tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN March 22, 2016 3:00pm-4:01pm PDT
happening now, breaking news. transit terror attacks. terrorists strike at the heart of a major european capital with coordinating bombings targeting an airport and a subway station. dozens of people are dead, hundreds are injured and are more attacks imminent? terrorists escape. a manhunt for a suspect seen in white next to two suspected suicide bombers. raid uncover a nail bomb, chemical products and an isis flag. did isis leaders order these attacks? missed signals? the deadly new attacks coming days after the arrest of a key suspect in the paris massacre, raising concern about other terrorists investigators may have overlooked. was this a revenge attack? were there missed signals?
and america on alert. heightened security and new precautions as law enforcement moves to protect potential targets here in the united states. president obama being briefed on the crisis as federal officials deploy special teams to u.s. airports. is it enough, though, to stop potential terrorist strikes? we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." this is cnn breaking news. >> the breaking news tonight, deadly terror attacks right in the heart of europe. isis is claiming responsibility for bombings in brussels that killed at least 30 people at the city's main airport and at a subway station near the european parliament. suicide bombers are believed to have carried out the attacks but a manhunt is now under way for a third suspect seen here in white next to two suspected airport
bombers. sources tell cnn the brussels terrorists are believed to be tied to the network behind the paris attacks last november. these latest attacks have the united states right now on heightened alert. the tsa is increasing security at airports and train stations across the country. deploying special units that include advanced screening technology and bomb-sniffing dogs. we're covering all of this, much more this hour with our guests including republican presidential candidate john kasich and congressman h ererd the homeland security committee. experts are also standing by. let's get to our justice correspondent pamela brown, she begins our breaking news coverage this hour. pamela, these are devastating strikes right in the heart of europe. what's the latest? >> that's right. counterterrorism officials say this is the new normal in europe. we learn authorities raided a home believed to be connected to the attackers based ed on a tip. officials have not ruled out this being an isolated incident.
this airport surveillance picture shows three men suspected in a terror attacks in brussels today. belgian officials say the two men in black carried out the suicide attack at the airport and they believe the black gloves they're wearing on their left hands may have been to conceal the detonators. right now, a massive manhunt is under way for the man in the white jacket on the right. investigators found a nail bomb, chemical product, and an isis flag during a house search connected to the men. the first explosion ripped through the crowded brussels airport at 8:00 a.m. sending people running for their lives. the halls of the terminal filled with smoke. terrified passengers dropped to the floor and huddled together. >> i heard an explosion. the first bomb. >> reporter: minutes later, a second blast inside the airport. >> i hear an explosion and all
of a sudden, going down, i went under the sink and the second explosion went and everything is black. >> reporter: an hour later just a few miles away at the maalbeek metro station in the heart of brussels, a third explosion. the tunnel filled with smoke as passengers tried to find their way through the dar to safety. >> i can't, can't explain. it looked like war. it's unbelievable. it's unbelievable. >> reporter: brussels is put on lockdown. >> trar: feared a terrorist attack would hap and . at the artnd at a metro station in brussels,rists have committed murder. >> reporter: the maalbeek metro station is a short distance from where police raided an apartment and captured salah abdeslam l week, one of t suspected s in the paris terrorist attacks last november. investigators believe the same terror network is responsible for today's attacks. as victims in brussels, some
wrapped in blankets, are transported to safety, police fan out across the city searching for anyone who was involved. >> i'm so scared. i feel like it's the end of the world. >> and investigators believe these attacks were already in the works before abdeslam was arrested and then accelerated after his arrest last friday. investigators said over the weekend that abdeslam was cooperating but the question remains how much he knew about these attacks there this morning. wolf? >> pamela brown, thanks very much. we're also learning new details about the police raids that have been unfolding in the wake of the terror attacks. our senior international correspondent fred pleitgen is in brussels for us tonight. fred, what's the latest where you are? >> reporter: hi, wolf. well this is the raid where as pamela just said there was apparently a nail bomb discov discovered, c an isis flag. it was a raid going on for a very long time throughout the ternooourussels time. that is actually still going on
right now. on the pne authorities just a minutes a and said this is still very much an operation that is going on. there was a lot of movement a couple of hours ago when a police chopper was hovering over the area here and had an open door and a sniper taking aim at something out of that chopper. also a search light was on in that helicopter as well. since that chopper has left. however, there's a lot of movement on the ground. we've seen a lot of police vehicles going in and out of that area. the most recent thing that we've seen was a decontamination vehicle. one of the things that was found was chemicals inside, possibly that was the reason why that decontamination unit was on the scene here, but, again, it's clear what they found here so far. it's not clear whether or not anybody's taken into custody yet. we have been on the phone with the authorities literally just a couple minutes ago, wolf, and have not confirmed to us that anybody arrested at this site or whether they might have found an empty apartment with these chemicals and that nail bomb as
