tv CBS Overnight News CBS March 22, 2016 3:12am-4:01am PDT
logistics chief abdeslam last friday. we know he was involved in additional attack plotting. i think the individuals he was working with decided to move quickly. i think that's happened as well. >> michael, given that, does that mean the attacks are going to happen in the united states? >> i think it's more difficult, nor norah, to put together such a sophisticated network here. just more difficult, but not impossible. i think we have to assume isis has built the network here or has already built it. >> michael, i can remember distinctly speaking with you after the paris attacks and you said something very important. you said the strategy against isis is not working from this administration. where are we now? >> we pick up the intensity of
the fight in iraq and syria after paris. what happens today in brussels if it does indeed turn out to be isis, and they that will be the case, this is a big victory to them. it's still not enough to atake us in the west so this a big win for them. >> michael, you mention the size of the operation in europe and it's bigger than you thought. can you put some kind of parameters of what they're dealing with there and what ultimately is the nightmare scenario there. >> >> so we're talking about several thousand individuals who went from western europe to syria and iraq to fight for isis. a large number of them have come back. they're the threat that we face, right? and i think what's happened in western europe is they've built
this network and built individual cells, so they're come partmented from each other and it makes it difficult to find one cell from additional cells. how many cells there are, we don't know. but given the number that travel from iraq to syria, i bet the number is large. >> michael, what does it say to you that this attack happened when the area was already under such high alert? >> it shows how under the radar these guys are, particularly in these muslim communityies shut off to the rest of the belgium society. these are no-go zones in a lot of cases for the police and other belgians, so it's very, very difficult to operate in that kind of environmental. >> even at this point, michael, if they haven't been able to infiltrate. given how long and what's happening in europe, are they still essentially shut out? >> i think it's the nature and
come part meantation of the cells, right? so that's why unraveling -- arresting those individuals who were in some way involved in paris did not get you in any way the cells. that's what we're seeing. >> michael, you've been director of the cia, reached george w. bush every day in the morning on his presidential brief. what's happening now here at home in terms of president obama? how is he being briefed of what's going on? >> he's being kept up to date as we're trying to keep the american people up to date. but i think the most important thing that's happening now is not looking back on what happened but looking forward. i think we have to worry about a couple of things right now. one is additional attacks in europe. right? anything that abdeslam may have been working on may be working forward. you have to worry about additional attacks in europe. the other thing you have to
worry about is cop kate attacks. one thing you have to worry about after any major attacks is lone wolfs who may not be associated with isis may want to go out and do something. have to worry about that in europe and here at home. >> in terms of that, what is happening in terms of a u.s. intelligence picture? i knee you're not inside there, but in terms of what's going on with intelligence agencies at this hour. >> so it's trying to galgt err as much information as possible on what's happening but also going to any source you have, any access you have and gather as much information you have of what might be coming and what you can tell. >> what kind of information do you think they'll get from mr. abdeslam? when the terrorist attacks happened, we heard he actually left his suicide vest and ran asfwhie he was supposed to be a
suicide bomber in paris and he lost his nerve and went back to brussels, so that's why he was still alive. i don't know what he's been telling reporters. i don't know if he's talking or calmed up. if he was talking, then this attack might have been prevented because those individuals might have been arrested. so clearly he's not -- if he is talking, he's not sayingering he knows. >> michael morell, thanks. our charlie d'agata is at the brussels airport with the latest on what happened there. charlie, what can you tell us? >> reporter: good morning. we got information that it was a suicide bomber that attacked the airport. there are witness accounts of the explosion and reports that the attacker or attackers were shouting in arabic before it happened. it happened around 8:00 this
morning. they immediately evacuated the airport. we saw some passengers and a aircraft crew leaving the airport. now the entire perimeter has been surrounded by police cars. there were ambulances rushing to and from the airport. we were held back. we tried to get onto the on-ramp in order to approach the airport. at the time the police said, look, you have to stop, you cannot go there. we said, look, we're press. they said they're still looking for explosives. obviously there are no flights leaving the airport. no flights coming in to brussels international. they've been diverted to other airports. they've shut down the entire train system including euro star. all the systems have been locked down including the airport. >> charlie, we should point out. the brussels airport is a pretty busy transport. my daughter went through brussels the other day for college. there's a lot of americans that
travel through there. >> hmm. it is a huge hub, anthony. people are coming in and out of -- go on. >> sorry, charlie. continue, i apologize. >> reporter: as you said, it's a huge hub. very active airport. it's very busy. there were flights going out. they immediately evacuated the area. we've been here friday since the arrest of salah abdeslam. we've seen in brussels it's essentially been under lockdown. there's been a high police presence around train stations, airport, moealelenbeeale it appears that the attackers
were able to circumvent security, tight security around this area to be able to strike right at rush hour. >> and there are reports -- we heard reports this morning, charlie, that at least two or three planes would have been heading to the united states within about two hours after the attack happened at 8:00 this morning vchlt you heard anything about that, about the passengers who might have been at the airport at the time? >> reporter: no. gayle, when we got here, it was chaos. we were trying to speak to passengers. but it's a different road. the police corralled us essentially. i've covered enough of this tragically that you could see in their eyes they were dealing with an ongoing situation and threat. we'll be trying to do that later. but the entire perimeter has been shut down.
