Return to Transcripts main page
AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Terrorists Open Fire, Detonate Vests at Airport; CIA Chief: ISIS May Try Similar Attacks Inside U.S.; Video of Istanbul Terror Attack; Presidential Candidates React to Istanbul Terror Attack. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired June 29, 2016 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:31:07] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Turkey's declared a national day of mourning in the wake of the deadly suicide bombings at Istanbul International Airport. At least 41 people have been killed in that attack and that number could be rising throughout the day. Flights, though, have already resumed today. At the same time, cleaning crews are still clearing shattered glass, boarding up walls, washing away blood at the airport. There's been no claim of responsibility, as we said. But officials do say this carries all the signs of an ISIS attack.
This just in, we are learning from sources, defense secretary, Ash Carter, will be holding a classified briefing tomorrow for Senators on Capitol Hill on the fight against ISIS.
Let's talk more about this. Let's bring in CNN senior international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, for more on this.
Clarissa, we keep hearing from folks this carries all the hallmarks of ISIS. What are they pointing to?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think specifically, Kate, it's about the nature of the attack and how they carried it out. If you look at the model, three male attackers, all of them wearing explosive vests, but also carrying A.K.-47s. The idea being they're not just going there to blow themselves up. They're not just suicide bombers. They're actually suicide warriors. The Arabic word for that is "Ishamni." What they're there to do is try to kill as many as possible using their weapons before ultimately blowing themselves up. The idea behind that, of course, is maximizing casualties and also maximizing the terror that these kinds of attacks cause.
Obviously, as well it's the holy Ramadan. We're in the last 10 days of the holy month of Ramadan, which is the holiest period. There's a lot of historic battles in Islamic history that have taken place during this time. We heard the ISIS spokesman calling for attacks at this time. Urging people who may not be directly ordered or in contact with ISIS but at least inspired by ISIS to carry out these kinds of attacks.
We have also heard from a senior Turkish official that while they have not yet identified the three attackers, there are, quote, "strong suggestions that they are foreigners." Again, that would seem strongly to implicate ISIS in this attack -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: Clarissa, we have heard, as you mentioned, calls from ISIS to attack during this holy month of Ramadan. But why is that? Is it more about the symbolism or is it something beyond that?
WARD: It's symbolism. Ramadan is the holiest month in the Muslim calendar but these last 10 days have one night that is called the night of power. This is the night that Muslims believe the prophet received the revelation the first time of the holy book, or the Koran. And historically, as I mentioned, this night is believed to have many blessings. People try to carry out acts of devotion, acts of god, because of those blessings. Most Muslims, Kate, would see that as praying more or being a good person, giving to charity, doing good deeds. But ISIS and other Islamic jihadist groups who espouse a similar ideology have traditionally also seen this as a time to go out to do battle, to maximize the damage to the enemy.
BOLDUAN: Clarissa, you've spent time in Syria. You know this very well. There's strong indications these are foreigners that carry this out. This comes as Turkey, as the West, they fight to close up -- they're struggling to close up that porous border with Syria. How does that play into this?
WARD: I think what we've seen traditionally, the Turks have turned a blind eye while there's been a lot of jihadi traffic back and forth across that border. In the last six months or so, they've really tried to seal that border and they've already started really cracking down on ISIS. Previously, they were much more focused on the ousting of Syrian President Bashar Assad and their containment of the Kurdish separatist parties. It's only recently they've shifted the full force of their might on to combating ISIS. And that's why you've seen a massive retaliation from ISIS.
And what's very difficult for the Turks, even though they have an intelligence service that is quite -- very adept, particularly when dealing with this issue, is that many Turkish citizens have been radicalized, are now a part of ISIS. And that makes it incredibly difficult for Turkey to have a good sense of who is coming back and forth across that border and what they are doing.
[11:35:44] BOLDUAN: This may be laying that bare now in a horrible way.
Clarissa, thank you.
Coming up, terror caught on camera. We're getting new videos in of the very moment terrorists unleashed their deadly attacked inside that airport. Also, a former CIA operative tells us what sticks out, what we can learn from these videos that are coming out. That's ahead.
Plus, presidential candidates are responding, reacting to these terrible terror attacks. Donald Trump calling the United States to, quote, "Fight fire with fire." Hillary Clinton's response, probably not surprisingly, quite different. We'll talk about that coming up and the effect on the race now.
[11:40:44] BOLDUAN: We're continuing now with breaking news coverage of the terror attack at Turkey's International Airport in Istanbul. At least 41 people are dead right now. The death toll could climb. The moment when the suicide bombers blew himself up, it was caught on surveillance video.
A warning, it is disturbing, no matter if you have already seen it play out.
What you can see in the video is the following. You see the attacker running into the airport, falling to the ground, after it appears he was apparently shot by police. You see his gun slide away from him on the floor. He fumbles around for a bit before eventually, as we have to assume, detonating his suicide vest. Remarkable to see that video, you see that video play out.
I want to examine this piece of video, what we can learn from it, with CNN intelligence security analyst and former CIA operative, Bob Baer, back with me now.
Bob, as we look at it, it really is remarkable, horrible video of what clearly appears the suicide bomber actually on video detonating his vest. You don't see this on video. Can you walk me through, as you've seen it, what sticks out to you?
BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE & SECURITY ANALYST: There's a couple of things. You look at the Kalashnikov. Very easy to hide. They have a folding stock. You can put them in a carry-on bag. You can even take rocket-propelled grenades, their stocks will screw apart, and you can hide them. It's not getting to airport that's hard. It's the suicide bomber committed to sacrificing his life. This one clearly was.
What we don't know, Kate, is whether he had a dead-man's switch. As soon as he releases his grip, it sets off a train, an explosive train, and then it blows up. I think that's what the policeman saw. That's why he ran. There was nothing to do to stop it. They could have shot him as many times as they like. But the Islamic State has done this over and over again. Either command detonated or a dead-man's switch. These attacks, once these people are committed, are very, very difficult to stop.
BOLDUAN: Is that a sign of ISIS, a dead-man's switch? Is that a trademark of ISIS, the trend of where they're going?
BAER: It started in Palestine with Hamas and the Islamic jihad bombers. In case people had second thoughts, they could control these detonations from either a distance or with a dead-man's switch. It's a technology that's wide spread. Making the detonators as well. And I don't know what his coat was. Maybe acetone peroxide. It looked like it. Very easy to make. If you keep it cool until you get to the attack, it's fairly stable. We don't know. The Turks are going to have to tell us. They're getting the technology better and better. Of course, Kate, they're getting the practice in Iraq and Syria. They're getting better and better at this.
BOLDUAN: You talk about the police officer. It looks like the police officer shoots, approaches, and then runs. This is before it detonates. Is there anything that a security official who's trained should do differently? Is there anything he could have done?
BAER: No. The U.S. military and the police, their tactical squads, what's called a failure drill, that's two rounds in the chest and one in the forehead. Still if you have a dead-man's switch, there's nothing you can do. The Turkish police are well aware of these vests. They're well trained. They insert themselves into the situations. They don't pull back. He did exactly the right thing. He saw it was too late, this thing was going to go off, and ran. I don't see that the Turks made any mistake unless it was to stop all cars, completely search them, search all the baggage, which is not practical in a place like Istanbul airport.
BOLDUAN: Is there anything that you can kind of take away from the little bit of video we have of the attacker running in, his actions, how he acts? Does that appear -- do you get any read on if that attacker's highly trained or winging it? Can you glean anything from that?
BAER: I can, Kate, and that's these people are vetted in the battlefield. There's a lot of people that get into war, their nerves won't stand, they run, but the Islamic State knows who's committed and who's not. It's this long process of looking at people, deciding who is ready to become a martyr, which makes this group so difficult. And there's so many of these martyrs, will-be martyrs, that is what disturbs American intelligence. As Brennan said last night, these people are coming this way, and I think he's right.
[11:45:27] BOLDUAN: Also in a different part of the statement -- I'll just read it for viewers. He says, "It's not difficult to actually construct and fabricate a suicide vest." And goes on to say, to your point, Bob, "If you have a determined enemy and individuals who are not concerned about escape, that they're going into it with a sense they are going to die, that really complicates your strategy in terms of preventing attacks."
Exactly what you're talking about there, Bob.
BAER: An enemy that wants to die is the most difficult to defeat.
BOLDUAN: Thank you, Bob. Good to see you. Thanks so much.
So, coming up for us, the candidates fighting to be the next commander-in-chief, they're responding, reacting to the horrible terror attacks in Turkey. As you can imagine, there are some very big differences in their reactions and prescriptions on how to make sure that doesn't happen here. We'll discuss. That's coming up.
[11:50:11] BOLDUAN: New development coming in, in the horrific terror attack on an airport in Turkey. According to state media, the taxi driver drove the three attackers to the airport, has been interviewed by police, later release after giving that statement. That is one person who would have a lot of information about who these people were that committed this horrific attack. We'll have more on that in a moment. We have more details coming in on that.
First, let's talk about what has happened here in the aftermath and the political reaction. Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, both reacting to the Istanbul terror attack in probably, not surprisingly, very different ways. Hillary Clinton putting out a statement, not commenting on camera. Part of her statement said, "Today's attack only strengthens our resolve to defeat the forces of terrorism and radical Jihadism around the world and it reminds us that the United States cannot retreat."
Donald Trump at a rally last night in Ohio with a different response. Here's a bit of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Can you imagine them sitting around the table talking about, the Americans don't do waterboarding and yet we chop off heads? They probably think we are weak, we're stupid, don't know what we are doing. We have no leadership. You have to fight fire with fire.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Let's bring in to discuss, John LaVale, a Trump delegate from New York, also vice chair of the New York State Republican Party; Josh Holmes is a Republican strategist, former chief of staff to Senator Mitch McConnell; and Donna Brazile, CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist.
Thank you all so much.
Josh, you heard the responses, you read the responses, two very different responses. What they said, how they said it, how they delivered their message, who got it right?
JOSH HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I'll be honest, I think Donald Trump's response was probably what most Americans want to hear. I think --
BOLDUAN: You are not a fan of Trump, just to make that clear.
HOLMES: Exactly. But I think most Americans are tired of waiting for the rest of the world to solve the terror problem. Hillary Clinton's response suggests that, once again, we'll have to engage the world community and try to figure out how to fix this problem. Donald Trump wants to take it straight-on. We all know it is a bit complex. But in terms of a political answer, it is probably the right one. BOLDUAN: It is a moment -- you do have moments, Donna. She did have
an event last night. She did not mention anything about the terror attack. Was it a missed opportunity on something she pushes as her strength, her foreign policy job?
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Kate, let's be very clear about this. Hundreds of people were injured. Well over 40 people are now dead. This is an opportunity not just to mourn those that are grieving today, to be with those that are grieving, but to understand that our response, whether it is, we have to fight fire with fire, which is what Donald Trump is all about, let's go and hit them, attack them, et cetera. There is something emotional about that. Of course, you want to hit back. You have to be measured and steady and strategic. I think Secretary Clinton's responses one that is good for the country at a time when we engaged in defeating and dismantling ISIS, whether it is on the front lines in Syria or in Iraq, helping to track down these jihadists. We also have other personnel working as we speak. So, yes, her response may not be as emotionally satisfying for those of you that want to hear, blood for blood, eye for eye, fire for fire, whatever, whatever, waterboard, which is, by the way, a war crime. But you have to be steady and strategic. Yes. This is a long-term fight. We are engaged. That's what we need to tell the American people.
BOLDUAN: In terms of what the American people think, it is a bit of a mixed bag when you look at the polling on who Americans think can best handle terrorism. The most recent CNN poll had Trump up three points. The ABC News poll had Clinton up on who can best handle terrorism. They are such different people on how they would respond to a terrorist attack. I do wonder, John, how you think that is possible that it could be so up and down right now.
JOHN LAVALE, TRUMP DELEGATE & VICE CHAIR, NEW YORK STATE REPUBLICAN PARTY: Well, unfortunately, for Hillary Clinton, this is not going to take a village. It is going to take a strong leader. That strong leader is Donald Trump. We have to send that message to this world we are not going to tolerate this. This isn't just about an eye for eye. This is about sending a message that America is once again going to be a leader in the fight against terrorists. That we're not going --
BOLDUAN: Voters seem to indicate they like a little bit of what Hillary Clinton is saying and a little bit of what Donald Trump is saying.
LAVALE: People are scared, and they should be scared. These are troubling times, trying times. We need a strong leader. Responses that I have seen from the Democrat party about how we are going to solve this by unity and peace and love. No. We have to understand, this is a very serious threat to our country, to our freedom, to our way of life. It is a direct threat to our way of life. We need to act. [11:55:39] HOLMES: I think the best poll question that illustrates
the divide the American people have on this is, yes, they trust Donald Trump to take it to ISIS more ferociously than Hillary Clinton. But they also trust Hillary Clinton with the nuclear codes, right?
HOLMES: So you've got a trust with ultimately the biggest decision on whether or not you're going to war. It seems to reside with Hillary Clinton. It seems like the prosecution of a fight against ISIS is with Donald Trump here.
BOLDUAN: It seems that maybe the takeaway is they both have more work to do to make their case to the American people --
HOLMES: Yeah, I think that's right.
BOLDUAN: -- and they have more time.
Donna, before I let you go, this came out early this morning. President Obama and Hillary Clinton have rescheduled their first big campaign event. It's now going to be Tuesday, July 5th, in Charlotte, North Carolina, postponed in the aftermath of the Orlando massacre. Why Charlotte? What should we be looking for to happen there?
BRAZILE: Can I just respond and say that this so-called prescription that Donald Trump is proposing plays into ISIS hands. That is not the way we're going to defeat an enemy who is not afraid to die. I understand this emotional appeal, this toughness. That is not the way we are going to defeat an enemy who jus really wants to put their destruction on all of us.
I'm glad they are going to campaign together. They're stronger together, the party is stronger. They'll be able to be able to put out message that will resonate with all Americans that the Democrats are going to propose plans that is will keep us stronger, safer and more prosperous. I am glad to see them together in North Carolina.
North Carolina because I think it is going to be a state in play with its 16 electoral votes. I'm glad to see they will start campaigning across this country. We welcome Joe Biden and others. As you well know, the Democratic Party is still working together to have a strong platform this summer in Philadelphia.
Thank you for allowing me to have the last word.
BOLDUAN: Thank you all for being here.
It's as if Donna knows my time cues.
Appreciate your time, everybody. Thank you very much. They didn't know if they would make it out alive. Witnesses in this
terror attack now recounting their horrific near death encounters with terrorists at the airport in Istanbul. We are going to hear from one of those witnesses, just ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[12:00:09] UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: I just recognized the gunshots and then heard this huge explosion and I knew immediately --