tv CNN Special Report Targeting Terror Inside the Intelligence War CNN November 24, 2015 9:00pm-10:01pm PST
beyond america's reach. tracking isis movements today in iraq and syria. >> that's a tough problem. >> and the lone wolves inspired from afar but acting alone. can american intelligence stay ahead of the terrorists? to find out, we go inside the agencies. >> we're the first reporters allowed inside. >> working to keep you safe with exceptional access to the tools and tactics they use for targeting terror, inside the intelligence war. a quiet fall evening in paris, in bars and restaurants lining the streets, parisians and tourists eat, drink and watch the world go by. ♪ more than a thousand people crowd into the bataclan concert
hall to watch an american rock band. the biggest draw of the night is a huge international soccer match at the stade de france. it draws tens and thousands of fans. among them, the french president francois hollande. but it's where the terrorists chose to begin their deadly rampage. 9:20 p.m., the game is already under way when a man approaches the stadium entrance. >> translator: i come face-to-face with this individual. his beard is dripping from sweat. this is not reassuring and prompted me to wonder, what was going on? and i could see he was very anxious, disturbed. >> security guards frisk him and find their worst nightmare, an explosive belt. >> translator: he had blown himself up. my shoulders and body were
propelled back. >> the soccer match continues, fans unaware, paris unaware until four miles away, three masked gunmen armed with assault rifles opened fire at two restaurants popular with young parisians. >> we had heard huge gunshots and lots of glass coming through the window so we ducked onto the floor with all of the other diners. >> back in the stadium, a bodyguard leans over and tells president hollande that france is under attack. then, 9:30, another suicide bomber detonates at the stadium. >> translator: we felt it again. we were propelled forward again. i saw my son ryan, tears in his eyes. i had tears in my eyes and i take a hold of my son and i say, i love you my son.
daddy is here. >> two minutes later, another neighborhood, another cafe. this surveillance video from dailymail.com, people run for their lives. a gunman aims at a woman lying on the ground. his gun jams. she gets up and runs away. inside, bullets fly, shards of glass spray and everyone ducks for cover. 9:36, diners at a cafe la belle equipe are under fire. >> we heard incredible gunfire and it's not a sound one knows,
be uh you kn but you know it the minute you hear it. six people were lying on the ground and many more inside. >> in just 16 minutes, two suicide bombings, three deadly shootings. a city in panic, shock and despair. who is behind the attacks, why, and most importantly, are they over? sadly for paris, the worst is yet to come. at 9:40, a suicide bomber attacks the comptoir voltaire while across town, at the bataclan theater, three men enter and start shooting. [ gunfire ] >> you could smell the gunpowder. you could hear the terror of people screaming. i looked around once and i saw
the dead man had been shot in the face. he was facing towards me. and after that i said, no, i cannot look. >> when the attackers stopped to reload, dozens of terrified people flee through the back exit. this woman tries to escape out a window. she is pregnant and hanging on for dear life. while on the street below, there's a mad dash for survival. one man limps away as best he can. others drag the injured to safety. finally, the woman is pulled safely from the ledge. near the stadium, there is a third blast from one final suicide bomber. fans are left confused, seeking safety together on the field. it is 9:53.
♪ at the bataclan, the killing continues. the gunmen murdering people one by one as they lay on the ground. those who aren't executed become hostages. >> it felt like a nightmare. it felt like the worst, horrible, you don't move. you pretend that you've already been shot. you pretend you're dead and that's what i did. it was important. it was important that if i was going to die, if the next bullet was for me, that i left saying, "i love you." so i said it to every single person i've ever loved. and in that way it felt -- it felt okay to die. because i had love in my heart and i reflected on a great life. >> hours pass. then, after midnight, a s.w.a.t. team storms in. all three gunmen die, two from detonating their suicide belts. >> translator: there was blood on the walls.
