tv Morning Joe MSNBC March 22, 2016 3:00am-6:01am PDT
attacks. all airport operations have been suspended. the interjior minister has raisd the security to the highest level. and there's a posted on social showing smoke coming from that station. all public transportation in the city, including the buses, the trams, and the metro subway system, have been shut down. the euro star train line is also closed there. the european union is asking their personnel to stay home or inside buildings. the u.s. embassy in brussels ordered staff to shelter in place and avoid public transport. the nypd tells nbc news that they're in the process right now of ramping up security for mass transit, the bridges and tunnels as well as city landmarks. this morning's explosions come days after paris attack suspect salah abdeslam was arrested in brussels. msnbc's ayman mohyeldin has been covering the story all night for us. i guess we have gotten to the
stage in europe where we're now expecting an attack at any moment. when it happens it still takes us as your guest said by surprise and catches us unawares. what happened in brussels? >> not only by surprise but the scale and coordination of what appears to have been a multi-pronged attack is certainly a very significant development. put it in context of where we were on friday, put it in context of where europe has been since those paris attacks and you get a better sense of why today is very dramatic. obviously not just simply for the loss of life but what this means for european officials. this is obviously going to be considered a very significant setback for their efforts. over the course of the past four months you had counter-terrorism officials in europe, certainly those that i have been speaking to as well as in france, they've been trying to get this situation under control. this situation being an assessment of how big these networks, cells that have been operating across france as well as belgium.
they had a living link with salah abdeslam. this is an individual that they knew was present the night of that attack back on november 13th in paris. they have been in his pursuit. he had been europe's most wanted man. they believed, though, his network was going to be much smaller than it appears to have been. steve clemons saying the belgian foreign minister saying there were about 30 people in his network. that's a significant number given that he was an individual believed to be on the run without very little traces. given the fact that salah abdeslam was captured on friday, the belgian authorities saying they were going to continue in pursuit of his network and they had stepped up and beefed up security certainly in that neighborhood, it's surprising this morning to hear that shortly after his capture security at the airport was still not ironclad. what i mean by that is there were no perimeter checkpoints. we're now getting confirmation
that two explosions took place in the departure hall. that's a public area. we do expect to arrive in the departure halls. it is an area where people gather. there are still a lot of questions as to how the two individuals managed to get into the departure hall without beefed up security. a lot of questions will be answered in the coming day about that as well as the subway station. a very dramatic and tragic day for brussels. certainly going to have ripple effects across europe as countries continue to react from what happened today. >> let's bring in former communications director for george w. bush nicolle wallace and sam stein and mike barnicle and former treasury official steve rattner. and david ignatius is joining us
too. david, let me start with you. we know from what the belgians have been saying over the last few days, ever since the arrest of salah abdeslam that they were anticipating the prospect that there could be a retaliatory attack, that you take one person off the table and another cell group pops up again. is this now starting to be a pattern? are you seeing this in counter-terrorism operations? >> certainly what we've seen from isis over the last year is that, as they've been hit harder in iraq and syria they have developed external attack capability, most clearly in paris last november. i was just in brussels, returned on sunday. i heard the belgian foreign minister talk about their recognition that -- with the capture of abdeslam there were multiple people in a much broader network that they were going to try to hunt down. that network clearly is what struck in this terrible attack
this morning. it's clear as we look at the evidence that the tradecraft that the attackers, the terrorists, have used, that these networks have used, is more sophisticated than the belgian authorities, authorities in europe, have been able to deal with. they have multiple, multiple cell phones. it was a marvelous piece of reporting in the "new york times" about stacks of unused cell phones waiting for these people in their hideouts. the very fact that salah abdeslam, the person who was captured on friday, had escaped a dragnet for 120 days since the paris attacks just, you know, almost slipped through people's fingers. that's cruel to say. but that tells you the size of the security task that's ahead. i just got an email from two close friends of mine who this morning were heading to the airport, were about a minute away, felt the blast force on their vehicle as they
approached. we're still learning about the loss of life there, but it's an attack that -- since brussels is the capital of europe, it's going to scare every european. >> david, let's talk about this a bit more, the aspect that you just raised for people just tuning in, just watching and perhaps people who have never been to brussels or central europe before. the ease of access within europe from syria, the numbers of people who can go back and forth with quite -- with no problems at all. that and you referenced the "times" story over the weekend. the seeming inability of authorities not just in brussels but within europe to get a handle on the scope of these terror networks, not the -- not necessarily the activities that we're seeing today, those are hard to pinpoint, but the scope of the activities. could you talk about that a might. >> two things, mike. first, modern europe is premised on the idea that you can operate
essentially with open borders. that's one of the great achievements the europeans fought in the european union. they have what's called the agreement where you're allowed to pass from one country to another. what they've realized is that they don't have a firm, hard external border so that they can see who is coming into the entire group and then do monitoring. the second thing is, within individual european cities, and brussels is a perfect example, there are communities that essentially are no-go zones. they're typically north africans who have come as migrants over the last few decades, as a report this morning said, in molenbeek, which is the suburb of brussels where abdeslam and the other conspirators were hiding, there is what an
anthropologist who studied the place called a code of silence, like in a mafia where, where people simply do not talk to outsiders, they don't talk to police. it's been evident week after week in this chase that the belgian authorities simply were not getting enough intelligence to be able to crack this cell. and even when they staged the raid on friday, captured abdeslam, there are still so many other people in motion toward today's attack at the airport. it's extraordinary how much they didn't know. >> hi, david. when you think about it in the u.s., we had san bernardino, obviously a very different type of terrorist problem. but we, other than that, have been remarkably safe in the last 15 years almost, since 9/11. you mentioned the border issue and the -- not only the existence of the schengen zone.
you were leaving me with the impression of the quality of the intelligence efforts that go on in europe seem to be quite different. i wonder if you could compare how we've approached security since 9/11 versus how the europeans have and what you think the implications will be of all this for the europeans. >> we had a shock in 2001. some argue that we overreacted but the u.s. did put in place very tough defensive measures, police forces became very sensitive to their own responsibilities in monitoring communities. i have often heard u.s. counter-terrorism officials say that the most important thing they can do is be in touch with their local muslim communities, so if a sheikh in a mosque sees a young man or a young woman who has become very withdrawn, is showing signs of alienation, anger, a prospective recruit, sometimes that sheikh will notify local police or others.
second thing that's really important for us in all humility to say is the u.s. muslim community is so much smaller than that in europe. it's on the order of, i would say, eight to ten times larger in belgium and france than it is in the u.s. and also, muslims in the u.s. generally have been pretty effective in assimilating into our society, in getting jobs and feeling that they're part of the american project, so obviously not always true but it's mostly true. in europe that's just not the case. this is a second society. my european friends, when we talk about it, despair about finding ways to make these countries one. it happens that on friday at a wluf lunch with one of the top officials of belgium that i shouldn't identify in a royal palace. and this man said that the biggest project for his country going forward was to find a way
to be one country so they would know more about each other. well, here is evidence on tuesday, four days later, that it's -- it sure hasn't happened yet. >> david, you are quite right. europeans have long looked to america in a sense as the country that has managed to integrate its muslim populations and that european muslim populations are far more radicalized and feel far more as outsiders whereas american muslims feel as they are americans first and muslims second and that's a huge difference. i know european officials are studying what's happening in america to see how much we can try and emulate that here in europe. let's bring in msnbc contributor and former profiler clint van zant. tell us about how the perpetrators of the paris attack -- how has it been since november they've managed to hide seemingly in plain sight in brussels and the disintegration really in a country that has two different languages of the security networks, the power plays that are going on in
brussels that have allowed such a big radicalized muslim population to carry on acting. >> i think this has been the real frustration for the investigative services is simply, as your other guest was suggesting, trying to put together information, trying to gather information. when you go in and ask for help, when you make the case that there were 130 people killed and we're trying to identify the people involved and you still get blank looks from people. we know, for example, that the french interior minister has said that there are at least 90 potential suicide bombers at large at this moment. that was said as of yesterday. well, if there's 90 at least that they know of, then there is also a support network, and for the intelligence investigative services to try to follow 90 people or 100 people or 200 people, that has just stretched
them beyond the limits they can do. and another issue that's coming up is the terrorists in europe, the ones we're looking at right now, we're told, are becoming so much more adept at, number one, building bombs and, number two, encrypting their communications. we're all aware of the ongoing issue between apple and the fbi here in the united states after the december terrorist attack in san bernardino where 14 were killed, and the issue, of course, is an iphone 5c that the fbi has not been able to crack into. they have asked apple's help to get into that terrorist phone to see what's there. now, we know within the last day another source has come forward and said, even though apple has taken a stand not help, we think we can help you to get in that phone. but when we hear reports of stacks and stacks of phones
which are obviously easy to acquire, that terrorists are using, what they have learned, of course, is, just like the mob has learned in the united states, you use a phone for a very short period of time, you throw it away, you get another phone. and instead of like most of us in america keeping all of our contacts on that phone, they've learned not to do it. so even if we can crack into it, that information may not be stored there any longer. >> well, let me pick up on that, cliff. we referenced the "new york times" article a couple of times. i think it's worth diving into a little bit here. the phones used in the paris attack were burner phones. then they took phones from the victims in the facilities to communicate with each other. what was the most surprising thing was the explosives that they were using. they were using tatp. this is just basic over the counter stuff. hair bleach, nail polish
remover, stuff that anyone could access. scary stuff. maybe to ayman, should people be most concerned i guess by how simplistic the plots are, how easy they can be to execute and how anyone could grab these materials off their pharmacy counter shelf and make a bomb, use a burner phone and do something like this. >> it's a deadly cocktail, not just from the ingredients for the explosives but where they're learning how to do this. whe what we're seeing particularly in the case of paris is a lot of that comes from the battlefield of syria and iraq. in the case of abaaoud, an individual, including salah abdeslam's older brother ibrahim, they all spent time on the battlefields of syria. this is what people mean when they say syria will be a major problem for years to come. people are traveling to syria and iraq, even if it's
afghanistan. they're acquiring the battlefield experiences, learn how to use them, come back to europe or elsewhere and then be able to make the kind of explosives that we are seeing. that's one reason syria and iraq has become a major cause of global concern. >> if you are a public official who is trying to tamp down on this, how do you go about trying to prevent someone from buying nail polish remover. how do you do something to actually disrupt what is an unsophisticated cell that could do great damage? >> i would defer to our colleagues who are actually counter-terrorism experts. jim cavanaugh could probably tell us more about that. from the standpoint of how you track these individuals, that's probably the more realistic issue because you can't control nail polish remover in pharmacies but you can certainly keep track of who those
individuals are that have travelled abroad, have come back to the united states and europe, pose a threat. that's where i think the human intelligence has to get better. you should pose the question to jim and clint. >> we have jim. maybe jim can jump in on that. >> yeah. i think, really, it gets back to some of the things that you guys talk about every day in the political world and that we saw when, you know, i was working on the joint terrorism task force with the fbi and all other law enforcement. we work so close with the american muslim community. and they were so great at helping us. one of the reasons -- and david ignatius talked about it. one of the reasons america has been so secure, really, is because our muslim community is made up of so many patriots who have helped us to stop so many plots. the fbi can give you the numbers of how many plots they've stopped since 9/11. what they don't have in europe is that. so the basic start is, you have to engage with your local muslim community where they trust the police. this is a giant hurdle in
europe. a giant hurdle. >> it's another reminder of why -- >> exactly. they're alienated. they won't talk with you. you need that information. when populations den greigrate e populations it makes it harder. >> let's bring in tara in brussels. what are you seeing there now? >> reporter: right now passengers and airline workers are leaving the building. i am seeing actual, you know, actual detonations on the building. some of the windows are blown out. on the airport. people said it was an apocalypse, there was blood everywhere. i talked to a swiss airport check-in agent and he said he hit a luggage turnidal sty styl.
they believe 30 are dead and 80 are wounded already. this is going on throughout the city, not just at the airport. in fact, at the station, my source tells me the explosives were placed inside of a wagon. the metro station below the buildings, there have been explosions. they have been taking people out for the past hour in stretchers. they actually covered the windows of the hotel eu, which is popular among diplomats and people coming into town to stay, so that you couldn't see the wounded people being taken out. this is a bustling town. it's the capital of europe. >> tara, we're still getting different numbers on numbers of dead, of course, and we'll work on confirming those numbers. those are coming in from different sources at the moment. how soon after the explosion did you get to the airport and what was the security situation when you got there?
