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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Ohio Governor John Kasich; Interview With Texas Congressman Will Hurd; Terror in Belgium; At Least 30 Dead in Attacks, ISIS Claims Responsibility. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired March 22, 2016 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: transit terror attacks.
Terrorists strike at the heart of a major European capital with coordinated bombings targeting an airport and a subway station. Dozens of people are dead, hundreds are injured, and are more attacks imminent?
Terrorists escape. A manhunt for a suspect seen here in white next to two suspected suicide bombers. Raids launched in the aftermath of the attacks uncover a nail bomb, chemical products and an ISIS flag. Did ISIS leaders order these attacks?
Missed signals? The deadly new attacks coming just days after the arrest of a key suspect in the Paris massacre, raising concern about other terrorists investigators may have overlooked. Was this a revenge attack? Were there missed signals?
And America on alert. Heightened security and new precautions, as law enforcement moves to protect potential targets here in the United States. President Obama being briefed on the crisis as federal officials deploy special teams to U.S. airports. Is it enough, though, to stop potential terrorist strikes?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, deadly terror attacks right in the heart of Europe. ISIS is claiming responsibility for bombings in Brussels that killed at least 30 people at the city's main airport and at a subway station near the European Parliament.
Suicide bombers are believed to have carried out the attacks, but a manhunt is now under way for a third suspect seen here in white next to two suspected airport bombers. Sources tell CNN the Brussels terrorists are believed to be tied to the network behind the Paris attacks last November.
These latest attacks have the United States right now on heightened alert. The TSA is increasing security at airports and train stations across the country, deploying special units that include advanced screening technology and bomb-sniffing dogs.
We're covering all of this, much more this hour with our guests, including Republican presidential candidate John Kasich and Congressman Will Hurd of the Homeland Security Committee. Our correspondent and expert analysts, they are also standing by.
Let's get right to our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown. She begins our breaking news coverage this hour.
Pamela, these are devastating strikes right in the heart of Europe. What's the latest?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Counterterrorism officials say this is the new normal in Europe.
We have learned authorities raided a home believed to be connected to the attackers based on a tip. Officials have not ruled out this being an isolated incident.
BROWN (voice-over): This airport surveillance picture shows three men suspected in the terror attacks in Brussels today. Belgian officials say the two men in black carried out the suicide attack at the airport and they believe the black gloves they're wearing on their left hands may have been to conceal the detonators.
Right now, a massive manhunt is under way for the man in the white jacket on the right. Investigators found a nail bomb, chemical product, and an ISIS flag during a house search connected to the men. The first explosion ripped through the crowded Brussels airport at 8:00 a.m., sending people running for their lives.
The halls of the terminal filled with smoke. Terrified passengers dropped to the floor and huddled together.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard an explosion, The first bomb.
BROWN: Minutes later, a second blast inside the airport.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hear an explosion. Now the ceiling is going down. And then I just go under the sink. And then the second explosion went. And everything is black.
BROWN: An hour later, just a few miles away at the Molenbeek metro station in the heart of Brussels, a third explosion. The tunnel filled with smoke as passengers tried to find their way through the dark to safety.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't explain. It looked like war. It's unbelievable. It's really hard.
BROWN: Brussels is put on lockdown.
CHARLES MICHEL, BELGIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We feared a terrorist attack would happen and this is what happened. At the airport and at a metro station in Brussels, terrorists have committed murder.
BROWN: The Molenbeek metro station is just one mile from where police raided an apartment and captured Salah Abdeslam last week, one of the suspected ringleaders in the Paris attacks last November. Investigators believe that same terror network is responsible for today's attacks.
As victims in Brussels, some of them wrapped in blankets, are transported to safety, police fan out across the city searching for anyone who was involved.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so scared. I feel like it's the end of the world.
BROWN: And investigators believe these attacks were already in the works before Abdeslam was arrested and then they were accelerated after his arrest last Friday.
Investigators said over the weekend that Abdeslam was cooperating, but the question remains how much he knew about these attacks there this morning -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Pamela Brown, thanks very much.
We're also learning new details about the police raids that have been unfolding in the wake of the terror attacks.
Our senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, is in Brussels for us tonight.
Fred, what's the latest where you are?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
Well, this is the raid where, as Pamela just said, there was apparently a nail bomb discovered, as well chemicals and also an ISIS flag as well. It is a raid that was going on for a very long time throughout the afternoon hours, Brussels time. That is actually still going on right now.
