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Manhunt Spreading. Aired 23:00-23:59 ET
Aired November 19, 2015 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: 11:00 p.m. on the east coast. 5:00 a.m. in Paris. This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
The manhunt for the so-called "eighth attacker", Salah Abdeslam, spreading tonight. That's as French authorities confirm the terror leader of the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, is dead -- killed in that police raid. Meanwhile, ISIS releases the video threatening to conquer Rome and blow up the White House. We're not showing the complete video, because we don't want to give undue attention to their propaganda. And here at home, the FBI closely watching dozens of people they think pose the highest risk of trying to carry out a copycat attack.
Let's get right to the latest on the investigation now. And CNN's Frederik Pleitgen live for us in Paris.
So, Fred, the latest tonight on that search for Salah Abdeslam.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely, Don. The latest that we have is that the search for Salah Abdeslam has apparently now been expanded to span not only France and, of course, Belgium, but also the Netherlands, which is, of course, a neighboring country to both France and Belgium.
Now the Netherlands authorities have come out, and they've said that the search has not technically been expanded. They say it has been going on all the time, because, of course this is a global international manhunt that's been going on. But what we do know is that Salah Abdeslam in the past has spent time in the Netherlands, so it'd be interesting to see whether or not he might try to go back to that place.
And one of the other things that we have to keep in mind as well, Don, is that this appears to be the guy in that cell from Friday's attack that was sort of responsible for logistics. He rented some of the cars. One of the cars that was rented was actually found in a Paris neighborhood here very close to where the ringleader then was later killed. So this is certainly someone who knows how to get around Europe and certainly this part of Europe in particular.
LEMON: Fred, do we know when he was last seen?
PLEITGEN: Yes, I mean, that's -- that's one of the big sort of failures that people are talking about -- that at that point in time the authorities did not keep him in custody, because the cops that apparently stopped him didn't feel that there was any reason to him in custody.
Now where he was last seen was on a highway outside of Paris, and that highway leads to Belgium. But knowing that area a little bit, Don, those highways up there, they also branch off into the Netherlands -- they branch off into Germany. Once you're past the greater Paris area, you can go into a lot of directions.
LEMON: And there is much concern that he may still have a suicide vest with him.
PLEITGEN: Yes, sure. I mean, there's a big concern, because everywhere that so far the authorities have encountered the terrorists that were involved in this cell, suicide vests were involved as well. Of course, most of the attackers in Friday's attack had suicide vests. And then, of course, you had the cousin of the ringleader, who blew herself up when the authorities came over to raid their apartment in an out -- in neighborhood to the northeast of Paris.
So certainly, it appears as though these people have a lot of access to explosives. It seems like explosive vests was one of their main tools of choice. So certainly, there is the concern that he might be armed. You might be talking about rifles, but you certainly also might be talking about suicide vest explosives as well, Don.
LEMON: What did the French Prime Minister say tonight, Fred, when he addressed the Parliament?
PLEITGEN: Well, I mean, he said that he wanted additional powers. He said that he wanted the -- France and other countries to get tougher on combating ISIS. But he also warned that there is still, of course, a very big threat of terrorism for France but for other European countries as well.
One of the things that the French have been saying is that they believe that there needs to be a pan-European effort to combat ISIS, to combat terrorism -- that Europe needs to get tougher in its security, its borders, making sure that these people don't get into the country. They believe that some of them actually went through the migrant route that everybody is talking about now, through the Balkan states, through Turkey as well.
So this is certainly something where the French are saying we need to crack down on this. We need to get tougher on terrorism. But also, of course, they strike a very defiant tone in that they say that they are going to fight this out in the end, and they vow to destroy ISIS.
LEMON: Fred, NBC spoke with the commando lead of the Bataclan raid on Friday night. Let's take a listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: To position at the enter of the theater, and then we discover like a hell on earth. I mean, more than maybe seven -- 8,000 people were laying on the floor.
UNKNOWN: Seven -- maybe 800?
UNKNOWN: Yes. Laying on the floor. Tons of blood everywhere. No sound. No body was screaming.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Fred, even almost a week later, the details that are emerging are really horrifying.
PLEITGEN: Yes, they certainly are, Don. And, you know, I was able to speak to some of the people who survived that particular raid, the Bataclan raid. And, you know, one of the things that they keep talking about is just that awful sense of vulnerability. It's that sense that they really have nowhere to go. They have nowhere to run. That if the attackers find them, they will kill them immediately, and there's no one who can save them.
I spoke to people who hid out in a room and really tried to breathe as little as possible, because they were so scared. They talked about other people there shivering. And, of course, you have that police officer there talking about people who were on the ground and essentially not moving, obviously trying to play dead and no make the attackers recognize them.