well, wolf. >> massive manhunt under way right now throughout belgium, not only in brussels. thanks very much for that, fred mi pleitgen. we're getting new news into the brussels terror bombings. evan perez is working his sources. evan, what are you hearing? >> wolf, we're told belgian authorities have shared the names of several people of interest with u.s. authorities and authorities elsewhere. those names are now being run through databases here in the united states to see if there's anything known about them. we know that the authorities are still working on finalizing identification of the names of the bombers. the bombers who carried out these attacks in belgium. we know at this point authorities have also looked through all the video, surveillance vid and have managed to track l he movements of the three men that we saw o camera there in that vid video, or that picture that was released by belgianauthorities. out o a taxhen t moving th thehaiort. the two men stay behind and
carry out the two bombings that we have at the brussels airport. the third man leaves the airport apparently that was the plan all along. we now know also, wolf, that three, at least three people are being sought by belgian authorities aies with connectio this plot. they also do believe, wolf, there was a wider network at work here in this attack. >> all right, evan, thanks very much. evan perez joining us. joining us, republican congressman will herd of texas, member of the house homeland security committee, a former clandestine cia arrest, worked elsewhere.dle east and thanks for joining us. >> tnks for vi me on. >> the working assumption, a source tells cnn, these attaam from the same overall group responsible for the paris massacres last november. that's pretty worrisome and the suspicion is there may be a lot more of these cells out there.
>> that's one of the problems. i guarantee you what's happening right now that we're gathering all the information that we have on these three suspects. any information that was gleaned from some of these raids that are already happening to make sure that we're sharing as much information has we can with our colleagues in brussels. >> how sophisticated was this operation? >> i think it was fairly sophisticated. we're going to find out in the next couple days after we do the analysis of how they did this and we're going to take that information to ensure we protect -- if we see these tactics, techniques and procedures other places we could defend. >> could the u.s. be next? >> it can. listen, there have been 80 isis members arrested in the united states. there have been isis-linked plots against western targets, a good number of those against the united states. isis wants to attack the u.s. that's why we have to make sure we double down in iraq and syria, that we stop isis from having the ability to plot,
plan, and train -- >> you think isis headquarters in raqqah, abu al baghdadi? >> we have to make sure we keep these guys on the run. this is connected to bashar al assad, the president in syria. the reason you have 4 million refugees that are impacting the borders of our european partners is because the situation that bashar is creating. you know, that's making things a ripe environment for isis to plan and train. all this is connected. >> you used to work at the cia, now you're a member of congress. i want you to listen to what donald trump just told me in the last hour about waterboarding and torture to try to elicit information from terrorists. >> i think we have to change our law on, you know,s the waterboarding thing where they can chop off heads and they can drown people in cages and heavy
steel cages, and we can't waterboard. so we have to change our law and we have to be able to fight at least on an almost equal basis. we have laws that we have to obey in terms of torture. they have no laws whatsoever they have to obey -- >> so would you start torturing him right away or would you see if he would cooperate and share information? because belgium authorities, belgium police say he has been talking. >> well, he may be talking but he'll talk a lot faster with the torture -- >> talking about salah abdeslam, who belgian police say has started talking, giving information. do you agree with mr. trump? >> there are many other ways to collect intelligence to continue to protect us. this is a sign we need to capture more people. having a drone, air strike-only policy, is preventing us from being able to collect valuable intelligence that we could get from these folks about what their plans are, how they've been training, what the next
steps are, and that's one reason that we need to be having more folks on the ground to capture some of these guys because it's great intelligence. >> would your former pals over at the cia want to be able to use waterboarding? again, they did the waterboarding, the u.s. military was not thorauthorized to engag waterboarding after 9/11. cia personnel did. do you think they want to do it again? >> i don't think there are many people who would want to do that. there are a number of ways of collecting intelligence. the way to do this, figure out the motivation of why they would want to cooperate with us and these individuals know they're not seeing the light of day any time soon. so there are a number of tactics that you can use before even having to consider or think about that option. >> is security tight enough at u.s. airports? you're on the homeland security committee. what we saw at the major international airport in brussels today, guys apparently just walked in before they went through any security, they were there with their carts near the baggage -- at the arrivals and
they just blew themselves up. >> i sat on a task force that looked at foreign fighters going to fight in iraq and syria and one of the things that we learned is that it's night and day difference between how europeans do things and how we do things. europeans were only checking one out of every three travel documents. they weren't -- they were sharing information of only convicted terrorists, not suspect terrorists so what we need to be doing is working with our european partners so that their standards get to our standards because that's going to make everybody safer. >> congressman hurd, thanks very much for coming in. >> thank you, wolf. >> the breaking news continues in "the situation room." the presidential candidates reacts tonight to the brussels terror attacks. republican presidential candidate john kasich, he's standing by live. we'll discuss with him. also heightened security in the united states tonight including special tsa units deployed to airports across the country. is it enough, though, to prevent an isis-related terror attack?