We were on the phone with the authorities just a couple of minutes ago and they said this is still very much an active operation that is going on. There was a lot of movement a couple of hours ago when a police chopper was hovering over the area here and had an open door and a sniper taking aim at something out of that chopper. Also, a searchlight was on in that helicopter as well.
Since then, that chopper has left. However, there's still a lot of movement here on the ground. We have seen a lot of police vehicles going in and out of that area. The most recent thing that we have seen was a decontamination vehicle that went out here. Of course, we were saying that one of the things that was found was chemicals inside.
Possibly, that was the reason why that decontamination unit was on the scene here. But, again, it's clear what they found here so far. It's not clear whether or not anybody's taken into custody yet. We have been on the phone with the authorities literally just a couple minutes ago, Wolf, and they have not confirmed to us that anybody was arrested at this site or whether they might have found an empty apartment with these chemicals and that nail bomb as well, Wolf.
BLITZER: Massive manhunt under way right now throughout Belgium, not only in Brussels. Thanks very much for that, Fred Pleitgen.
We're also getting some new information right now about the investigation into the Brussels terror bombings.
Our justice reporter, Evan Perez, is working his sources.
Evan, what are you hearing?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're told that Belgian authorities have now shared the names of several people of interest with U.S. authorities and authorities elsewhere.
Those names are now being run through databases here in the United States to see if there's anything known about them. We know that the authorities are still working on finalizing identification of the names of the bombers, the bombers who carried out these attacks in Belgium. We know that at this point authorities have also looked through all of the video, surveillance video, and have managed to track all of the movements of the three men that we saw on camera there in that video that was -- or that picture that was released by Belgian authorities.
The three men are seen getting out of a taxi and then moving through the airport. The two men stay behind and carry out the two bombings that we have at the Belgian -- at the Brussels Airport. The third man leaves the airport. Apparently, that was the plan all along.
We now know also, Wolf, that three, at least three people are being sought by Belgian authorities with some connection to this plot. But they also do believe, Wolf, that there was a wider network at work here in this attack.
BLITZER: All right, Evan, thanks very much, Evan Perez joining us.
Let's get some more on all of this.
Joining us, Republican Congressman Will Hurd of Texas. He's a member of the House Homeland Security Committee. He's a former clandestine CIA officer who worked in the Middle East and elsewhere as well.
Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
REP. WILL HURD (R), TEXAS: Thanks for having me on.
BLITZER: The working assumption, a source tells CNN, you just heard, these attackers came from the same overall group responsible for the Paris massacres last November.
That's pretty worrisome in there, and the suspicion is there may be a lot more of these cells out there.
HURD: No, and that's one of the problems.
I guarantee you what's happening right now, that we're gathering all the information that we have on these three suspects, any information that was gleaned from some of these raids that are already happening to make sure that we're sharing as much information as we can with our colleagues in Brussels.
BLITZER: How sophisticated was this operation?
HURD: I think it was fairly sophisticated.
We're going to find out in the next couple days after we do the analysis of how they did this, and we're going to take that information to ensure we protect, if we see these tactics, techniques and procedures other places, that we can defend against them.
BLITZER: Could the U.S. be next?
HURD: It can.
Listen, there have been 80 ISIS members arrested in the United States. There have been 80 ISIS-linked plots against Western targets, a good number of those against the United States. ISIS wants to attack the U.S. That's why we have got to make sure that we double down in Iraq and Syria, that we stop ISIS from having the ability to plot, plan, and train in a place like...
BLITZER: Do you think that ISIS headquarters in Raqqa, Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, they coordinated this attack in Brussels, as well as the Paris attacks?
HURD: There's absolutely a connection.
And we have got to make sure that we keep these guys on the run. This is connected to Bashar al-Assad, the president in Syria. The reason you have four million refugees that are impacting the borders of our European partners is because the situation that Bashar is creating.
You know, that's making things a ripe environment for ISIS to plan and train. All this is connected.
BLITZER: You used to work at the CIA. Now you're a member of Congress. I want you to listen to what Donald Trump just told me in the last hour about water-boarding and torture to try to elicit information from terrorists.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we have to change our law on, you know, the water-boarding thing, where they can chop off heads and they can drown people in cages and heavy steel cages, and we can't water-board.