>> reporter: well, i ran to the airport as soon as i could. i took a taxi. they dropped me off about two miles from the airport because it was closed off at that point. basically, i was having to run on a highway to get closer. and we're probably -- we're not very close, about 300, 400 meters away. but we can still see the building. we're talking to passengers as they leave. not all of them experienced the explosion. one thought it was a billboard falling, the sound. others obviously were closer and could see it and they're traumatized, crying, and then obviously there are ambulances coming in and out of the area. >> there were reports that one of the explosions took place near the american airlines check-in counter. have you heard passengers talking about that? >> reporter: yes. that's what some of the other check-in agents told me that were present, that it happened at the american airlines counter. it may have been from within like -- from behind the counter.
it's unclear. i'm also being told that there was a third explosive that did not go off inside of the airport. >> tara, tell us about -- obviously you travel in and out of brussels airport all the time and i've done it too. >> reporter: right. >> getting access to that departure area. anyone can get in there, correct? >> reporter: pretty much. there is a train that goes into the public -- a train that goes right into the airport. you take it up three floors and you are at the check-in desk. there is nothing stopping you at that point. so, yes, it is open to the public. >> how much security is there on a regular basis in that departure hall? >> reporter: i don't think there's much security. just like at jfk. there is no security at the ticket counter. there is security when you get past the ticket counter at the
check-in. that's really where there was a vulnerability in the security right there. >> you're based in brussels, tara. talk to us a little bit about why belgium. we know belgium has the highest number of muslim residents who have travelled to syria of any country in europe. why? what's happening in belgium or what's not happening in the security setup there that is making this a hot bed of radi l radicalism. >> reporter: integration in belgium is relatively easy so a lot of people decided to move there. it's not really the first generation. it's the second generation are the ones becoming radicalized because they're not able to integrate into belgian society. they have their own communities and this has been where there has been a lot of radicalization. people feel they're not able to integrate. they are not having the same job offers and they feel it's unfair. and a lot of people in
comparison to having lived in the u.s., feel like there isn't much integration. people hold on to their customs and beliefs. there is not the belgian identity that people can hang on to. so you see people coming back and forth from syria. before this attack they spent 50 million euros per year on counter-terrorism. that's nothing if you think about it. >> do you -- >> reporter: 120-day -- they can't do any raids after 5:00 p.m. at night. they also have privacy laws that we don't have in the united states. it's difficult to really monitor this kind of activity. >> tara, have you noticed much difference in belgium in terms of security and in terms of counter-terrorism activity since the paris attacks? >> reporter: definitely there has been -- there is heightened security for sure. but it's everywhere. i was in rome over christmas break. i had to go through so many layers of security just to get
into the coliseum. you can't go to a park anymore. i couldn't go to the notre dame cathedral in paris without going through security. it's all over europe, not just brussels. there is probably less so in brussels than in other places to be honest because they really haven't attacked their own city in a long time. it's been mostly jihadis going to paris and other towns. now they're going to their own home town which is obviously a problem. >> tara palmieri at brussels airport. tara, thank you for joining us. clearly an incredibly tense day in brussels. nicolle, i am here in london, an hour's flight away, but we're feeling it here as well. europe feels very vulnerable at the moment. there could be attacks at any moment. we have had them here in london before. yet, every time it happens it still takes us by surprise. this is a continent that's going to be in shock again this morning. >> i read your tweet at
4:00 a.m. this morning that said, sadly, tragically, being in london to join my friends at "morning joe" feels like the right place to be but obviously under the most tragic and dire of circumstances. joining us now the executive director of the terror asym tricks project on strategy, tactics and radical ideology. malcolm nance. i heard from a former u.s. counter terror official this morning that, in watching the coverage, to her, this appears to be a very well planned, very well coordinated attack that looks as though it was planned well before the arrest. and i wonder if it has the hallmarks to you and i wonder if you could give us sort of a broader sweep of the state of the intel community's ability to penetrate some of these communities in belgium and around the world. >> well, this was very clearly a highly coordinated attack. now, let's take a look at this within participaerspective of w
gone on in the last week. one of the paris attackers, salah abdeslam, on the run and captured in brussels just a few days ago. with him they took down another safe house where they killed another operative of the group. the question that comes to everybody's mind is how exactly could this attack be carried out when they had all of the counter-terrorism forces searching for abdeslam. so, for the most part, what we have is that this group is operating in a compart mentalized fashion. they're not connected with the other group. this may be a sign that we have a constellation of terrorist groups now operating within europe. not just in paris, not just in brussels but numerous cells, many of whom do not know each other but are connected possibly through a logistics network to move weapons, man power, equipment and money. so this could be much bigger than just paris or brussels. >> she also indicated that the next 48 hours are critical.
can you explain exactly what happens in the first 48 hours after an attack like this. >> well, the first 48 hours after an attack, what you want to do is, first you want to make sure that the country is secure for what we call restrike. so that, if another group that is out there that is planning to attack the response forces or the security forces or to take advantage of the chaos that goes on right now, the national security of belgium and france, as you've seen right now, are going to flood the streets with all the military and police forces. they're going to try to run down every lead as fast as possible because these people came from somewhere. they had to get onto the metro or come be delivered in a car, and they're going to try to recreate their footsteps, find out where their bomb factory or safehouse was. you want to get those communications, find out how did they communicate, how did they network. those things have to be found out immediately because you don't know whether right now
this is strike number one and then possibly tomorrow strike number two, could happen in amsterdam, strosberg. some other place. this is clearly not one country's problem. >> this is obviously a fluid situation. we're getting a lot of elements and video coming into the newsroom. a lot of it coming through social media. we're now able to verify this video that we're putting online to show you. it's a scene, dramatic scene of people on the subway station believed to be coming off of one of the trains. they were ultimately making their way out of that. it's a very hazy scene as a result of the explosion. a lot of cloud and debris triggered by that explosion. we believe this is to be from the scene of that maelbeek train station, subway station. this was filmed by an eyewitness who made his way onto the tracks and was able to get to the scene
of where the evacuations were taking place. you can see just now dramatic the video is in the sense of people screaming. you can hear some of the sounds as well of people obviously very emotional as people try to make their way out of that very dangerous situation. we'll certainly be bringing in more video elements and information as we get it verified during this situation. let's bring in washington editor at large of "the atlantic" magazine and msnbc contributor steve clemons. steve, i spoke to you in the last hour. i understand you caught the last train out of brussels. where are you now? >> i was able to validate that it was actually the very last and final train that got out of belgium. a very eerie feeling. they actually just stopped our train in the first town in the netherlands. i am now in rosendahl, holland, and they've taken us all off the train due to security protocols.
we're going to go through some sort of process with those here and we're about to board another train to amsterdam. they're reviewing people that were on this train, including myself. >> steve, do you get a sense -- >> it's the last train out because i think they're shutting down the borders. >> do you get a sense that the authorities now going through that train, are they perhaps looking for somebody or perhaps doing it as a security precaution? >> i think they're doing it as a security precaution but i am speculating. i think they're treating everyone equally and being very professional. but obviously being the last train -- look, i was in the airport this morning and went to brussels north station and then caught the last train out of brussels north station into holland. so obviously logically, one could think others could have done exactly what i did and i think that is what their concern is. so we are the train that left the country and now they're giving special scrutiny to those of us that are here on this train. >> steve, sam stein here.
describe the mood. who is it like? how anxious are people? are they looking around? what are the conversations like? >> it's a combination of some people very concerned, some people frustrated, some people numb and some people irritated with the stress. there is a high level of stress. what may be driving the stress is different for different people. i met someone who had come from holland to go to the european commission this morning. she turned around and went right back after what had happened. there is a -- i mean, it is a thing where i think, you know, as i was telling someone earlier on savannah guthrie's show that, when i was in brussels north station and you felt the place tense up, you know, you could sort of see everyone looking around suspiciously at everyone else. as we heard about the subway bombings this morning. and so that was very palpable.
you could sense it in people. now i think there is a bit of relief among most of the folks that i am here with now because we're out of belgium, in the first town out of belgium, even though we were just kicked off the train. >> steve, while you were in brussels, obviously before all this happened, what was your sense of the security level there? how did it compare to you to other european capitals you might have visited or to places in the u.s.? >> that is what is interesting. i arrived here on friday for the brussels forum sponsored by the german marshal fund. we had u.s. senators and national security fellows. i would say the security at the forum was light but began to tense up. this is before news had hit about the move against salah abdeslam and his capture. but after i had heard someone mention that, you began to see the news hits come in and security began to build. but security in brussels around
this obviously high-ranking meeting was nothing like it was, say, at the munich security forum in munich a few weeks ago. and i was surprised at how light it was. i went to molenbeek yesterday to walk around and, you know, just sort of see things and get a sense of the place, and i saw a couple of guards with, you know, some form of assault rifles being carried around but not many. today it's a completely different situation. at the airport, after the bombs had gone off, i wasn't there right then, i came in right after that, there were a number of personnel of all forms who were taking control of the crowds. and so the size of that was considerable. and then, when we got back from the airport station to brussels north station, which is the station from which i departed this morning, you saw a few security people, but then when we began hearing about the subway bombings we saw lots and lots of security people come on.
i just did a review, interestingly, of the whole train. i walked from one end of the train to the other. and interestingly, i didn't see a single security, not a single armed security person. i was interested in that. i just walked from one end to the other. there are about -- i don't know -- eight police, armed police, right now around us as we stand in the station. so it varies. but i think that, given everything that brussels has gone through recently, the major security forces i have seen have only really taken hold this morning. >> that's a bit of a surprise. the city was on high alert owing to the arrest, and yet, as you are explaining it, steve, the security apparatus either wasn't apparent or maybe is not as robust as we would think. i have a little bit of a separate question playing off of what we talked about last block, which is, for me at least, i am curious, why is brussels and belgium at large being the epicenter for this? what is it about that city that allows something like this to
fester? >> reporter: i don't know if i can answer that. we were on sunday morning with the -- the foreign minister of belgium. i had wanted to ask him why is it known that it's so easy to access guns in belgium than other of the major states in europe, it's something that everybody knows here, that there is a black market, that there is an ease of getting guns here as compared to many other parts of europe. he never -- we never got into that. what he did share with us was that, as they began to unravel what was coming in to him from the salah abdeslam case, he said they were unraveling a much, much more substantial network than they had anticipated with much greater capacity and sophistication. he said this publicly on the record to us at the forum. so that doesn't explain why brussels is this way other than the fact that i think, you know,
it's -- i want to be careful speculating here. ayman has done such great reporting on this in the past. i think that, if you want to be -- to do bad in a place like brussels or paris, it's easy for bad folks to hide among good folks. and there are a lot of really great immigrants and those that are naturalizing here, but it's easy for bad folks to find thorou thorou thoroughfathe thorou thoroughfares in and out of these places. it's my sense from what i heard at the forum that it's easier for folks to slip through belgium borders than some other borders. >> just to pick up on that point real quick, sam, before heading to london, there are intelligence speak sometimes known as the pipeline effect. brussels may be what it is now because one individual went there, drew a skill set, drew a pipeline of fighters from the community in brussels that he was from. people trust each other and know
each other. it's tight-knit and ultimately led to the battlefield in syria. we have seen that phenomenon happen elsewhere. these are not lone wolf attacks. these are cells and they're operating in that kind of a network. that's perhaps one of the reasons certainly. we'll talk a little bit more about that. let's head over to katty kay in london for us. >> i have heard the same thing, ayman. one other point on belgium that i have heard is that you have a country with two different languages, french and flemish. it's almost two different power structures. and they don't readily share information. there is a constant struggle for power between the two groups and that somehow has allowed information sharing, intelligence sharing, to break down in some way and has made it easier for cells to establish themselves in belgium. let's bring in nbc news chief foreign correspondent richard engel. richard is in washington. what more light can you shed on this issue of why belgium?
here you have brussels, the home of the eu and nato and right under their noses another attack today. >> it goes back, frankly, to the problem that has been facing europe for a long time where you have large communities, mostly of muslim migrants, who have struggled to find a home. they have struggled to integrate for a variety of reasons. if you go to those communities, they will tell you that it's about racism, that they're blocked from jobs, that they're blocked from government employment, that they don't get the same kind of social services. they will describe themselves as ghetto-ized. and there is a lot of anger. ayman was saying all it takes is one or two of those individuals to make a break, leave that community, go get battlefield experience in a place like iraq or syria with isis, and then there is a link to that community. and his friends and often family members will then become part of
that pipeline and become part of a cell. initially when we talked about the paris attacks back in november, if you remember there was talk about maybe there was eight attackers. now french officials are saying there were 30 or more people involved in this attack. so a much bigger cell for that particular attack, a cell that has mostly been taken down. but it appears from what we're seeing today not entirely taken down. >> david ignatius, after paris in november and december at the climate change conference there were a number of officials from throughout the world, obviously, but american intelligence officials who i spoke with in december in paris were talking to me about the intelligence sharing that goes on between the united states and european nations. and they indicated to me that it was extensive but they were quite unsure and uncertain of how it was handled once the
european intelligence officials specifically the french and in brussels acted on the intel that they were getting. have you heard anything of that sort? >> mike, over the last two years there has been a deep divide between the u.s. and europe over intelligence. the effects of the -- of edward snowden revelations, european anger that they felt they were targets of u.s. intelligence, led to greater difficulty for the european intelligence agencies which often wanted more cooperation with the u.s. but were limited in that by their own publics, by the parliaments. there has been an ongoing parliamentary investigation in germany, for example. i think that's an important part of the background. i have heard u.s. intelligence officials over the last month talk about their concern about the number of plots that they knew were in motion in europe. one of them told me it's not the
u.s. that's the prime target right now, it's europe. they've been sharing that with european officials and there have been these quite frantic efforts to uncover members of the networks. but they haven't been successful, as we have seen. the question i would ask richard engel, who knows as much about the situation in the middle east as any journalist i know, richard, what kind of effect -- if you're sitting in raqqa, the capital of the islamic state this morning and hearing reports of this attack in brussels, does that embolden you to think of activating additional networks, more attacks? do you see this as a day of victory? >> i see it as a day where isis will claim victory. isis has been taking some big hits recently. some of its leadership have been eliminated. if you look right now or before today, the number of isis tweets is at an all-time low.
there have been -- we have been reporting on documents that have been leaking out, personnel files that have been leaking out. there was an american who says in his confessional video that he joined isis and stayed for about a month and didn't like it and left. apparently when he got there he thought he was going to join up with the great jihad and they put him on toilet cleaning duty, which he didn't appreciate and he is now debriefing his kurdish captors. being debriefed by his kurdish captors. isis, as of 24 hours ago, was in a weak position. and it seems like this is an attempt by the group or at least by a cell of the group to reassert a cell, to reestablish their primacy, to put themselves back into the headlines. just some information i am getting in now, department of homeland security is saying that there were three explosions at different metro stations.
