaganda campaign, a propaganda war really between the different Jihadi groups.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Robyn reporting live tonight. And earlier I spoke with Tamba Couye, the -- at the restaurant at the Radisson Blu hotel, he was the -- at breakfast, he was there when the gunman stormed in and he told me what he saw.

TAMBA COUYE, INSIDE HOTEL DURING ATTACK (through a translator): Well, this morning, early in the morning, around 7:00 a.m., some people arrived on the west side of the hotel. They were not in a car, I was walking in, they arrived. They started firing at the tables and then they -- hotel door and started to shoot at everybody that was in the hotel. Then, they went to the restaurant. I closed the door. I evacuated the -- to go to the exit door and then as I was going, one of them who was wearing a cap went after me and pushed me and then I made my way outside.

BURNETT: And did the young man have a gun, the young man was one of the attackers?

COUYE: He had an automatic gun, a Kalashnikov.

BURNETT: And what can you tell us about the attackers, Tamba? What they do look like? What were they saying? Were they saying anything about Islam?

[19:19:06] COUYE: One of the men. One of the men ran away and was saying, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar!

BURNETT: Tamba, did they attackers give you any hint as to why they were doing this or where they were from, who they were?

COUYE: These people who attacked were -- I did not have the time to get close to them. It was hard for me to move around. These people started shooting. They were shooting at everybody without asking a single question. They were shooting at anything that moved. I did not have the time to understand what they were saying.

BURNETT: Tamba, after the attack, you stayed at the hotel. One of the attackers had chased you. You came back. You went back to the reception desk to try to help others. Most people would have run away. What made you stay?

COUYE: Well, what made me stay? My instinct made me stay to come back inside the hotel to save lives. Nothing else.


BURNETT: To save lives, the heroes that you hear in these stories makes your -- gives you goose bumps.

OUTFRONT now, Geoff Porter, North Africa expert at West Point's combatting terrorism center. Jeff, the counterterror group site provided OUTFRONT today with an audiotape from a leader of an al Qaeda linked group that operates in Mali. And in it, I'll say, I quote, "The worshippers of the cross have insulted the position of the best of the creation, peace and blessings be upon him. May your explosive belts respond to them." The hotel employee we just heard also had told me in the conversation. The fighters were professional, that they were reigned to use a baseball hat. How well trained are they?

GEOFF PORTER, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, COMBATING TERRORISM CENTER AT WEST POINT: It varies. I mean, there's a wide range of Jihadi fighters in the entirety of North Africa and in the Sahara. So you have everybody from fully trained battle hard commandants who have real battlefield skills to entrepreneurial amateurish group. And at the early stages of this attack, we're not really sure who was responsible or what their level of training was or what their access to weaponry was or their commitment to Jihad actually was.

BURNETT: The target though was clearly westerners. Which is, you know, we've seen these groups targets civilians and peacekeepers. But westerners, western business people, that is new.

PORTER: Correct. Yes. So, one of the characteristics of Mali is that there are not a lot of western investments. Right? You don't have a lot of western assets in the grounds. The western presence that you have in Mali is mostly diplomats and transients, people who are there on a diplomatic mission or there for some sort of a development mission. So they resided to this hotel and instead of attacking their assets or their hard installations, you attack the hotel where they live.

BURNETT: That's soft targets. The hotel employee said the terrorists he saw where from the north -- where these Jihadi groups are. He said he could tell that from their accents. You know, I met some fighters in Northern Mali while reporting from the border there. At that time the specific fighters in this picture were not fighting for al Qaeda. We don't know right now where their situation might be. How big are those groups now? How many people are we talking about? There's this fear of people coming right, coming up to Europe, coming to Europe, possibly coming to the U.S.

PORTER: We don't know how big these groups are. I mean, we just don't have a very good sense of their numbers. We don't have a great amount of intelligent assets on the ground or eyes in the sky. And one of the biggest challenges, when assessing these groups, is their recruitment levels. So, you could end up with a group that has three or four hundred guys, they lose the number of fighters but you're not really sure how many new fighters are joining the group every day. So, you could you have a group that has 300, 400, they lose 40, they get another 50 as recruits.

BURNETT: But again, this has a terrifying aspect to it. Because you have France, with easy Mali -- easy access to France.

PORTER: Uh-hm.

BURNETT: And here you go again.

PORTER: Right. So in your previous segment you had a question about clean passports. Is it possible for someone with a clean passport to travel to the United States? The same question applies for Mali vis a vis France. Is it possible for somebody with a clean passport to travel from West Africa to France and carry out the same kind of attacks that we saw last Friday in Paris?

