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tv   NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt  NBC  May 19, 2016 5:30pm-6:01pm PDT

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greg suhr served five years as police chief and 30 years on the force. >> lester holt will join us here for "nightly news." we'll see you back at 6:00. breaking news tonight, air disaster, egyptair flight 804, why experts fear it could have been a bomb. what u.s. officials tell nbc news are strong indications of an explosion. the plane making abrupt turns before plummeting off the radar into the ocean. could someone slip an undetectable device past security at a western airport? hillary clinton unloads on donald trump more than ever before accusing of being a recruiter for terrorism. an isis recruit that trained with the enemy then escaped. what he saw and what he knows now helping u.s. intelligence. and morley safer dies at 84 days after retiring. we remember a
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legendary stalwart of "60 minutes." nightly news begins right now. >> announcer: from nbc news world headquarters in new york, this is "nbc nightly news" with lester holt. good evening. there is an especially uneasy feeling tonight about what may have brought down an egyptian airliner over the mediterranean earlier today. the airbus with 66 people on board vanished overnight on a flight from paris to cairo. there was no distress call. in cairo anxious families waited for hopeful news that never came. at sun up, planes will resume searching for signs of victims and wreckage near where officials tell nbc news there were indications of an explosion. tonight egyptian authorities are suggesting it might have been an act of terror. if true, it leads to
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the frightful possibility an explosive device somehow went undetected through one of europe's busiest air hubs. we have full coverage and analysis starting with nbc's tom costello. >> reporter: in the mediterranean, ships and planes searching for debris from egyptair 804 after it disappeared from radar in the dead of night. nbc news has learned from intelligence officials that data suggests some sort of explosion on board the plane. the possibility of having a terror attack higher than possibility of having a technical error. >> reporter: the airbus a-320 left paris charles de gaulle just after 3:00 p.m. local time for a four-hour trip to cairo. on board 56 passengers, including three children, crew of seven and three security agents. the plane was traveling at 519 miles per hour at cruise altitude 37,000 feet when something went terribly wrong. the greek government says military radar shows the plane making an abrupt 90-degree turn to the left and
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flying in a circle dropping to 15,000 feet. final radar contact lost at 10,000 feet just inside egyptian air space. the a-320 is a workhorse for airlines world one. one takes off every two and a half seconds this plane was considered young, just 13 years old with 48,000 flight hours. the crew was experienced, 9,000 hours of flight time between them. but could the plane have suffered a mechanical failure and structural breakup in flight? >> modern jet airliners are very well designed and it would be very, very unusual to have a structural failure resulting in an in flight breakup. >> reporter: a leading theory, an explosive planted on board by a passenger or someone on the ground brought down the plane. >> they are going to be looking at residue. they will be looking at shrapnel. they will look at those things that could indicate whether or not there was some sort of explosion aboard the aircraft that compromised the structure. >> reporter: they are comparing names on the
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passenger manifest against known terrorist watch list and interviewing ground staff that had access to the plane. the plane's black boxes may hold the key to what happened. conversations between the flight crew and any alarms of sounds of explosion. the flight data recorder should contain thousands of pieces of data on the plane's mechanical performance. meanwhile, in paris the distraught families have gathered hoping for answers. a british citizen richard osmond but on board. his brother allister. >> i never would expect to wake up to this. >> reporter: so far, no credible claim of responsible and no wreckage found. u.s. intelligence sources say an initial check of the passenger manifest found no one on the u.s. terror watch list. lester? >> all right. tom costello, thank you. let's bring back former ntsb investigator greg feith. we just saw him a moment ago. greg, there have been a couple cases of planes falling from the sky. there was air france 447 a couple of years ago, and malaysia