they have been identified as the shoeman, artsluar and the metro. and personnel in brussels are sheltering in place. that may have been reported earlier but three different metro stations that reported attacks earlier and embassy personnel sheltering in place. so this was not a small event in brussels. >> richard, we have been talking earlier about the ease of access that people have within europe, within any country, actually, to the component parts of making a bomb. but within syria and iraq, that's right you've covered extensively, what do we know about the bomb makers? i mean, this is a highly skilled endeavor. these beginnings of chemicals and fingernail polish, whatever you purchase, are quite volatile when put together and fused with a nine-volt battery. what do we know about bomb-making schools? >> well, frankly, the best
bomb-making school in the world right now is syria/iraq. it is the battlefield. you have to think, isis got its start fighting american troops in iraq. isis was the insurgency that fought against american marines in anbar province. they cut their teeth, they sharpened their knives fighting against us, and that is how you get good. that is the history of terrorist organizations all over the world. hezbollah. they got good because they fought one of the best militaries in the world. same thing with isis. isis got its training in iraq, a place awash with weapons. it had a moment of decline years ago, and then it was given a rebirth in syria. another country that is completely awash with weapons. so, if you want to learn how to
make a bomb, the best experience you can get is doing it in iraq and syria. >> richard, i'm going to jump in right there because we're going to go to belgium and the belgian prime minister is speaking. [ speaking foreign language ] >> when we get translation on that we'll bring it to you. but that is the belgian prime
minister charles michel speaking. he said, we've been hit by a blind attack is what the belgian prime minister is saying. let's pick up on what you were just talking about, richard engel, and the syria and iraq being the primary battlefield. throw into this, of course, the migrant crisis that we are seeing in europe. because one of the attackers in the paris attacks had come into europe posing as a refugee from syria. >> just some more information. i was just told that one of the explosions happened inside the terminal near the american airlines check-in desk and that initial fbi reports are that 11 dead, 100 injured at the airport explosions. that is slightly different from the 13 dead that has been reported previously. obviously these numbers are going to change. so what i am getting now is that
three metro stations, two bombings at least at the airport, including one inside the terminal by the american airlines check-in counter with the fbi saying their initial assessment, 11 dead, 100 injured. you were asking about the iraq connection and the genesis of isis? excuse me. i'm sorry. i have been distracted. >> just how much the refugee crisis in europe is complicating this because you have got people coming into europe who are saying that they're refugees but, as we know from the paris attacks, actually some are coming in planning terrorist attacks. >> well, the refugee crisis has added a whole layer of complications, both on a political level and on a security level. politically it's been enormous fuel for the right wing to blame it all on the migrants, to say
this is all a result of our open borders, this is all a result of our -- the goodness of our hearts, they're coming here to leach off of the social welfare system that we are generously giving out. that has become an increasingly dominant narrative that you hear in european politics. >> richard, hold that thought. we do now have the translation from belgian. back to the belgian prime minister. >> translator: in the luggage. for the time being we cannot give a precise number of victims, and as the prime minister said, priority is given to the treatment of the injured. some seriously injured. we are trying to establish everything to trace the possible perpetrators and to see whethth
there are no other perpetrators who are fleeing. the federal police are responsible for this investigation. i cannot give any more details about the investigation. i would like to tell you that the different operational forces have been set up and this is -- everybody is functioning very well and we're doing everything possible to try and make -- bring back the situation to normal and to make progress. he continues in dutch. he is repeating what he said in french. >> the belgium federal prosecutor there, and we also heard from the belgian prime minister earlier, who has been addressing the belgian people, talking about the unthinkable, that they had always feared had happen has now happened in belgium. they've been hit as he called it
by a blind attack. we're still waiting to get the final numbers, and those numbers do keep changing. we should warn you of this, the number of fatalities keep changing, both from the airport and from the attacks on the brussels metro system where it seems like there were three separate attacks and the bombing attacks at brussels airport. brussels effectively on lockdown. there is no transport going in or out of the city. the euro star has also been shut down as well. richard engel, how possible is it after an attack like this to shut down a city and put into place the security operations to try to find the people who are behind this attack? given how long it's taken to find and arrest abdeslam after the paris attacks? it seems to take these security forces a long time to root out these cells. >> well, you can shut down a city, and you can shut down the phones and just a short while
ago people were reporting major phone problems in brussels. you can shut down the metros. you can tell people to shelter in place. obviously that just creates more panic if people have heard about this attack and now they don't -- can't use their phones, they can't get to where they want to be so they have to effectively stop wherever they last were and wait inside a shop or wait inside a cafè or a friend or relative's house. it is possible to shut it down. but then you have to go and find the people who were involved. my suspicion, just looking at this, is that the french and belgian authorities pretty quickly are going to have an idea of who was responsible. this has been a four-month-long investigation. the french and belgians collectively have done something like a hundred raids since the paris attacks. questioned who knows how many
people. so i think they have a very good intelligence matrix built up right now about the community. and once they get a few leads, which probably are already coming in at this stage, i would not be surprised if they know the names of these individuals that carried out this attack in pretty short order. >> richard, you said that -- you said that you thought they had good leads, and then we've heard reports that there were as many as 30 people involved in this. and obviously europe has been in some heightened state of consciousness since the paris attacks. it seems rather incredible in a way that they had absolutely no idea that this large of a group existed or that they were planning this or anything. >> well, once you find a lead and you get a name, it leads to another name. and it leads to another name. and the way it's been described by prosecutors in belgium is it was a bit like peeling an onion. the layers just kept going and there was another layer behind a
layer behind a layer and that surprised them. they had initially thought eight people were behind the at a tacks. now they talked about 30 people. maybe it was 35 people and these were the ones they didn't know about. we'll know more about this when it happens, but once the raids to capture the last fugitive, salah abdeslam, happened. there were according to security experts two ways this could have gone. the last members of the cell could have either gone underground or they could have activated any plots that they had in the works because they had nothing else to lose. but a terrible sequence of events. just the last information that i got was that two explosions, terminal b at the airport. one by the counter of american airlines in the check-in area and three different attacks on the subway. i was -- i just looked at a map where the attacks took place. i can tell you u.s. government officials are tracking this very closely. u.s. embassy personnel told to
shelter in place. a similar order being issued or a similar recommendation being issued effectively to all the people in belgium. >> let's pick up on the sites of the attacks. it just strikes my mind that there is only so much you can do to actually protect the welcoming area of an airport or a metro station, for instance. and so, ayman, you are perhaps better suited for this. what can governments in cities like brussels do, whether it's more resources, whether it's better mindset, better consciousness, to actually make sure that the airport terminals are safe, to make sure that the metro stations are safe? or do we have to always live with the possibility of this happening. >> i think there is a new reality settling in across europe. i've been to airports in europe, the middle east and egypt.
the airport in cairo has a perimeter checkpoint. metal detectors. any vehicle just approaching the airport. once you are on an airport road the vehicle is searched, the people are questioned, sometimes taken out and going through a metal detector. we don't see that in the united states unless we have specific reason to see a cause of concern at an airport. we certainly don't see it in a lot of european airports and certainly not in brussels. is that mindset going to change? i think that's a debate for society. those types of security concerns are very intrusive. when you start having those in societies like new york or in the united states or elsewhere where travel is so critical to so much of our way of life, we start to complain when we have to wait in line at tsa. >> there is traffic, but nothing like laguardia. >> if you have to stop cars and
taxies and everybody like that. today's attacks, which is significant are the locations. they went to locations that are not necessarily the easiest to go to. if this was something that was not in the works and let's say was just triggered as a matter of a reaction to what happened on friday, they could have gone to a cafè or down to a bus stop. but the individuals who carried these attacks out must have been familiar. they knew that they can get a bomb down into a subway station. they knew that, during this particular rush hour, they are not going to be stopped, they are not going to be searched. if so, they would have still been able to detonate themselves. at the airport. they made a conscious effort to go all the way to the airport not necessarily knowing whether a security checkpoint had been set up. that's also very telling. >> the idea that you stop this by hardening security around metro stations or airports or whatever, then they move on to some other facility or place.
>> cafès. in paris it was at a cafè. it was still just as dramatic. >> seems to me one of the reason we've been successful at preventing terrorism is that we have gone to the heart of it. i think we have much better intelligence, a much better idea of who is out there and what they're doing. the nypd has talked about stopping dozens of plots since 9/11. they have to get at the root of this, not just the manifestation of it. >> in the u.s. there has been success in integrating communities. >> it's also a resource issue, right. we just had the political reporter tara palmeri on, talking about how lilt brussels spends on counter-terrorism originals compar operations compared to us. >> i was going to ask david ignatius to reflect upon this. in brussels and france there are communities where you can hide
in plain sight. as we have seen. it took four months for brussels officials to get, you know, the principal architect of the paris bombings. after they arrested him last week there was resentment on the street for the police in the arrest. i don't think that would be likely to happen in the united states. but you can hide in plain sight. i don't know that we have paid enough attention in this country to the danger that exists on the ground in europe. >> well, i think we have to take the belgian prime minister at his word when he said these were blind attacks. he doesn't mean that the attackers were blind. he means that the authorities were blind, that they didn't see what was coming at them. they knew the identity of the person they had been chasing for four months, salah abdeslam. they couldn't find him. in this maze of the suburb of molenbeek, which has a criminal underground fused with an islamic radical underground,
they could not penetrate and find that person. the bomb-making continued. the trade-craft continued. i just would notice. europeans look at today's events, they're going to be scared and they're going to want action. and in particular, i think, there will be effects in britain, which is facing a vote in june about whether to leave the european union. this will enormously boost the position of people who say we need to take care of ourselves and get out of this uncontrolled european union. >> david ignatius, i was thinking exactly the same thing. good morning. it is tuesday, march the 22nd. i am katty kay in this morning for joe, mika and willie reporting live from london and we're following major breaking news out of europe. in belgium there have been at least two explosions the brussels airport and another at a subway station. 13 people are dead and many
others injured. two sources tell nbc news that at least one and possibly multiple suicide bombers were involved in these attacks. all airport operations have been suspended now. belgium's interior minister has raised the security alert to the maximum level. federal police have also confirmed an explosion at the maelbeek subway station in central brussels. video posted on social media shows smoke coming from the station. and video is now coming in of people being evacuated from subway cars as well. all public transportation in the city, including the buses, the trams and the metro subway system, have now been shut down. the euro star train line is closed to brussels as well. the european union is asking their personnel to stay home or inside buildings. president obama has been informed of the attacks, and the u.s. embassy in brussels has ordered their staff to shelter in place and avoid public transport. here in the states the nypd tells nbc news that they are in the process right now of ramping
up security from mass transit, bridges and tunnels as well as city landmarks. the explosions come days after salah abdeslam was arrested in brussels. nbc news chief foreign correspondent richard engel is still with us. richard, what more are you getting? the numbers are changing. we should warn our viewers the numbers will change during the course of the day particularly on the fatalities in the airport and in the subway system. >> a senior u.s. official just told nbc news that this appears to have been a complex attack and very well coordinated, that this was not the work of an amateur or a group of amateurs, that this seems to be -- in his words -- a complex and coordinated attack. details are still coming in. u.s. officials are monitoring this very closely. but the u.s. embassy staff have been told to shelter in place. an order has been given out in brussels to people to stay in
their homes, to avoid going out on the streets, avoid using the metro, avoid using any kind of public transportation. cellphone coverage has been intermittent. it's unclear if that's because so many people are trying to use the phones in belgium or because the police are trying to prevent the terrorists from communicating with themselves and plotting yet another stage of this attack. the number of targets, so far it appears two explosions. terminal b at the airport, at least one of them inside the check-in hall. and then i have been told by a u.s. official that reports of three explosions at three different metro stops, at least one of them in the molenbeek area which is the area where the paris attack was launched in many ways and where the last fugitive, salah abdeslam, was arrested just a few hundred meters from his -- just a few meters, in fact, from his family
home where he grew up and where he grew up with other paris attackers. >> okay. let's bring in politico europe's tara palmeri now. she is actually at the airport in brussels. tara is on the phone. where are you and what are you seeing? >> i am about 400 meters from the airport. i am seeing people obviously coming out with their luggage. some obviously were closer to the explosion than others, and those people seem to be really shaken by what they saw. one man called it an apocalypse, said there was blood everywhere. another man, who is a check-in guard at a swiss port said he saw two explosions which at first he thought was a billboard falling because he saw all the papers flying. and then he ran to a luggage turn style and hid underneath. people are coming out of the airport. they're trying to find their way
back. you can see damage to the building. you can see windows broken. you can see all sorts of debris. and i am hearing from belgian officials that approximately 30 people have died and 80 are wounded between the zaventem airport attack and the three other metros. the other metro attacks. >> again, we must remind you that we can't confirm all of those numbers yet. the numbers do seem to be different according to different sources. the people who were inside the terminal at the time, tara, what did they see, hear and feel? >> it seems to me that the people who were in the terminal and saw this, they're obviously shaken, and it's a traumatic experience to see an explosion. i heard there was blood everywhere, people were screaming "run, run, run." i didn't hear of shots fired from witnesses.
they didn't hear shot guns but just explosions. parentally there was a third package that was set to detonate that did not detonate. and in the -- what was that? >> we're getting reports that one of the explosions happened near the american airlines counter. is that what people are telling you? >> yes, exactly. the swiss port counter is right next to that, and that was what the witness told me, that he saw it coming from that counter. it may have been from actually behind the counter. that's unclear but yes, that is the direction. there were two explosions in that area. >> tara, you said you are some 400 meters from the airport. is that because there is a security cordon and you cannot get closer? >> exactly. and passengers are coming out in a single line while ambulances rush over. it's actually very difficult to get even that close because the highway is blocked and it's about a two-mile walk from the closest area off the highway to the airport. it's just right now flooded with
police vehicles, media and obviously passengers that are still trickling out. >> tara, what is security usually like at brussels airport? i am assuming you use it all the time for politico. >> yes. it's just like anywhere else in the world, honestly. i am comparing it to the united states and other european cities. it's basically the same where you don't have to go through security to get to a check-in counter to buy your ticket. for me, i take the train into the brussels airport. it drops you off inside of the building. you go up three flights, either escalators or elevators, and you are at the check-in area. anyone can get there. you don't even need a ticket at that point. very accessible. and it's the same at, you know, jfk in new york. you can get to the ticket counter without going through security. and in any other airport in europe. so that is obviously a security vulnerability at the airports.