BURNETT: The answer to that, of course, is yes. Thank you very much, Geoff Porter.

Now, OUTFRONT next, the woman found in this week's massive raid outside Paris, new developments on her role as officials say today she did not blow herself up.

Plus, ISIS' go-to drug, a powerful amphetamine that fighter say makes them feel invincible on the battlefield for days. That's our special report.


[19:27:34] BURNETT: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world. A stunning development in the investigation into the Paris terror attacks. We're learning that the woman who died during the seven-hour raid on Wednesday did not blow herself up as officials first reported.

Martin Savidge is live in Paris tonight. And Martin, you know, we were all told she was a suicide bomber. What are officials saying now? A totally different story?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is a totally different story. Good evening, Erin. We're talking about 26-year-old Hasna Aitboulahcen. She is the cousin of the ringleader as we know died in Wednesday's raid that was done by the authorities. But the authorities yesterday were saying that she died as a result of detonating a suicide vest. That in fact -- most people have seen that really dramatic video. Where you hear the police calling out to her saying, "where is your boyfriend?" And she shouts back, "he's not my boyfriend." And then you hear the blast. And that's why they had said that she had detonated the suicide vest she was wearing.

But it turns out now, forensic lead, they had investigated much more deeply and they now say, no, she wasn't wearing a suicide vest. She didn't detonate it. It is apparently as some as yet to be an unidentified male. So, we don't know who the person is that was wearing the vest. She may have been killed in that blast. She may have been killed in the violence. What we do know is that this just all attests to the tremendous violence of that raid on Wednesday. And the leader of that raid had said that they initially had the element of surprise. They were going in, they were going to blow the front door at the apartment. They knew whoever was in there was bad and was wanted. When they blew the door, though, the door didn't give in because it was heavily barricaded. Authorities immediately then lost the element of surprise and that's when that long, protracted deadly battle took place -- Erin.

BURNETT: It is incredible. Someone lived across the street about ten minutes in started filming it and we've watched the entire thing. I mean, it's incredible how long it went on. And then you see the sniper on the roof and the shooting and shooting. And, you know, it's something you would think you'd see in a movie but it was real life the other night.

Martin Savidge, thank you very much.

And tonight, as the manhunt intensifies for Salah Abdeslam, we are learning more about one of the most wanted man in the world.


BURNETT (voice-over): A massive manhunt tonight. Officials desperately searching for the attacker who got away. This video from the showing a man who maybe Salah Abdeslam, the 26-year- old now the most wanted man on earth. His face now known to the world. Salah and his brother Brahim who blew himself up the night of the attacks rented the three cars that delivered the gunmen to the killing sprees.

One of the cars later found with three AK-47s inside. Salah also rented this hotel room in a Paris suburb in the days before the attacks. He grew up here in Molenbeek, Belgium. A neighborhood we visited in Brussels with a large Muslim immigrant population. And as Salah's brother Mohamed told me, home to many young men who have gone to Syria to train with ISIS.

Salah ran a bar in Molenbeek. It was closed down weeks ago after police found it was a haven for drug dealers.

When I spoke to Salah's brother Mohamed, he told me both of this brothers liked to party.

MOHAMED ABDESLAM, BROTHER OF SUSPECT ON THE RUN (through translator): I have brothers who go out all day long, who may sometimes even go out two or three days without coming back home to sleep.

BURNETT: Mohamed told me recently they stopped drinking and they became radicalized through the Internet. Now, Salah is on the run. I asked Mohamed what he wants to say to him.

ABDESLAM: I would tell him to surrender. That's the best solution, to contact the authorities.

BURNETT: His brother told me that Salah Abdeslam is afraid to turn himself in.

He may also fear retribution from ISIS for abandoning his childhood friend. The reported ringleader of the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud.

But his brother has a message for him.

ABDESLAM: These are my brothers. I love them. That's for sure.


BURNETT: And OUTFRONT now, Republican Congressman Brad Wenstrup of Ohio, a member of the House Intelligence and Armed Services Committee, an Iraq war veteran and member of the U.S. Army Reserves.

Thank you very much for being with me tonight, sir. You know, this manhunt, Salah Abdeslam is one of the most wanted men in the world.

Is there any coordination right now between the United States and Europe as to possibly finding him? Or is it possible as the former CIA counterterror official Phil Mudd said earlier on this program that he could be well on his way back to Syria?

REP. BRAD WENSTRUP (R-OH), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, certainly intelligent sources like to share information amongst our allies and especially in a manhunt like this. Where he is at this point, I haven't really been in a facility where we can have that discussion and be classified at this time. But know that intelligent sources are sharing amongst our allies in an attempt to catch this man.

