tv NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt NBC March 22, 2016 6:30pm-7:00pm EDT
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mees ved mes, st b ais ho o a pbl is europe is v b clearly there's a strategy campaign going on right now. >> reporter: abdeslam was caught in the very brussels neighborhood where the paris attack was planned just a few doors from his home. yet it took police four months to find him, and after today's horror the question is how many more terrorists are ready to strike? >> richard, you've laid how the what they have been through the last four months. there's been a sense of dread. any suggestion that the u.s. intelligence had some prior warning that something was about to happen? >> yes. a senior u.s. intelligence source told me that the american intelligence community three to four weeks ago based on chatter that they were receiving, which is communications that are intercepted, they believed that there was going to be an imminent attack somewhere in europe. unfortunately, the intelligence wasn't more specific than that. the source said all the americans could do was pass that information on, and what they are now
is what happened today, was that the attack that they had been expecting, or is there still one to come? >> and that's the frustrating part. no specifics, only the hint of something to come. richard engel, thank yo now to our exclusive eyewitness accounts from inside the brussels airport of the exact moment the bombs went off. an american couple who in a split second found themselves first ducking for cover and then running for their lives. nbc's kelly cobiea has their harrowing story. >> reporter: a packed departure hall and then suddenly smoke, debris and screams. in the middle of it, american jeff off >> there was dust, and there was debris, and there was this smell. >> reporter: hoffman, a consultant for nato living in brussels, was dropping off his girlfriend shareen naragi for a trip home to the u.s., bag tags printed, luggage paid for and then the blast. >> first one was screaming. >> reporter: jeff felt the shock wave and pushed shareen under a ticket counter and
explosion. >> second one was dead silence. my thoughtt the time was that's one, that's two, three's coming, maybe even four and given what we know about what happened in paris, i thought there's a good chance i'm going to start hearing rifle fire. >> reporter: he saw a single soldier and made a run for the door. shareen behind him. >> in and among the debris on the ground what you're seeing were people kind of lying and not moving. >> it's a tragedy, the bodies, the blood, the destruction. that i wouldn't wish on anybody to see. >> reporter: jeff's brother-in-law survived 9/11. jeff was in brussels for the lockdown after the paris attacks. in istanbul a week before a suicide bomber killed tourists in january, and now this. >> i lived. shareen lived, but i saw people coming out who either were not going to live or were going to be in a remarkable amount of pain. those people are going to have their lives forever altered and in some cases i'm sure there are loved ones that left this morning
>> reporter: kelly cobiella, nbc news, brussels, belgium. and we all feel a sense of vulnerability after these sorts of attacks, and airport security here at home is being examined but through a different lens after the brussels attack happening in the area, a part of the airport where the public and their belongings are not normally screened. meantime, homeland security is planning closer scrutiny of belgian passports while it's also working with local police departments to strengthen the security posture at airports. nbc's tom costello with late details now. >> reporter: at airports across the country, the morning rush brought beefed-up visible security. the tsa screens nearly 2 million passengers a day at 440 airports nationwide. at newark airport the port authority's heavily armed tactical unit in a show of force through the terminal. in miami, dog teams and swath officers set up roving checkpoints
belgians preparing to fly home. >> want to go on a trip but we're scared. we said to each other this is the last time we're leaving home. >> reporter: also in miami, another belgian on his way to nicaragua for his wedding. >> i think fear and being afraid would be the worst response because i think that would give into what terrorists actually want. >> reporter: overseas u.s.-bound flights are getting added scrutiny at those airports. from charles de gaulle in paris to germany's frankfurt mein. terrorists have repeatedly demonstrated aviation remains an attractive target from the shoe bomb attack, to the underwear bomb, the multi-atlantic transatlantic bomb plot and the printer cartridge bomb plot. 250,000 people fly into the u.s. from foreign airports every day. former tsa chief john pistole. >> the evidence has always been as evidenced by the christmas day bomber and richard reid, the shoe bomber and other plots that foreign airports are perhaps not as security as u.s. airports. >> reporter: u.s. veteran security
airports are most vulnerable between curbside check-in and the tsa checkpoint, exactly where the brussels airport bombers struck. >> you just don't have enough military or police in these areas to really show -- to show a deterrent show force on a 24/7 basis. >> reporter: by a strange coincidence, the current tsa chief admiral peter nepinger was in brussels meeting with the european counterparts when the attack happened. homeland security is once again today reminding everyone at the airport who works here or travels through an airport, if you see something that's out of the ordinary, say something. lester? >> always good advice. tom costello, thank you. let's bring in michael leiter, former director of the national counterterrorism center and now executive vice president of lidos which does natioiol security work for the government. michael, what's your take and what we're witnessing today and the impact going forward? >> lester, i think what is so remarkable here is that we had the attack in pair its, the arrest three days ago and officials were still not able to