republican and democratic presidential candidates, they are reacting tonight to the terror attacks in brussels that killed at least 30 people and injured almost 300 others. sources telling cnn the bombings are believed to be tied to the same terror network behind the paris massacre last november. let's get some more, joining us, republican presidential candidate, the ohio governor, john kasich. governor, thanks very much for joining us. lots to discuss. i want to quickly get your reaction to what we just heard from donald trump. he says bring back waterboarding and other forms of torture to question these terrorists who are out there. your reaction. >> well, the intelligence experts don't believe that is the answer. they do believe there are proper
techniques to get information and the fact is what we really need is we need a much more coordinated intelligence worldwide. we need to make sure that we involve everybody who is detested and outrageoused ee ee murderers and people in the muslim community who see them as abhorrent as we do. better intelligence coordinated worldwide. frankly, wolf, if i were president, i would have come home from cuba then what i would have done is called all the world leaders and sent my intelligence and military experts to europe to find out our vulnerabilities then move in the direction of being able to correct them, at the same time, we've got to go after isis. we cannot continue to do this in an off-put way. we have to do this, go in the air and on the ground with a coalition to destroy this group. >> if the president of the united states would have cut short his visit to cuba, governor, wouldn't that have
been a victory for isis and the terrorists? couldn't they have said, look at how powerful we are, we're forcing the president of the united states to cut short an important historic visit to cuba. >> no, i think we have to take this very seriously. this is an attack on western civilization, an attack on -- you know, in the heart of europe. when you go to brussels, you're attacking the very heart of europe. i think the president should have come back. come back now and begin to talk to the leaders of europe. we're all in this together. you know, when people in europe bleed and die a little bit of us bleeds and dies as well. this is a serious matter. it needs to be taken seriously. these islamist extremists need to be destroyed, and we're not going to be -- we shouldn't be playing some sort of a political game here. we need to be very focused, very determined, very calm and absolutely be willing to take action. >> senator cruz says that police throughout the united states should start special patrols in what we calls muslim
neighborhoods looking for terrorists. you agreed with him on that? >> no, i don't think we should be patrolling muslim neighborhoods. i don't even know how you would do it. secondly, let's face facts. we need help and we need intelligence from everybody and there are people in the muslim community who will give us that kind of intelligence. we're also going to need muslims to be part of our coalition to destroy isis. the wrong approach right now is to create a situation where we polarize people who are really on our side. so we've got to be cool, calm, and collected. you know, i spent 18 years on the armed services committee. i understand how much of this works. we don't need to be alienating people who can be partners in us being able to destroy these vicious murderers. >> i take it you also disagree with mr. trump who just a little while ago told me he still believes there should at least be a temporary ban on muslims coming into the united states.
>> look, the fact is we need to make sure that our visa program is good. the visa waiver program should be examined. i don't know how you're going to have a religious test. the fact is if we have intelligence we need, the effective intelligence along with our counterterrorism task force, giving them the tools they need, that's the best way for us to proceed. to start having a religious test isn't going to work, in fact, it can backfire. frankly, just yesterday mr. trump said we ought to sort of reduce our activity around nato. we need to strengthen nato. we need to strengthen the western countries. look, we need to stay cool, calm, and collected but we need to move decisively to enhance intelligence, to make sure that we're rebuilding our military, to take action as a group against isis and be able to have the kind of worldwide cooperation we need to get ahead of this.