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flight 370 but those were attributed in part to what the pilots were doing in the cockpit. what makes this potentially more suspicious and what do you make of the sharp turns before it dropped off radar? >> when you look at air france 447, lester and of course, asia air, those airplanes were traversing bad weather so they stayed airborne for awhile before they got themselves basically because of pilot import or lack thereof into a situation that was unrecoverable for the pilot. in this instance, you have an airplane that's in a steady state cruising flight 37,000 feet and for whatever reason after normal communication, the airplane goes into a very high speed dive according to the radar information that was released. and it was making several, what they call, abrupt turns followed by a circular spiral turn that ended up in the mediterranean sea. that's the strange part. everything was nominal and in the very last seconds of flight, the airplane went straight down, there was no
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maneuvering, it just ended up in the water. >> greg feith, thank you for your analysis. the possibility that the egyptair crash was an act of terrorism focuses on the vulnerabilities of flying here at home including the potential threat of an airport insider and growing concerns over the screening of cargo that's loaded on board. nbc's pete williams has those details for us. >> reporter: passenger screening lines were longer and slower today in aanta snaking through the airport, but generally shorter elsewhere and moving faster, notably better in chicago. waiting passengers say the egyptair crash puts the inconvenience in a new light. >> when you're flying overseas, it's really scary. >> reporter: authorities in los angeles say they stepped up security as a prae caution. in recent months, homeland security has done more to check flights bound for the u.s. from overseas. some security experts say more could be done to further protect air travel at home. one suggestion for dealing with potential insider threats,
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screening check points for airport employees who have access to planes. in addition to checking their backgrounds before giving them a badge. >> if you're doing 100% of one or the other, they are going to get used to the system. introduce random security measures for employees so they don't know what will happen from day to day. >> reporter: and many in congress called for more thorough inspections of cargo carried on passenger planes, the system now relies in part on screening by known and trusted shippers. tsa says it's constantly improving the technology for trying to find explosives that are intended to be undetectable, a constant race with terrorists bomb makers such as al qaeda and yemen who made developing such bombs a priority. u.s. officials say tonight that until the cause of the egyptair crash is known, it's impossible to say whether airport security will be changed here at home. knowing what measures to enhance will depend on finding out which ones were exploited. lester?
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>> pete williams, thank you. if the crash of this egyptian airliner was in fact an act of terror, there is so far no claim of responsibility but isis has made a number of threats against egypt recently. and as nbc's bill neely reports from egypt, passenger planes remain a top target for terror. >> reporter: egypt's president and ministers meeting for crisis talks, refusing to rule out any explanation for the missing plane including a bomb. concerns growing globally. >> we have seen a desire on the part of extremists around the world including some extremists in the middle east to carry out attacks targeting the national aviation. >> reporter: egypt is a prime target. last year, isis brought down a passenger plane in egypt with 224 on board, a russian jet bombs say isis with explosives in a soda can. >> you don't need a lot of explosives. the airline is at full altitude to compromise
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a structure that high up, you can force a plane to break up. >> reporter: three months ago it was a bomb in a laptop that exploded in a plane blowing a hole in the fuselage and blowing the islamist bomber out. security cameras capturing airport workers handing him the bomb in the departure lounge. planes have been a favored terrorist target from pan am 103 that exploded to hijacking 9/11, plots to smuggle bombs on board enclosing liquids, anything. >> terrorists find airliners an attractive target. when a terrorist group goes after an airliner, it ends up being a major news story for weeks at a time. >> reporter: in brussels this year, it was the airport itself that was targeted. in france, the airport passes of 70 airport workers withdrawn. egypt tonight searching for a plane and for answers. and i would stress there is no proof it was a bomb.
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they say no claim from isis and remember, they boasted about the metro attack quickly. there is no convincing reason why a bomber in paris would ignore an american or western plane and choose to bomb an egyptian one instead. as ever, lester, unanswered questions. >> bill neely in cairo, thanks. let's turn to michael leiter, director of the counter terrorism council and now executive vermont of litos. working on national security matters. michael, if it was a bomb on the plane, how significant was it if it got past security at a major western airport like paris? >> it's very meaningful, lester. the french are really some of the best in the world at airport security, certainly they use the same techniques, the same tools, the same technology that we use in the united states.