So we have to change our laws and we have to be able to fight at least on an almost equal basis. We have laws that we have to obey in terms of torture. They have no laws whatsoever that they have to obey.
BLITZER: So would you start torturing him right away, or would you see if he would cooperate and share information? Because Belgian authorities, Belgian police say he has been talking.
TRUMP: Well, he may be talking, but he will talk a lot faster with the torture.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We're talking about Salah Abdeslam, who Belgian police say has started talking, giving information.
Do you agree with Mr. Trump?
HURD: I don't agree with Mr. Trump.
I think there's many other ways that we can collect intelligence that help us, continue to protect us. But this is a sign that we need to capture more people. Having a drone, an airstrike-only policy is preventing us from being able to collect valuable intelligence that we could get from these folks about what their plans are, how they have been training, what the next steps are.
And that's one reason that we need to be having more folks on the ground to capture some of these guys because it's great intelligence.
BLITZER: Would your former pals over at the CIA want to be able to use water-boarding? Again, they did the water-boarding. The U.S. military was not authorized to engage in water-boarding after 9/11. CIA personnel did it. Do you think they want to do it again?
HURD: I don't think there are many people that would want to do that. There's a number of ways to collect intelligence.
And, listen, the way to do this is by figuring out the motivation of why they want to cooperate with us. And these individuals know they're not seeing the light of day any time soon. So there are a number of tactics that you can use before even having to consider or think about that option.
BLITZER: Is security tight enough at U.S. airports? You're on the Homeland Security Committee. Because what we saw at the major international airport in Brussels today, guys apparently just walked in before they went through any security, they were there with their carts near the baggage at the arrivals, and they just blew themselves up.
HURD: I straight ahead on a task force that looked at foreign fighters going to fight in Iraq and Syria. And one of the things that we learned is that it's night-and-day difference between how Europeans do things and how we do things. Europeans were only checking one out of every three travel documents. They weren't -- they were sharing information of only convicted terrorists, not suspect terrorists.
So what we need to be doing is working with our European partners so that their standards get to our standards, because that's going to make everybody safer.
BLITZER: Congressman Hurd, thanks very much for coming in.
HURD: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: The breaking news continues here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The presidential candidates reacting tonight to the Brussels terror attacks. Republican presidential candidate John Kasich, he's standing by live. We will discuss with him.
Also, heightened security in the United States tonight, including special TSA units deployed to airports across the country. Is it enough, though, to prevent an ISIS-related terror attack?
BLITZER: Republican and Democratic presidential candidates, they are reacting tonight to the terror attacks in Brussels that killed at least 30 people and injured almost 300 others.
Sources telling CNN the bombings are believed to be tied to the same terror network behind the Paris massacre last November.
Let's get some more.
Joining us, Republican presidential candidate the Ohio Governor John Kasich.
Governor, thanks very much for joining us. Lots to discuss.
I want to quickly get your reaction to what we just heard from Donald Trump. He says bring back water-boarding and other forms of torture to question these terrorists who are out there. Your reaction.
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, the intelligence experts don't believe that is the answer. They do believe there are proper techniques to get information.
And the fact is, what we really need is, we need much more coordinated intelligence worldwide. We need to make sure that we involve everybody who is detested and outraged by the actions of these murderers.
And that will include also people in the Muslim community, who find this as abhorrent as we do. And we need to have better intelligence coordinated worldwide.
And, frankly, Wolf, if I were president, I would have come home from Cuba. And what I then would have done was to have called all the world leaders and sent my intelligence and military experts to Europe to find out our vulnerabilities and then move in the direction of being able to correct them.
At the same time, we have got to go after ISIS. We cannot continue to do this in an off-put way. We have to do this. We have to go in the air and on the ground with a coalition to destroy this group.
BLITZER: If the president of the United States would have cut short his visit to Cuba, Governor, wouldn't that have been a victory for ISIS and the terrorists? Couldn't they have said, look, look at how powerful we are, we're forcing the president of the United States to cut short an important,historic visit to Cuba?
KASICH: No, I think we have to take this very seriously.
This is an attack on Western civilization, an attack on -- you know, in the heart of Europe. When you go to Brussels, you're attacking the very heart of Europe.
And I think the president should have come back, come back now and begin to talk to the leaders of Europe. We're all in this together. You know, when people in Europe bleed and die, a little bit of us bleeds and dies as well. This is a serious matter. It needs to be taken seriously.
