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tv   CNN Special Report Targeting Terror Inside the Intelligence War  CNN  November 25, 2015 8:00pm-9:01pm PST

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vitac -- the following is a cnn special report. it all happened within a few minutes. in the street, the cafes, at the game and the concert. but could what happened in paris happen in the u.s.? >> i don't know of a time when we've been beset by more threats. >> al qaeda and isis, lurking beyond america's reach. >> tracking isis movements today in iraq and syria. >> that's a tough problem.
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>> 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 the 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
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band. the biggest draw of the night is a huge international soccer match at the stade de france, france's national stadium. france versus rival germany draws tens of thousands of fans, among them, the french president, francois hollande, but it becomes the event the terrorists chose to begin their deadly ram page. 9:20 p.m., the game is already underway when a man approaches the stadium entrance. >> translator: i come face to face with this individual. his beard is dripping with sweat. this was 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. >> boom! >> translator: he had blown himself up.
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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 open fire at two restaurants popular with young parisians. >> we 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 body guard leans over and tells president hollande that france is under attack. then, 9:30, another suicide bomber detonates at the stadium. >> boom! >> translator: we felt it again. we were propelled forward again. i saw my son, ryan, tears in his eyes.
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i had tears in my eyes and i take hold of my son and i say i louv -- love you, my son, daddy's here. >> two minutes later, another neighborhood, another cafe. in this surveillance video from, people run for their lives. outside, 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 la belle equipe cafe
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are under fire. >> we heard this incredible gunfire and it's not a sound one knows, but you know it the minute you hear it. there were many more inside. >> in just 16 minutes, two suicide bombings, three deadly shootings. a city in panic, shock, and despair. who's behind the attacks, why, and most importantly, are they over? sadly for paris, the worst was yet to come. at 9:40, a suicide bomber attacks the comptoir voltaire, while across town, an american rock band is playing at the bataclan concert hall. three men enter and start shooting. >> you could smell the gun powder. you could hear the terror of people screaming. i looked around once and i saw a dead man who had been shot whose
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face 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.
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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 horror film. you don't move. you pretend that you've already been shot. you pretend you're dead. and that what i did. it was important if i was going to die, if the next bullet was for me, that i left saying i love. so i said it to every single person i've ever met. 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.
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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're 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?
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translator: to hollande, we are telling you, wait and see the worst. i swear, i swear you will drink from cups of death. >> isis propaganda, america's greatest fear is now france's nightmare. >> translator: today 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.
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but there was little doubt about who was responsible. >> isis claimed responsibility very quickly. the french government within 24 hours had identified isis as being responsible. >> quickly the investigators would learn identities and movements of the men who killed and died that night in paris. >> long histories of jihadist terrorist activities. some of the bombers in the paris attack were not on 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 nationalists and most had traveled to syria. several were known to both european and u.s. intelligence. >> the french say for every one militant they're trying to flower, they need 25 people to monitor that person. if you've got thousands of people, do the math.
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>> do the math. then ask the hard question. could what happened in paris happen here? >> white house, this is nctc, how do you have us? >> loud and clear, thanks. >> we have you loud and clear as well. >> this is the daily meeting at the nctc, or national counterterrorism center, the agency charged with stopping terror attacks in the u.s. critical to heading them off is first understanding what's 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 stand on these geographic 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.
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>> growing, and says nctc director, nicholas rasmussen, learning. >> that gives you pause and 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 enkruft -- encrypted communications, going dark. how much does that impede your ability to stop terror on the u.s. homeland? >> it's clear that our terrorist adversaries have learned what kinds of communications in the past we've been able to intercept. they now understand if they take those communications offline that they can shield their communications from us. >> just like the attackers allegedly did in paris. another factor, aspiring terrorists hiding and training in what intelligence officials
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call hard targets. >> it's true we do not have a clear a picture as we would like of what they are up to inside the conflict zone. >> a conflict zone like syria, where operatives can learn to use weapons, make bombs, and communicate covertly, skills that allowed 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 in
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intelligence, i don't know of a time when we've been beset by a more diverse array of challenges, threats, 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 clairvoyant, we can't predict the future. but we can certainly describe the conditions. and we can certainly describe the trends of what's 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 in its stronghold paris, we will strike america in its own stronghold, washington.
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next -- >> power, water distribution, the air traffic control system, financial sector, all those things. >> enemies already able to shut down the u.s. >> a cyberattack? >> yeah. i am totally blind. and sometimes i struggle to sleep at night, and stay awake during the day. this is called non-24. learn more by calling 844-824-2424. or visit
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[ sirens ] >> 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 that there is no evidence of any terrorism whatsoever. this blackout was caused by a tree limb in cleveland, ohio, and it hasn't happened since. but richard legit knows how easy it would be to make this happen again.