this is about as close as we could get and it was just on the other side of that and they set up something like an immediate facility in the field. we haven't been able to talk to passengers leaving the airport. they have told us. they said, look f you want to go any further, you're going to risk being blown up. that's how serious they're taking it. >> charlie, you pointed out in your report yesterday that an december slam, the paris suspect who was finally captured, after he returned to brussels was able to disappear there for months and authorities really don't seem to have an answer about why they weren't able to find him? >> reporter: no. and we've been trying to press the home authorities. we said what took so long. they said they're dealing with professionals, they're dealing with people who use disposable cell phones, drop sim cards, get in and out of areas very
quickly. we spoke to the french and belgian prosecutor yesterday who said we're talking in the hundreds. if you think of one cell in paris, they rounded up one group. there's one remaining suspect they caught right in that neighborhood. there are other active cells. clearly that's what they're dealing with here. again w very to point out not only was he able to escape -- sal salah abdeslam wasn't able to just escape but he was able to cross the border and get into his very same neighborhood. we walked it. it's five blocks from the house he grew up in. this is where so many attacks have originated from. you would have thought the net closed down in that area but he was operating right underneath their noses. when we spoke with the prosecutor, one of the places they thought he was believed to have visited they found his
fingerprints and detonators and weapons there. he wasn't just in hiding. he wasn't very low. he was part of an active terror cell part of planning attacks. you hear that but you don't expect to hear it the very next day. >> that's such an important point. he was almost hiding in plain spot back in the neighborhood where he grew up and he was able to cross through the paris borders through the european countries at this hour even when we're hearing the points have been closed but it did not stop him before once he had carried out the paris attacks as you had mentioned. what about the concern there that this may be the first wave of attacks? how ramped up is security? we know the train stations are shut down, the airport is shun down. what is the concern there, that this may be the first wave of attacks? >> reporter: well, you know, it was already at the next to top
level of alert before this happened and literally when the arrest of salah abdeslam happened on friday, there was sort of a warning that went out not only in belgium but in neighbored countries that the network is running. it may be a revenge attack. whatever the case, there thoos be a high alert. you think if you have such a key figure in this suspected isis network who's now in prison, it's going to make everybody else scatter, and if there are people in a position to attack, it may make them attack. the warnings were already there. throughout the weekend this was shared with the public. they put an all points bull pin to this suspected bomb maker saying we need help finding this guy. i guess the concern is if this person is a bomb maker from the paris attacks and they truly believe he is and he's very good, all of those suicide vests
worked in the paris attack. how many more suicide vests are there. where is the bomb making factory. how many more are out there. that's why the belgians have shut everything down. we don't know. when we spoke to the belgian prosecutor yesterday, we said, okay, this is the one key individual we're looking for. we're looking for two more out there. he said, we simply don't know. the french prosecutor said there's something like 250 cases that are ongoing now and something like 750 people that are either in jail v been indicted, or are searching for them. that gives you an understanding of the scale of the threat we're dealing with here. >> what can you tell us about the expertise of the belgian authorities. here's somebody who was clearly hiding in plain sight as you say. at the time of his arrest, they said we're looking for the bomb maker. they were expecting more attacks at any moment, they're on the highest alert, and yet this
still happens. >> reporter: well, i mean, gayle, it sort of speaks for itself. i don't think there's any high level of competence before these attacks began. in fairness, i have to point out, there's this neighborhood of mow lam beak. it's big. it's a very tight community, closed down. it's hard to infiltrate. we put it to them. we said surveillance, intelligence, you must have informants on the ground. it must be the hottest spot in the country and that's where you found. they said we can't be sure. they said dna and fingerprints don't have dates on them. they know he was moving between houses in that neighborhood but we spoke to others who say you do not snitch on your friends.