but after that -- >> tara palmeri there from politico europe at brussels airport. tara, thank you very much. >> sam, i took the subway here this morning in london, and everyone is reading about this on their phones. there is no extra sign of security. but i am sure that the ramifications of what's happened in brussels today will be felt here in london by the end of the day. and i understand they're already ramping up security in new york as well. >> yeah. and news coming in that president obama has been briefed on the situation and that his administration is in touch with belgian counterparts even while in havana. i have a question forame ayman. we're being told on one hand that it's a sophisticated, planned attack, something that's been in the works for a while. on the other hand the timing is
not suspicious, it's clear that it happened a few days after salah abdeslam's arrest. it seems retaliatory in that respect. ho you do you square those two things? >> i would say look at it from a few different perspectives. you could say that this is not sophisticated in the sense that it's maybe two individuals with their explosives who went to these locations. on the other hand you could say it's sophisticated because it requires the coordination. even after salah abdeslam was arrested the cells were still capable of being activated. do they demonstrate that if abdeslam had been the leader and after he was taken down they were compelled to attack. either because they felt he would rat them out or to avenge his capture. >> i want to ask you about connecting the dots. because the entire country became conversant in the concept of breaking down the walls between the scia and the fbi in
this country. what is the parallel policy conversation in europe about connecting the dots? obviously they apprehended what you're saying might have been a leader of a cell but there were no dots connected between folks who were obviously well under way in planning today's attacks. >> that's an ongoing debate in europe. after the paris attacks, the french parliament had their equivalent of the patriot act, the debate of the patriot act which we debated in this country and passed through. in europe there was this ongoing debate as to whether or not -- some of the things that we do in this country, as, you know, par for the course really were ground-breaking for french officials, to be -- >> like what? >> surveillance. you know, being able to tap into phones, how that process works in terms of the u.s., how we get that through court orders. some of those things are completely off the table in france in terms of individual privacy. obviously that dynamic is beginning to change. it began to change as a result of the paris attacks. but yes, there are a lot of
barriers between various law enforcement officials. countries in europe still deal with their own sovereign law enforcement issues and that's a challenge. let's go back to katty kay in london with more. >> we are bringing you all the latest developments on this fast-developing story out of belgium, the attacks on the brussels airport and the subway system. brian williams is in new york to help lead our coverage on this. brian, take it away. >> katty, thank you. let's, at this point, ten minutes after 7:00 east coast time, update everyone by asking our chief foreign correspondent richard engel to take a step back, look at all that we know at this hour, including death toll, number of explosions and locations, and richard, if you wouldn't mind, for folks who are just waking up and dialing in. >> well, a terrible morning obviously in brussels. just around 8:00 in the morning, the start of the commuter hour there, devastating explosions,
first reported at the airport where there was -- now been reported a suicide attack. apparently two different explosions at the airport. one of them in the check-in area. i was told not far from the american airlines counter, although there have been other reports to suggest it was a different area inside the check-in hall. very disturbing images have come out from inside that check-in hall. there was an announcement made on the overhead p.a. system telling people to just leave, to get out as quickly as they could, to evacuate the location. also, what sounds to be -- what, according to a u.s. official i have been speaking to this morning, a series of attacks on the metro system. one of the attacks at the maelbeek station, which is the station right where the suspect,
the fugitive, the last famous fugitive for the paris attacks was captured, right in that neighborhood. people are -- in belgium are being told to shelter in place. the u.s. embassy staff are being told to shelter in place. cellphone coverage across brussels has been spotty. the metro system has been shut down, at least temporarily. death toll figures at this stage, it's very hard to know. i was told by a u.s. official that the initial fbi estimate was at 11 killed inside the airport alone, unclear how many were killed in the attack on the metro system. an earlier report from belgium suggested 30 people dead in all. but the numbers -- we've been hearing many numbers, but it does appear that the number of casualties was -- appears to be in the dozens. >> yeah. richard, on our screen we're
reporting 15 dead and, sadly, we're trying to confirm and dealing with much higher numbers, which would be, of course, an even sadder story. a couple of questions for you. do we think that, as has happened in the past, cellphone service has been cut for brussels to just allow emergency workers to have communications? sometimes they fear the wrong people will be able to communicate. >> unclear. all that i know is that people were having difficulty using their cellphones and that there was an order issued or an advisory issued in belgium that people should not use their phones if they don't have to, that they should try to text message or use other kinds of social media to communicate with each other, to tell loved ones that they are okay, to coordinate their movements. so it could be a case where the
system was just overloaded, or it could be a case where the system was throttled by government authorities in an attempt to prevent a follow-on attack. but i don't know which one of the two it was. >> the second question is dicier, and that is what a lot of people, i think, are going to jump to when they wake up and hear this news around the world, and that is the last time brussels was in the news we saw those pictures of one of the, i guess, the chief at large suspect from the paris attacks being apprehended, shot once in the leg. yesterday there was further news about an accomplice. if this is an equal and opposite reaction to that, a way of terrorists showing law enforcement and civilian populations who is boss, this would speak to quite an ability and quite an arsenal and quite
high numbers on their part, correct? >> i was told by a u.s. official a short while ago that this was a coordinated and well-planned attack, that this was not an amateur event, that this was the actions of at least some skilled terrorists. that would suggest that they had some planning, that they had some training, that they had some wherewithal to obtain the explosives, put the explosives together, transport them, and had a plot that was fairly advanced. was that launched after the raid in brussels? it's hard to know. if you remember, brian, during the continuous coverage of the capture of the main fugitive just a few days ago, you asked me this very question. what happens next? if you remember, i said that there are two possibilities. one, the outstanding fugitives, anyone who is connected to isis in the area, knows that they
have an informant in their mix that they've gotten busted and they either go underground or, history shows, that they speed up their attacks because they have nothing left to lose. and we'll be learning more about who was behind it, but at this stage it appears to have been the latter that happened, that after that raid other militants, for whatever reason, decided to carry out their attack. >> richard engel, because we frankly never know where in the world you will be when news like this breaks out, we are feeling awfully fortunate to be able to have your counsel. we're glad that you're here in the states. we'll be talking to you along the way. our chief foreign correspondent, richard engel. let's bring back ayman mohyeldin, who has been up much of the night dealing with this story. ayman, i know that, when you're not on television you're trying to gather more on this.
is there anything, components, major or minor, we have left out for folks just waking up and joining us at 15 after 7:00? >> brian, i think some of the images that we are now starting to get of both the aftermath at the airport as well as the scene at the maelbeek subway station, the site of the explosion, we're going to put up one of the images that's come to us through social media. you can see the mangled wreckage of one of the cars. this was tweeted out a short while ago. we believe it to be the center, if you will, of one of those explosions that took place along the route. we also have some video that we're also putting up there on our screen showing further down the tracks from that subway station you can see individuals there trying to get off of one of the train carts on the platform. they walk out of the station. you can see it is kind of foggy and hazy as a result of the explosion further down in that
tunnel. as you can imagine right now, brian, we're getting all kinds of material. we'll be verifying it and get it to our viewers to see as quickly as possible. one piece of information that we are getting according to the belgian transport authority. they are confirming that at least 15 people are dead and 55 wounded as a result of today's explosion. we're also getting more information from american airlines putting out a statement saying that none of their employees in the brussels airport have been injured. they're continuing to assess the situation. why we say that is because it was believed that one of the sites of the explosion that took place inside the airport happened near or at the american airlines counter. we can now at least confirm that no american airlines employees were injured or killed as a result of that attack. we will certainly be bringing in more information as we get it throughout the course of the morning, brian. >> for people in our audience familiar by chance with that airport, concourse b, the american airlines area. though as ayman carefully points
out, there is no evidence that any americans have been injured or caught up in this. ayman, these new pictures of the subway. i don't want to go any closer where we are for fear of what we'll see. certainly we see wires, insulation, total structural collapse, all glass blown out, ceilings caved in. the body of the train has come out to meet the edge of the platform in a way that it doesn't normally. think of the concussion. think of the shock underground that this caused. think of ancillary injuries like eardrums, all that shattered glass, where did it go. and when these pictures are seen across brussels, paris, europe, around the world, that's the definition of terrorism, isn't it? >> it is absolutely the definition of terrorism. as somebody who rides the subway
into 30 rockefeller center every morning, it's a thought that always goes through your mind. keep in mind, this is not the first time that railway systems have been targeted in europe. europeans particularly those in london, those in madrid who have lived through this, when they see those images, it is going to bring back some very scary memories of what those two countries went through both in the united kingdom, in london, as well as in spain following their attacks that took place on rail systems. as you pointed out, brian, given the very nature of the detonation, the fact that it takes place in a very compressed environment, the subway is packed, the timing of this explosion cannot be lost on anyone. this was at the peak of rush hour. 8:00 a.m. brussels, a vibrant and bustling european city, a lot of people using the subway system to get to work or where they need to be. i can only imagine how packed it
was with passengers on there. again, the fact as you mentioned that the car has been knocked off its rails. the suction as a result would have created a very destabilizing effect in the immediate vicinity, not only for those on the platform or the train cart but all down the line. we get a sense of that from the video that we see of people trying to evacuate. you can see that, even in that cart, how dark that tunnel it as a result of the explosion. we believe this video to be from a site further down from that picture that we showed. it seems to have taken place further down on the tracks from where that initial explosion was, brian. >> the grim lighting looks like a spielberg movie. the only solace is that every piece of video we have seen out of brussels, belgium, this morning shows people helping other people. they're all collectively in shock. they were just moving about
their day when this awful event happens. and let's hope -- let's hope this is it. let's hope this is not the start of a day of terror operations. let's hope it is limited to belgium. though those poor folks this morning have suffered enough. ayman, please stand by. take a moment. work your sources and look for anything else on this story while we bring in malcolm nance. sadly, the last time i spoke to malcolm nance was following the paris attacks. he has a vast resumé on the topic of counter-terrorism and intelligence. he has worked for the federal government, homeland security, the intelligence apparatus. he is executive director of something called terror
asymmetrics projects these days. spent two decades on clandestine anti terrorism and counter-terrorism intelligence operations. malcolm, what is your initial reaction? we have been running this video nonstop. sadly, a lot of it is what we have now come to expect after we hear word of an attack like this. >> well, unfortunately, i am afraid to say that we are now in a strategic campaign by isis to destabilize europe. paris was just the beginning of this. but over the last two years they have been running operatives back from syria to europe. europe to syria. and giving them operational experience. that's one thing. but to actually start training cells, bringing those cells back to their home country. the al sufan group estimates there were 470 operatives, 470 people from belgian alone,
mainly from the molenbeek section, who have gone to syria and trained as operatives. france believes they've had as many as 300 isis members return to france. what that does is not just disseminate a group of operatives within the country. it allows you to establish not just the terrorist cell but a constellation of terrorist cells who could be complete compartmented away from each other who may not know which operation is going on as opposed to the next group. in some respects they could have a pipeline tying them together but they don't know when they're going to attack, and they can attack with impunity this way. >> let me bring in our justice correspondent pete williams, who has a development in the story, this early, early stage of the investigation. pete. >> a couple of things, brian. first of all, there has been a decision, i guess, or a lack of a decision basically to not at this point, from the u.s.
government, give any directive or recommendation to airports or subway stations in the u.s. that they should take any additional security measures. nonetheless -- and that's, i think, based on the lack of any intelligence that any attacks are planned here. nonetheless, many are undertaking these steps on their own. for example, the new york city police department says it's going to have a very aggressive response with additional patrols at airports, at tunnels, at bridges, and on the subway system. here in washington, d.c., on our metro system, our subway, there are already additional uniformed patrols out. they've done an all hands on deck in terms of the canines or dog teams stiffing for explosives. passengers today riding the metro in d.c. can expect to hear lots of messages urging them to report anything they hear or see that's suspicious. in terms of what airports are
doing, it looks like for at least the next several hours people flying in the united states will not see much difference in terms of airports here. airports in the u.s. will be deciding on their own, because airport perimeter security and the security of airport buildings themselves and the kinds of areas in american airports where the attacks happened in brussels, the part you can walk into, walk up to the airport ticket counters and so forth, those are all the responsibility of the local airport authorities, not the federal government. so they're going to make those decisions independently. and whether they decide to restrict traffic or put additional patrols out is something individual airports will have to decide. i would certainly guess that people are going to see more visible security, but whether there will be actually any restriction on say, for example, curb-side check-in, that's going to be their call along with the airports. so it's very much going to vary from city to city in terms of
what kind of response you're going to see. but in terms of the operation of airports in the u.s., flying from one place to another inside the country, i doubt that travellers today will see a great deal of difference. >> okay. pete williams, thanks. indeed, i took the subway in new york city to get here this morning, expecting, i guess, an extra ring of at least nypd security. it appeared to be the normal complement as it was when i got to this building at 30 rockefeller plaza. but i imagine, as the day goes on, as the feds talk, as the folks overseas brief their counterparts, everyone will be reassessing. we were talking to malcolm nance. and malcolm, to your initial point, why europe? >> europe because it has a very large body of combatants who they have managed to recruit, bring back into operation zones
like syria, libya, yemen. and because europe is the nearest or the proximate ally to the united states. it's also places that they can infiltrate with great ease. molenbeek is a very deep section of the city, west of -- the west side of brussels, with 30% of the population as foreigners from north africa and the arab-speaking nations of the middle east, near east. those people, they are operatives, can swim within that sea of people and not be seen. as we've seen over the last four months. we have had one of the most intense man hunts in europe with the operative laterally one block from his parents' home. with that support structure, it allows them to go in, do their planning, marry up with the weapons systems that they want to use for terrorist attacks and actually carry out the attacks as we have seen today. >> malcolm, one more question on this specifically. i just had this conversation with richard engel.