that tells us that the network is more sophisticated and likely communicating in ways that are making it possibly immune and in a very, very dangerous sense, so what that consequence is i think is really telling for europe, and i think we will see over the coming weeks a change in europe politically to tighten borders in that they really need to now create a more cohesive intelligence system that currently does not exist across the continent. >> appreciate the analysis. still ahead, president obama facing criticism for his response to the brussels attack. why his day at the ballpark in cuba with raul castro is rubbing some the wrong way. also, the fiery reactions to these attacks from the cept iot 2i ac do ter thes. i even at i highe ristro due to a f irr het,
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k yotor jubliarighfor you. vit ouite foving on lsize rocte rohi hey di thpa the candidates igngh v t reacti de oba in owin te angi day, something that's not sitting too well with some. we have all the political fallout coverage starting with nbc's andrea mitchell. >> reporter: on a day of anxiety and fear in europe, the president did not change his schedule. rapping up his cuba trip by joining raul castro as tampa bay challenged cuba's national team. before the first pitch, a moment of
president obama said he never thought of not going. >> you want to be respectful and understand the gravity of the situation, but the whole premise of terrorism is to try to disrupt people's ordinary lives. >> reporter: at the game, obama and castro, despite their differences, just two fans sharing a national pastime, almost catching a wave. in the stands of lineups of big hitters, dave winfield, derek jeter, plus key players on the national security roster, a starkly different setting this morning at the u.s. ambassador's residence, a secure call to belgium's prime minister. >> this is yet another reminder that the world must unite. >> reporter: and this from the first lady. >> we are outraged and heartbroken over the horrific attacks today in belgium. >> reporter: tonight raul castro saw the obamas off at the airport, the president sticking to his scheduled next stop, a state visit in argentina.
news, havana. >> reporter: i'm hallie jackson, the images from brussels, like paris and san bernardino before, now bringing into focus the dramatic differences between the party's front-runners. >> i would close up our borders to people until we figure out what is going on. >> i think there are a lot of things we have to do to intensify our efforts. i think closing our borders is not one of them. >> reporter: for hillary clinton, a chance to prove her national security credentials. for donald trump an opportunity to seem more presidential one day after calling for controversial cuts to nato based in brussels. >> puts a huge amount of uncertainty into the system and at exactlyheomt where we need intensified cooperation. >> reporter: trump, hoping&to project strength, even where his opponents see weakness like ted cruz, taking his own hardline stance, a striking one, demanding police patrol and, quote, secure neighborhoods of american muslims.
there's a locust of radicalization, where there's an expanding presence of radical islamic terrorism, we need law enforcement resources directed there. >> reporter: cruz's rivals taking aim. >> somehow because you happen to be of another religion that somehow you have evil intent is just irresponsible in my opinion. >> that would be unconstitutional. it would be wrong. >> reporter: but trump agreeing with his closest competitor. >> i would support that, yes, 100%. >> reporter: national security again forced to the front of this presidential race. news, new york. we're back in a moment with some. including the death of a highly controversial evy auto iuranicy sa nu but ery inmpunde the lifed it the who ve ser our ha eare vet rvice inn.
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with humira, control is possible. we'll have more on the brussels terror attack in just a moment but first some of the day's other news. rob ford, the former toronto mayor whose misconduct made him internationally famous has died. he was battling a rare aggressive form of cancer. ford scandal plagued
headlines, including in 2013 when he admitted smoking crack cocaine while in office. his re-election bid was cut short when he was diagnosed with cancer. instead, he ran for his old city council seat and won in a landslide. ford was 46. back to the campaign trail and the race for president. both donald trump and hillary clinton helped to expand their leads tonight as three states in the west hold contests. democrats and republicans are voting in both the arizona primary and the utah caucuses, and the democrats have another battle tonight in the idaho caucus es, when we come back, the enormous international ringirst year, backand mothere al insep.she lis her to itt eath of r, totects it othe longrney tr ing ous. one of the most important things you can do is help the next generation.
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