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so if a bomb got through either checked baggage or carry on shows a real vulnerability and one we have to understand to change our processes. if it was carried on by an insider, that of course, is in and of itself troubling but it might be a little more localized. under either circumstance, a problem but if they got this through the screening devices, that is very worrisome for global air travel. >> what do we know about the state of the art of terror bomb making now? are there alarms set off with u.s. intelligence? >> there had been generally. the best bombers are al qaeda and yemen. they were behind the underwear bomber and printer bomber and highly sophisticated and able to elude. many of our detection techniques. and some expertise has made its way to organizations like the islamic state in iraq and isis in syria. so whatever that knowledge starts to
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provide into other sources it's worrisome. amid the air disaster, donald trump was quick to tie it to terrorism while hillary clinton was quick to unload on him like we've rarely seen before. saying things like trump's muslim ban recruits more people to join the cause of terrorism. nbc's andrea mitchell has details. >> reporter: in her illinois hometown, hillary clinton in her toughest attack yet against donald trump. slamming him on foreign policy. does she think he's qualified to be president? >> no, i do not. i have concluded he is not qualified to be president of the united states. >> reporter: on cnn attacking him for tweeting today that the egyptair crash looks like another terrorist attack. even without hard evidence. and accusing trump of irresponsible reckless dangerous comments about north korea, nato and nuclear weapons. in fact, claiming trump's muslim ban is helping recruit terrorists. >> we have seen how donald trump is being used to essentially be a recruiter for more people to join the cause of terrorism. >> reporter: but even as bernie sanders signals he is fighting to the finish, clinton
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declared herself the winner. >> if you're the nominee for your party -- >> i will be the nominee for my party. that is already done in effect. there is no way i won't be. >> reporter: as trump escalates his aggressive personal attacks on bill clinton, hillary clinton is not engaging. >> you pick a fight with, you know, a bully, you know, you are going to be pulled down to their level. >> do you ever feel compelled to defend your honor, the honor of your husband? >> no. >> reporter: tonight a trump firing back. >> what she has done is so much worse than anybody running ever has done. >> andrea mitchell, thank you. still ahead he went from ivy league student to isis recruit. our nbc news exclusive with an american that joined isis overseas only to later escape and turn informant. tonight he speaks out to us for the first time. also, scary moments when a bridge overpass collapses on a busy expressway.
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we're back now with an nbc news exclusive interview with an american citizen that fell under the spell of isis. he went from college student to an isis training camp in syria and after the horrors he saw, he escaped with his life and turned informant. for the first time, he reveals himself to our chief foreign correspondent richard engel who joins us from turkey, richard? >> reporter: good
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evening, lester. we've been investigating the isis personnel files for months with a special focus on recruits that came from the u.s. but there has been one american we couldn't reveal until now. he went to an ivy league college, colombia university but ended up in the isis capital. we've been asked to call him mo. when fbi agents brought mo to meet us, he was wearing clothes his mother got him for the interview instead of his prison uniform. mo who came to this country when he was a year old and grew up in new york, plead guilty to terrorism charges and faces up to 25 years in prison. >> i've let my family down. i've let my nation down, and i've let god down, and i have a lot to make up for. >> reporter: so you in this interview and other places apologizing? >> absolutely. i lost sight of how people could be so evil. >> reporter: mo dropped out of colombia university.
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he found isis propaganda online and lured by the promises about pure islamic state, he traveled to turkey and snuck into syria. at 25, he ended up in an isis training camp like this one. did you see evidence of the gore that we see in the isis propaganda? >> i did see severed heads placed on spiked poles. >> reporter: you saw heads on a stake? >> yes. >> what did you think? >> i blocked it out. i tried to ignore it. you could see madness in their eyes. >> reporter: you can see madness in their eyes? >> yes. >>. >> reporter: one of the so-called scholars was showing off a suicide belt mo says. >> people were gravitating towards it, touching it like it's an exhibit and people were in awe of it. >> reporter: did they
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want to try it out? >> they didn't allow anyone to wear it. they were just coming close to look at it. >> reporter: mo says this was not the islamic state he was hoping to immigrant to. did you regret going there? >> more than anything. obviously, the worst decision i made in my life. >> reporter: he eventually managed to escape from syria and went straight to the u.s. consulate in turkey. when he got back to the u.s., the fbi put him under arrest and for the last year and a half, he has been working with the government. >> he'll say whatever is necessary to look sympathetic to get softer treatment and lighter sentence. >> that's legitimate and, you know, i think i have a real message and that's the most important thing. islamic state is not bringing islam to the world, and people need to know that. >> reporter: the fbi told us mo is now incarcerated but for security reasons couldn't tell us where. the agency says mo has assisted the government in a number of ways, some of which are sensitive because they relate to ongoing investigations. lester? >> richard engel from
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istanbul, thanks. you can see more of richard's interview in the series "on assignment" sunday night on nbc. we're back in a moment with a state where lawmakers just voted to make abortion a felony.