we were going along, those of us in the news business, mostly covering our own domestic presidential campaign, when bang, we were called to the studio. there was activity in brussels. we learned that they got the outstanding fugitive. just yesterday we learned there may be an accomplice. and then this. so do you look at this, before we know any hard evidence, and view it as an equal and opposite reaction to the arrest of the fugitive? do you view this as a belgian-based cell flexing its muscles, trying to show its range, trying to show that it can strike at a time and place of its own choosing, almost on a whim? >> yes, i agree with that wholeheartedly. this is a strategic battle now. if you can imagine europe being on one side and isis being on the other side. they're throwing punches at each
other. isis will operate from one side like they did with the paris, and they'll throw an attack that way. if their network gets taken down in another place, again, there appears to have been a constellation of cells that are not in communication with each other, that are compartmented. to where they're isolated, to where they carry out their attacks but not necessarily be detected should another cell be taken down. this is a series of throws, a series of punches that europe and isis are taking at each other. i now think isis has now declared europe, though they haven't said it in writing as one of their provinces, where they think, if they can destabilize europe, keep it off guard by sending in their fighters on these special missions and get europe destabilized they can, in effect, damage the united states in the strategic missions that their allies are taking against isis central in north africa and
their caliphate inside of syria. >> let's bring in a man whose twitter feed i was reading last night as he was covering the apac meeting in washington, d.c. jeffrey, this is the kind of news that, when we watch the on-and-off inanity of our current presidential campaign you think to yourself, if you cover the world for a living, the world has a funny way of intervening and making everybody serious up. it appears to have happened again. what do you make of this news as we all wake up to it this morning? >> well, i mean, i have a couple of large thoughts and a couple of small thoughts. i am trying not to think about this in terms of the current american presidential race. it's a little bit depressing to do, how it's going to be talked about and probably not some super intelligent ways.
the small thought i am having has to do with an immediate concern in america. i have been writing about this for years, about the soft spots of airports. this was done at a ticket counter. and i have been writing that the most dangerous place in american airports is the security line. and so we're going to have to do some rethinking very quickly about how airports are protected. the larger thought -- and again, i try to resist bringing this into american politics, but you can't help it at this moment. the larger thought is that these attacks really do help those who are trying to spread some fear about the condition of the world. >> jeffrey, i would only interrupt you for the president of france, but let's listen to francois hollande for a moment. >> translator: -- paris was targeted in particular last year in november, in january. other continents have been
affected. i am thinking of africa. but we are faced with a global threat which requires a global response. france and belgium are linked in this horror that, once again, we have shared. and i reassured the belgium government of our entire support so that we can use all possible means, but the war against terrorism is taking place across europe. and with the means that are necessary and in particular with regard to information, and we must ensure that decisions are effectively implemented. we must also act internationally. this is what france is doing in
a coalition in the middle east, in syria and iraq. this is what we're doing in africa. but it is also what each of the conscious countries must ensure at international level. we have also conducted this war against terrorism by being necessarily vigilant, and that is why today the french government has taken measures to reinforce the border controls and also the presence of police and military in all the airports, stations and mass transport. but this war against terrorism must be taken place with clear-sightedness, with determination, because it will be a long war.
and we must use the means which are indispensable. we have done this in france for several years now, with legal measures which have to be effective, respecting freedom. and we must also ensure more than ever before that we are united. i'm talking about being united at the european level. i could also speak about unity at a global level for the countries who wish to act against terrorism. but at the national level we must ensure unity and everybody has to be aware that during this period we must work together, we must be cohesive, and we must work with solidarity. and today it is with belgium. yes, in the past it was with france, that everyone expressed solidarity. we are all aware that we are all
involved, and that is why at the beginning of this meeting, while we are reflecting about what we can do in our own country, what we should do in europe, we are with you, but we also must ensure that there will be no economic developments if there is not security first. and security is also an element that is necessary. and we must ensure that all means are taken in france but also in europe and here i am expressing myself on behalf of france so that you can ensure that you too can invest in
france but making sure that there is security. now i am going to answer questions. there were 30 businesses here, different geographies. and we wanted to meet at this council meeting. it is an initiative i talked two years ago, and every six months on a regular basis we meet. we meet both to evaluate what we have done. >> as often happens when our president has to speak about a pressing issue at an unrelated event, that's what we just witnessed. you heard through the voice of a translator, francois hollande, who has been present at way too many of these kinds of things. this happening in neighboring belgium. we were in the middle of a conversation with jeffrey
goldberg, the national correspondent for the atlantic. jeffrey, please remake your second point. >> well, i mean, the point is that the way this gets refracted in the american political competition that's going on now is very, very important. you want to have a sophisticated understanding of what's going on. you don't want to make the problem worse by demonizing a whole group. on the other hand, you want to deal with this. you want to deal with the legitimate fears that people have without sort of playing to the fear-mongers. it's a very hard balance in any democracy. you see this in europe obviously with the rise of far-right parties. one other quick point if i may, brian. it's totally fascinating. the president, president obama is on an historic trip to cuba. it's part of his foreign policy legacy. and once again we see him -- we see one of his actions outside of the middle east venue, outside of that arena, being overshadowed by terrorism, by
isis, by this terrible attack. and it's fascinating the way that this problem persists now, not only as a sort of a periodic, intermittent problem for western leaders, for an american president, but as one of your previous guests said, it is a continuing strategic threat to the west. and it's fascinating that he is in cuba now but is going to have to be addressing this today, of all days. >> jeffrey, you were listening to our friend malcolm nance. >> yes. >> -- summing up the way he sees this. do you concur with his assessment? >> yes. what i was thinking this morning was that one by one european cities are being traumatized by this. there was madrid, there was london, there was paris. now there is brussels. it proves a couple of things. one is that there is a strategic goal here on the part of isis and like-minded groups. these are not -- these are not ill-planned one-offs by emotionally driven people. these are organized attacks, and
they will continue. the second thought is a fairly obvious thought which is that europe is on its back foot here. they don't seem to be able to keep ahead of this problem in any way whatsoever. belgium is well known in certain circles for not having a very effective counter-terrorism but france has effective counter-terrorism and you still saw what happened in paris. unfortunately, again, these are thoughts that you don't want to have but they're a reality. unfortunately we're looking at a situation in which this is going to repeat and repeat again. and as the -- as the people come back from syria, you're going to have, unfortunately, more of these kind of threats. >> i was just going to say exacerbated against this backdrop of the refugee crisis. >> right. >> and where these people are ending up around europe and where they're all from. a lot of people have predicted, sadly, a rise of anti-semitism, a rise of kind of the division
of groups in some countries in europe, all of it triggered back to the welcoming of so many thousands of people from the unraveling of parts of the middle east. >> right. you know, you only need ten to 20 people to pull off an operation of this size. there are 470 or so belgian muslims believed to be in syria, or have traveled through syria. one quick point on brussels which is fascinating to me. almost two years ago there was a jihadist attack on the brussels jewish museum. four people were killed. at the time some people said, brussels, you have a serious problems here. what begins with the jews never ends with the jews. there was a feeling, certainly in the brussels -- in the belgian jewish community that the government was not paying enough attention to this. and you see the -- the sort of evolution of the way these plots develop. first you start with very specific targets and you say, oh, that's a manifestation of a
middle east problem, but eventually these groups take on the entire society and entire western civilization. that's what we're seeing right now. >> jeffrey goldberg, thank you so much. tara palmeri has been very generous in her time and reporting for us this morning. she is with politico europe, based in brussels. has been on the ground in brussels telling us what she has been able to learn. tara, anything new you can add? >> right now it's -- the traffic is really slowing down at the zaventem airport. they've evacuated the entire building if you can believe that. it seems there are more chaos happening in the center of the city where three explosions happened in metro stationsme. there was a major attack in the center of the city where the european capital is basically located. it's the eu bubble. it's the major transit hub for leaders, bureaucrats,
commissioners, members of european parliament coming in and out of the city. and i have a colleague who is staying in a hotel located in that area where a lot of diplomats stay and a lot of people moving in and out. she said they have covered all of the windows with sheets so that people could not see the wounded being taken out of the subway system. it's a horrific scene in a place that -- like i said, there are constantly people moving in and out of it. just like at the airport. >> tara, what you are describing -- we keep saying this because it's accurate -- is the definition of terrorism. this is a city that has been terrorized, and now they have to kind of go through with the rest of their day into the evening, and there is tomorrow to think of. >> exactly. and there is definitely a lot -- our office is literally in that bubble. and you know you have to go back there. as a reporter you're running to the scene, but then you realize that every day you're living in this bubble.
i live across the street from the jewish museum. i see guards there every day. i think. it's safe because there are guards there, but are they going to have to patrol all of brussels? there is no security to get to a check-in counter. there is no security when you get into the train that takes you to the airport, inside the airport building. it's just once you get past the check-in counter that there is security. are they going to man every spot in brussels? it's an incredible situation right now. >> tara, what had life been like in brussels in these intervening months and weeks since brussels was last in the news? we saw a city virtually shut down after paris. and right up until word that they had captured this -- i guess we had a little warning a few days earlier that they missed him. but right up until this news broke a few days ago, brussels had been swept from newspaper front pages and the web all around the world. >> right.
i mean, there was a period of time after christmas, on new year's eve they canceled the firework because of fear there would be an attack. it was my experience coming from new york city to be under lockdown before that and during new year's eve we were on lockdown again. it sort of became the norm. we started to loosen up a little bit and maybe not look over our shoulders so much and now you have this. and this orange alert level might be the norm in brussels. it's been really, really shocking. and also, when they lowered the level of alert and they stopped the lockdown back in november/early december, we were all wondering, why did they stop the lockdown? nothing happened. they still hadn't caught salah abdeslam. now they have caught the guy and a few days later we have a full-blown terrorist attack in belgium. that was the one thing they could actually say is that we haven't had an attack on our soil. the french had the attack. we have been able to keep our area safe. the lockdown was worth it. now you see there was still
plotting and organization happening and that perhaps maybe they should have upped the level again after the capture of salah abdeslam. >> the pictures from the subway are so haunting no matter how many times you see them. tara p tara palmeri with politico europe, thank you for clearing your plate to be able to share your reporting with us. >> thank you. >> let's bring in two friends of ours, the overachievers, who were up early this morning, have been watching their coverage as the network gathered around. katty kay in london, david ignatius is here. and katty, this is -- these are the pictures that define modern terrorism. the smoke still visible but clearing in an airport, in a metro stop, and the people on the streets running and scared. >> to some extent, brian, they are the pictures that define modern europe too. the pictures particularly of
those darkened metro tunnels in brussels could have been the pictures that we saw from london back when london's subway system was attacked as well. and for all europeans, we are increasingly conscious that the fallout from the middle east is very close indeed. the migrant crisis has exacerbated that. we have people coming into the continent under the guise of being refugees from the war in syria who are here planning attacks against us. and we all, whether we are in paris or brussels or london or madrid, have to be wary of this. now, europeans are fairly sanguine. i grew up in the uk with the threat of the i.r.a. italians and germans through up with the red brigade. spanish with eta. this is not a continent unused to terror threats. we are used to them. we actually, frankly, take them on the whole fairly calmly. but this is something new. this feels, as the french president said this morning, like a war has been launched
against europe. and we don't know where the next blow will come. >> david ignatius, do you concur with that? >> i do. as i look at these events today in brussels, i am reminded of a u.s. intelligence report that i quoted a few weeks ago that described isis as being a danica patrickive -- as being adaptive and resistant. you hit them hard in syria and iraq and they've been pounded every the last year, but they adapt to those strikes and come back and hit you in different places. that's clearly happening in europe. the fact that several days after the arrest of the person who was thought to be the mastermind of the paris attacks, the center of the big belgian-french manhunt that had been going on, these attacks happen. i tell you, this is a resilient adversary. the other thing i think of this morning, brian, is we are very familiar with the
connect-the-dots problem. imagine if you had 28 different intelligence services to connect. i mean, these services often don't talk adequately to each other. they have a european-wide intelligence security service, but it's very weak. very poorly resourced. listening just now to the french president, francois hollande. he said we're going to close our borders. he is thinking in terms of france as a nation-state. obviously, inevitably. the problem is there are structures and institutions for europe as a whole, and they're not working. and i think europeans, wherever they are today, are going to be worried, are we protected by a system that has such loose and open borders. >> and david, how much of this, you know, lurks in the background, the refugee crisis. how much has it exacerbated what we are witnessing today? >> europe, as a whole, is really straining at the edges.
we have had a million migrants that have come in the last year and europeans feel that they simply don't have the resources or institutions to stop them. europe just negotiated european simply don't have the resources or institutions to stop them. europe just negotiated, what some critics have said amounts to a $6 billion bribe to turkey to take migrants back because europe simply doesn't have the resources to deal with them. i think that the pressure for change in this europe that's frightened and isn't dealing well with the crisis is going to be a theme we will be looking at over the next weeks and months. in particular we should be thinking about the effect on britain. britain has to decide whether it wants a brexit, britain to exit the european union, there is a vote on that coming in june, i think this significantly increases the possibility they will vote that. i was in germany where germans were talking about do they need a smaller core europe that can manage security, dealing with
migrants, other problems better than this europe of 28 nations. i think that will be on the agenda in the weeks and months going forward. >> and then mr. trump last night saying we need to consider either pulling out of nato or decreasing our presence, certainly decreasing what we pay to be a member nation in nato. do you concur, david, with jeffrey goldberg, i will paraphrase him, that he is dreading the handling of this topic today in america in the context of our presidential campaign? >> dreading it, brian, in particular in one way. europe is feeling rocked today and it looks to its historic super power friend and protector, the united states. and what does it read donald trump the leading republican candidate that is talking about the need for the u.s. to distance itself from nato.