if you know somebody who might be involved in this, you have an alee jachbls of course, there is fear. these are brutal attackers that kill 130 people in paris that may think people on the ground think twice before calling that in to the police even though police are begging for information. it just spikes for itself. here you have isis operativings if four months literally in the neighborhood. you have an arrest of an isis -- the key isis player, the only one to get past. you hear the police helicopters flying overhid. at least have an eye on the people who are mostly suspected of being part of this larger isis network. just to recap, charlie, in case you're just joining us. there appear to have been three
bombs that went off in brussels this morning, two at the airport. the reports are that there are 13 dead at the airport, another ten appear to have been killed at a blast in a brussels metro station. so we're looking at what appear to be 23 dead and perhaps dozens injured at this hour. brussels is basically on lockdown. the borders between franlsd belgium is closed and there's no apparent word from the police in belgium how this occurred other than that it appeared to be at the airport, the suicide attack. >> and it happened at 8:00 this morning which is a very level travel time for passengers going to different locations all around the world. today is tuesday. friday there was a major arrest of the final suspect they were looking for, salah abdeslam who was a main player in the paris attacks achlt this point we're
looking for a bomb maker who's a 24-year-old belgian citizen who may have also played a role. >> 8:00 a.m. belgium time, 3:00 a.m. our time. the airport you can still see is closed off. they will not let him anywhere close to this point. no planes going or coming. an enormous disruption. that will extend across europe. bruss is a key area for transport. >> we want to get a picture here at home of the u.s. and security. let's bring in jeff pegues, our homeland security correspondent. jeff, what are you hearing from your sources snow. >> reporter: right now we're
hearing there is no threat to the u.s. and their posture has not changed. that's not unusual for them to release a statement like that at this time. what they're focused on is monitoring the situation and helping as much as they can. there's been enhanced coordination between u.s. officials and other officials. however, here at home you will also see at some key transit hub enhanced security. already the new york police department has released a statement saying that they will have enhanced security at transportation hubs and elsewhere. while u.s. officials announce at this time there's no threat against the u.s., they say the posture has not changed. however, locally just as a show of force, commuters can expect
enhanced controls and increased patro patrols at u.s. hubs. >> what does it mean with the flights, jeff? >> american airlines has released a statement saying they're attending to their customers, contractors, emplo e employees trying to assess what happened there because what we're hearing, the explosion at the airport was near the american airlines ticket counter, so american airlines releasing a statement saying they have canceled at least one flight, but there will be more throughout the day. >> jeff, do you happen to know how many other u.s.-bound flights were scheduled to leave this morning? >> reporter: we don't have a number for you, but we know that delta air lines also operate flights out of that airport and we should get more specific numbers on how many flights have been affected. as you might imagine, there will be a ripple effect across europe
in terms of flights that are supports to come out of the report and security apparatus across that region. there will be a ripple effect in terms of transportation to the u.s. as well. >> on that note, jeff, scotland yard forces across the uk have increased their presence in the wake of the brussels attack. belgium is report lid sending 225 extra troops to brussels following the blast and brussel resin forcing their security at the airports. thanks, jeff. now let's bring in juan zarate. you were the deputy director during the 2005 attacks in london and you coordinated the response to the attacks. how is the u.s. going to respond to this today? >> you heard a bit of that from jeff. what they'll do is do everything
to give them as much intelligence as possible. they'll try to security of u.s. citizens abroad who may have been harmed at certainly here at home do everything possible to deter any security attacks, but also to reassure the public that everything is fine and that they can go about their business. in the london episode in 2005, we were very worried that the first stage of the attacks in london may have just been the harbinger, the beginning of a series of attacks, and i think that's certainly something that belgian authorities are concerned about. french authorities should be concerned about, and certainly something the u.s. will be looking for in terms of suspect activity or threats emerging. for now nothing on the u.s. side but the u.s. is going to do everything possible to help abroad and also to secure at home. >> juan, salah abdeslam is in
custody. he's been in custody for a couple of days now. i imagine law enforcement authorities are all over him trying to find out what's next. what would be happening behind the scenes now? >> they were trying to talk to him extensively about not only what he knew about the paris attacks in november, but to understand the network that he wu dealing with in europe and what plans and plots they may have been thinking about. so right now what they're try dog is getting into his face, trying to understand better what he knows and certainly trying to build on whatever cooperation he's given to them in recent days. the indications are he has been cooperating and any tidbit of information at this point is golden for authorities as they try to piece together whether there are o'cellses, other plots