These Islamist extremists need to be destroyed, and we're not going to be -- we shouldn't be playing some sort of a political game here. We need to be very focused, very determined, very calm, and absolutely be willing to take action.
BLITZER: Senator Cruz says that police throughout the United States should start special patrols in what he calls Muslim neighborhoods looking for terrorists. You agree with him on that?
KASICH: No, I don't think we should be patrolling Muslim neighborhoods. I don't even know how you would do it.
And, secondly, let's face facts, that we need help and we need intelligence from everybody, and there are people in the Muslim community who will give us that kind of intelligence. We're also going to need Muslims to be part of our coalition to destroy ISIS.
The wrong approach right now is to create a situation where we polarize people who are really on our side. So, we have got to be cool, calm, and collected. And I spent 18 years on the Armed Services Committee. I understand how much of this works. And we don't need to be alienating people who can be partners in us being able to destroy these vicious murders.
BLITZER: I take it you also disagree with Mr. Trump,who just a little while ago told me he still believes there should at least be a temporary ban on Muslims coming into the United States?
KASICH: Look, the fact is, is that we need to make sure that our visa program is good. The visa waiver program should be examined. But I don't know how you're going to have a religious test.
The fact is, if we have intelligence that we need, the effective intelligence, along with our counterterrorism task force, and giving them the tools they need, that's the best way for us to proceed. To start having a religious test isn't going to work. In fact, it can backfire.
And, frankly, just yesterday, Mr. Trump said that we ought to sort of reduce our activity around NATO. We need to strengthen NATO. We need to strengthen the Western countries.
Look, we need to stay cool, calm, and collected, but we need to move decisively to enhance intelligence, to make sure that we're rebuilding our military, to make -- take action as a group against ISIS and be able to have the kind of worldwide cooperation we need to get ahead of this.
Now, our big problem, of course, are the homegrown and the lone wolf terrorists. And that's where we in the neighborhoods can pay attention, alert law enforcement. And those are the things that I think we need to do, and we need to do them expeditiously.
And that's why I think the president should be very much on top of this and send a group of our best and brightest over there to meet with the Europeans and get things under better control.
BLITZER: Because, as you know, one of the most frustrating things about NATO is they have far as an organization refused to fight ISIS. They got involved in Afghanistan. They never got involved in Iraq. But they're refusing, at least so far, the NATO allies, to fight and destroy ISIS. You would try to change that?
KASICH: Well, first of all, they did participate in the first Gulf War, of course.
BLITZER: In the first Gulf -- that was a long time ago.
KASICH: It was. It was a long...
BLITZER: ISIS is the big threat. And you don't see NATO as an organization fighting ISIS.
KASICH: I think that's a problem, Wolf.
And I don't want to be partisan here or appear political, but it is because the president, himself, has not gathered our allies and led. You know, we felt that we should have been declared that an attack on France was an attack on us. I don't think the French ever sort of bought into that. They didn't know where we were going to stand.
Listen, it's an existential threat to all of Europe. It's an existential threat to many of the Arab countries in the Middle East. And it's up to a president to rally them, because, frankly, here's what it gets do to in some ways. We either hang together or we're going to hang separately.
And I believe these countries and their populations understand it. And we need to take a terrible situation and we need to pull people together. And I believe, as president, I could do that.
BLITZER: Governor Kasich, thanks very much for joining us.
KASICH: Thank you, Wolf. And God bless the people over there and the Americans who've been injured. We will rise and we will stop these people.
BLITZER: Thank you very much, John Kasich of Ohio.
We will have more on the breaking news coming up. We're getting new details right now of the investigation into the terror attacks in Brussels. Are they connected to the arrest just a few days ago of a prime suspect in the Paris attacks?
And how vulnerable are U.S. airports and subway stations right now? We're taking a closer look at new security measures being put in place tonight.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're following the breaking news: deadly terror bombings in Brussels, the Belgian capital, right in the heart of Europe.
[18:30:02] Coordinated attacks on the city's main international airport and a subway station that have left at least 30 people dead and hundreds of people injured.
The attacks believed carried out by suicide bombers, a manhunt under way tonight for another suspect who was caught on camera.
ISIS is claiming responsibility for the bombings. Sources tell CNN they're believed to have been tied to the same terror network behind the Paris massacre last November.
CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us.
Brian, 30 people dead. Hundreds of people injured. You're getting new information. What are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: New information, Wolf. These attacks were devastating at both locations. What we're learning tonight is a possible connection not only to the wider networks suspected of pulling off the Paris attacks, but a possible connection to Friday's capture of a top Paris suspect.
TODD (voice-over): Seconds after an explosion at Brussels international airport, smoke, chaos, and screams filled the terminal. A witness describes emerging from a bathroom at the airport after a second explosion and seeing carnage everywhere.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I go out, I see all -- a lot of people with blood and I just go -- just run out of the airport. Yes, and all the building there is, like, like chaos there.
TODD: The chaos captured inside in this amateur video. About an hour later, another blast rips through the Maalbeek metro station. In this video, a child can be heard screaming as passengers escape through a pitch black smoke-filled tunnel. A Brussels firefighter with 45 years' experience says he's never witnessed anything like the scene at the train station.
PIERRE MAYS, BRUSSELS FIRE BRIGADE: I can't, can't explain. It looked like war. It's unbelievable. It's unbelievable. It's really hard.
TODD: ISIS quickly claimed responsibility for the Brussels attacks. Belgian police have released this picture of a suspect pushing a luggage cart at the airport. They say they're actively looking for him. A Belgian prosecutor says he's one of three men seen together in surveillance footage. The two others, he says, probably killed themselves in the explosions.
Two senior U.S. officials tell CNN they believe the Brussels attacks are tied to the same terror network as the one which launched the Paris attacks in November. U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials tell CNN the attacks in Brussels could well have been connected to Friday's capture of Salah Abdeslam, a chief suspect in the Paris attacks.
REP. PETER KING (R-NY), INTELLIGENCE, HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEES: Especially since the word is getting out that he is cooperating, that he's cooperating with the authorities, so this attack could have well been on the shelf, this planned attack to be done in the future and now, they may have felt since it's going to become known, they should go with it right now.
TODD: Analysts say western capitals should brace for more attacks from is as it loses ground on the battlefield.
MATTHEW LEVITT, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: It's going to make them more violent. More ultra violent at home to stay in power and even more inclined though they certainly already were to carry out terrorist attacks abroad. That is their way, their only way of being able to inflict pain upon us. They can't face us on the battlefield.
TODD: Now, in its claim of responsibility, ISIS said, quote, "What is to come will be more devastating than Brussels." Congressman Peter King of the Intelligence Committee says what's particularly disturbing about today's attack was the Belgian counterterror forces had already been on high alert before this, they have been ready, they have been aggressively conducting raids and still couldn't stop this -- Wolf.
BLITZER: There are some investigative threads we're picking up, Brian, on the suspects at the airport. Tell our viewers what you've learned.
TODD: That's right. If you look at the surveillance picture of the two men here on the left, the other suspect they're looking for, but the two men on the left who authorities say likely blew themselves up in the airport in that attack, the photo shows each man wearing only one glove. Investigators tell us they think it's possible that each man's glove hid a detonator.
Also after the airport attack, investigators searched a house connected to all of these men. They found a nail bomb, chemical products, and an ISIS flag.
BLITZER: All right, Brian, thanks very much.
All of this has the United States right now on heightened alert with increased security at airports and train stations across the country.
CNN aviation correspondent Rene Marsh is over in Washington's Reagan National Airport.
Rene, there's real concern in the wake of these bombings in Brussels, what are you learning?
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the TSA is preparing to launch a specialized group, a specialized unit at airports in major cities, so-called viper teams. They use everything from bomb-sniffing dogs to advanced specialize screening. And although the federal government says there is no threat, when you look at the procedures we're seeing across the nation, it is clear that the attacks overseas has stoked increased concerns over the U.S. transit system.
MARSH (voice-over): Tonight, U.S. cities nationwide are on heightened alert. New York City is stepping up its police and National Guard presence.
[18:35:02] High visibility anti-terrorist patrols can be seen in the subway system where officers are checking bags for explosives.
Signs at New York's Penn Station alerts passengers about random checks and city's three major airports have heightened security as well.
BILL DE BLASIO, MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: Expect to see extraordinary NYPD presence out over the coming days as a sign of our readiness to protect people at all times.
MARSH: Airports and cities across the country, including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles, are also ramping up their security presence.