now, our big problem, of course, are the homegrown and the lone wolf terrorists and that's where we in the neighborhoods can pay attention, alert law enforcement. those are the things i think we need to do and do them expeditiously and that's why i think the president should be very much on top of this and send a group of our best and brightest over there to meet with the europeans and get things under better control. >> because as you know, one of the most frustrating things about nato they have far as an organization refused to fight isis. they got involved in afghanistan. they never got involved in iraq. they're refusing, at least so far, the nato allies to fight and destroy isis. you would try to change that? >> well, first of all, they did participate in the first gulf war, of course. >> in the first -- that was a long time ago. >> it was. it was a long -- >> isis is a big threat. you don't see nato as an organization fighting isis. >> i think that's a problem, wolf, and i don't want to be
partisan here or appear political, but it is because the president, himself, has not gathered our allies and led. you know, we felt that we should have been declared the attack on france was an attack on us. i don't think the french ever sort of bought into that. they didn't know where we were going to stand. listen, it's an ex tistential threat to europe and existential threat to arab countries in the east and it's up to the president to rally them because frankly, here's what it gets do to in some ways. we're going to hang together or hang separately. the countries and their populations understand it and need to take a terrible situation and pull people together and i believe as president, i could do that. >> governor kasich, thanks very much for joining us. >> thank you, wolf. god bless the people over there and the americans who've been injured. we'll rise and we will stop these people. >> thank you very much. john kasich of ohio.
we'll have more on the breaking news coming up. we're getting new details right now of the investigation into the terror attacks in brussels. are they connected to the arrest just a few days ago of a prime suspect in the paris attacks? and how vulnerable are u.s. airports and subway stations right now? we're taking a closer look at new security measures being put in place tonight. it took joel silverman years to become a master dog trainer. but only a few commands to master depositing checks at chase atms. technology designed for you. so you can easily master the way you bank. aren't moving in the right direction,bers it can be a burden. but what if you could wake up to lower blood sugar? imagine loving your numbers.
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this is cnn breaking news. >> we're following the breaking news, deadly terror bombings in brussels. the belgian capital. right in the heart of europe. coordinated attacks on the city's main international airport and a subway station that have left at least 30 people dead and hundreds of people injured. the attacks believed carried out by suicide bombers, a manhunt under way tonight for another suspect who was caught on camera. isis is claiming responsibility for the bombings. sources tell cnn they're believed to have been tied to the same terror network behind the paris massacre last november. cnn's brian todd is working the story for us. brian, 30 people dead. hundreds of people injured. you're getting new information. what are you learning? >> new information, wolf. these attacks were devastating at both locations. what we're learning tonight is a possible connection not only to the wider networks suspected of pulling off the paris attacks, but a possible connection to friday's capture of a top paris suspect.
seconds after an explosion at brussels international airport, smoke, chaos, and screams filled the terminal. a witness describes emerging from a bathroom at the airport after a second explosion and seeing carnage everywhere. >> when i go out, i see all -- a lot of people with blood and i just go -- just run out of the airport. yeah, and all the building there is, like, like chaos there. >> reporter: the chaos captured inside in this amateur video. about an hour later, another blast rips through the maalbeek metro station. in this video, a child can be heard screaming as passengers escape through a pitch black smoke-filled tunnel. a brussels firefighter with 45 years' experience says he's never witnessed anything like the scene at the train station. >> i can't, can't explain. it looked like war. it's unbelievable. it's unbelievable. it's really hard.