It really was an awful scene, and that's something that many people that have described what went on in that Bataclan theater, which, of course, was also the raid that actually did go on for quite a while where the attackers went inside, shot the place up, started executing people, then rounded people up and kept them there before that raid finally happened.
And then when the raid did happen, they blew themselves up. It must have been an absolutely traumatizing event, of course, for those who survived, for those who lost loved ones in that. And it is also, quite frankly, a very traumatizing event for this nation as a whole and certainly explains why there's been such a strong response from the French, both as far as law enforcement is concerned here in this country, but also as far as their military response and bombing targets in Syria is concerned as well, Don.
LEMON: Fred Pleitgen, thank you very much. Appreciate that. We're learning about the incident that happened on Friday and more tonight about that raid that killed the leader of the Paris terror attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud.
CNN's Nick Robertson has more on how it all went down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: 4:20 a.m. on Wednesday, an elite French police unit closes in on an apartment building in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis. Intelligence, wire taps, bank transfers have led them to this low income neighborhood. Their target, this man, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspect ringleader in a string of terror plots.
Police make their way to the third floor, but an explosive charge fails to open the security door. A ferocious gun battle erupts and continues for an hour. Three people are quickly arrested, but there are now still two or three people inside, including a woman. They throw grenades. Police fire 5,000 rounds into the apartment. After the scene quiets down, police send in an attack dog named Diesel to check for signs of life. Diesel is shot dead.
A police sniper shoots one of the terrorists inside. Injured, he continues to fire back. A police officer shouts to the woman, "Where is your boyfriend?" She yells back, "It's not my boyfriend." Then a loud explosion. Police say the woman detonated a suicide vest. It turns out she is the cousin of Abaaoud.
But it's several more hours before the police can enter the building where they find a scene of carnage. Two men are detained, but there are the remains of two or even three bodies inside. French forensic experts race to discover whether Abaaoud is one of them but amid the severe carnage, have to move slowly.
More than 24 hours pass before the prosecutor's office in a two-line statement says, "The bullet ridden body is Abaaoud's."
UNKNOWN: Among the six attacks that have been avoided or foiled since spring of this year, Abaaoud seems to have been involved in four of them.
ROBERTSON: A victory against terrorism, but many questions remain.
The French have no idea that Abaaoud was back in Europe but had slipped across the borders undetected. It was a tip from Moroccan intelligence that led the French to believe that Abaaoud had left Syria and was back to begin a campaign of terror. The question for France now and for all of those on this continent is are there any more like Abaaoud, who slipped undetected into Europe.
Nic Robertson, CNN Paris.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: All right, Nic. Thanks for that. When we come right back, air strikes on ISIS in Syria, are they working? And how much do we know about the terrorists' stronghold? Plus, new ISIS threats coming just as the holiday travel season is about to begin. How seriously should Americans take all of this?
LEMON: The leader of the Paris attacks is dead. French police say Abdelhamid Abaaoud died in the raid on the house near Paris. And the manhunt for terrorist suspect Salah Abdeslam is expanding tonight.
Meanwhile, airstrikes are pounding ISIS positions in the Syrian city of Raqqa. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is in the Middle East tonight.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Don, we know that the airplanes are again over Raqqa. We don't know the numbers of strikes at this stage. We do know they've been headed towards the west of the city, too. And frankly, from eyewitnesses we know that even the middle of the afternoon, a 20 period, tens of kilometers away from that city you could hear lengthy, intense rumblings as explosions clearly hit that town.
Now it has a large population, many of whom have been brutalized by ISIS and forced to stay in the city and could well be unintentionally in the crosshairs here of these strikes. We know the first civilian causalities came in last night -- seven, maybe six killed when a fuel truck was targeted.
We don't know who drops each bomb when each instance comes through, but we do know the Russians did that day say they were aiming for oil infrastructures. So so many air forces in the skies above Raqqa. So much vengeance, frankly, on the part of the Russians and the French, and this are the key tenants of the coalition strategy as well.
There are reports from (inaudible) that ISIS leadership has tried to leave the city, perhaps heading east towards the Iraqi city of Mosul. They'll have a job trying to get there, because the Peshmerga have cut off the main route in Iraq near the town of Sinjar. We saw that ourselves last week.
There's a definite sense of pressure against ISIS on the ground. No doubt about that. There's a definite expectation in Syria that the Kurdish forces amassed to the north around their city may start moving against it very soon. They don't really have the numbers. They don't really have the fire power. But they might be going for it anyway, and there could be potentially American special forces advising them, too.
So a lot moving here. A lot of changing dynamics and a real sense, too, I think, that it's those civilians in Raqqa now whose fate is so important. Whatever happens from the airstrikes surely must put their faith paramount, particularly if they wish to defeat ISIS and have some kind of functional society afterwards, Don.