BURNETT: And, Congressman, we are also reporting tonight the breaking news -- our Pamela Brown reporting that U.S. national security sources say that at least one of the eight Paris attackers could have traveled to the United States. That he had a clean enough record, that given the easy -- ease of transit with visas between countries like France, Belgium and the United States, he could have traveled into the United States.

That is a pretty frightening thing for Americans to hear. WENSTRUP: It is. And I think that's what Americans are hearing

and we have to look at how we're doing things and that's why we wanted to put a pause on the refugee situation.

We also need to look in our visa waiver situation and see how we're managing that. It's a different time. You know, the scenario we'd like to see the world in is not a scenario that you'd get and you have to adjust when it happens that way. You know, when it comes to the refugee situation, we're a very caring country. We've been pouring millions of dollars into taking care of refugees. But we have to do what's best for our country and take a deep breath and really assess the situation and make sure that we do things right.

BURNETT: So, the United States now says, Congressman, that the U.S. is monitoring dozens of people who may be planning Paris-style copycat attacks. That's pretty frightening because we know there could be other people, they're not aware of. Just as France and Belgium were not aware of some of these attackers.

Are you worried about that, that we're not even looking at the right people? And are you confident that the FBI is truly able to monitor dozens of people every moment of their day and really know what they are doing?

WENSTRUP: I don't have 100 percent confidence on that and I don't think the FBI director does as well. It's a very difficult task, as you know. Do we have the amount of assets that we need?

I will say that if you think about what we've endured in this country since 9/11, we've done pretty well because there are many attacks that have been stopped. Even as I'm sitting here in Cincinnati, Ohio, we caught a guy who was about to make an attack and he was radicalized online.

BURNETT: And let me ask you this, congressman. A new poll finds 81 percent of Americans are registered -- I'm sorry, of registered voters, believe a terrorist attack with large casualties is likely in the United States in the near future. You've been briefed. Do those numbers match what you've been hearing from counterterror officials?

WENSTRUP: I don't have that same high level of the opinion that the American people are getting but I understand where they are coming from. I hope that they are wrong. But certainly, you know, we've seen in happen in our country before. We know that the element is there and it's growing.

[19:35:02] So, the concern is great.

I think we have to go out each and every day and be as vigilant as we possibly can, use every asset that we possibly can and I hope that it doesn't happen. But there's always that possibility, unfortunately.

BURNETT: Thank you very much, Congressman. I appreciate your time tonight. OUTFRONT next, in Paris, video from the You'll

see ISIS gunmen shooting indiscriminately. Is a powerful drug making ISIS fighters like these feel invincible?

Plus, the rhetoric post-Paris. Donald Trump considering a database. Ben Carson comparing refugees to rabid dogs. Why?


BURNETT: Tonight, the manhunt continuing for Salah Abdeslam. Police across Europe searching for the man suspected of being the eighth attacker in the Paris attacks.

And this comes tonight as we're learning more about a drug ISIS might be giving to its fighters to help them carry out horrific attacks.

Brian Todd is OUTFRONT.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A captured ISIS militant named Kareem tells CNN how he got his battlefield courage.

[19:40:01] KAREEM, CAPTURED ISIS MILITANT: They gave us drugs, pills that would make us go to battle not caring if you lived or died.

TODD: When our CNN team interviewed Kareem last year, he was being held by Kurdish militants in northern Syria. It was impossible to know if he was telling the truth or if he was being coached by his captors. But now, a U.S. official tells CNN it's believed some jihadist fighters are using the drug called Captagon, a dangerous and powerful amphetamine.

How would it fuel them on the battlefield?

DR. ROBERT KEISLING, PSYCHIATRIST, MEDSTAR WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER: It keeps you awake. You can stay awake for days at a time. You don't have to sleep and gives you a sense of well-being and euphoria and you think that you are invisible and that nothing can harm you.

TODD: Recently, the U.N.'s drug czar said that ISIS and the al Qaeda affiliated Nusra front were believed to be smuggling the chemical precursors for Captagon. A U.S. law enforcement official tells CNN there's a robust black market for the drug in the Middle East. Analysts say the profits funds weapons purchases for jihadist groups.

MATTHEW LEVITT, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: Hezbollah, people affiliated with Hezbollah have a long history in the production and sale of Captagon. At one point there was a fight between Hezbollah-affiliated persons because some people are angry they weren't getting a cut of some of the business.

TODD: Captagon was developed in the '60s and first used to treat people with hyperactivity. It's since been banned in the U.S. and elsewhere.