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>> you're saying that today, foreign actors already have the capability of shutting down key u.s. infrastructure. >> absolutely. >> via cyberattack? >> yeah. >> electrical distribution, natural gas distribution. transportation networks, air traffic control system, financial sector, all those things. >> you just shut down the u.s.? >> basically, yeah. >> he is the deputy director of the national security agency, where every day he is fighting a war that's constantly shifting against increasingly familiar adversaries. >> we are in a battle, if not an actual war, in cyberspace. and i wanted folks to understand and appreciate that. >> with multiple actors? >> multiple actors, yes. >> china, russia, iran? >> north korea, eastern europe. >> countless enemies launching a staggering number of attacks tracked here in the nsa's
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cybercommand center. >> how many cyberattacks do you see a day here? >> if you had to quantify, hundreds of 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, put the defense up. >> ten minutes? >> ten minutes. >> incredible. >> the cyberintruders are getting faster, smarter. china, suspected in the largest theft of u.s. government personal information. russia, believed to be behind the hacking of white house e-mail. and now terrorists such as isis and al qaeda have learned how to disappear from u.s. electronic surveillance completely. >> is it true that terrorists or adversaries can go completely dark? >> absolutely. there is part of the world that's dark to us. in other words, we can't see. >> the term "to go dark" is what
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the fbi terms their inability to see people's communications because of encryption. of course, they're 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, 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's fascinated 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 -- >> 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.
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police believe the paris attackers used encryption to help cloak their operation. >> i think we saw in paris that intelligence agencies had no idea that these guys were going to do this. that presents a huge problem, because the united states has been very reliant on its ability to monitor e-mails and phone traffic. if it's losing that, it's going to be harder for it. >> i thank our listeners for tuning in and -- >> a senior fellow at the new america thinktank, showed us one encryption tool being used by isis. >> so this is telegram app. it 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 a free app that isis uses to spread its propaganda and recruit new members.
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it's also a way that isis can secretly wire money or carry on private text messaging. >> 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 public isis-related 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. >> stop watching us. >> 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 leaks have irreparably harmed intelligence gathering. >> it did a lot of damage to our
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signal intelligence capabilities, particularly in counterterrorism, regrettably. the terrorists really went to school on the revelations about our trade craft, 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, the computers on our desks, and the speed of our connection to a world of resources is simultaneously our greatest strength and most desperate weakness.
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coming up, a place you probably never heard of. >> we're approaching the mission ground station at white sands, new mexico. >> and never seen until now.
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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, tracking isis movements today in iraq and syria? >> it's a tough problem now, much more son than it was 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.
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>> you now have 72 hours. >> he was nicknamed jihadi john and identified by his accent as british national mohammed emwazi. fast forward to november 12th. >> senior pentagon officials say they are, quote, reasonably certain, that jihadi john is a dead man. >> jihadi john killed on a city street in the isis stronghold of raqqah, syria, struck by two missiles from u.s. and british drones. >> it's a dangerous place for a human asset. but 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.
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>> ignition, 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 the same senses your body has. >> betty sapp is the director of the national reconnaissance office, or nro, and the satellites her agency launch 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 tracks, railroad tracks. 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 following
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signal or whether it's tracing weapons, whether we're making sure 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 can contribute to that mission. yeah. >> to see where the data from sapp's agency is collected, we came here, a place you've probablyever 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's satellites, checking their systems,
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receiving their data and troubleshooting any problems. >> what goes wrong? you lose touch with them? >> it's a piece of hardware with electronics on it. and just like anything can go wrong with your cell phone or your television set, that can go wrong. >> each satellite has an important job to do. >> every day we have a plan of what that -- what those satellites are going to collect. if we got a call in realtime where a crisis is happening. we have the capability to retask those satellites. >> how often does that happen? is that a regular thing to get a call, i need you to look here? >> i would say as often as cnn gets a breaking news story, we're there. >> 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 is a single american troop in harm's way that we are not watching over. >> for every u.s. military unit
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deployed in harm's way, one or more guardian angels in the sky is watching them. >> 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 really is near realtime. >> warning for instance of an ied or ambush up ahead. >> i'm walking down a road in iraq and you see something approaching, you can communicate immediately. >> we can get information to units. we can get it to tactical vehicles as well. >> to disable satellites, 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
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couriers or some other means of communication we haven't detected. or they just wasn't sigh lent. >> can you cover it? 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? it's like finding a needle in a hay stack. >> 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. using natural gas this power plant can produce enough energy for about 600,000 homes. generating electricity that's cleaner
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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 torah bora. then osama bin laden vanished. for years. >> the trail was quite cold. >> former cia director mike
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hayden didn't have much to go on. >> most of what we had looked more like elvis sightings than they did substantive intelligence. >> until u.s. intelligence zeroed in on this compound. >> an unusual compound, unusual in its security, unusual in its size, and, frankly, unusual in its location. >> its location, a half mile from pakistan's premier military academy in abbott bad -- abbottabad. from miles in the sky, american spy satellites were watching. robert cardillo is the director of the national geospacial intelligence agency. here in the nga operations center, they make sense of the data that u.s. spy satellites beam back. >> we moved from spacial resolution to what we call activity resolution now. >> translation, it's not just about satellite photos anymore.