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in oklahoma today, lawmakers passed a bill that would make performing an abortion a felony that would be punishable by up to three years in prison. it now goes to the governor to review and decide whether or not she will sign it. abortion rights groups say the bill is unconstitutional as row versus wade is the law of the land. canada's prime minister apologized for a physical altercation as tempers flared in parliament.
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he is caught on camera grabbing an opposition member by the arm and elbowing a female lawmaker in the chest in the process. it sparked an uproar with lawmakers yelling at him on the floor. he claims he didn't see the woman behind him but has apologized for his conduct. a big emergency on a major expressway in oklahoma city today after a come lapse after police say it was struck by a flat bed carrying heavy equipment. no one including the truck driver was injured. when we come back, a look back at the incredible life and career of a legendary news man. next at 6: we continue to follow
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our breaking news. =vo= san francisco police chief greg suhr has been forced out. this was prompted by today's police shooting -- where an unarmed black woman was
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killed. suhr's embattled history and who's replacing him. ===next close=== that's next. finally tonight, we say good-bye to legendary journalist morley safer who died at the age of 84. the sad news comes just a week following the now of safer's retirement, after spending five decades as a trusted presence in america's living room. our harry smith takes a look back. >> i'm morley. >> morley safer? >> morley, himself. >> reporter: the morley safer we knew best was arguably the most gifted story teller on television. >> people might find it very odd, but i really don't like being on television. it makes me uneasy. it is not natural to be talking to a piece of machinery. but the money is very good. >> reporter: during his decades on "60 minutes" he wondered the world enlightening us and often amusing
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himself. >> part dads daz himself but safer also understood better than most that journalists first task is the truth. safer changed the way americans viewed the vietnam war when he showed marines torching the hut of civilians. >> this is what the war in vietnam is all about. i'm standing in east germany. >> reporter: years as a foreign correspondent followed with the eventually move to "60 minutes." he was at his best skewering sacred cows like modern art. >> it's a white rectangle. >> right. he's a minimal artist. >> i would say so. >> reporter: and finding humor where there was none. >> the finished tango is not to be confused with the groin grinding passionate latin-american version. >> reporter: he loved wine and art and cars and shared that
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appreciation with frequency. morley safer set a standard few have been able to equal. harry smith, nbc news new york. >> our thoughts tonight with morley's family and his work family, our friends at "60 minutes." that will do it for us on this thursday night. i'm lester holt. for all of us at nbc news, thank you for watching and good evening.his resignation ==raj/take vo== right now at 6. san francisoc's embattled police chief -- has been forced out. mayor lee making e i've asked for his resignation. right now at 6:00, a san francisco shakeup. the embattled police chief has been forced out. mayor lee making that stunning announcement about an hour ago. good evening, thanks for being with us. i'm raj mathai. i'm jessica aguirre. tonight greg sur is out of a job. >> we have several reports on this breaking story. let's start with jean elle. a month of protests and calling for his job. what's the reaction at city
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hall. >> reporter: it is, raj. i talked to him. he said he had a meeting scheduled with the mayor here today at city hall before this deadly officer involved shooting and it turned out to be his last meeting as chief. the mayor says while he has great respect for the chief and while she have sur made progress in reforming the department, it's not fast enough. recent officer-involved shootings under his command raised questions about the use of force. as a result, the mayor asked the chief to resign and he says suhr submitted that resignation. >> the progress that we've made has been meaningful. but it hasn't been fast enough not for me, and not for greg. that's why i have asked the chief for his resignation. and in the best interests of the city that he loves so much, he tendered his resignation early today despite the

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