And while some question the drug's prevalence among fighters who preach Islamic purity, analysts say jihadists can find a justification.

(on camera): Is it hypocritical? Is it a violation of cultural religious principles?

DAVEED GARTENSTEIN-ROSS, FOUNDATIN FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: Jihadist scholars would argue that this is not hypocritical. That, first of all, it's not a drug being taken to get high.

TODD (voice-over): Psychiatrist Robert Keisling who has treated thousands of addicts says Captagon so hallucinogenic, it can make a user hear voices and see things that aren't there.

(on camera): That can hurt you on the battlefield, right?

KEISLING: Absolutely. But they have made the decision that keeping these guys awake for four or five days at a time and giving them the sense of invisibility is worth whatever harm or side effects the drugs have.

TODD: For whatever sense of euphoria and invincibility Captagon might produce, Dr. Keisling says there are horrible downsides. Users, he says, can become psychotic, brain damaged and get addicted to the drug for years to come.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


BURNETT: All right. Now, let's bring in CNN military analyst, Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona.

And, Colonel, let me just start with it. You know, Brian is talking bout this drug Captagon, keeps you awake, gives you a sense of well-being, of euphoria. How powerful is this drug?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's very powerful. And because of that, it's widespread used throughout the Middle East. It's very addicting. It's been there for a long time. Much of the drug problem in Saudi Arabia uses this particular compound of drug.

But to see it in use in the fighting ranks of ISIS, it has its good sides and bad sides. Yes, you can stay awake. You can go without food for a long time. These are qualities you want to have on a battlefield.

The downside is, you do stupid things when you're on this drug. You think you're invincible, so you take unnecessary risks, you expose yourself. Someone using this drug fighting a trained army really is at a disadvantage.

BURNETT: Interesting. That's an interesting takeaway. Do you think that ISIS fighters are using it?

FRANCONA: Well, we're getting anecdotal evidence that they are. And that would explain some of the characteristics that we see in their fighting because they seem to have no regard for their own personal safety. If you look at fighting in Tikrit, 300 or 400 ISIS fighters were able to hold off thousands of Iraqis and it's like they never slept and the Iraqis remarked about how these guys were never tired. Maybe they were using some sort of drug or some sort of pharmaceutical. But use of drugs on a battlefield is not new. This goes back to antiquity.

BURNETT: Yes. But when you're saying they would be at a disadvantage, but obviously in that one battle, it seems like it might have helped them.

FRANCONA: It helped them because they were fighting at a really not a very effective force. But if you put an ISIS unit up against a well-trained Turkish unit, Kurdish unit and an American unit, Western armies, they would really be at a disadvantage because they expose themselves and they really do things that are not militarily sound and you just pick them off as they expose themselves.

BURNETT: And we look at the Paris attackers. Is this something that they -- obviously, we have nothing to indicate that they were on any sort of drugs but something that they could have done? Does it at all impact your psyche, your sense of morality or empathy, this drug?

FRANCONA: Well, from what I understand, it gives you a sense of euphoria and I don't really attribute any of the characteristics I saw in the video that you see of the attackers in Paris. That just seems to be downright cold commitment.

BURNETT: Yes, a good way to describe what we've seen in those videos and pictures. Colonel, thank you very much.

[19:40:00] And OUTFRONT next, a national database tracking Muslims in America. Is that something that the U.S. should do? Well, the idea is getting Donald Trump in hot water. He's got an explanation tonight.


BURNETT: Breaking news tonight, at least one and as many as three of the Paris attackers could have slipped through U.S. watch lists and come to the United States. This is fueling already heated debate about how to best protect the United States from a Paris-style attack. Republican front-runner Donald Trump under attack tonight because he's refusing to rule out a database of Muslims in America.

Sunlen Serfaty is OUTFRONT.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Very simply, we can't take them, folks. We can't take them. SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a

debate roiling the Republican Party, how to handle the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the wake of the Paris attacks. Donald Trump drawing a hard line, refusing to take any option off the table to protect the U.S., including closing some mosques in the U.S., issuing Muslims special ID cards listing their religion and potentially creating a database to register and track all Muslims living in the U.S.

[19:50:06] REPORTER: Should there be a database system that tracks the Muslims here in this country?

TRUMP: There should be a lot of systems beyond database. We should have a lot of systems. And, today, you can do it. Right now, we have to have a border. We have to have strength. We have to have a wall. And we cannot let what's happening to this country happen --

REPORTER: Is that something your White House would like to implement?

TRUMP: Oh, I would certainly implement that.

