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tv   The Lead With Jake Tapper  CNN  January 15, 2015 1:00pm-2:01pm PST

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don't get hurt. so i applaud the pope. i like this guy. >> he likes this guy. reverend always a pleasure to have you on. come back any time. appreciate you. i'm brooke baldwin here in new york. thank you so much for being with me. john berman of course alongside me the last two hours. stay here. we have to go to washington. "the lead" with jake tapper starts now. welcome to "the lead." i'm jake tapper. we begin today with that breaking news in our world lead. striking video from a police raid in belgium that ended with two people dead a third in police custody, all of them suspected terrorists. take a look. that was the scene earlier today in verviers belgium, a little over an hour away from brussels. belgian security forces blitzed an alleged terror cell with
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direct ties to isis according to local authorities. belgian officials say this cell was operational. they say an attack was imminent. it is unclear just what kind of terrorists these supposed jihadis were allegedly planning but belgian officials say they were armed with kalashnikovs. a spokesperson for the belgian federal prosecutor said police in verviers had this group under surveillance for the last several weeks, they had tracked its members to and from syria. that country of course the operational home for the terrorist group isis the group sworn to wreak havoc in europe and the united states. we now see evidence of those attempts to do so. let's go to a journalist for euro news on the phone from belgium. what can you tell us about this raid? >> reporter: hello, jake. the police are rather tight-lipped about exactly the details, but what we are getting from belgian media is that the
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police have been surveilling these suspects for some time after they came back from syria and that the police moved in just hours after there was a leak connected to what had happened in paris a week ago, the attack there that some of the weapons in those attacks were actually bought here in belgium. police stepped up their operations today in a number of cities, a number of places and they moved in on that house in verviers. police say the suspects began to open fire with war weapons, as they identified them and hand guns and the police fired back killing two of them and arresting one of them. we have just in the last few minutes seen in belgian media reporting that a second intervention has happened in verviers in another street, in another house. no further details on that but just that police have taken
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action in another part of verviers today, this evening. some tense searches going on today in the brussels area and some towns nearby. not a lot of details on it but we did hear one -- about one in a neighborhood in belgium, in brussels that there were explosives found in a building but that the suspects sought the people living there, weren't there. police are trying to track them down. it could be a long night. >> have belgian security forces been able to establish any connection at all between these suspected terrorists and any of the individuals who took part in last week's activities, terrorist activities in france either amedy coulibaly or the kouachi brothers or the woman, boumeddiene, who is reportedly now in syria? >> reporter: so far, they are not saying but it is interesting that during the press conference
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that the federal prosecutor gave just a couple hours ago, said we do not want to jeopardize undermine our investigation. we will have more information for you tomorrow. so they did not want to give up any more information but it has been established by authorities that coulibaly had bought arms here in belgium before those attacks, so there could be a link at least with coulibaly to elements here islamic extremist elements here but it is not clear whether the verviers action that the police took was linked to coulibaly. that is not clear yet. >> chris burns on the ground in brussels thank you so much. let's go to cnn chief national security correspondent jim sciutto, who is live in paris. jim, the claim by the belgian government is that an attack from this cell in belgium was imminent. what are your sources telling you about that? what does that mean, imminent? days, weeks? >> reporter: they haven't given
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a time frame but certainly some of the details from tonight's operations are telling. one, of course when they encountered one of these groups that they immediately opened fire according to police and that that fire lasted for several minutes. that led to that exchange of fire but remember there were ten different searches under way tonight in four different cities as they tried to find all the different parts of this cell and they found other things. at another site they found explosives. one of the apartments they searched was very close to brussels' main airport. all worrisome signs about just what these attackers were intending. it is in that one location in verviers where it went violent and gunfire followed. gunfire erupting again on the streets of a european city. this is verviers in eastern belgium tonight, as anti-terror police raid the home of suspected terrorists recently back from syria. inside sources tell cnn,