an attacks that may have been occurring in europe. >> he may have been cooperating but he was arrested on friday and here we are with an attack on tuesday morning. does that surprise you? clearly it wasn't yesterday. >> fwail, you're right. what's shocking is how q how qu they have been perpetrated. keep in mind after the paris attacks the belgian authority shut down the subway system for a short time worried about precisely this kind of attack. what concerns me is these groups, these cells have been able to operationalize very quickly, but they've been able to respond that they're reacting to real time situation understanding that information may have disrupted potential attacks in the future. and so this may have accelerated their attack plogt but this certainly suggests serious attacks plotting, coordinating
attacks, bomb blasts that were significant, and certainly it's brought another western capital to the point of paralysis. >> brussels was also on alert in the aftermath of the arrest on friday. were theoretically supposed to be ready for this. >> anthony, this is the scary part of the threat environment we face. this is something that not only belgian authorities are worried about but french and british and other european authorities. there are really three factors, one, is there are individuals who have clearly deployed and operation operational. this may have been the second one on european soil. the first being paris, and now this. now that's the problem. you have elements of this that remain unknown, certainly sthaerchl have not been caught. second, you have the fact that isis have been able to employ foreign fighters into the environment and we know there are thousands of europeans who
have gone into the iraqi theaters, been trained, fought, and returned. that's a problem. third is some of the cities like in brussels, the naubed in maelbeek, there have been longstanding young individuals motivated to attack citizens, so that's a concern for authorities. all of that plus the cells used to communicate suggests a real problem even on a heightened state of alert to return and promote these attacks. >> the belgian minister told reporters they were surprised abdeslam was still in the country. they thought the had left. does that say to you they don't know how large a scale it is or how to operate?
>> gayle, it shows they don't have a handle on foreign fighters, particularly those well trained who have moved in and out of the iraqi/syria conflict fluidly and seamlessly. they've not been able to monitor when they move from one country to the next and certainly there are pockets providing safe harbor for these individuals that allow them to operate and even hide in plain sight. that's a really chilling reality for norths in brussels as well as europe >> juan zarate, we ask you to stand by to update us again. there are 21 dmed in these
russia belgi brussels belgian attacks. they hit the metro and airport system. we're told 11 people died in twin blasts that happened at the brussels airport. there were also around ten killed at the maelbeek metro station where there was also an enormous explosion. there have been multiple wounded that have been evacuated. the scene, chaotic as you can see in the perfects there. again, these are initial reports coming out of those dead and wounded in the attacks in belgium this morning. >> we should note a reporter with the ap is also reporting that the brussels fire brigade is warning that the airport toll is only an initial one. that rubble from the collapsed ceiling and departure hall makes it very difficult to know what the final numb berry will be. >> indeed a chaotic situation
there, not only dealing with the dead and wounded on the scene, those, of course, at the airport, the metro station shut down there, but also the law enforcement authorities trying to prevent any additional attacks. you have the leaders who have already convened. emergency meetings have been on the phone with one another to try to coordinate security, intelligence, et cetera, to make sure they have all hands on deck at this hour. >> the french president has called for an emergency meeting on tuesday. everyone is still trying to sort out what's happening and it's very frightening as we know. it follows the arrest of an december slam on friday when this region was already on a heightened state of alert and the fact that it's happened. >> we've talked about this. as we mentioned the border between france and belgium is closed.
flights out of the belgium airport has stopped. most of the train travel out of brussels has been shut down. they're also telling people not to use their cell phones because the mobile networks are absolutely saturated. they're asking them to text or use social media to contact relative because the phone system is basically being overrun. we want to bring in "sky news" reporter alex rossie. he was at the airport when the blast occurred and he described the situation earlier this morning. >> reporter: we have all moved. some are on coaching. we're heading to a nearby village. there's a crisis center that has been set up. very little information on the ground. we've all been told by the police -- this is what people on the ground have been told -- that it is a terrorist attack. we heard, after we checked and vd gone through security.
we heard two explosives. you're going through your normal routine when you get on a flight. i was going to buy chocolates for my children for easter and then i was returning after picking them up from the shelf, you heard the two explosions. you thought, immediately, that's not the normal sounds. my instincts were, this is a terrorist attack. other people around me started