the rhetoric in america is about let's close ourselves off, let's not let these foreign problems come into our country. it's the kind of rhetoric we remember from the '30s and even before our entry into the first world war. that will worry europeans. this is a time when they want to see a strong america say, we are here to help you, we are here to provide you the intelligence you need, instead they have an american presidential campaign that really is about setting up new limits, distancing ourselves from the problems overseas. >> and, katty kay, do you concur -- we've touched on this. malcolm nance was making the point in the last hour, this really is a kind of throwdown. this really is confirmation if we needed further confirmation, that isis is going to war in europe against europe. >> i think that is certainly true and i think if isis had the opportunity they would go to war in america as well. and one of the reasons not to --
for america not to pull back from europe is that we were reminded, of course, brian, on the awful attacks of 9/11 that the world can come to your doorstep as well and it can attack america brutally, too. i think what we actually need now is more intelligence sharing, more integration between our security forces and actually more integration in terms of what do we do with our disaffected muslim populations. okay, the united states has less than 1% of its population is muslim, belgium has 7% of its population which is muslim and we have a far more radicalized muslim population. we need to take lessons from the u.s. in what we can do to integrate those muslims, but we are in this together, make no mistake, it's not an option, i think, for the united states and i imagine david would agree, to say, right, we're going to put up walls, block ourselves off from this and it won't come to our doorstep because it easily
can. >> i want to warn you with that kind of talk you will not be elected president of the united states. certainly not -- >> there are many other reasons, too. >> okay. >> place of birth being one of them. >> david ignatius, the other -- the other thing that we have to talk about is we all are together in hoping that this is it, that this awful story we woke up to this morning is all there is going to be as however unsafe europe has become, however shaky it is, that this was a planned and finite attack. >> obviously, brian, we don't want to speculate when i don't have information, but i will tell you what u.s. intelligence officials have told me over the last weeks before this attack happened. they said they were concerned that there were multiple plots in motion in europe, that intelligence authorities were working as hard as they could to disrupt those plots, to identify
people, but there were multiple isis actions that were contemplated. so i think prudent people should expect that this is not a one-off, that there is so many hundreds of people who have been through the battle fields of syria and iraq who are coming home or who can come home, that it's very difficult for europe to know exactly where they are, as we've been seeing over the last few weeks and months. so the idea that there won't be any more of that -- of this, we hope so, but there's a lot of evidence that that's not so, that this is part of a broader story that's going to continue. we just hope that europeans will be as resilient here as they have been in crises in the past. >> indeed. david ignatius, thanks. two bits of news here. we just got a revision upwards, sadly, in the death toll. we feared, of course, that would be the case. 26 is now the number we're being
told. and again, these numbers are usually all over the place so i wouldn't count on that to become anything permanent, but the current revision upward to 26 dead and many, many more wounded in these -- this combination of attacks. >> we want to bring in a law enforcement veteran, because, after all, this may be a terrorist action, this may be an ocean away from us, it all comes down now to forensics, to police work, to ballistics, to figuring out what happened, how and who did it. jim cavanaugh is retired special agent in the bureau of alcohol, tobacco and firearms for several decades and we often turn to him too often, actually, because when we turn to jim it means something terrible has happened. jim, what are your thoughts looking at what we've seen and what we know so far? >> well, i think you've got a great analysis there with your
previous guest, brian. i would say a couple of things. "the new york times" article that's been referenced earlier by david ignatius, you know, is an excellent piece of journalism. one of the key points you will find in there is abaaoud, the master, ring leader, i don't want to call him mastermind because i don't think he's that smart, but the ring leader of the paris attacks had made a statement to confederates early that he had brought back 90 fighters from syria to train and work and attack in europe. 90 fighters. i think it was mentioned earlier as well it's estimated as many has 470. look at that universe, 90 fighters, 470 fighters in europe, in belgium. 30 people, french authorities have identified as being involved in the paris attacks. so that leaves a whole lot of people and some of them we saw probably acting today. as far as the bombs go, this is very, very strategically important to the investigators. we know how they built their bombs before and the reason
we're seeing this large death toll is these bombs are likely just like the previous ones, packed with fragmentation, nuts and bolts and ball bearings, it then puts the bomb in a very enclosed space, the terminal, the subway car and whether these are on a suicide vest, brian, or they are in a suitcase that's pulled behind someone or left, it's not quite clear yet, you know, the french are saying it's likely a suicide bomber, then there's another bomb and there's three in the subway. it's not quite clear to me are we dealing with all suicide bombers or have some of these packages been left or placed? of course, they could be left, a suicide bomber can leave a bomb and detonate one on him- or herself in another location. there is a bomb master there, they're making these devices reliably, they have a lot of soldiers and actors, they know how to attack. i agree with your discussion,
what malcolm nance said, they really have pushed up the tempo. the fearful thing here is terrorists see the success and they also want to build on the success. so if they have that many fighters out there and they have this much ability to make these bombs, you know, it's very dangerous situation in europe. so this is the time for really heightened alert security, you know, there's no sense having a security alert system if you don't ramp it up today. you better ramp it up today and they've really got to press without aus sizing the muslim communities to try to find out who these actors are and try to stop any attacks that are already being planned. >> yeah, i worry, jim, that they -- part of their implied statement what they've done here is that we did this with ease, we did this just days after you picked up one of our guys and we did this without breaking a sweat and there's more where
that came from. >> for those joining us, however, we have none of that evidence, we're just surmising based on what it is we've been witnessing this morning as america wakes up to word of a finite, though elaborate, terrorist attack in brussels, belgium. it's the top of the 8:00 eastern time hour and i will read the numbers as we know them. at least 26 dead, 15 at the metro station, 11 at the airport in brussels as a series of explosions went off. the interior video from inside the subway station is haunting. the damage is extensive and severe. through the smoke good samaritans are seen helping people off the various train
cars and down into the tunnel. it has been another one of those days where we have awakened to news of terrorism. ayman mohyeldin who way too often covers it for us has been part of our coverage since the wee small hours of the morning. ayman, what else would you add to the coverage thus far? >> brian, we have been hearing a lot on this situation in brussels. perhaps one of the more striking comments that came out from the french prime minister, he said, we are at war. and that was certainly a sentiment that has been echoed by all the officials that have been giving their reactions today. we also heard from the french president, francois hollande, saying that it was brussels that was struck, that it was europe that was targeted. perhaps most haunting of all the belgium prime minister charles
mi mish she will said what we feared has happened. we know the city of brussels has been put on lock down the transport, transit systems have been suspended not only in brussels but according also to tallas the railway system. if anyone has traveled between the netherlands, belgium and luxembourg that, too, has all been suspended. you get a sense that today is a very different day in brussels and across europe when you put it in context of the comments we are hearing from both french and belgium leaders today. >> richard engel also remains with us as he has been throughout the morning. richard, anything you can add to what we already know? >> senior u.s. counterterrorism official told me that this does appear to have been a coordinated attack, that it's a sophisticated attack, that's probably obvious at this stage. that there were earlier reports
also coming into the u.s. government that there were three different metro stations that were hit. a spokesperson for the brussels metro now says it was just one station that was hit, that a woman went off on the metro car as it was stopped at the malbek station. the reason people thought there were multiple stations hit is there was a panic throughout the system as people were running out of the cars, running out of the stations, but now that some hours have passed we're getting a clearer picture of what happened. big attack at the airport, that was the first one, 8:00 in the morning. the two two explosions there brought down the ceiling. this is a -- it is a relatively small airport in europe, like most european airports it does have the double security system that you have in other airports
in the world. for example, in high risk places like in iraq or each in turkey you have to go through security even before entering into the check in area more airports in europe like the states you can go right into the check in without going through security. 23 million people used the airport last week, three runways laid out in a z shape. that airport now closed until further notice. >> let me ask the next question, richard, you can answer it first, but also for david ignatius, katty kate and ayman mohyeldin, anyone with knowledge of it. if i had last traveled to brussels two, three decades ago, how has that city changed? how have the faces, the population changed? how does it feel different from the brussels of a few decades ago, richard? >> well, right now europe is facing an enormous migration
challenge as people are leaving syria and iraq and other war zones predominantly in the middle east and islamic world. what you're seeing is this terrible coming together of refugee and migrant crisis with some people who also got battle training in countries like iraq and syria. just this morning intelligence sources are telling nbc news that there are several dozen isis-trained, syria-trained militants on the loose in europe right now looking for targets that those intelligence sources put the number at more than 50, less than 100. so that is something that is new. there have always been migrants and people fleeing wars, heading to safer places, going back generations, hundreds of years, in fact, but what's different
now is that they have this ability to get real battle training and radicalization because of their close contact with isis in syria and iraq. >> david ignatius, same question. >> brian, i just left brussels on sunday and just to describe for your viewers what you would see, first your passport probably would not be checked when you arrived in brussels from berlin, as was the case with me, because of open borders in europe, which means it's very hard to do the kind of security surveillance that we routinely do in the united states. the second thing you'd see driving around brussels, just an awful lot of food -- restaurants, food stores that are catering to the growing muslim population that has come to belgium, to france, to other european countries over the last several decades, mostly from north africa, you would see little shops selling mint tea, you would see mosques if you
drove in the neighborhood of molenbeek where these terrorists are believed to have come from, more mosques than churches certainly. so you would see a society in transition. the point i'd make is today as malcolm nance said earlier on your show this looks like a strategic campaign by isis against europe and the question is what are the millions of muslims in europe going to think and do? are they going to say this is an attack on our europe, our belgium, our france, and are they going to help the authorities, are they going to report suspicious behavior, are they going to try to stand up for the stability and security of the country or are they going to say we side with our muslim brothers and sisters in syria and iraq and feel antagonistic towards our host governments. on that question how individual muslims decide i think the shape
of this going forward is going to be determined. you can only hope that the belgian government today is working harder than ever to make its muslim citizens feel like citizens of one country where they come together to be safe. >> i'm told that right now we have new video coming in, this looks like immediate aftermath at the airport. this scene is familiar to anyone who has ever flown, especially in a foreign airport. you've got those stanchions, those expandable rope lines. this appears to be a check in, maybe security line area and you see the smoke hanging in the air, you see people huddled and this is -- this was the scene this morning in the airport in
brussels. as we keep saying, the definition of terrorism. a lot of debris. if jim cavanaugh was correct in what was packed in these devices, and beyond what the devices are packed with, remember an explosion in a small space, an explosion in a finite room and the -- the damage it can do to eardrums, all the pieces of shrapnel and that, of course, doesn't count the fear, which even though we see people very briefly in this video, that's the other victim in all this. malcolm nance, the conversation came back around to you and david ignatius. david ignatius and the question he was asking about what will the reaction be? >> well, first let me just make
a quick comment about the video that you have up on screen. five years ago i gave a keynote speech at the international aviation transport social security conference in cape town and i specifically said that because we have had much more stronger and increased security measures which are now universal, terrorists are going to fall back and they are going to start striking at the curb and striking at the check in counters. we haven't seen that kind of attack since rome in 1973. this is a classic example of a terrorist organization adapting to the security that we've put into place. i've survived suicide bombs, i can see the people there, first thing you do is you fall to the ground, then get up and start running out of the debris. so with this in mind, now seeing these visuals of what a directed terrorist attack looks like in europe, europe is going to have to organize on a much broader scale. isis has cleared declared that europe is a battle zone, a jihad zone.
they call it a province of isis. they have now gone through their infiltration phase, they are it now in their intelligence collection and operations phase now and there are probably going to be many nora tax from cells that aren't directly connected to each other who are operating in compartmentalization and will react as the terrorist cell leader sighs it or as isis strategic command decidcides fot to go. the european union is going to have to start combining counterterrorism task force to not just be, you know, french/belgium, but to get the manpower out everywhere to where small countries like belgium, the netherlands, even luxembourg can start using manpower for multiple nations to create these joint terrorism task force to start deconstructing this logistics pipeline that goes just about everywhere. >> jim cavanaugh, people are listening thinking, oh, no, does this mean that airport security -- i'm just trying to get to my flight at denver
international, does this mean that when i get out of the rental car bus or get out of the car at curb side, is this going to become more arduous? are we about to lose more freedoms in moving around and doesn't that put the onus on a kind of brain yer approach at least in the united states, certainly overseas? >> right. well, in the united states i don't think it should be any kind of oppressive change, but what law enforcement can do in an airport and the government can help, all the jurisdictions do, is you can put more eyes on people as they are approaching public terminals, for example, as malcolm described. it's always a vulnerability, it has been in other attacks over the decades at airport terminals. so, you know, you put more eyes on it, you don't have to stop and frisk everyone but you can try to observe people in a little different manner. the suicide bomber, if it was a
suicide bomber, or the person that placed the bomb at the terminal will be on the video and closed circuit tv and we will see the approach. a trained person might have been able to stop him. it's not a guarantee. i don't think we're going to see any oppressive security in the u.s. we will see some step up, brian, for sure, but, you know, i always like to go back to churchill's quote, you know, we are not made of sugar candy, life is going to go on, we're going to fight these guys, but they are stepping up the tempo in europe. malcolm is exactly right and i think these attacks will spur on other attacks and mostly in europe because that's where they currently have the operatives. that we are not free here, we have activity as well, we just don't it have it on the scale that europe has it and we don't have the training that their operatives have. now their operational security tactics where they maneuver almost silently using encryption and drop phones and, you know, small cells. so they have become a learning
organization, isis in europe. their external affairs operations from syria, they have become a learning organization. every time they fail they learn, every time they succeed they learn. you are in that world of military and law enforcement. you know, it's really block headed for somebody to say get out of nato because this is a military and law enforcement challenge moving forward. >> yeah, as i keep saying sadly this is going to wash right up against the shores of the american presidential campaign and not everybody is going to like what they see and hear, starting this morning. we have a new still picture showing the -- just the extent of the window shards, all of the panes blown out by the concussion of this. >> richard engel, what strikes you when you look at this and the new video we've been reviewing? >> well, i'm going back to what
malcolm was just talking about, that isis seems to be entering an operational phase in europe. what they did in belgium is not totally dissimilar to what they could do in london or in another city. isis -- you have to look at the broader picture. isis is being pounded right now in iraq and syria. for a long time they had safe haven, for a long time they felt like they were indestructible but over the last month or so they've lost significant territory, they've lost hundreds of square miles, they've been losing many of their fighters. so if you are a foreigner, if you are a foreign fighter in isis territory and suddenly you are under attack, that could have the effect of driving you back to your home country. why stay in the middle of nowhere in syria to be bombed from the sky if you want to be
an isis militant and when you could return to france or sweden or belgium or some other country and carry out an attack. i fear that is a phase we might be entering into, especially when considering the intelligence reports that came to us today suggesting that 50 to 100 syrian-trained isis militants are in europe at the moment in an operational phase. >> and, katty kay, i hope knowing you a little bit that you remain sunny and optimistic overall about europe's positioning, europe's ability to conquer this, to win in the end. >> i wish i could say i was optimistic today, brian. it's hard to feel that waking up and watching these pictures from brussels which are just across the channel from us. i do think that europe will need to address the issue of how it can integrate its muslim
populations. it's been trying to do so, looking at schools, looking at prisons, how can we stop the flow of radicalization, but we're really feeling under siege at the moment in europe by the huge numbers of people trying to come here from syria and the fallout of the syrian war. we feel it very directly. and clearly our security services are not up to handling the situation. look at belgium. three separate official languages, two different main populations. this is not like the united states. we are not just dealing with 28 countries, but within those countries we have fractures. it makes it that much more difficult for our security forces to lias with each other, the power structures in belgium are very complicated but they are going to have to do so. if anything comes out of this let's hope that what happens in brufl today is a wake up to
european security forces to do a better job. >> katie kay, thank you so very much. >> folks just waking up we have 8:17 a.m. eastern time, a death toll that has risen to 26, multiple bombing locations in brussels, belgium. last in the news just a few days ago when after shots were fired, after some fits and starts and escape, police were able to narrow in on and eventually shoot and arrest the outstanding suspect, the man they were looking for since the attacks in paris. then came reports about accomplices, help he might have, how large a cell he might represent in belgium and now
this. we are still covering these first early hours of this with our experts, malcolm nance among them, with a field of work in this area. malcolm, what should europe do that europe isn't doing? i will put it that way. >> really europe is not operating at a unified level on counterterrorism. each nation has their own counterterrorism forces, intelligence forces. granted, they are operating within a substructure within nato on the military level, but the european union itself is going to have to join and create a european-wide counterterrorism task force where operatives from france and they did this belgium can operate in belgium in these joint teams. that way small countries can actually have more manpower as their investigations shift.