SERFATY: The GOP front runner today tweeting that he didn't suggest a database, but still not dismissing the idea, as some of Trump's rivals have done.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Those who want to divide and impose tests, religious tests where people go and register, we don't need division in America. We need to be united.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you talk about interment, you talk about closing mosques, you talk about registering people -- and that's just wrong.

SERFATY: Even Ted Cruz in a rare break with Trump.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First Amendment protects religious liberty and I spent the past several decades defending religious liberty of every American.

SERFATY: Ben Carson saying that it sets a dangerous precedent to single out one group of people, instead, calling for a database for every person who enters the U.S.

BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to everybody to have a data base. I want us to know about anybody who comes into this country.

SERFATY: That, after he raised eyebrows with an inflammatory analogy comparing some refugees to rabid dogs.

CARSON: If there's a rabid dog running around your neighborhood, you're probably not going to assume something good about that dog. It doesn't mean that you hate all dogs.

SERFATY: Cruz, meanwhile, has proposed to let Syrian Christians into the country, but not all Muslims.

CRUZ: There's no doubt we have to vet everyone coming in, but there's no indication of Muslims pretending to be Christians coming in the refugee wave.


SERFATY: And there's some new polling out tonight, really tapping into what American voters feel about this. A new poll from "The Washington Post" and ABC News says majority of Americans, 54 percent, believe the U.S. should not be taking in refugees from Syria, and perhaps even more striking, only 13 percent of the polls say that you have confidence that the U.S. is able to identify terrorists who could be mixed in with those refugees -- Erin.

BURNETT: Sunlen, thank you very much.

I want to go now to our senior political analyst and editorial director of "The National Journal", Ron Brownstein.

And, Ron, good to have you with me on this Friday night.


BURNETT: All right. Donald Trump with the Muslim database, Ben Carson saying he wants to have a database of all people who come into the United States, something that some people might say makes sense, but making that comment about refugees and dogs, Chris Christie saying he wouldn't let orphans in the United States, even those as young as 5 years old.

What do you make of all these comments? How are they playing?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, I mean, this has been a shocking, destabilizing event that's understandably has Americans kind of questioning everything we're doing and whether we are, you know, as buttoned up as we need to be in our security.

But when you look at the extreme comments that we are seeing on closing mosques and even though Donald Trump kind of pulled back without completely renouncing the idea of databases, he's talked about closing mosques. Even before the attack, Ben Carson said that it would, you know, he did not believe a Muslim should be president. I think what you are seeing -- I think we have to see this reaction to the terrorist attack of this continuation of the argument that has been going on in the Republican Party for six months, largely around the issue of undocumented immigrants, where you have Republicans basically arguing that kind of the world is pressing itself on the U.S. in a way that makes us both economically and from a security point of view less safe.

And I think this is really an acceleration and intensification of that basic argument we've been hearing for months.

BURNETT: And, Ron, you know, 54 percent of Americans, 54 percent, are opposed to the United States accepting refugees from Syria, or anywhere else in the Middle East, even if they are screened. That -- that is a pretty strong split.


BURNETT: And that's not just from Syria. It's anywhere in the Middle East, and even if they are screened.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, no, look, there's a lot of anxiety. I mean, as we said -- I mean, you had the poll number up recently from the ABC/"Post", this is the highest level of concern about a terrorist attack with only one exception since 9/11. I think the American public is, you know, clearly asking whether we are -- you know, with all the defenses are in place.

But I would point out that it is a long way from saying we're questioning admitting Syria refugees to the public saying they would support closing mosques or establishing a database or registry. Those are proposals that are way beyond what is in the debate right now.

BURNETT: And, of course, many believe they are also deeply un- American, right, a country founded upon giving people the ability to practice their faith freely.

BROWNSTEIN: You know, Erin, I think this is going to be one of the central -- this is shaping up to be the central point of debate in the election. You look across a whole series of issues, this question of undocumented immigration, now the Syria refugees, and for that matter, the Black Lives Matter movement, and you have Democrats basically arguing tolerance, inclusion, and diversity serves not our values but our interest.

[19:55:05] And on all issues, you have more and more Republicans arguing that Democrats are making us unsafe by worrying too much about kind of protecting the interests of people who may not have your best interest at heart. And that kind of argument which you really haven't seen much in American politics since the early 1990s I think is consistently emerging, and this has turbo-charged it.

BURNETT: It's amazing.

And, of course, you're seeing it in France. They value freedom, liberty, right, equality, and yet they are now in the state of emergency. They can take anyone in for questioning they want. They don't have to have reason, they are racial profiling. I saw it at the train station, and people are absolutely fine with it.

All right. Thanks so much to you, Ron. We'll be right back.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.