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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. >> when we speak about patterns, it's how often does this terrorist leader visit this compound? that's what we're talking about? >> that's right. >> 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.
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>> they could see a guy dressed all in white. he was taking what looked like prison walks around the garden. there were multiple children and there were multiple wives and all that pointed at the possibility of him 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. >> right. >> 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 satellite 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.
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but our ability to have that library coverage enabled to us to go back and to be able to rebuild, essentially, over time. >> building a scale model accurate to the centimeter. >> the tracking down and taking down of osama bin laden was a -- kind of a classic example of a successful use 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, before the bin laden
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raid something like this would have 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 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 other demos that we have have buildings color coded so that you can understand that i'm walking past a chemical plant and pulling in other sources of information like if the wind is blowing towards me. >> what about a soldier caught in a fire fight with no time to load up a laptop or image this detailed.
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>> 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 lines of an ever-changing war. coming up, terror too big to track. >> we're talking about tens of thousands of people who've become radicalized. i am totally blind. and sometimes i struggle to sleep at night, and stay awake during the day. this is called non-24. learn more by calling 844-824-2424. or visit
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in the early hours of a washington, d.c., morning, a briefcase begins its journey to the white house. inside, a world of spies, 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
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president mid-morning. it's probably a ten-minute, 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 a 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 produces the pdb. >> up to speed, i think on the key battlefield trends in syria.
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>> we are the first reporters allowed inside one of their daily meetings. >> are there any transnational trends we need to update him on? >> obviously, anything with any threat to the homeland, anyplace where u.s. forces are deployed, any issue where u.s. personnel could be at risk. >> from agency to agency, we heard a consistent list of threats and adversaries. >> i won't surprise you by mentioning russia, china, north korea, iran. >> nga director robert cardillo was president obama's briefer for four years. >> that's a high-pressure job. >> it is. >> what was the toughest moment you can remember? >> there's a number of occasions in which, you know, i was in there on a friday morning and was briefing about here's the intelligence community's assessment about the weekend activity or the likelihood of a threat and then coming back in on a monday morning and going, well, here's what we missed. >> or seeing this happen on a friday night.
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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've ever dealt with before. we're talking about tens of thousands of people who've become radicalized in some way, shape, or form. so there are just too many people for them to watch intensively. >> not that many takers for the isis ideology here in the united states compared to what you're seeing in europe. new report "isis in the west."e
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the new faces of extremism. those that are recruited in america are young and active online, but there is no single ethnic or geographic profile. >> this is one isis' classic propaganda videos. the message here is that, you know, you can come to isis held territory, you can bring your kids, you can have a normal life. it's actually paradise. look, here's an isis fighter swinging, smiling and swinging his kids. >> express an interest and step two, isis recruiters begin chatting 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
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boys, she was online with them for thousands of hours. they sent her chocolates, religious books. >> step three, move the recruit to encrypted communications. by step four, the recruit is committed and isis begins providing operational advice including this travel guide. >> and it's basically everything you'd need to know about how to get into isis territory. what you should pack. it has a checklist here of pills, band-aids, small l.e.d. flashlights, particular kinds of backpacks you should bring. >> the adversaries are exploiting the digital domain to shape perceptions in their favor. no terrorist group has been more prolific in this space. >> america's enemies are evolving, which means intelligence gathering must do the same. director james clapper. >> we try to maintain a robust set of capabilities, whether it's overhead, terrestrial, maritime, collection by aircraft, collection by humans, whatever it is. so the trick is, how do you make all the cylinders work together
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and in harmony so they're attuned. >> the seemingly limitless number of adversaries, threats and questions require an evolving arsenal of tools and tactics, and sometimes a stiff drink. >> so tell me how inundated with all this threat intel, how you unwind. >> when i was in the pentagon as the undersecretary defense for intelligence, every six, eight weeks or so on a friday night, i'd have a few people in, and they'd have a beer or glass of wine and i would have a martini. in this job, every night. >> it is a daunting challenge. 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 space and cyberspace, never knowing for sure what's next.
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-- captions by vitac -- on november 26, 2008 the world watched in horror i grew up in mumbai, and she


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