this has nothing to do with interpol which is a joint law enforcement organization, this is going to have to be created into a funded task force with manpower and equipment so that if something happens in straussberg, for instance, they come and investigate without seams. until they do that they will be operating on their own resources or with the blessings of whoever decides to help them like the united states. if they don't do that then they are going to find that the terrorists will operate between the seams of these nations. >> would you include this in these -- what's become the coin of the realm, the asymmetrical attacks, low cost, rather low tech and plainly easy to pull off? >> yeah. as a matter of fact, this operation as i did the analysis as it was occurring realtime this morning i suspect that you're going to have maybe at
tops three terrorists. the airport attack it appears that there was what we call a drop bombing and then followed up by one or two suicide bomb ms. so he may have -- that's a terrorist who may have carried two devices, dropped one, dropped two with timers and then -- or cell phones, detonated them then detonated himself. then you have the train bomber down down at molenbeek station. it doesn't take anything to plan those. it doesn't take very much information or money to keep that cell completely separate from the other cells that are operating. there wasn't another cell that went into a gun attack. as we saw in paris 95% of the casualties were from rifle shots so this could have been much worse. quite possible they could be preparing a restrike with gun suicide bomber combinations. so europe needs to ratchet up their security today just to make sure that the terrorists
who are now watching from their safe houses don't decide that going out into the crowds post strike is the best things that they could do for their accelerated timetable. >> restrike happens to be my biggest fear. we want to bring in tom costello who covers aviation for us, also happens to have family in belgium, it very familiar with that airport, lived there himself for a time. tom, this will no doubt have a ripple effect as they always do through aviation around the globe. >> yeah, absolutely. this one strikes home for me because, you know, my wife and kids are belgium, i went to grad school there, my wife used to work in that airport, we have friends working in that airport and we are through that airport many times every year. let me give you a couple of headlines here, brian. to begin with at this point we have 200 plus flights canceled into or out of brussels. we had several u.s. airlines that were supposed to go in, united 950 did land safely at
7:01, united 999 has been -- they said landed in a remote location, we don't know if that means at the airport or another airline -- or another airport, rather, we simply don't know. an american airlines that was supposed to leave this afternoon from brussels canceled that was 7:51 because the airport has been devastated. last count we have 11 people dead at the airport and 25 or more in the other metro attack. by the way, euro control, brian, the european air traffic control command center is based on the backside of the airport and some of the video we have seen this morning shows the belgian tactical units maneuvering around and surrounding euro control, the air traffic control headquarters there. delta flight 80 landed in brussels, they were held on the ramp for some time today at the brussels airport, those folks have now deplaned but are out on the tarmac. delta flight 42 new york to brussels diverted to amsterdam.
i have been in touch with family and friends in brussels and the phone system as you probably have been reporting the cellphone system is largely not working for cell communications, for phone -- for phone call verbal communications. some folks are texting and using the what's app application, but most of the friends and family members i have in brussels have checked in and are safe. there is, however, a school lockdown throughout the entire brussels area. so probably no safer place for the kids than staying put and in place at their neighborhood schools, keeping a mind as is typical for so many european countries, kids there ride the subway or ride the trains to different towns to go to school. just because you live in town a doesn't mean you go to school in that town, you may go to school in another town on the other side of the city. it's not uncommon for kids to commute across the city from one town to another town. so now all those kids have been
put in a lock down, nobody is allowed to leave what ever so, euro star service has been suspended as well as you would expect. brian, over on the "today" show we've been talking also about just the culture and the feeling in belgium. and i can tell you from a personal experience over the last 25 years, you know, a lot of belgians feel like they've lost that sense of being belgian or what it is to be belgian has been changing because there are so many folks, refugees coming in from countries that really are home to these islamic terrorist keep type of activities, that many of these refugees have been coming into belgium, they are not vetted well, given a generous stipend to live off of and then authorities lose track of them. there is no secret in talking about the fact that many belgians themselves would say that their government and the judicial system and the police forces, plural, are in many ways dysfunctional. this series of emergency situations we've seen over the
last four months has really brought that to the fore. back to you. >> tom costello, thank you. by the way, tom, there is -- we continue to get new video and still photographs in and while you were talking we got some new video in. a lot of it shows the immediate aftermath. this is when the smoke was very thick, a stroller in the foreground, someone also lying on the ground in the foreground. we saw also while you were talking pictures of people on the carmack, even people who had been forced outside because of what happened inside, people who had gotten off planes, people who were about to board and now, tom, also another kind of fact of life is after an attack like this we have bomb threats, people get motivated for some
twisted reason to try to add to the confusion. we get everything done through caution, so if there's the slightest mechanical with an aircraft, if there's the slightest question about a bag, things seem to grind more slowly. >> hey, brian. >> yeah. >> i'm sorry. i have just lost you, i'm sorry. are you there, brian? >> yes, i am, tom. >> i'm sorry. let me just -- can we go back to those images from inside the terminal. i know this term edge extraordinarily well, not only do i fly in and out of it routinely, regularly through the year, but my wife used to work there. you are looking at the main terminal as you arrive at the brussels airport and when you do arrive there are about three or four lanes you can go down to check in with the various airlines and that's what you're looking at here. those ropes divide the various airline lines.
so if you are an american airlines passenger you could be standing next to somebody boarding a will you halouvre ta flight or ba flight. the collateral damage would spread to every possible airline. it looks like that bomber may have been near the starbucks which i've stood by many times in the terminal. >> talk about soft targets, unfortunately, that's where a mass of people can be found and by definition they stand cheek by jaul snaking back and forth between those stanchions. tom, thank you for joining our reporting. >> fbi veteran don borelli is with us. he has worked foreign and domestic. these days he's senior vp at the sue fan group which provides strategic security int neellige
to individuals. don, what strikes you looking at what we're covering this morning and looking at these pictures and knowing the threat as you do? >> well, you just -- you have to go back to a few days ago when the belgians made those arrests, they raided those safe houses, they found remnants of explosives, they found weapons and so -- and it seemed to be that an attack was imminent and surely they could not have rounded up everybody involved and this just speaks to the -- how many people that they have to keep track of and the nature of this network. all of the foreign fighters that are coming into europe and particularly those that are in belgium that have the training and the motivation and everybody has said it this morning, soft targets. and that's where the real danger
is and we have no shortage of them here in the u.s. as well. >> so, don, i've been asking all of our security consultants during the coverage these past few hours and i will ask you, too. is this -- is this a statement to say, you know, you've picked up one of our guys, look at what we can do without breaking a sweat? >> well, i'm not so sure if it's that or if it was a bit of a reaction because they -- when the belgians went in they captured people alive, they captured physical evidence that of course they're exploiting for lead purposes and what happened in the -- you saw it in the french attacks, there were a number of raids that followed and a number of people that were captured and anybody that was on the brink of launching an attack or providing some operational support either was captured or they were on the run or had to change their plans. so i think if i had to guess that this attack was a result of
that. it had been in the planning stages for a while, however, it was triggered by the notion that if they didn't act soon possibly they could have been compromised by people that were either providing -- now providing intelligence to the belgians or from evidence that was seized and exploited. >> knowing what you know, this may be unanswerable, do you think it's finite or part of a chain? >> well, ultimately i think it's finite, but we don't know how long the chain is. >> yeah. that's the problem with these kinds of things. and soft targets, it's the front of the airport where we arrive, where we get in the initial cue, where we line up for the ticket counter to use the kiosks, where we line up for tsa or its equivalent overseas. again, that's a vulnerable spot we keep learning over and over. >> it is a vulnerable spot, but,
you know, it's very difficult to -- you know, how do you -- what's the alternative? so you take and you bring the ring farther out and then you have -- so you start doing security checks even before people get to the airport and i've seen -- there are some countries that do that, that will do car stops when you're getting into the airport area before you even get to the parking lot. unfortunately, then, you have a cue of, you know, cars lining up and now that presents an opportunity for a car bomb type of attack. so, you know, the real key here, you can keep bringing this ring farther and farther away from the airport or any other target, but the real key is intelligence and breaking up these networks before somebody gets the bomb on their back and can walk in the door. >> don, what will the fbi role be in this? are they there already, will
they come in to help with forensics or logistics or anything? >> there are fbi people in france, in belgium. of course, they will be offering whatever support is necessary in terms of whether it's just sharing intelligence or analysis of the evidence and at home we will also be stepping up our intelligence gathering, looking at all the people that are on the radar here at home just so see if there's anything remotely connected to what happened over there and if there is obviously that information will be shared. >> don borelli former fbi, formerly of the joint terrorism task force. don, thank you. always a pleasure, but we thank you for stopping by and giving us your expertise. >> andrea mitchell our chief foreign affairs correspondent is traveling with president obama and of course that again this
morning means havana cuba as worlds collide. andrea, yesterday it was the story of the president in havana, juxtaposed against the domestic presidential campaign. today we have all of those different components combined with a terrorist attack we woke up so from brussels. what are we expecting to hear? what have we already heard from the traveling white house? >> reporter: the president was of course awakened and told very early this morning about what was happening. susan rice the national security adviser, john kerry the secretary of state of course all of them here. they immediately were in touch with their counterparts in belgium and throughout the european people because this is a french, belgium and potentially western european problem of course as well. england we know that david cameron immediately assembled the top secret national security
group known as cobra at number 10 and this has big implications for europe, not only the failure of european security which this entails and that is very apparent to u.s. officials, they won't say so publicly but u.s. intelligence officials clearly pretty surprised that after salah abdeslam's arrest on friday in belgium after they found that cache of weapons, there was a bigger cell than they originally thought, there was no apparent extra security at key check points going into that airport. you will recall, brian, after 9/11 we all at major airports had to stop on the road into the terminal arrival and departure areas and cars were being stopped and checked before you could go even with your uncleared bag damage and check in and none of that was clearly done at brussels, even despite this important juncture.
the president now has his schedule, not changed yet, he is supposed to speak around 10:00 this morning and the speech broadcast to the cuban people. as he's been saying this morning there has to be a component at the top of that speech where he will address this. so they are rewriting a speech that was to be the centerpiece of this trip. no other changes in the schedule so far, he is still scheduled to meet with visiting groups privately, we don't know what's going to happen to that baseball game. then he was planning to go to argentina. john kerry is taping an interview with our sister station telemundo and that is going to be done sometime around 8:45, 9:00 eastern, it is not live, it will be taped and carried back here and played back for all of us to see and he will certainly be asked about what's happening and what the u.s. is going to do next.