there was blood everywhere. it's the apocalypse. >> french security experts, french security analysts believe that what they are seeing at this point is a coordinated terrorist attack tonight in paris. >> it is the most violent night in france since world war ii. hundreds are dead or injured. coming up, the enemy in our midst. >> some of the bombers in the paris attack were well-known jihadi terrorists. >> france didn't see it coming. could the u.s. be next? ♪ is that coffee? yea, it's nespresso. i want in. ♪
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nightmare. >> translator: the day we are revenging because you started the assault. >> paris, november 13th. as hospitals and morgues in paris are inundated with the injured and the dead, the investigation began into how the attacks happened but there was little doubt about who was responsible. >> isis claimed responsibility very quickly. the french government within 24 hours identified isis as being responsible. >> reporter: quickly, investigators learn the identities and movements of the men who killed and died that night in paris. >> many had long histories of jihadist terrorist activity. some of the bombers in the paris attack were not on the u.s. watch lists. some of them were because some of them were quite well-known jihadi terrorists. >> almost all of the attackers were european nationals and most had travelled to syria. several were known to both european and u.s. intelligence. >> the french say that for every one militant they are trying to follow, they need 25 people to monitor that person. so if you've got thousands of people, do the math. >> do the math and then ask the hard question, could what
happened in paris happen here? >> white house, this is nctc, how do you have us? >> we have you loud and clear as well. >> this is the daily meeting at the nctc, or the national counterterrorism center. critical to heading them off is first understanding what is happening elsewhere. >> the national counterterrorism center is tracking an explosion near the pyramids in egypt and two suicide bombings inside nigeria. isil is framing multiple strategies to remain and expand on these geographical regions. >> that means isis makes different plans for different places. like putting a bomb on an airplane in egypt or striking france's capital. >> isis is an organization that is definitely still expanding and growing. >> growing and says nctc director nicolas rasmussen, learning. >> that gives you pause for concern because it suggests that
the organization is seeking to develop capability, capability that can be brought against u.s. interests, not just in one area, syria and iraq, but around the world. >> one critical innovation, avoiding surveillance altogether. one adaptation is using encrypted communication, going dark. how much does that impede your ability to stop terror plots on the u.s. homeland? >> it's clear that our adversaries have figured out and learned what kind of communications we in the past have been able to intercept and they now understand that if they take those communications offline or find other ways to communicate, that they can shield their communications from us. >> just like the attackers allegedly did in paris. another factor? aspiring terrorists hiding in training in what intelligence officials call hard targets. >> it's true, we do not have as
clear of a picture we'd like of what they are up to when they are in a conflict zone. >> a conflict zone like syria where they make bombs and communicate covertly, skills that allow a handful of men in france to make a global impact. >> if they are able to identify and motivate and inspire individuals to take action, even on a relatively small scale in locations around the world, that type of activity can have an outsized political or strategic effect. >> devastating paris, one of the world's great cities. just as new york was devastated 14 years ago. are we safer today than we were then? >> in my 50-plus years of intelligence, i don't know of a time when we've been beset by a more diverse array of
challenges, crises around the world. >> james clapper is the director of national intelligence. no one knows better the magnitude of terror threats and the limits on the tools to fight them. >> we're not we can describe the trends of what is going on. >> trends among those that intend harm. today on u.s. soil, there are more potential terrorists than ever before. there are 900 active investigations, 900 now pending against suspected operatives inspired by isis. at least one investigation in every u.s. state. >> translator: i swear to god, like we struck france and its stronghold paris, we will strike america in its own stronghold, washington. next -- >> special power, air
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august 14th, 2003, at 4:10 p.m., almost all of the northeastern united states plunged into darkness. the largest blackout in american history. as night fell, 50 million people were in the dark. no lights, no public transit, no commerce, no computers. the only news came from battery-powered devices. with memories of 9/11 fresh, new york city mayor michael bloomberg had to calm manhattan saying there was no evidence of terrorism whatsoever. this blackout was caused by a tree limb in ohio and hasn't happened since. but it would be easy to make this happen again. >> you're saying that today, foreign actors already have the capability of shutting down key