Police Chief Patrick Gannon oversees LAX, one of the world's busiest airport.
PATRICK M. GANNON, CHIEF OF L.A. AIRPORT POLICE: We never want to be predictable. We also feel if you're predictable, you're vulnerable.
MARSH: So-called "soft targets" like train stations and U.S. airports have long been a security concern. Areas like passenger drop off, airline ticket counters, baggage claim, and all other areas before the security checkpoint are potentially susceptible.
GANNON: We employ our own intel analysts that provide us with airport specific and transportation system specific information that helps us in our daily deployment of our officers.
MARSH: In the nation's capital, bomb sniffing dogs and SWAT can be seen on patrol.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The K9s that are stationed here are trained. I think they're the best in the country.
MARSH: Amtrak police are conducting random bag checks, an ongoing show of force around the country.
MARSH: And earlier today, we want to show you this video, a flight from Brussels into Orlando's Sanford International Airport was met by the authorities. The passengers were taken off of that flight. Their luggage left there on the tarmac. Bomb-sniffing dogs, they checked the luggage for explosives and the plane was kept very far from the terminal.
This was all as a precaution, Wolf. Of course, that flight took off before those explosions.
Wolf, as we watch all of this going on, it make it so clear and it's just proof how difficult it is to protect these so-called soft targets.
BLITZER: Pretty scary picture over there from Orlando.
All right, Rene, thank you very much.
Let's dig deeper into all of this, joining us, our justice reporter Evan Perez. Also with us, our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, our national security analyst Peter Bergen, and "Daily Beast" senior editor and CNN contributor, Michael Weiss.
You're getting more information, Evan, right now, about how investigators were initially tipped off on what's going on. What are you learning?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: That's right, Wolf.
We know that they were dropped off at the airport in a taxi. Authorities have been able to look at surveillance video and track down that taxi driver. He told them where he picked them up, which is this address in the neighborhood of Schaerbeek, which is where Fred Pleitgen has been reporting and that's how they knew to raid the house, where they found bomb components and other dangerous materials that are believed to be associated with these suspects.
BLITZER: All right. Everyone, stand by. We're going to take a quick break.
We're also going to be hearing from Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate. She has very strong views on the terror attacks in Brussels today.
We'll be right back.
[18:42:59] BLITZER: I want to get right to our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott.
Elise, of the hundreds of people either killed or injured, there were Americans. You're getting new information.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, we already know about some Americans, Wolf. We know that an air force lieutenant colonel and a few of his family members, this colonel was detail to NATO, were injured when they were at the airport. We also know about four missionaries, Mormon missionaries, who were injured, three of them seriously.
There have been no American fatalities but the State Department is a little bit cautious art giving out final numbers because they tell me there's still a fair number of missing Americans that they're trying to track down. They want their families are desperately trying to get in touch with them. They don't know if they're injured or haven't checked in. So, they don't want to give numbers yet because they're fluctuating widely --
BLITZER: Missing Americans at the airport, as well as the subway station?
BLITZER: And they're looking for those --
LABOTT: They're looking for those --
BLITZER: And the State Department did tell Americans in Brussels to basically shelter in place. Those are their words.
LABOTT: Shelter in place and the embassy has been under lockdown, because there's this level-four alert in Brussels which is really just stay in place.
BLITZER: All right. Everybody stand by for a moment.
Earlier, I spoke with the Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, scheduled to deliver a major speech on counterterrorism tomorrow. And I asked her what the United States should be doing now to help strengthen anti-terror operations in Europe to prevent terrorists from coming to the United States.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We do have to defeat ISIS where they hold territory in Syria and Iraq. We're making progress, but we have a lot to do.
We shave to shut off the flow of foreign fighters, foreign funds, foreign weapons, and we've got to take them on on the Internet. You know, you can put walls around your country but don't keep out the Internet. And that has been a major tool for radicalizing, recruiting, propagandizing that ISIS is quite sophisticated at using.
We also have to do more to coordinate our intelligence and law enforcement efforts with our European friends. I have experience as secretary of state in urging European nations to toughen their own laws and there's been some progress, but I would respectfully say not enough.
[18:45:07] I think after Paris and after this terrible event in Brussels, there must be more.
We also have to keep working with Muslim nation because it's going to take a coalition to defeat ISIS.