>> reporter: isis quickly claimed responsibility for the brussels attacks. belgian police have released this picture of a suspect pushing a luggage cart at the airport. they say they're actively looking for him. a belgian prosecutor says he's one of three men seen together in surveillance footage. the two others, he says, probably killed themselves in the explosions. two senior u.s. officials tell cnn they believe the brussels attacks are tied to the same terror network as the one which launched the paris attacks in november. u.s. law enforcement and intelligence officials tell cnn the attacks in brussels could well have been connected to friday's capture of salah abdeslam, a chief suspect in the paris attacks. >> especially since the word is getting out that he is cooper e cooperating, that he's cooperating with the authorities, so this attack could have well been on the shelf, this planned attack to be done in the future and now they may have felt since it's going to become known, they should go with it right now. >> reporter: analysts say western capitals should brace for more attacks from isis as it
loses ground on the battlefield. >> it's going to make them more violent. more ultra violent at home to stay in power and even more inclined though they certainly already were to carry out terrorist attacks abroad. that is their way, only way of being able to inflict pain upon us. they can't face us on the battlefield. >> in its claim of responsibility isis said, "what is to come will be more devastating than brussels." they had been on high alert before this, ready, aggressively conducting raids and still couldn't stop this. wolf? >> there are some investigative threads we're picking up, brian, on the suspects at the airport. tell our viewers what you've learned. >> that's right. if you look at the surveillance pick choture of the two men on left, the other suspect they're looking for, the two men on the left who authorities say likely blew themselves up in the airport in that attack, the photo shows each man wearing only one glove. investigators tell us they think it's possible that each man's
glove hid a detonator. also after the airport attack, investigators searched a house connected to all of these men. they found a nail bomb, chemical products, and ans isis flag. >> all right, brian, thanks very much. all of this has the united states right now on heightened alert with increased security at airports and train stations across the country. cnn aviation correspondent rene marsh is over in washington's reagan national airport. there's real concern in the wake of these bombings in brussels, what are you learning? >> reporter: well, wolf, the tsa is preparing to launch a specialized group, a specialized unit at airports in major cities. so-called viper teams. they use everything from bomb-sniffing dogs to advanced specialize screening. and although the federal government says there is no threat, when you look at the procedures we're seeing across the nation, it is clear that the attacks overseas has stoked increased concerns over the u.s. transit system.
tonight, u.s. cities nationwide are on heightened alert. new york city is stepping up its police and national guard presence. high visibility anti-terrorist patrols can be seen in the subway system where officers are checking bags for explosives. signs at new york's penn station alerts passengers about random checks and the city's three major airports have heightened security as well. >> expect to see extraordinary nypd presence out over the coming days as a sign of our readiness to protect people at all times. >> reporter: airports in cities across the country including atlanta, boston, chicago, miami, and los angeles, are also ramping up their security presence. police chief patrick gannon oversees l.a.x., one of the busiest airports in the world. >> we never want to be predictable. we always feel if you're predictable, you're vulnerable. >> reporter: so-called soft targets like train stations and u.s. airports have long been a
security concern. areas like passenger drop-off, airline ticket counters, baggage claim, and all other areas before the security checkpoint are potentially susceptible. >> we employ our own intel analysts that provide us with airport-specific and transportation system specific information that helps us in our daily deployment of our officers. >> reporter: in the nation's capital, bomb-sniffing dogs and s.w.a.t. can be seen on patrol. >> the canines that are stationed here are trained, i think they're the best in the country. >> reporter: amtrak police are conducting random bag checks, an ongoing show of force around the country. and earlier today, we want to show you this video, a flight from brussels into orlando's sanford international airport was met by the authorities. the passengers were taken off that flight. their luggage left there on the
tarmac. bomb-sniffing dogs, they checked the luggage for explosives and the plane was kept very far from the terminal. this was all as a precaution, wolf. of course, that flight took off before those explosions. wolf, as we watch all of this going on, it makes it so clear and it's just proof how difficult it is to protect these so-called soft targets. >> pretty scary picture over there from orlando. all right, rene, thank you very much. let's dig deeper into all of this, joining us, our justice reporter evan perez. also with us, our global affairs correspondent elite labott, peter bergen, and michael weiss. you're getting more information, evan, right now, about how investigators were initially tipped off on what's going on. what are you learns? >> that's right, wolf. we know they were dropped off at the airport in a taxi. the authorities have been able to look at surveillance video and track down that taxi driver. he told them where he picked them up which is this address in the neighborhood of schaerbeek
where fred pleitgen has been reporting and that's how they knew to raid the house, where they found bomb components and other dangerous materials that are believed to be associated with these suspects. >> all right. everyone, stand by. we're going to take a quick break. we're also going to be hearing from hillary clinton, the democratic presidential candidate. she has very strong views on the terror attacks in brussels today. we'll be right back. don't let dust and allergies get between you
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want to get right to our global affairs correspondent, elise labott. hundreds of people either killed or injured, there were americans. you're getting new information. >> well, we already know about some americans, wolf. we know that an air force lieutenant colonel and a few of his family members, this colonel was detail to nato, were injured when they were at the airport. we also know about four missionaries, mormon missionaries, who were injured, three of them seriously. there have been no american fatalities but the state department is a little bit cautious art giving out final numbers because they tell me there's still a fair number of missing americans that they're trying to track down. they want their families are desperately trying to get in touch with them. they don't know if they're injured or haven't checked in. they don't want to give numbers yet. >> missing americans at the airport as well as the subway station? >> yes.