u.s. infrastructure? >> absolutely. >> a cyberattack? >> yes. special power, natural gas distribution, transportation networks, air traffic control system, financial sector, all of those things. >> you've just shut down the u.s. >> yeah. basically, yeah. >> every day he's fighting a war that is constantly shifting against increasingly familiar adversaries. >> we are in a battle, if not an actual war, in cyberspace and i want folks to understand and appreciate that. >> with multiple actors? >> yes. >> china, russia, iran? >> north korea, eastern europe. >> countless enemies launching a staggering number of attacks, tracked here in the nsa's cybercommand center. >> how many cyberattacks do you
see a day here? if you had to quantify. >> if you had to quantify, hundreds and thousands. >> and it gets worse. cyberattacks happening at lightning speed so the nsa has to put up defenses just as fast. >> the fastest we've ever done that is ten minutes from start to finish, got the threat and put the defense up. >> ten minutes? >> ten minutes. >> incredible. >> the cyberintruders are getting faster, smarter. china suspected in the largest theft of u.s. personal information. russia believed to be behind the hacking of whose e-mail. and now terrorists such as al qaeda and isis have learned how to disappear from u.s. electronic surveillance completely. >> is it true that terrorists adversaries can go completely dark? >> absolutely. there is part of the world that is dark to us. in other words, we can't see. >> the time to go dark is what the fbi terms as seeing people's communication because of
encryption and of course they are not happy about it. >> an online world hidden by widely available encryption, technology that makes messages impossible to monitor. >> so that simple tool wins versus the whole apparatus and infrastructure of the nsa? >> well, so that's maybe a little bit of an overstatement. what it does is it makes the job more difficult. >> are you letting on there -- and this is something that is fascinating to me -- that there is a way around encryption for the nsa? >> so that's a really difficult question to answer. sometimes there is. >> that gives a little bit of comfort, right, to imagine -- >> it shouldn't give you too much comfort. it's a serious problem. >> operating in that darkness is a whole range of threats, russian spies, north korean hackers. police believe the paris attackers used encryption to help cloak their operation.
>> oh, i think we saw in paris that intelligent agencies had no idea that these guys were going to do this and that present as huge problem because the united states is being very reliant on the ability to monitor phone calls and traffic. if it's losing that, it's going to be a lot harder. >> we thank our listeners for tuning in. >> a senior fellow at the new america think tank showed us one encryption tool being used by isis. >> so this is a telegram app and offers isis unprecedented ability to reach recruits and fans without worrying about its information being intercepted and unless you subscribe to the channel, you wouldn't even know about it. >> telegram is it a free app that isis uses to spread its
propaganda and recruit new members. it's also a way that isis can secretly wire money or carry on private text messaging. >> so i'm going to say, "hello" and send. so it's just like a conversation. >> since the attacks in paris, telegram has taken action blocking hundreds of isis channels. it's a step, but private encrypted messaging between members has not been affected. for u.s. intelligence officials, encryption is of grave concern. but to privacy activists, it is a necessary reaction to the kind of mass surveillance programs former nsa staffer edward snowden revealed. >> end mass surveillance. >> director james clapper says that snowden's likes have irreparably harmed intelligence gathering. >> it did a lot of damage to our signal capability intelligence, specifically in counterterrorism, regrettably. the terrorists really went to
school on the revelations about our tradecraft tactics and techniques. >> encryption and mass surveillance will remain controversial issues but neither changes the fundamental fact that information in the u.s. flows freely. >> the thing that makes us so competitive and so powerful in a modern world, which is basically the networking of information and the way that we flow data back and forth, is also our biggest vulnerability. >> in other words, for intelligence agencies like the nsa, the phones in our pockets, computers on our desks and the speed to connection to a world of resources is simultaneously our greatest strength and most desperate weakness. coming up, a place you've probably never heard of. we're approaching the mission ground station at white sands,
isis, an enemy america and its allies are desperate to destroy. but fighting isis operatives means finding them first. how does that work in layman's terms? >> it's much more harder now than five years ago because we don't have a presence physically in syria. >> with no country, capital or clear leadership, targets can be hard to come by. late august, 2014, this man became the face of isis. >> our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people. >> in a terrifying series of videos, he graphically demonstrated the brutality of
isis. >> you now have 72 hours. >> he was nicknamed jihadi john, and identified by his accent as british national, mohamed emwazi. fast forward to november 12th. >> jihadi john killed on a city street of raqqah, syria, killed by a drone. >> it's a dangerous place for an asset. as i say, when you're thwarted in one direction with one particular discipline, you try to compensate for it in other ways. >> like operating from the safety of space. jihadi john tracked, targeted and taken out, all with the help -- >> five, four, three -- >> -- of spy satellites. >> and we have liftoff.