LEMON: Nick Paton Walsh, thank you very much for that.
Joining me now is Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona and Major General James "Spider" Marks. I'm so happy to have both of you hear this evening, gentlemen.
General Marks, you first. France and Russian have increased their airstrikes against ISIS in response to attacks. Are these airstrikes working, and how would we know if they're working?
MAJOR GENERAL JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, RETIRED UNITED STATES ARMY: Well, all the airstrikes are working, so the short answer is yes. And there is a routine assessment that takes place after every strike.
I mean, a lot of intelligence capabilities will focus in on what occurred. It's what we call the effects of the strike. It used to be called bomb damage assessment that really had a kinetic feel to it, but now we're looking for a effects. Did we achieve the effects that we were trying to achieve on this particular strike?
So you get a good sense of that attack and that targeting cycle.
MARKS: So clearly what France is doing, adding to what the coalition is doing and what Russia is doing, stepping up their aircraft and the types of munitions they are launching, it is quite effective. But clearly there is room to improve in terms of the amount of the airstrikes that could be taking place. We really could up the volume here and make this an ear bleeding campaign that really gets a lot more movement out of ISIS forces on the ground. That might obviate the immediate need to put something on the ground...
LEMON: Are you...
MARKS: ...but we have to increase those airstrikes.
LEMON: Are you speaking directly to the Commander in Chief right now, General?
MARKS: I'm not.
LEMON: You're not?
MARKS: I'm not, Don.
How much -- how much do we really know about what's happening on the ground, you know, inside Raqqa? How do we get information from there, General?
MARKS: Well, I've got to tell you, it is a combination of all of those capabilities -- all those intelligence capabilities. We've got the technical capabilities that allows you to listen to cellphones, to get into various conversations -- great imagery intelligence -- but the real intelligence is our ability and coalition capabilities -- those that live in the neighborhood -- to get human intelligence sources on the ground, which is exactly what Colonel Rick Francona did when he was in Syria as a defense attache.
He understands this intimately. I would -- I would defer directly to Rick in terms of how those human sources are working and the networks that we can get folks to pop up and routinely report.
LEMON: How are we getting information, Lieutenant Colonel?
LIEUTENANT COLONEL RICK FRANCONA, RETIRED UNITED STATES AIR FORCE: This is a real problem. This is what call a -- truly a hard target, because it's very, very difficult for us to access these areas directly. So you've got to do I through cutouts and talk to other people that talk to other people. And every time you use a cutout, you lose something, because you want to hear it directly from the source.
So this becomes a very, very problematic -- is how do we get information from inside Raqqa, and how do we get it that we know that it's good, and how do we get it out in a timely manner?
Intelligence is good, but it's only good when you can actually use it -- when it's timely enough to do something with. And I think that's what's been a problem up until now.
But when I look at the number of airstrikes that are going into Raqqa now as compared to what we were doing maybe six months ago, the numbers are exponentially higher, which tells me that we have now begun to develop those intelligence sources.
As the general said, we're using all of the INTs -- the UMINT, the SIGINT, the MINT. But the UMINT is the one that's the hardest to get, and it takes the longest to do. And I think now we're starting to see the results of those efforts that we began six months ago.
So I think this is a positive sign, the fact that we're seeing more airstrikes go in, but we're not there yet.
FRANCONA: Still too many of the aircraft are returning with ordinance on the aircraft.
LEMON: Yes, and I have to ask you, Colonel, you know, we just heard CNN's -- from Nick Paton Walsh that first civilian causalities came in last night, and a lot of civilians got killed. Does that hurt our odds there?
FRANCONA: You know, it -- it does. But I -- I think the people in Washington now in the administration are -- they are so casualty averse. Not that that's a bad thing, but you cannot conduct these campaigns in a sterile environment. When you put these munitions into a civilian populated area going after military targets, you're going to kill people. There's just no way around it.
The laws of war are very specific. You have to take as much precaution as you can. It doesn't say you can't bomb in these areas, but you have to take adequate precautions -- take the most precautions you can.
I think we're going to see an increase in civilian causalities as we get the Russians and the French involved, because their rules of engagement are not as strict as ours. And I think I heard indications today from the Secretary of Defense that we're going to relooking at those rules of engagement.
So I think we're going to see an increased Sorties going in, and with that, we're going to see increased collateral damage. That's just a byproduct of what we're doing.
LEMON: It's not a perfect science. Sadly, civilian causalities all part of it.
General Marks, you know, ISIS -- the media wing claims that they have suffered no causalities since the resent uptick of coalition airstrikes. Do you buy that? Do you believe them? MARKS: No, not at all, Don. Clearly, when you look at the volume of
attacks that have taken place over the course of the last couple of days on the heels of the events in Paris, there really has been a very strong effort and some real destruction that's taken place in terms of ISIS. And we've heard some intelligence reports that leadership within Raqqa have now made the move towards northern Iraq at least to try to find some degree of sanctuary only because of the increased pressure that both the Russians and the United States, also all the other coalition partners, have put on them.