>> the state department did tell americans in brussels to basically shelter in place. those are their words. >> shelter in place. the embassy has been under lockdown because there's this level-four alert in brussels which is really just stay in place. >> all right. everybody stand by for a moment. earlier i spoke with the democratic presidential candidate, hillary clinton, scheduled to deliver a major speech on counterterrorism tomorrow. i asked her what the united states should be doing now to help strengthen anti-terror operations in europe to prevent terrorists from coming to the united states. >> we do have to defeat isis where they hold territory in syria and iraq. we're making progress, but we have a lot to do. we shave to shut off the flow o foreign fighters, foreign funds, foreign weapons and take them on on the internet. you know, you can put walls around your country but don't keep out the internet. that has been a major tool for radicalizing, recruiting, propagandizing that isis is quite sophisticated at using. we also have to do more to
coordinate our intelligence and law enforcement efforts with our european friends. i have experience as secretary of state in urging european nations to toughen their own laws and there's been some progress, but i would respectfully say not enough. i think after paris and this terrible event in brussels, there must be more. we also have to keep working with muslim nations because it's going to take a coalition to defde f feat isis. >> let's talk about soft targets like airports. for example, if you were president of the united states, what would you do specifically to make sure the kind of terror attack we saw today in brussels, what we saw in november in paris, what else needs to be done here in the united states? >> we have to toughen our surveillance, our interception of communication. we have to also toughen, as you say, soft targets with, you know, greater police presence. there is no getting around that. as i understand from the early
reporting, one of the two attacks was by a suicide bomber. the terrorists are getting more sophisticated about what they use in these bombs to try to escape detection like what we have at our airports. we have to continually learning and getting ahead of these thugs and criminals in order to prevent them doing what they did in brussels. >> this is what senator ted cruz, the republican presidential candidate, told me yesterday. he spoke about you. listen. >> we need a commander in chief that defends america and defending america means defeating radical islamic terrorism and defeating isis. what is completely unreasonable is barack obama and hillary clinton's consistent pattern of refusing even to say the words, radical islamic terrorism. >> all right. go ahead and respond to the senator. >> well, that's a long debate that people like him try to stir up. you know, i call it radical jihadist terrorism because, you know, it is clearly rooted in
islamic thinking that, you know, has to be contested first and foremost by muslims around the world. but i think it's a mistake. i've said that repeatedly. george w. bush said it, that to, you know, do anything that implies we are at war with an entire religion, with 1.2 billion or 4 billion people is not only wrong, it is dangerous. you know, right here at home, we need to be reaching out and including muslim-americans in communities where they live in our first line of defense. we don't need them to feel that if they hear something or see something that they can't report it. we want them to report it. we want them to be part of protecting the united states and the same goes for europe. so, you know, i think these debates about semantics really misses the point. >> we're going to continue to follow the breaking news. there's more information coming in right now on the terror attacks in belgium today. our panel is standing by. we'll be right back.
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show me funny movies. watch discovery. record this. voila. remotes you are back. the x1 voice remote is here. x1 customers get your voice remote by visiting xfinty.com/voiceremote. back with our correspondents and terrorism experts as we cover the hunt for suspects behind today's deadly terror bombings in belgium. michael weiss, we know isis has claimed public credit for this attack. let's talk about the threat here in the united states. isis trying to do something similar in the u.s. anytime soon? >> they would try. i don't know if they would be ccessful. fighters that have gone o to n join isis, much less the number that has rushed to the united states is dramatically lower than that of any country in europe.
in belgium, by contrast, i was told today 535 belgian nationals went to syria. most of them probably joining isis. of that, 200 have rusheeturned. you have these concentrated ghettoized communities where jihadi marinates. isis have said in their pr propaganda, that they plan to strike washington. essentially saying, you ain't seen nothing yet. who knows. i think we do have to be on high alert here. as a precaution. >> peter, why does belgium have such a problem with terrorism inside belgium is this what does it mean worldwide as this fight against isis continues? >> i think the problem is not
belgium obviously. they have a problem, but i mean, european countries, trans, germany, britain, we're seeing a number ofcountries. the volume of returns who have been trained by al qaoming to the uted states is very, sm. the bad news is, we've seen 60 9/11,f people ired b most since isis, mostly online. we've seen 900 investigations into terrorism in the united states, in all 50 states. we've seen isis inspired attacks but not directed in the united states in theast year and a half. so what you're seeing is a very people who are not trained are directlyyisis, but ipired by them. it's a problem. but they'reot capable of pulling off what we in brussels today. that's unlikely.