>> hundreds of spy satellites help american intelligence find, follow and fight terrorism. of course, using spy satellites isn't new but what they can do will surprise you. >> they can sense, you know, the same sense as your body has. >> the director of the national reconnaissance office, nro, the agency launches and operates can see and hear, sense heat, even feel vibrations. >> think of what you used to do as a kid, we used to play near railroad tracks and you could feel the train coming before you could hear it. you're going to hear it before you can see it. >> today's satellites can detect the use of specific chemical or radioactive weapons. critical capabilities when it comes to monitoring global hot spots, such as syria and iran. >> whether it's fallen signals or tracing weapons, whether we're making sure that the treaties that the u.s. has
signed are actually being enforced, we contribute to all of those missions. >> i imagine the iranian nuclear agreement falls into that category. >> we contribute to that mercenary. >> to see where the data from the agency is collected, we came here. a place you've probably never heard of. a place you've certainly never seen. until now. >> we're approaching the mission ground station at white sands, new mexico. the very existence of this ground station and others in the u.s. was classified until 2008 and we're the first reporters allowed inside. inside this ground station, the place the nro calls its brain. from this room, the nro watches over the agency satellites, checking their systems, receiving their data and troubleshooting any problems. >> it's a piece of hardware with electronics on it and just like
anything can go wrong with your television or cell phone, that can go wrong. >> jeff crider has an important job to do. >> if we get a call in realtime where a crisis is happening, we have the capability to retest those satellites. >> how often does that happen? is that a regular thing where you get a call to say, i know you're looking over here but i need you to look here? >> cnn gets a breaking news story. >> satellites don't just collect critical data, they send it back to those who need it most. whether investigators in paris or soldiers on the front lines. >> i don't think there's a single american troop in harm's way that we are not watching over.
>> for every u.s. military unit deployed in harm's way, one or more guardian angels in the sky is watching. how quickly can you warn a war fighter on the ground if you see something threatening him or her? >> we talk near realtime and it is near realtime. >> warning, for instance, of an ied or ambush up ahead. i'm walking down a road in iraq and you see somebody approaching, you can communicate immediately? >> we can get information to units. we can get it toactical vehicles as we. >> to disable satellite, sophisticated adversaries, like china and russia, may use missiles and lasers. but isis operatives use a much simpler way to circumvent spy satellites.
they disappear completely. >> instead of communicating electronically, they use couriers or they just go silent. >> is it recoverable? can you fill those holes? >> if they don't communicate, no. >> that must keep you up at night. >> that's a concern. there's no question about it. coming up, finding the terrorists is like finding a needle in a haystack. >> trying to find the pattern in the noise is the real trick. people don't have to think about where their electricity comes from. they flip the switch-- and the light comes on. it's our job to make sure that it does.