You know, bare in -- bare in mind, Russia really has the capability to do some real precise attacking just like the coalition partners do. I mean, they're launching -- launching cruise missiles from the Caspian. They are launching their fixed wing aircrafts, their attack aircraft, and their bombers out of Georgia, which means they're going to have to fly over Turkey.
But they're doing -- and so what you have now is a real coordination issue. And we have to be very, very cognizant of that. Now, I think at that level with the -- what I would call those air coordination centers and that air tasking order, if you will -- that the coalition puts together -- Russian is putting something together as well -- what we don't want to do, Don, is end up hitting a target about six times when those -- when that ordinance could be used someplace else.
And to Rick's very good point, you don't want to have aircraft that come back with ordinance still latched underneath the wings. We want those things to be used.
LEMON: General Marks, Colonel Francona, thank you.
MARKS: Thanks, Don.
FRANCONA: Thank you.
LEMON: An extensive manhunt in Europe for a suspected terrorist, but what about here at home? How seriously should Americans take ISIS threats?
LEMON: The manhunt for an eighth suspect in the Paris terror attacks spreading across Europe now, but do we face a similar threat here at home is the big question. Joining me now, Juliette Kayyem and Mubin Shaikh. He is the author of Undercover Jihadi.
So here's the question. Nine people arrested in Brussels, Juliette.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR INTERGOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS IN THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Yes.
LEMON: Now the search for Salah Abdeslam expanding in Europe. Unique challenges when it comes to a manhunt, doesn't it -- Europe does?
KAYYEM: Absolutely. I mean, one if the borders and the free flow of people and the -- the part of the European community that -- that people love about Europe. The other is that he is hiding. He is -- they know -- he knows that everyone is looking for him.
So this manhunt will be difficult, but they're putting a lot of resources behind it. And we've seen manhunts like this before that almost result in finding the person.
LEMON: What about information sharing? Now what's your assessment of the intelligence operation in Europe and how much information that's being shared?
KAYYEM: Well, I want to say that I have confidence it in, but then this terrorism incident happens and all of a sudden we're learning, as we always do after every terrorism incident, that the -- you know, this country knew that he was traveling there, and that country knew that he was traveling there. And I think what we're going to learn is that -- that people knew that -- that there was movement of a variety of people who were then converging in France, and if we had only put the pieces together. I'm not saying it could have been stopped, but that you could have definitely at least delayed or disrupted it.
LEMON: Mubin, in your opinion, how extensive is this terror network in France?
MUBIN SHAIKN, AUTHOR: Well, France has the -- over 1,000 foreign fighters who have gone to Syria. That's just those who actually got up and left. There are easily that many more who are still in place in France. It's -- it's a two headed threat for them really -- domestic and those who have gone from the domestic to Syria to obtain advanced training and then come back in.
So it's -- it's a very large network. Seven guys alone won't pull this off. There's a support network, most certainly, behind them.
LEMON: We keep hearing about the threats here, but I wonder if it's comparable. Does something like that exist here in the U.S.?
SHAIKN: Well, I -- I would say it's not really as bad at is -- as it is in Europe. The social conditions are very different for Muslims in North America. They're far more upwardly mobile. The alienation marginalization narratives are not as bad. So I don't really think that -- it's certainly not as bad as it is in France.
LEMON: And you're shaking your head in agreement?
KAYYEM: Absolutely. I mean, if anything keeps America safe, it is its capacity to integrate new communities, which we have clearly done so much better than countries like France and England and elsewhere in Europe. And so that is why we don't have 7,000 people, you know, going to Syria to -- to fight us -- to come back and fight us.
LEMON: But also it's a proximity problem there in France.
KAYYEM: We have an ocean -- and look, I mean, you know, people are wondering am I safe here. The -- the short answer is no, we are always going to be at risk, and so maybe if you start to accept it, you feel better. What we do now is we try to minimize the risk, maximize the protection, so that's the kind of thing you're going to see in New York City with cops and bomb sniffing dogs. And then maintain a really rigorous sort of first responder and response capacities.
Those three pieces working in tandem will lower the risk for most -- most Americans, even those in New York City. You're never going to get it to zero, and the truth is you don't want to get it to zero, because then New York City's not New York City.
LEMON: Yes. You know, Mubin, we have -- you try stop young people from being recruited from terror groups online. We have seen two ISIS videos released in just two days. Is this ISIS propaganda machine in full gear right now trying to capitalize on this -- on the Paris attack?