BLITZER: Let's talk about soft targets like airports. For example, if you were president of the United States, what would you do specifically to make sure the kind of terror attack we saw today in Brussels, what we saw in November in Paris, what else needs to be done here in the United States?
CLINTON: We have to toughen our surveillance, our interception of communication. We have to also toughen, as you say, soft targets with, you know, greater police presence. There is no getting around that.
As I understand from the early reporting, one of the two attacks was by a suicide bomber. The terrorists are getting more sophisticated about what they used in these bombs, to try to escape detection, like what we have at our airports. We have to continually be learning and getting ahead of these thugs and criminals in order to prevent them doing what they did in Brussels.
BLITZER: This is what Senator Ted Cruz, the Republican presidential candidate, told me yesterday. He spoke about you. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need a commander in chief that defends America and defending America means defeating radical Islamic terrorism and defeating ISIS. What is completely unreasonable is Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton's consistent pattern of refusing even to say the words, radical Islamic terrorism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Go ahead and respond to the senator.
CLINTON: Well, that's a long debate that people like him try to stir up. You know, I call it radical jihadist terrorism because, you know, it is clearly rooted in Islamic thinking that, you know, has to be contested first and foremost by Muslims around the world.
But I think it's a mistake. I've said that repeatedly. George W. Bush said it, that to, you know, do anything that implies we are at war with an entire religion, with 1.2 billion or 4 billion people is not only wrong, it is dangerous. You know, right here at home, we need to be reaching out and including Muslim-Americans in communities where they live in our first line of defense.
We don't need them to feel that if they hear something or see something that they can't report it. We want them to report it. We want to be part of protecting the United States and the same goes for Europe.
So, you know, I think these debates about semantics really misses the point.
BLITZER: We're going to continue to follow the breaking news. There's more information coming in right now on the terror attacks in Belgium today. Our panel is standing by. We'll be right back.
[18:52:19] BLITZER: We're back with our correspondents and terrorism experts as we cover the hunt for suspects behind today's deadly terror bombings in Belgium.
Michael Weiss, we know ISIS has claimed public credit for this attack. Let's talk about the threat here in the United States. Might ISIS trying to do something similar here in the U.S. anytime soon?
MICHAEL WEISS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: They would try. I don't know if they would be successful.
The number of American foreign fighters that have gone over to join ISIS, much less the number that has rushed to the United States is dramatically lower than that of any country in Europe.
In Belgium, just by contrast, I was told today, about 535 Belgian nationals went to Syria. Most of them probably joining ISIS. And of that figure, 200 have returned. That's a country of 11 million people. And as we've seen today throughout the news coverage, you know, in Brussels, you have these concentrated ghettoized communities where radical jihadi ideology sort of marinates. It's kind of in the ether.
We don't really have that in the U.S., although, yes, I mean, ISIS -- they have said in their propaganda, they plan to strike Washington. They plan to strike New York.
And Abu Mohamed Al-Adnani, the spokesman, in 2014, in a proclamation that's sort of inaugurated this new phase of foreign operations, essentially said, you ain't seen nothing yet. So, who knows? I mean, I think we do have to be on high alert here, as a precaution.
BLITZER: I think you're right.
Peter, why does Belgium have such a problem with terrorism inside Belgium is this what does it mean worldwide as this fight against ISIS continues?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, I think the problem is not peculiar to Belgium. Obviously, Belgium has a problem, but I mean, European countries, France, Germany, Britain, we're seeing large numbers of foreign fighters and from picking up from what Michael was saying, you know, we've only seen two Americans return to the United States who've been trained not by ISIS, but in fact the al Qaeda countries. I mean, the volume of returnees who have been trained by al Qaeda coming to the United States is very, very small.
The bad news is, we've seen, you know, 60 cases last year, the most since 9/11, of people inspired by ISIS, mostly online. We've seen 900 investigations into terrorism in the United States, in all 50 states. We've seen five ISIS inspired attacks but not directed in the United States in the last year and a half.
So, what you're seeing is a very different phenomenon, which is people who are not trained directly by ISIS, but inspired by them. It's a problem. But they're not capable of pulling off what we saw in Brussels today. That's quite unlikely.
BLITZER: Elise, you're learning more about these terror attacks, and you're also hearing it could have been worse. What are you hearing?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, U.S. officials believe this attack was related to the network that was led by Salah Abdeslam, who was leading the network that undertook the Paris attacks and who was arrested over the weekend.