>> you're learning more about these terror attacks, and you're also hearing it could have been worse. what are you hearing? >> well, u.s. officials believe this attack was related to the network that was led by salah abdeslam. he was arrested over the weekend. if he was a mastermind of that bomb, the operating assumption is that these attackers, they have the materials, they went ahead and did it. they feel if he was not arrested this weekend, that plot could have matured, could have developed and the attacks could have been far worse with many more casualties. >> you're getting more information about what u.s. intelligence, counterintelligence, law enforcement, counterterrorism officials are prepared to do if there's a specific threat, a credible threat here in the united states. >> wolf, one of the things they're already doing is running down every single one of these people that they already have, surveillance on people they're monitoring, to make sure that
ey know exactly where they are,nd if they know whether these people are aivating to do something like this. these types of attacks are almost impossible to stop. these are the softest of targets, a metro, airport, places that are so difficult for someone to stop a suicide bomber. we're depending on law enforcement to stop them at the airport, or at the metro stop. we've already failed. >> michael, what are you hearing from your counterterrorism sources as they react to the latest attacks? >> we ran a piece in "the daily beast" citing a cia officer in the field most of these operatives have been alive. the word used to describe not just belgian intelligence, but eu-wide intelligence is something i can't repeat on primetime television. but there's a great deal of disappointment and sense that these guys aren't fit for purpose. this has been a decades-long phenomenon, the infiltration of
jihadi ideology, preaching to mosques out in the open, out in cosmopolitan european cities. if you look at the profile of salah, and more specifically of muhammad aabout you, the mastermind of the paris attacks, not particularly muslim, well educated, resorts to a life of gangsters and petty crime, goes to prison, gets radicalized in jail and comes out and meets up with a cleric. in this particular case, an afghan soviet jihad who is handing out cash disbursements of 3500 euros a pop of anyone who wants to go to syria and blow stuff up. this has been happening in europe for a very long time. whether you want to say it's a lack of coordination or intelligence sharing across these open borders, whatever, ty e not doing the proper job. this is four days after they caught a guy living a block away from his childhood home. after perpetrating essentially europe's 9/11. in a city that is home to the
headquarters of the european union, and to nato. what more do you have to say. this has become farcic al. >> peter, do you believe this was a direct isis organized attack coming from headquarters in iraq or syria? >> we'll find out. one thing, wolf, we should be looking for is videotape of the perpetrators filmed by isis. we saw that in the paris attacks where isis released videotape of the perpetrators in the paris attacks. if they do release such a video, of people involved in the brussels attacks, that would be a very direct sign. if they don't, then it's something that's less directed from isis central in syria. >> at least this was fully expected, this terror attack, in belgium. officials were bracing for it. yet they couldn't stop it. what are you hearing from your u.s. sources? >> i think michael got to it
very well. these guys were living in the neighborhood that they grew up in. it shows how they can live undetected if they're not using technology, or using encrypted technology. and it makes u.s. officials and european officials who are on the alert across europe wonder how much they also don't know about what other cells are operating in berlin, in france, and other european capitals. >> we talked about a couple of m et tro stops away from central brussels where the parliament where the headquarters of theean union is, and they were not aware, they were not -- they didot know that the guys w hiding out ere. >> are u.s. oicls satisfied per getting from europeans, specifically belgium >> varieswolf it has gotten better since the paris attacks. they do believe the belgians are trying much harder. the problem is, there's antiquated laws, a culture issue in belgium as well. they spent the last few years whether they speak flemish or french. that's one of the issues they're
dealing with. >> very worrisome development. guys, thanks very much for joining us. that's it for me. thanks for watching. i'm wolf blitzer in "the situation room." cnn's breaking news coverage of the terror attacks in brussels continues right now with erin burnett out front. breaking news, deadly terror attacks ripping through the heart of europe. police working off a tip from a taxi driver who dropped the suspected bombers off at the airport. the massacre coming just days after the last paris attacker was captured. security ramped up across the united states. what is the threat to the homeland? homeland? let's go "outfront." -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com a massive manhunt under way for the suspects in the