SHAIKN: Absolutely. You know, there's a quote I'll never forget for as long as I live. "Media give terrorism a longevity it might not otherwise enjoy." And so especially after an attack like this, they have protocols in place. They will start flooding with propaganda, with saying we're going here next, we're going to hit you here next.
For those who follow them, like I did online for a long time, I mean, they had hashtags like calamity will befall the U.S. They have protocols in place to exploit and exacerbate, and it's very, very important for us not to play into the hype.
LEMON: Yes, and so all of the emotional stories that you hear on networks like -- networks really all over the world -- those emotional scenes, the carnage, do you think that that helps their recruitment efforts, or does it hurt their recruitment efforts?
SHAIKN: Well, it can go both ways. I mean, for those who are plugged in and have drank the proverbial Kool-Aid, they love it. They celebrate anarchy and chaos. And for others, you know, it's turning them off big time. I mean, Muslim communities are -- I mean, I had somebody approach me. They want to work for the intelligence service. You know, France has, you know, their enlistment of the -- to the military went up, like, considerably.
So, you know, it's working on both side. But for the majority of us, we need to keep our wits about is. Let's not become completely paranoid over this.
LEMON: You know, Juliette, we've seen the threats in London, in Brussels, in other cities. It's going to mark one week very soon of the attack. You know, it's going to be a few weeks since that -- we -- you know, the Russian jet with the soda can. Do you think that they would -- they would like to pull off another attack as soon as possible?
LEMON: Is that the goal?
KAYYEM: That's the goal. I mean, we're all watching. We're all there. Then -- you know, then something else happens. So the fact that there were major disruptions in various countries today is a very good sign, because the assumption is that some attack might have been being planned.
We in the United States and everywhere around the world are heading into holiday seasons -- United States, at least, Thanksgiving and then the holiday season. There will be increased security, because there always in increased security around Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays. So people shouldn't be surprised by that. There will -- there will likely be even more intense security, I think. My guess is through the New Year, that we -- that just given what's going on, we are going to ramp it up and then maybe take a deep breath in January.
LEMON: Interesting. All right. Thank you very much.
When we come right back here on CNN, America is a land of immigrants. America is a land of immigrants, but Syrian refugees may not get a warm welcome here. That story is next.
LEMON: Syrian refugees trying to enter the United States have become a hot button issue in the wake of the Paris attacks. Thirty-one of the nation's governors oppose allowing them to settle in their states. Thirty-one of the nation's governors.
And today the House easily passed the bill to suspend the program allowing Syrian refugees into the United States. The vote was 281 to 237 with 47 Democrats joining 242 Republicans in favor of the bill, a majority that could override President Barack Obama's proposed veto. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid says he will try to block the bill.
Well, this tug of war is nothing new in American history. Only the players have changed. Here's CNN's Jason Carroll.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Immigrants now make up 13 percent of the total population, the highest percentage in 105 years. The United States is known for being made up of immigrants but has a history marked with dark chapters of intolerance toward those coming here seeking a brighter future.
Italian and Irish immigrants flocked to the states during the 19th century. Many were greeted by anti-Catholic discrimination and fear they would take away jobs. In 1939 with Europe on the brink of war, 10,000 mostly Jewish refugee children from Germany tried to enter the United States. In a poll at the time, about 60 percent of Americans said keep them out, just 30 percent of letting the children in.
Months later while fleeing the Nazis, more than 900 Jewish refugees from Germany onboard the S.S. St. Louis, denied entry. Philip Frand (ph) was a passenger.
PHILIP FRAND (ph): We knew that this was a land of immigrants, so we couldn't understand why all of a sudden the Coast Guard forced us into international waters.
CARROLL: After returning to Europe, approximately a quarter of the ship's passengers later died in concentration camps.
UNKNOWN: American became a much more xenophobic place. They put in many immigration controls that were basically geared at turning away Jews, turning away Italians, turning away eastern Europeans and southern Europeans, trying to make America more white.
CARROLL: World War II bred much intolerance.
UNKNOWN: Armed guards kept a 24-hour watch.
CARROLL: More than 100,000 people of Japanese descent living in the U.S. forced into internment camps, about two-thirds of them U.S. citizens. It was a time in the U.S. when African Americans suffered under Jim Crow, state and local laws enforcing racial segregation.
Mexican immigrants in the western states experienced it, too, this sign, sadly, making it all too clear, "No dogs. No Negroes. No Mexicans."
VAN TRAN, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: And at every single point in our history, we have always tried to draw a very bright line between us versus them.
CARROLL: Van Tran is from Vietnam. As a child, he lived in a refugee camp in Thailand. He's now a professor in New York.
VAN TRAN: The then part of history changes over time. So as we think of the current situation it's really important for us to go back and think about our history as well.
CARROLL: Despite the words etched here in the Statue of Liberty, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses," it could be said that each new immigrant group may have its own story of not being welcomed. Even so, the United States is still the place many would like to call their new home.
Jason Carroll, CNN New York.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Joining now to talk about this, Mercedes Schlapp and Mark Lamont Hill.
You know, we had that beautiful lady out in the harbor, Mark Lamont Hill -- that monument, the Statue of Liberty, given to us by our oldest ally, which is France. Is history repeating itself again here in 2015 you think?
MARK LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. At every historical junction, as we just saw in Jason's package, you know, we -- Americans have said, no, we don't want "those people" in, and somehow we forget that most of us have been "those people" at one point or another.
We have to be open to this, because it's the right thing to do. It honors our history. It honors the spirit of what America wants to be. And also it just makes good sense.
You know, Mercedes, the House passed a bill today that would suspend the program. I just -- I talked about it before introducing Jason's piece -- allowing the Syrian and the Iraqi refugees into the U.S. until national security agencies assure that they don't pose a security risk.
MERCEDES SCHLAPP, REPUBLICAN COMMENTATOR: Right.
LEMON: Most experts I have spoken to don't believe that that is a good idea. But it is politically popular, and we are in the height of an election season. So do you think this is just about politics?
SCHLAPP: No, I don't. I think that in talking to several immigration lawyers, in fact, they say the key here -- the most important pillar of our immigration system is to ensure our national security to protect the American people. And with that being said, I think that right now what this bill is doing -- as you can see, it's a bipartisan bill with support -- is that it's basically saying let's catch our breath for a moment here. We need to find this delicate balance, of course, of being a compassionate nation and allowing refugees to come in, but at the same -- at the second point here we have to ensure that the vetting system is in place that we can verify each person that's coming in.
Unfortunately, if we have one bad apple, I mean, that could cost the lives of hundreds or thousands of Americans here in our homeland. You know, it's something that we have to take seriously. And I think that it's worth looking at how can we improve our national security measures, especially with an archaic sort of immigration system that we have in place to make sure that we vet these individuals in the proper manner.
LEMON: But Mercedes, the vetting process is stricter...
HILL: Well, that's the...
LEMON: ...than any other group -- anyone coming in to the United States, whether it's a refugee or an immigrant, or anyone else, and...
SCHLAPP: Right. But we have that...
LEMON: ...up to a two-year process.
SCHLAPP: ...I mean, clearly, the facts are that ISIS has made it a point that they want to infiltrate. This is what they were doing in the case of France and in Europe. What did France do following these attacks? They closed their borders.
This is a matter of just taking a step back, ensuring that we have the right vetting system in place, ensuring that those Muslims that are coming in, those refugees, those Christians, the Yazidis, the religious minorities that are coming in -- making sure that those individuals are vetted. It is a proper system that should be handled...
SCHLAPP: ...especially with just the fear that this sort of attack could happen in the United States.
With that being said, Don, I'd like to think that you do have, for example, the French nationals, many that work for terrorists. So you have those individuals that could get a visa and easily come to the United States and cause havoc.
LEMON: Mark, go ahead.
HILL: Yes, a few points here. First, I don't think that the system itself is broken and archaic. I think that's simply untrue.
HILL: And also I don't think this is -- and I don't think this is comparable to a traditional immigration system. It takes 18 to 24 months on average to come through as a refugee. You go through the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense. You go through the State Department. You go through the Counterterrorism Department.
SCHLAPP: They have no way to verify...
HILL: You are...
SCHLAPP: ...the individual.
HILL: ...you are...
SCHLAPP: No way.
LEMON: But those that they can't verify and they don't have paperwork on, they don't allow them in, Mercedes.
SCHLAPP: And you don't even know if any of these documents are...
LEMON: They don't -- they don't -- well, let -- just...
SCHLAPP: And the -- and the other point here is...
HILL: Let me -- let me finish. I...
SCHLAPP: Go ahead.
HILL: Well, no, let me make -- let me make my point first.
Yes, so I think all of these things are part of the truth here, which is that we simply do have a rigorous system that we undergo. Could it be better? Could we develop even more Syrian intelligence so that we could find out more about people...
HILL: ...at the home base? Yes.
You said -- you said that France closed its borders. Yes, France also agreed to take 30,000...
LEMON: Thirty thousand, right.
HILL: ...people in their nation that it...
SCHLAPP: Well, here's what I'd like to propose.
HILL: ...if the nation that...
SCHLAPP: Five of the (inaudible)...
LEMON: Let him finish, and I'll let you finish, Mercedes.
HILL: I propose just -- I just propose finishing this sentence. If the nation that was most directly effected by this can still accept 30,000 people, why can't we accept 10,000 or more...
SCHLAPP: We're not saying we're not...
HILL: ...with great security...
SCHLAPP: ...going to accept them. We need to ensure that we have the proper measures in place.
With that being said...
SCHLAPP: ...I'd like to add that five of the wealthiest Muslim countries have not accepted not one Syrian refugee, Don. I mean, come on. We have to work with our Arab allies...
LEMON: Why would that matter?
SCHLAPP: ...to ensure -- it does matter.
LEMON: Well, that was -- that was a point...
SCHLAPP: It does matter, because if they have...
HILL: I didn't say...
LEMON: Even Rula Jebreal made that point last night...
SCHLAPP: Absolutely it matters.
LEMON: ...here on CNN and other people... SCHLAPP: Don, it matters.
LEMON: ...who are (inaudible)...
HILL: One point (inaudible)...
LEMON: Hold on, both of you. Hold on. Hang on.
SCHLAPP: The U.S. has to protect...
LEMON: Give me a second, Mercedes.
Even Rula Jebreal, who is Muslim, made that point yesterday here on CNN. There are many people who are from countries who are effected by this who are making that point. Why won't those countries accept...
SCHLAPP: That's right.
LEMON: ...people as well?
HILL: No but...
SCHLAPP: So before asking...
HILL: No, but what I'm saying is...
SCHLAPP: ...the U.S. to (inaudible)...
LEMON: Mark first and then Mercedes.
Go ahead, Mark.
HILL: Yes, I agree that there are Muslim countries that -- that don't do it, but we have never modeled our democratic process after Bahrain or Qatar or Saudi Arabia.
HILL: We've tried to be bigger and better. And when you look at...
SCHLAPP: We try to be bigger and better?
HILL: ...1.9 million...
LEMON: Yes, I think that's our...
SCHLAPP: ...we need to protect our borders.
HILL: No, hold up.
SCHLAPP: We need to protect our nation and our people.
SCHLAPP: That is our top priority. And that is a top priority in our immigration system. And I'm sorry. Yes...
SCHLAPP: ...we are going to work with our Arab allies...
HILL: Where we disagree.
SCHLAPP: ...neighboring Syria, and they are -- can provide a safe haven for these Syrian refugees, they should be part...
SCHLAPP: ...of helping this process.
LEMON: OK. I've got stuff for you...
HILL: 1.9 million of them...
LEMON: ...in the next block.
HILL: ...in Turkey, 1.1 million in Jordan. There's millions of them there.
LEMON: All right. More to...
SCHLAPP: And guess what (inaudible)...
LEMON: ...talk about right...
SCHLAPP: ...closed their borders on them.
LEMON: ...after this break. Stay with me, both of you.
When we come right back, what Donald Trump is saying about Syrian refugees. Don't go anywhere.
LEMON: The Syrian refugee crisis becoming one of the hottest issues on the campaign trail. And both Donald Trump and Ben Carson are talking about it.
Back with me now, Mercedes Schlapp and Mark Lamont Hill. I think they were arguing through the break and they resolved that.
SCHLAPP: We weren't arguing.
LEMON: You were having a lively discussion.
SCHLAPP: A friendly discussion.
So, Mark, earlier this week Donald Trump said that he would consider shutting down all mosques. Today in an interview with NBC -- in interviews with NBC and Yahoo News he said that he wouldn't rule out a national database for U.S. Muslims. And then later he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I feel totally bad for them. But, you know, at the same time, we don't know who they are. We don't know where they come from. And I also feel bad for the people in this country.
We should build a safe zone so they can be safe. But to bring them into this country is suicide. I call it the Trojan horse. You can't do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Mark, tell me what you think of that.
HILL: One, the idea of developing of some sort of surveillance of Muslims around the country is disturbing. It's disgusting. I would amount to nothing more than an enemies list and another way of violating civil liberties, the very thing that many republicans say that they oppose. The idea of saying that there's a Trojan horse, meaning that inside of every Muslim community is some terrorist, you know, bomber ready to pop out, I think is also disturbing and disgusting and plays into Islamophobia.
Do we have to take Islamic fundamentalism seriously? Do we have to take Islamist terrorism seriously? Yes. But that makes up an infinitesimal amount of the global population and has nothing to do with what we're doing here. We have full resources, again, to vet, investigate, and bring refugees into this country without threatening national security.
HILL: Let's not play into Islamophobic fear.
LEMON: Mercedes, do you think he goes too far there, or you think he's right on -- Donald Trump?
SCHLAPP: You know, I think I would have probably used different words than he did, but I think that what he is talking about is important, which is the fact that we need to ensure that the CIA, the intelligence officers are able to track and figure out who is out in the United States in a lot of cases dealing with the possibility of being Islamic fundamentalists.
We know that FBI Director, James Comey, came out and said that there are thousands within the United States, who could be buying into this Islamic propaganda. We know that, again, hundreds to thousands of Americans have fled the U.S., have gone over to Syria -- that we really have had a difficult time tracking.
So I don't think it's a foolproof system, and this is where I think it's important for, you know, parts of the CIA, the FBI, the intelligence officers to be able to have access and the ability to track the movement of potential terrorists in the U.S. LEMON: Mark, today Ben Carson...
LEMON: ...compared the Syrian refugees question to the handling of a rabid dog. Let's listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For instance, you know, if there's a rabid dog running around your neighborhood, you're probably not going to assume something good about that dog, and you're probably going to put your children out of the way. Doesn't mean that you hate all dogs by any stretch of the imagination, but you're putting your intellect into motion and you're thinking, how do I protect my children. At that same time, I love dogs, and I'm going to call the Humane Society, and hopefully they can come take this dog away and create a safe environment once again.
LEMON: Mark, your thoughts?
HILL: First of all, he's trolling us consistently on these issues it feels like sometimes.
Yes, I think it's a poor analogy. In this case, the rabid dog isn't Muslims. The rabid dog would be ISIS. The problem is we're not chasing down rabid dogs. We're chasing down all dogs. That's the problem. We're going about this the entire wrong way.
If someone said, look, I'm interested in intensifying the pursuit of ISIS, I'd say fine. If there was some reason to believe that the Muslims coming into this country or the Muslims who are already here are members of ISIS, I would say fine, but that's not at all what's happening here.
You said a moment ago that we need to find out how these people are getting Islamic indoctrination. It's not Islamic indoctrination. It's Islamist indoctrination, which is much more about the political and the religious...
SCHLAPP: It's radical Islamist -- right. It's radical Islamist fundamentalists.
HILL: Yes, which is very different than what you said -- right, which is very different than what you said earlier, and I want to make that distinction, because, again, we're prosecuting and persecuting every day Muslims for something that has nothing to do fundamentally...
SCHLAPP: Which we shouldn't be...
HILL: ...with (inaudible).
SCHLAPP: ...in any way.
LEMON: Mercedes, what about -- what about what he's saying, thought -- what Ben Carson is saying? Do you take offense to the language, or do you think he's sort of right on...
SCHLAPP: You know, Don...
LEMON: ...in his analogy?
SCHLAPP: ...I think we've got to step back a little bit here, because what we need to be focusing on on the fact that President Obama was incredibly defensive in the -- what -- in these past couple of press conferences, more focus on, you know, attacking his political opponents, acting like he's going for reelection as opposed to dealing with this so-called strategy, which, as we know, has taken a backseat.
And so, I think I'm more concerned -- and I think why the American people feel so uncertain -- I mean, my eight year old asked me the other day, "Mom, is America safe? Are we going to be OK?" And you know what, Don, I couldn't really answer that question. Why? Because I don't feel I can trust my leader right now to unite this country and figure out a way to deal with radical Islam and to really destroy ISIS.
And that is where I find that if you're talking about fear -- the reason why we have so much uncertainty is the fact that...
SCHLAPP: ...we don't necessarily trust the fact that the Obama administration is doing everything is can to destroy ISIS and have an offensive strategy...
LEMON: I give you 30 second, Mark.
SCHLAPP: ...to take them down.
HILL: Yes, one -- the reason people are afraid is because we keep fomenting fear by making people think that there's a...
HILL: ...Muslim around every corner that's going to bomb us...
SCHLAPP: No, that's...
HILL: ...and that's simply not true.
No, no, I get the 30 seconds, so let me finish.
So the other piece of this is, you know, if you want to disagree on Obama's strategy to fight ISIS, that's fine. But one thing is for certain, one way to continue to allow ISIS and other radical groups to radicalize people is by creating an Islamophobic narrative here in the States, which makes people not want to trust the United States' approach to these things. It also creates a radicalization...
LEMON: Final word.
HILL: ...when you have people who want to leave -- who want to leave -- who want to leave these regions and come here, and they can't. The same -- people are refugees...
LEMON: Thank you...
HILL: ...because they're afraid of ISIS.
SCHLAPP: We want the good people.
LEMON: Mark, I have to go.
Mercedes, I have to go.
SCHLAPP: Keep the terrorists out.
LEMON: Thank you, both of you.
We'll be right back.
LEMON: Before we leave you tonight, the story of a terror attack you may not have heard about, and it's killed a young American from Massachusetts.
Eighteen-year-old Ezra Schwartz was one of three people who died today in the West Bank when an unidentified gunman opened fire on vehicles stopped in traffic, then rammed his car into pedestrians. Schwartz was studying in Israel at the time of his death. The attack happened at a busy intersection in a community about 10 miles south of Jerusalem. A number of other Americans were injured. The suspected attacker was arrested.
Our live coverage of the terror attacks in Paris continues now with John Vause and Isha Sesay.