before paris, before isis, the u.s. had a different target. osama bin laden. after 9/11, u.s. intelligence shifted search efforts into overdrive. they found him briefly in the rugged mountain hideout called tora bora. then, osama bin laden vanished for years. >> the trail was quite cold. >> former cia director mike
hayden didn't have much to go on. >> most of what we had felt more like elvis sightings than intelligence. >> until u.s. intelligence zeroed in on that compound. >> an unusual compound, unusual in its security, unusual in its size and, frankly, unusual in its location. >> its location, a half a mile from pakistan's premier military academy in abbottabad. here in the operations center at the national geospatial intelligence agency, we move to activity resolution. >> translation, it's not just about satellite photos anymore. now the patterns of behavior they reveal are much more telling.
>> when i worked in this business in the '80s, patterns were developed, weeks at best, months, years more likely. patterns these days are days at worst and hours, more likely. so trying to find the pattern in the noise is the real trick. >> and when we speak about patterns, it's how often does this terrorist leader visit this compound and when? >> that's right. >> that's what we're talking about? or in the case of the mysterious compound, it was about normal things that were not happening. >> they didn't seem to do anything very ordinary, like going to see a movie or going out grocery shopping. they seemed to be staying in the compound. that was mysterious. >> they had no internet connection, burned their trash and rarely left. but patterns also showed someone pacing in the garden. >> they could see a guy dressed
all in white. he was taking what looked like prison walks around the garden. there were multiple children, multiple wives and all of that pointed at the possibility of that being bin laden. >> at last, the u.s. had found its mortal enemy living in a compound that looked just like this model, built by the nga six months before the raid. >> it was built to support decision making. and by the way, how else could we find out more information about the compound. >> for one thing, satellites took photos both by looking straight down and by pointing at angles that showed doors, windows and wall heights. and then, the nga mined its archive, countless images stored long before the compound was ever constructed. >> in this case, because, let's face it, we did not suspect this
facility or know why this house was being built when it was being built but our ability to have that library coverage enabled us to go back and to rebuild essentially over time. >> building a scale model accurate to the centimeter. >> the tracking down and taking down of osama bin laden was kind of a classic example of successful u.s. of intelligence. >> james clapper coordinates the efforts of all american intelligence agencies. >> that was a huge moment for me and a lot of us in the intelligence community, particularly those of us who lived through 9/11. it was closure. it really was. >> since 9/11, threats to the u.s. have grown more sophisticated. and so have the tools to combat them.
today, the cardboard model of bin laden's compound has evolved into this. i'm looking at this and i'm thinking for the bin laden raid, something like this would have been really helpful. >> it would, yes. >> mark is showing us around the nga's immersion lab where the model surrounds you, providing more information than ever before. >> what would people look like if they were walking around, what would this place look like in this lighting or this lighting. where are the shadows? >> that's incredible. down to that level of detail? >> down to that level of detail. >> in this lab, data from satellites and other sources is used to immerse you in imagery. it is virtual reality for the intelligence community. virtual reality that can save lives. >> some of the buildings were color coded so that you could understand that i'm walking past a chemical plant and pulling in other sources of information like if the wind is blowing towards me. >> but what about a soldier caught in a fire fight with no time to load up a laptop or an image this detailed?
>> they just may need to know danger from this direction and have it flash up on their apple watch. >> the u.s. intelligence community is using satellite images, human intelligence and drone footage to bring the obstacles and the solutions directly to the front line of an ever changing war. coming up, terror too big to track. >> we're talking about tens of thousands of people that have become radicalized. padvil pm gives you the healingu at nsleep you need, it. helping you fall asleep and stay asleep so your body can heal as you rest.