brian, this is obviously a human crisis, it is a national security cries and also a political crisis. i once thought that the rise of donald trump politically really coincided the aftermath of the paris attacks, the fact that he came out so strongly against migrants, against immigration and against the white house because the white house now acknowledges the president did not respond quickly enough to the paris attacks. just in terms of the optics of reassuring the nation. then we had san bernardino and you saw donald trump on the "today" show already this morning saying that he would use torture against salah abdeslam if he were president and if he were commanding in chief. i think the politics as you say and national security, foreign terror and the threat and fears of that that is engendered around the world especially with our close connection to western europe certainly all coming together and here we are in havana. >> absolutely. andrea mitchell, thank you for
that. andrea mitchell with the president in havana. for today the president just completed his second and final night in cuba. david ignatius of the "washington post" has been kind and generous enough to hang around with us. david, approbo the conversation we had with andrea, this reminds us that the world is a very serious and dining rouse place and as you and i have been saying this morning dreading this will splash up against and get mixed up with our domestic race for president today. i'm a little surprised it hasn't already but the morning is young. >> i fear that candidates like donald trump who really have made such strides by arguing let's close off the world, let's keep dangerous people out of america, even saying let's distance ourselves from nato,
trump said that yesterday on a visit to the "washington post" that we will hear more of that rhetoric. i would urge viewers to consider the united states has really the only effective global intelligence gathering network that's available and our european allies as they try to think of how to react to this terrible attack today are going to look to the united states for a kind of support that only the u.s. can give, and it's important that we be there for them and i hope that that will shape the debate during the political campaign season. recognizing how much the world needs a strong and connected united states as it tries to deal with these very adaptive, very dangerous groups. >> and yet, david, you can just hear people saying this is exactly what we're talking about. this is what we don't want to bring to the united states. >> they will say that. obviously protecting the united states is the first thing any
american president needs to think about, but protecting the united states can't simply be a question of our own borders. it's got to have some forward capability, we've got to work with partners or as we've seen on 9/11 these threats do come to us. >> david ignatius, foreign affairs columnist, associate editor for "the washington post." thank you so very much for joining us for our coverage. what has become this long morning. and speaking of the affect of this story and how it will get filtered through the race for president and by that most people these days mean what will donald trump say about it, donald trump addressed it this morning on "today." >> they have in belgium a guy by the name of salah abdeslam in custody right now, he is said to be the man to planned the paris attacks of november 13th. they have him in custody. what would you say would be appropriate in terms of what
they can do to him at this moment to get any information they can about possible further attacks? >> well, i would say they should be able to do whatever they have to do. they have to get the information. and i would say they should be able to do whatever they have to do. >> be specific, if you will. >> they won't do that because the laws are so liberal over there. they won't do that, but they should be able to do whatever they have to do to get him to give the information and the very sad thing is he was being guarded and protected by people that were a few doors away from where he lived and they were protecting him and they were guarding him and it was lucky they were able to find him and he was planning another attack, but they didn't find him because people turned him in, those people were guarding him and protecting him. that's not supposed to be the way the system works. >> when you say do whatever they have to do can you be specific? what do you mean by that? >> well, i'm not looking for breaking news on your shows but frankly the water boarding if it was up to me and if we changed the laws or have the laws water
boarding would be fine and as long as it's -- because, you know, we work within laws. they don't work within laws. they have no laws. >> you heard the voices there of matt lauer and savannah guthrie. that was donald trump and his initial reaction this morning on "today" on nbc, which brings us to malcolm nance again. malcolm, all the time you have spent with u.s. military there, you heard it again, donald trump advocating for enhanced interrogation techniques as a way of dealing with this kind of thing and here already it's intertwined with our campaign. >> let me clarify something right off the bat. salah abdeslam may have had a stroke of conscience while he was supposed to carry out his attack during the paris attacks. he dumped his suicide bomb vest, he rendered safe that bomb vest by removing the debt senator, he
dumped his cellphone and then he went to brussels. we don't have any intelligence that he was part of an operational planning cell or was a commander in any way. so capturing him was probably just capturing somebody who went on the run. but for the most part this is why isis isolates its operation cells away from each other. so that one person who may have been compromised will not know what the others are doing. another thing, as a former member of the u.s. intelligence community and the u.s. armed forces, we cannot be ordered to commit war crimes. you cannot change the laws to make us dishonor ourselves by committing war crimes. we have already gone down the path as general haden said just a few weeks ago the united states military and the central intelligence organizations and national intelligence will not carry these orders out again. so all of this bluster is not helping us, it is playing great in raqqah, but it is not going to play well in the european union or the united states. >> well, that was my next question. do you really think it is
playing overseas? >> good god, they're probably cutting videos of this right now. donald trump right now is validating the cartoonish view that they tell their operatives and terrorists that the united states is a racist nation, zeen owe phobic, anti-muslim and that's why you must carry out terrorist attacks against them in defense of their version of islam. this is detrimental to the counterterrorism and anti-terrorism missions around the world. there are intelligence officers right now that are going to have to contend with their partners over what's being said during the u.s. presidential race. it's irresponsible and it needs to stop. he needs to consult with general flynn who i understand he has been talking to from defense intelligence agency and get a broader view about this, but this is not helping us at all. >> and yet you see the temptation to look at these pictures, to go on television today in this country and say this is exactly what i'm talking about, this is exactly what we must keep from our shores.
>> sure, but this is a fight. this is a fight between two ideologies. even though isis has this corrupt ideology where they believe they are in a clash of civilizations with western civilizations and christianity they are also in a fight with islam. they are an existential threat to islam. it's that 30% of the population in mole lnbeek they are there. they are not covering for isis, they are going to be the victim population of isis. sighs believes if they don't join their cause that they should be killed just as quickly along with the rest of the west. so for the most part isis itself is now seeing these strategic punches that they're throwing at europe and may throw at the united states in the future as being -- you know, as being -- it's strengthened by some of the rhetoric that's coming out of the u.s. politicians. if they care about our armed forces, they care about the u.s. intelligence process and our european allies they will know
as commander in chief they have to tone down the rhetoric so we can get to the job with hunting and killing these people. >> every few minutes we get new viewers waking up and joining us who are coming to the grips with the fact that we have had another terrorist attack, this time overseas. the question to you, malcolm, is why belgium? >> belgium is per capita the largest contributor of members into the islamic state group. the sue fan group estimated they had 470 operatives come from just that region, that area west of belgium, molenbeek which is a heavily populated north african zone, young men who adopted this cult ideology of isis, went over to syria and started fighting for them. estimates were that there are as many as 510 total members. they will formed small groups and small cells within syria as we heard from mr. cavanaugh a little earlier, as many as 90 of
them formed a belgian operations group because they could infiltrate back into europe using their known identities, their known passports and can coordinate with french operatives who are over there and use the laws of europe against them. however, this is a micro nucleus of people who are infiltrated a peaceful society and it does not reflect on the people who are there themselves, even the immigrant community. >> richard engel has rejoined us, i'm happy to report. richard, what are, as you look at europe, we've been talking about belgium as this hot bed, where are the others? >> well, frankly there are many. london is considered one of the most important, also parts of germany, france, it's almost -- there's almost no country in europe right now that is completely isis-free because right now europe is operating with open borders.
so people will move from country to country. i was just told from senior counterterrorism source you remember the american we have been reporting on him a lot recently who went to syria through turkey, ended up in iraq trying to join isis. i was told that he made his initial contact with isis in london and that u.s. investigators are looking at the contacts he made. but it was in europe, in this case in london, where he first made his contact with isis. so is there one place, one capital in europe, molenbeek is certainly a capital but there are many pockets of the group. going back to what malcolm nance was saying a few moments ago there is going to be this temptation, there is going to be this pressure from the right wing in this country and other countries to demonize the entire muslim community. it only makes it worse. it only drives people
underground, it only creates a bigger pool for isis to operate in. one of the main reasons that we haven't seen thousands of people leave this country like there have been thousands of people leaving europe is that traditionally this country has been very accommodating and muslim immigrants who have come here have generally felt like they can get a share shake in this society and that the american dream is open to them, whereas there have been many communities in europe where they don't feel that way, where they don't feel connected to the society and the more disconnected ghetto-ised communities you have the more dangerous it is. >> malcolm nance, the act that there is a proposal to ban muslims from admission to the united states, quote, until we get it figured out, until we get it straightened out, is that in and of itself is a kind of recruiting tool? >> it absolutely is a recruiting
tool. what is it that we have to get figured out? all right. u.s. intelligence has been on this mission, i have been on this mission for 26 years, okay, since 1991. there is nothing here that we have to figure out. there's one thing to sift through the intelligence and find out who are the operatives that are trying to plan to come here. that is an intelligence-driven mission, the intelligence that we derive comes from our arab and middle east south asia allies and with that the intelligence process goes through, sifts through that information, collects technical intelligence where we can find it and then with that information we can focus down with law enforcement and try to find the operatives who are carrying out these plots, but if the intelligence community is hampered because no one wants to share with us, because no one trusts us, because they think that we have ulterior motives, this is why we had green on blue attacks in afghanistan where they were infiltrating people into the afghan army and they
would take out a gun and shoot their american allies who were sitting right next to them. we've lost intelligence officers and special forces soldiers this way. we are working in the defense of this region, they are not working to overthrow this region. as i said earlier the rhetoric of a potential commander in chief has got to jive with how we are going to defend ourselves and how we have been defending ourselves generally successfully for the last 25 years. >> we're now joined by once again our justice correspondent pete williams. pete, what have you gathered? >> brian, what we've been told is that several airports and operators of subway systems and trains and commuter train systems in the u.s. are on their own stepping up security. we've seen it for ourselves at dulles airport just outside washington, d.c., the main international airport and the largest airport in the d.c. area. it's in new york. it's in chicago as well. more visible police officers,
more dog teams in airports, also in subway stations, train stations, on commuter lines coming into these cities. these are steps that these cities are taking on their own. the federal government is keeping local authorities informed of what's known about the brussels attacks and we've seen a lot of those messages and frankly it's mainly passing along what's been reported in the news media or what's on social media, it isn't containing any intelligence information or anything that isn't just obvious of what's been happening here and in response local authorities are taking these measures on their own. the federal government is not recommending or calling for any changes in security procedures. they're simply urging local authorities to do what they think is appropriate. and the reason for that is that there's no intelligence indicating that attacks like the ones in brussels are planned for the u.s. it's just such a totally different security posture here in the u.s. than it is in europe
where they are really embroiled in this network of people who have been traveling in and out of western europe into steer i can't. american intelligence has estimated that nearly 7,000 people from western countries have gone into syria since the hostilities there started in 2012 and they're freely traveling back and forth among european countries. that is the immense security challenge and fortunately we don't face anything like that in the u.s., it's just simply overwhelming the authorities there. but in terms of security here in the u.s., if you're traveling today, if you're flying today, you probably are not going to have a much different experience at the airport. the security lines may be a little longer because they are a little slower. we often see that at these times of crisis where there is a little extra scrutiny given to things, things get a second look that ordinarily might not but you will see more visible security in the major airports.
other than that the flying experience, the experience of using the subway or taking a commuter train or other kinds of mass transit is probably not going to be very different. a couple of other quick points here, brian. the aid straighter of tsa coincidentally is in brussels today. he was there in europe for meetings with his european counterparts, he's safe, we were told he was not at the airport today and he is now we're told at the u.s. embassy in brussels. as far as american casualties, we have not heard of any confirmed reports of people from the u.s. either killed or injured. one thing that the tsa is trying to do right now is do a roll call of their federal who were supposed to be in brussels today, inbound or passing through or outbound flights. federal air marshals are in the world constantly especially in flights coming into the u.s.
they're doing their safety checks right now, it takes a while because some people are on duty and off duty, but we have not heard of any casualties among american officials either. >> pete, that was a lot. thank you for your reportings. tom costello, let's go back to him, he covers aviation for us, tom. >> phlegm i wish television vtm is reporting that a possible undetonated suicide belt may have been found at the airport and police are looking for a possible suspect on the loose. that is flemish television, not nbc news reporting that. the brussels airport is in flemish territory. brussels is bi lingual city. talking to flemish police on the ground it looks like there may have been an undetonated suicide belt and they are looking for a possible suspect.
i don't think that i just wanted to emphasize one more time that all flights that were going into brussels from the united states have either landed safety or been dee toured to other airports and all of those individuals are safe. brian, we have gotten quite a few phone calls and tweets and e-mails from as you would expect parents nervous about kids studying abroad in brussels and companies that have international employees overseas because the cellphone connections right now cell phones are sketchy at best. from family who are on the ground in brussels they believe that the police shut down the phone system but that's just speculation on the ground. i can tell you that 16 university of missouri students are safe according to the university. the free university of brussels has decided to evacuate the premises, that's really kind of in the heart of brussels it's not really that close to the european commission or the subway mole maelbeek which is where that bomb exploded.
most of the schools between kindergarten up to college those kids are staying in school. kindergarten through high school they are in a lock down situation, it's thought they are probably in no better, no safer place in their school rooms with their teachers and in a secure and safe environment as the police continue to not only treat the wounded but search for potentially more suspects and potentially more explosives. you know, i made this analogy a short time ago, brian, but you can imagine the terror and you remember the terror we felt on 9/11. those of us -- i was in new york at the time, but those of us across the country and especially on the east coast when we lost -- the subway system was shut down, there was no way to get around, you are in a state of emergency with armed police and paramilitary units on the street and the terror we felt, i think that is very much the way belgians are feeling right now, they are in the midst of a critical emergency, perhaps
the most acute terrorist attack that belgium has seen certainly since world war ii, i believe, and they are right now reeling from that stress and panic and terror. back to you. >> they sure are. tom, the advice often you hear people say after an incident with a plane, after, god forbid, a plane crash that it's probably the safest time to fly following an incident. i don't know if that holds where we've seen a terrorist incident with all the american, say, parents of traveling college kids, it's a tough bit of advice to tell them. >> you know, this one hits close to home for me as you and i discussed earlier because my wife and kids are belgian and we go back to brussels all the time and we have already planned out a summer trip as we do every year and the first thing that my wife said to me this morning is, number one, thank god my sister
doesn't work at the airport anymore because she used to as my wife did, and thank god our kids aren't there this morning or traveling there this morning. but you can imagine everybody having second thoughts about what has always been a very, very safe country in the heart of europe and has been really the heart of democracy in post world war 2 europe and that's why they based the european union and european commission there. now all of that's -- all of that's been shattered and the fear that there may be more suspects on the loose with dozens potentially dozens of isis operators in either belgium or in france and who notes what their agenda might be and it is incredibly easy to blend into a group of folks with backpacks in europe because as you know they are everywhere in train stations and in airports and detonate something. they don't live in a military type of encampment, it is a
democratic and open society and they are struggling with that this morning. >> we're looking at eu flags visible. >> that's the main route through the heart of brussels right into the european commission. if i'm not mace taken having taken some graduate classes right down that street the eu is right down and to the left, although the truth of the matter is there are krut democratic buildings on both sides. there's the eu capital right there, ec, european union headquarters which is about six, seven miles from the brussels airport. >> tom costello, thanks. we are just past the 9:00 hour east coast, 6:00 a.m. on the west coast and here is a recap of the story. the tragedy we woke up to this morning. the death toll stands at 26 from explosions this morning