[18:55:11] Now, if he was a mastermind of that bomb, the operating assumption is that these attackers, they have the materials, they went ahead and did it. But they feel if he was not arrested this weekend, that plot could have matured, could have developed, and the attacks could have been far worse with much more -- many more casualties.
BLITZER: Evan, you're getting more information about what U.S. intelligence, counterintelligence, law enforcement, counterterrorism officials are prepared to do if there's a specific threat, a credible threat here in the United States.
PEREZ: Wolf, one of the things they're already doing is running down every single one of these people that they already have, surveillance on people that they're monitoring, to make sure that they know exactly where they are, and to make sure if they know whether these people are activating to do something like this. The truth is, these types of attacks are almost impossible to stop. These are the softest of targets, a metro, an airport, these are places that are so difficult for someone to stop a suicide bomber.
We're depending on law enforcement to stop them at the airport, or at the metro stop. We've already failed.
BLITZER: Michael, what are you hearing from your counterterrorism sources as they react to these latest attacks?
WEISS: Well, we actually ran a piece in "The Daily Beast", Wolf, citing a CIA officer who's been in the field for, well, longer than most of these operatives have been alive. The word used that was to describe not just Belgian intelligence, but E.U.-wide intelligence is a word that I can't repeat on primetime television.
But there's a great deal of disappointment and a sense that these guys aren't fit for purpose. This has been a decades-long phenomenon, the infiltration of jihadi ideology, Salafi clerics, preaching from mosques, out in the open, in capital, cosmopolitan European cities. And, you know, this is out of central casting.
If you look at the profile of Abdeslam, if you look at the profile even more specifically of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the mastermind of the Paris attacks, not particularly Muslim, well-educated, resorts to a life of gangsters and petty crime, goes to prison, gets radicalized in jail and then comes out and meets up with a cleric. In this particular case, an Afghan Soviet jihad who is handing out cash disbursements of 3,500 euros a pop to any potential mujahideen who wants to go to Syria and blow stuff up.
So, this has been happening in Europe for a very long time. And still, I'm sorry to say, whether you want to say it's a lack of coordination or intelligence-sharing across these open Schengen borders, whatever, they're not doing the proper job. I mean, this is four days after they caught a guy who was living a block away from his childhood home, after perpetrating essentially Europe's 9/11, and in a city that is home to the headquarters of the European Union, and to NATO.
I mean, what more do you have to say. This has become farcical.
BLITZER: Peter, you've spent a long time studying these kinds of terror attacks. Do you believe, not only inspired, but directly ISIS organized attack coming from headquarters in Raqqa, Syria?
BERGEN: Yes, we'll find out. I mean, one thing, Wolf, that we should be looking for is videotape of the perpetrators filmed by ISIS. I mean, that would -- we saw that in the Paris attacks where ISIS released videotape of the perpetrators in the Paris attacks. If they do release such a video, of people involved in the Brussels
attacks, that would be a very direct sign. If they don't, then it's something that's less directed from ISIS central in Syria.
BLITZER: Elise, this was fully expected, this terror attack, in Belgium. Officials were bracing for it. Yet they couldn't stop it. What are you hearing from your U.S. sources?
LABOTT: Well, I think Michael got to it very well. These guys were living in the neighborhood that they grew up in. It shows how they can live undetected if they're not using technology, or using encrypted technology. And it makes U.S. officials and European officials who are on the alert across Europe wonder how much they also don't know about what other cells are operating in Berlin, in France, and other European capitals.
PEREZ: We're talking about, you know, a couple of metro stops away from central Brussels where the parliament is, where the headquarters of the European Union is, and they were not aware, they were not -- they did not know that these guys were hiding out there. It's unbelievable.
BLITZER: Are U.S. officials satisfied, Evan, with the cooperation they're getting from Europeans, specifically Belgium authorities?
PEREZ: It varies, Wolf. I mean, it has gotten better since the Paris attacks. They do believe the Belgians are trying much harder. The problem is that there's antiquated laws, there's a bit of a culture issue in Belgium as well. They spent the last few years fighting over whether or not they speak Flemish or French. So, that's one of the issues they're dealing with.
BLITZER: A lot of work that needs to be done, a very worrisome development.
Guys, thanks very much for joining us.
That's it for me. Thanks for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
CNN's breaking news coverage of the terror attacks in Brussels continues right now with "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT".