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Paris Suspects Known to Authorities; Sen. Ted Cruz Talks Terrorism, Refugees; Survivors Recount Horrors of Bataclan Concert Shooting. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired November 17, 2015 - 09:30   ET



[09:30:52] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning. I'm Carol Costello, along with Poppy Harlow in Paris. Thank you so much for joining me.

There are many in France questioning where intelligence authorities aren't watching the Paris attackers more closely. After all, the suspected ringleaders was featured in an ISIS magazine back in February claiming he had traveled to Europe. At one point U.S. authorities raised the red flag.

And then there's Salah Abdeslam who's on the loose. He was stopped at the Belgian border and questioned after the attacks. He was also subject to a routine check in Austria back in September. And in February he was questioned by Belgian investigators. This is a man who is believed to have been -- to have radicalized his 13-year-old brother.

And then there's Samy Amimour. His parents went to authorities and actually told them their son had been radicalized. His father even went to Syria to bring his son back but was unsuccessful.

In light of those possible intelligence failures, could such failures happen in the United States? With me now again from Paris, Poppy Harlow and CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruikshank. I'm also joined by CNN military analyst and former member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Cedric Leighton.

Good morning to all of you.

Poppy, what are people saying in France about these possible intelligence breeches?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Well, look, I think they're incredibly disturbed. I spoke with many, many people here since I've been on the ground since Saturday morning. I have family members who live here, who told me that they don't want to be afraid but they are afraid. The fact that this has happened twice in ten months, right after "Charlie Hebdo" happened. The fact that these terrorists are able to communicate via this encrypted technology apps like Telegraph, a Clarissa was telling us at the top of the program, that even the best intelligence in the world can't get ahold of or translate, if you will, is incredibly frightening.

Look, when you look at French intelligence, it is among the best in the world. You've got U.S. intelligence, French intelligence is very, very strong. I will tell you that there are 150 -- 1,500 troops across Paris right now and also one of our correspondents witnessed plain clothed police officers earlier today going door to door with bullet proof vests on, with assault rifles, questioning people. This is a much more proactive force that you're seeing out there right now. They are not taking anything for granted.

People are nervous and now it's about, what can they do on the street with brute force and what information can they get and what can they still not get, Carol, because of all of this encrypted technology that these terrorists are communicating through? I think that's the scariest part people on the street tell me here.

COSTELLO: Right. And, Paul, you know, after the "Charlie Hebdo" attacks, French intelligence services were greatly improved, but those improvements are still in process, aren't they?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, look, I mean here's the unfortunate reality, Carol. The threat is just too big right now. Even if they triple the amount of manpower, the amount of resources, they would be nowhere close to having a handle on this. And they're going to be nowhere close to having a handle on this in -- for the foreseeable future. I mean the threat is just too big.

We're talks about 6,000 Europeans that have travelled to Syria and Iraq, joined up with groups like ISIS. Fifteen hundred that have come back. Tens of thousands of radicalized individuals across Europe. The Syrian civil war, the declaration of this so called Islamic State has really electrified extremists here in Europe. It's led to a huge explosion in their numbers. These are people who are deeply angered that countries like France and Belgium and the United States are attacking their caliphate. And they believe that it's their religious duty to do something about it. They believe they're going to go to paradise if they do it. So they're willing to die. They're craving death.

So this is the new normal, these kind of attacks. I think we're going to be in a lot more central squires in Europe in the months ahead because ISIS is the richest terrorist group in history. It's got all these European recruits. It's got training camps. It's got everything it needs to unleash a wave of carnage in Europe particularly.

[09:35:08] And all the evidence at this point, all the intelligence points to them launching a string of terrorist plots against the west, against France in particular and this ringleader, the suspected ringleader, Abdel-Hamid Abu Oud, all the intelligence points to him organizing a string of plots in recent months against Europe, Carol.

COSTELLO: OK. But, you know, we're trying to answer the question, is an attack like Paris likely in the United States. And of course it's a possibility. I just don't want to panic people here in the United States because I'd like to give them all of the information.

HARLOW: Right.

COSTELLO: One of -- and, Cedric, I guess I'll pose this to you. The borders in Europe, they're much more porous than the borders are here. Syrian terrorists can come through Greece into France. They have to fly into the United States. So does that make it easier for American authorities to stop them?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: In a way it does, Carol, because what you're looking at is a mechanism of control at that point where the airplane, you know, lands and they get out and they have to go through U.S. customs. And when you watch U.S. customs and border patrol operations, they are pretty extensive. They're not foolproof, but they are very extensive and they work very hard to not only get intel from the different sources overseas, but they also work very hard to apply that intelligence to actually countering the movement of terrorists or alleged terrorists through -- through our area. And one of the ways that we do that, of course, is through the no fly list that we have.

COSTELLO: And the other -- the other point that I'd like to make, Paul, is, in the United States, extremists tend to be isolated, right? In Brussels, for example, you have hot beds of extremist communities. Here in the United States you have just one or two lone wolves attacking. It's not this big, coordinated attack. Does that make it less likely that a huge coordinated attack might happen within the United States?

CRUIKSHANK: Absolutely right, Carol. I mean there are just fewer American whose are attracted by this ideology. The American Muslim community is really very well integrated. They -- the vast majority of them absolutely detest ISIS. They see it as a corruption of the religion. So you're seeing many fewer traveling to Syria and Iraq. And so I think that the bigger concerned is that it could be a kind of ISIS-inspired attempt that we may see in the following weeks. People who are radicalized by this ideology.

It's become more difficult for Americans to travel. The numbers have actually decreased, the people traveling from the United States. But some of those people who have stayed behind may feel motivated to act. And, of course, you have all those massively powerful weapons that they can easily, legally buy in gun stores and that is a concern in the United States they don't have in Europe. They've got to go on the black market to find these things. The United States, hardly legal for them to go and get the most extraordinarily powerful weapons.

HARLOW: Carol, I would just add one thing on the ground here, just speaking to the average person because I think you're so right to not try to scare the American public. It's a very different situation there than here. We heard Ash Carter, the defense secretary, coming out and saying today that, you know, lone wolves are the biggest fear right now for the United States. People here on the street in Paris tell me, we need to talk to each other more. We need to open dialogue. One woman even said to me, we need to know each other so we don't kill each other. And that's a really important fact. You've got a lot of isolation here especially -- and in Brussels, in Molenbeek, for example. And the more you can diminish that, the Parisians here are saying to me, the better things will get.

COSTELLO: All right, I have to leave it there. Poppy Harlow, Cedric Leighton, Paul Cruikshank, thanks to you all.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, Senator Ted Cruz defends the controversial religious test he wants to give Syrian refugees seeking asylum in the United States.


[09:43:25] HARLOW: Hi everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in Paris with some breaking news. The development on this international manhunt for the 26-year-old suspected terrorist, the one that is on the run in the terrorist attack from Friday night, Salah Abdeslam.

What I can tell you is that in the (INAUDIBLE) Paris, that is about 45 minutes north of where I am standing, French police, according to our affiliate BFM, have located the car that he rented. Again, the car that he rented located by police. It has been towed. We are told that it had Belgian plates. The question now is where is he and who has helped move him if he is not there?

Also, to give you some context here, we learned earlier from our Atika Shubert that in that same part of Paris, the 18th district, plain clothed police officers wearing bullet proof vests with assault rifles were going door to door questioning people. This is all now coming together since that is the same area where they found this car that again belonged to 26-year-old Salah Abdeslam, who is on the run right now.


COSTELLO: All right, Poppy Harlow, thank you.

To the world of politics. Senator Ted Cruz railing against President Obama in the wake of the Paris terror attacks, calling his response, quote, "shameful" and his Syrian refugee plan nothing short of "lunacy." Cruz sat down with CNN's Dana Bash to defend his religious test for refugees.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Senator, President Obama called you out when he was speaking in Turkey and he said it was shameful for saying that there should be effectively a religious test for refugees, especially since you come from a family where there was political persecution and you family benefitted from the policies of America allowing refugees in.

[09:45:01] SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, you know, look, it's not surprising that President Obama is attacking me personally. I'll tell you what's shameful, is that we have a president who after seven years still refuses to utter the words "radical Islamic terrorist". What Barack obama and Hillary Clinton are proposing is that we bring to this country tens of thousands of Syrian Muslim refugees. I have to say, particularly in light of what happened in Paris, that is nothing short of lunacy.

BASH: What would have happened if your father was trying to get from Cuba to the United States and the political leaders here said nope? We don't think so, because who knows? Maybe you could be somebody who could, you know, commit crimes against America.

CRUZ: Well, see, that's why it's important to define what it is we're fighting. If my father were part of a theocratic and political movement like radical Islamism that promotes murdering anyone who doesn't share your extreme faith or forcibly converting them, then it would make perfect sense.

BASH: OK, but what about Muslims who are victims of the radical Islamic terrorists, who are taking their religion and hijacking it? What about protecting those people?

CRUZ: There is no doubt that millions are suffering from the rise of radical Islamic terrorism. Christians are suffering, Jews are suffering, and other Muslims are suffering.

BASH: But you're saying Muslims shouldn't be allowed in the U.S.?

CRU:Z: What I'm saying is that Syrian Muslim refugees should be resettled in the Middle East, in majority Muslim countries.

BASH: What about American boots on the ground in Syria?

CRUZ: You know, I think there are far too many politicians, when it comes to boots on the ground, that are eager just to commit to boots on the ground to show how tough they are. I think the objective should be destroying ISIS and the question of the military tactics and strategy should be driven heavily by the expert judgment of our commanders and generals and admirals. I've met with a great many, both active duty commanders and also retired commanders, and I believe that overwhelming air power plus arming the Kurds is sufficient to take out ISIS.

Now, it may well take some embedded special forces to direct some of that air power. But I don't think you should have politicians basically playing Risk and saying I want to send in so many troops to show how tough I am. That is now how we should make these decisions.


BASH: And Senator Cruz told me that he was heading back to Washington to introduce legislation some time this week, Carol, to formally make it illegal to outlaw Syrian Muslim refugees from this country. We'll see what that legislation looks like hopefully in the next couple days.

COSTELLO: All right, Dana Bash, reporting live for us this morning. Thank you. I'll be right back.


[09:52:13] HARLOW: Welcome back to our continuing coverage from Paris. This morning the survivors of the terror attack at the Bataclan concert hall still trying to come to terms with what happened to them that night.

35-year-old Pierre was at the concert. It was the Eagles of Death Metal show. It was something he told me he was very much looking forward to. And all of a sudden, three gunmen started firing indiscriminately at people. He shared his terrifying account with us.


HARLOW (voice-over): Pierre's hands still tremble when he remembers the horror.

PIERRE: Those guns, like ta-ta-ta, ta-ta-ta, and you just see all the people just falling to the floor with all the blood. And they just -- they are just like 17 years old or 20 years old. Just so young people, Arabic ones, black ones, white ones.

HARLOW: He can't believe he's alive, sitting next to me, recounting the most terrifying hours of his life.

PIERRE: I feel for the first time that I am happy to be alive.

HARLOW (on camera): You feel guilty that you survived?

PIERRE: Of course.

HARLOW: Did you see any of the gunmen?

PIERRE: The terrorists? yes. With the guns. They just, like (SPEAKING FRENCH).

HARLOW: They did not have masks on?

PIERRE: No, no, no.

HARLOW (voice-over): Like so many others in the Bataclan that night, he thinks nothing of the first shot.

PIERRE: At the beginning, I thought it was just a joke.

HARLOW (on camera): Really?

PIERRE: Part of the show.

HARLOW: And when did you realize?

PIERRE: When you saw all those guys just falling on the floor and the blood everywhere. Everybody just praying.

HARLOW: Did being in the bathroom save your life?


HARLOW: You were in the bathroom with three people.


HARLOW: Behind you?

PIERRE: Behind the door.

HARLOW (voice-over): Just minutes later he sees the terrorists' feet through the crack of the door.

(on camera): You heard them preparing a bomb and talking about the hostages. How long did you hide in le toilet, in the bathroom?

PIERRE: 2 hours and a half.

HARLOW (voice-over0: 2-1/2 excruciating hours before police barge in.

(on camera): When did you finally come out?

PIERRE (via translator): When the SWAT team launched the raid, they started shooting at the door. They started shooting at everyone. The terrorist responded by shooting back and they blew themselves up and everything exploded. The lights went down. There was smoke everywhere.

And then we understood it was the police, so we opened the door and they put the gun to my forehead.


HARLOW: The police?

PIERRE (via translator): And we were like this.

HARLOW: Finally, after the police came in, you walked over corpses, you walked over dead bodies.

PIERRE (via translator): The concert hall floor was covered in bodies, blood. Blood on the walls. Blood everywhere. Bits of fabric, bags. It's the apocalypse. It's the apocalypse.

HARLOW (voice-over): Two of his friends die in the attack. Walking out alive, he has one thought.

PIERRE: We have to love everybody. We have to love the differences. We have to smile. That's the -- that's our fight against the terrorists.


HARLOW (on camera): You know, Carol, many of those who survived there that night did so by playing dead. Others hid for hours and hours, just like Pierre, until the bloodbath stopped. We know at least 89 people were killed at that concert that night. And, Carol, after going through something like that, to hear from him, "We have to smile, that is how we beat terrorism," it's pretty amazing perspective.

COSTELLO: I know, his story gave me chills. Poppy Harlow, thanks.

The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM after a break.