in the early hours of a washington, d.c. morning, a briefcase begins it journey to the white house. inside, a world of spy secrets and security threats. the president's daily brief, the pdb, it is an early-warning system for crises across the globe. deputy director of national intelligence, michael dempsey is the man who personally briefs the president. >> i get up before 5:00. and then go into the white house. >> he has just a few hours to
prepare to meet with president obama. >> we usually meet with the president mid-morning. it's probably, you know, a ten minute or 15 minute or so discussion. >> 15 minutes to cover a world of threats. >> there's a figuring out what is the story he needs that day. four or five main articles. a couple of situation updates. he is very engaged in the intelligence process. >> the pdb is the product of all 16 intelligence agencies. an enormous force with a staff of more than 100,000. a yearly budget in excess of $66 billion. and a presence in classified number of countries across the globe. in a growing world of threats, how to choose which four or five demand the president's immediate attention? >> let's go around the globe. >> this is part of the team that provides the pdb. >> gets us up to speed on the thing. >> we are the first reporters allowed inside one of their
daily meetings. national meetings. >> any threat to the homeland, any place where u.s. forces are deployed. any place u.s. personnel could be at risk. >> from agency to agency we heard a consistent list of threats and adversaries. >> he was president obama's briefer for four years. >> it's a high-pressure job. >> it is. >> what is the toughest moment you can remember? >> there is a number of occasions in which i was in there on a friday morning and was briefing about here's the intelligence assessment about the weekend activity and coming in on the monday morning and going, well, here's what we missed. >> or seeing this happen on a
friday night, paris under attack by isis gunmen and bombers. some of them french citizens. several of the attackers and the alleged mastermind, abdelhamid abaaoud were previously known to european and u.s. intelligence. >> how did they miss an attack of this scale? >> the sheer scale of radicalization in europe is like nothing they have ever dealt with before. we're talking about tens of thousands of people who have become radicalized in some way, shape or form. there are just too many people for them to watch intensively. >> there's not that many takers for the isis ideology in the united states compared to what you're seeing in europe. >> peter bergen co-authored "isis in the west: the new faces
of extremism" those recruited in america are young and active online. but there is no single geographic or ethnic profile. >> this is a classic propaganda video. the message here is that, you know, you can come to isis hell territory. you can bring your kids and have a normal life and it's paradise. here is an isis fighter, smiling and swinging his kids. >> reporter: express an interest, and step two, isis recruiters begin to chat online with their potential recruit. enticing him or her. >> we've had cases in the united states where a 23-year-old female potential isis recruit, she was online with isis sympathizers, followers, fan boys. she was online with them for thousands of hours.
they sent her chok lacolates. they sent her religious books. >> step three moves the recruit to encrypted communications. by step four the recruit is committed and isis begins to provide operational advice including this travel guide. >> it's basically everything you need to know how to get into isis territory. what you should pack. it has a checklist of ban band-aids, small l.e.d. flashlights, particularly back tack packs to bring. >> reporter: they are exploiting the digital domain to shape perceptions in their favor. and no group has been more prolific in this space. >> america's enemies are evolving. and america has to do the same. >> we have to maintain a robust set of capabilities, overhead, terrestrial, collection by aircraft, collection by humans, whatever it is. so the trick is, how do you make all the cylinders work together
and in harmony. so they're tuned. >> the seemingly limitless number of threats and questions involve a revolving arsenal of tools and tactics. and sometimes a stiff drink. >> tell me how inundated with all this threat intel how you unwind. >> when i was in the pentagon as the undersecretary of the director of intelligence. i would have a few people in and have a beer or a glass of wine and i would have a martini. this job, every night. >> it is a daunting channel. combatting both the enemies you know and those you don't on battlefields and in the shadows. on land and at sea, in outer space and cyberspace, never knowing for sure what's next.
>> this is cnn news room live from los angeles. our breaking news this hour. protesters are blocking a major interstate highway in chicago, angry about a just-released video that shows a white police officer shooting and killing a black teen. is plus, vladimir putin calls it a stab in the back. new fears of the syrian crisis escalating after turkey shoots down a russian war plane. and donald trump isn't backing away from controversial comments about american muslims on 9/11, despite an apparent lack of proof. hello and welcome to our viewers in the u