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suspects directed by isis armed with kalashnikovs and planning to attack the local police stations. >> at verviers the suspects immediately and for long minutes fired using war weapons and hand weapons before being neutralized. two of the suspects died and a third was detained on the site. >> reporter: flashlights visible through the windows as police fight their way up the stairs. >> this was in the framework of an investigation looking into an operational cell made up of people some of whom were coming back from syria. the investigation made it possible to determine that the group was about to carry out major terrorist attacks in belgium imminently. >> reporter: soon anti-terror operations are under way in several other belgian cities. earlier, police in belgium detained an arms dealer who is now suspected of selling weapons
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to amedy coulibaly, including the guns he used to storm the kosher market in eastern paris last week. coulibaly allegedly sold him a car and also took out a loan for 6,000 euros from a nearby bank. with europe on high alert, secretary of state john kerry arrived in paris. the highest level u.s. official to visit france since violence rocked paris. >> my visit to france is basically to share a big hug with paris and express the affection that the american people have for france and for our friends there who have been through a terrible time. >> reporter: in their public statements we should be clear that belgian police are making no tie between tonight's raids in belgium and the attacks that took place here in paris. they say that these groups have been under surveillance for some time and they acted tonight because of concerns about these terrorists suspected terrorists acting on an imminent plot. again, to be clear as well so
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far the lines here in paris being drawn back to al qaeda in the arabian peninsula. we have that claim of responsibility this week, whereas these arrests in belgium tied to the group isis in syria. an example of what has been a long-term concern here in europe is that the front lines of the war in syria and iraq brought home to europe. those returning fighters attempting to carry out jihad on western soil european soil following training and experience on the ground in iraq and syria. >> absolutely. although of course coulibaly expressed allegiance to isis. it's all kind of a confusing mess. jim sciutto, thank you so much. let's bring in former secretary of homeland security under president george w. bush michael chertoff founder of the chertoff group, a global risk management advisory firm. secretary, thanks for being here. this was the big fear that's been talked about ever since isis was born is that these foreign fighters going over there from europe from the united states would come back and obviously there is still so
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much we don't know b according to belgian authorities, these individuals went to syria, came back and were plotting something. >> we have seen for months now a steady flow of westerners going to syria and iraq and fighting there, and then coming back and that's been a pattern literally over decades where people go to fight in hot spots back in the '90s it was chechnyia and then the balkans and some come back to become operational in their own countries. that's why monitoring the travel and xhuncommunication between the u.s. western europe and what goes on in the middle east is very important. >> a question a lot of viewers have is if you knew these guys went to syria, and fought for isis, and came back why are they just walking around and the same could be asked about people in this country, because i have heard of individuals, there was that jihadi from florida who fought with el nusra, came back to florida, went back to syria and died there. why not arrest them when they come back?
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>> a couple issues. do you have a basis to arrest them if you can prove in court they went to fight, that may be sufficient to give you basis to arrest. at a minimum you want to surveil them. there are resource constraints. if there are literally hundreds of people going back to western europe the ability of the police to literally sit on everybody becomes problematic from the standpoint of having the man power. that's why some of the electronic surveillance issues that have been controversial really become critical because if you can monitor whether people are communicating with others in the middle east or other plotters that can help focus you on people who are a real threat. >> do we have enough here in this country? do we have the manpower? because obviously in france, that was an issue. they had the coulibaly, they knew about him, they knew about the kouachi brothers and then ultimately and we don't know exactly what happened so i can't say that intelligence dropped the ball but something went wrong. either they believed them when they shouldn't have or they didn't have the manpower.
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do we have the manpower? >> i think generally we do. we have obviously the fbi and homeland security we have very well-trained local police forces particularly in the cities and frankly, i think the number of americans who have gone to fight overseas have been much fewer than you have seen out of western europe. what we have seen in this country is not so much foreign fighters as people getting radicalized over the internet like hassan or others of that kind. as time goes on we are going to see more people coming back from that theater and that means we are going to have to put the effort and the resources into making sure we have coverage both surveillance electronically and physical surveillance. >> do you think it's just a matter of time that we have something like what we are seeing here? obviously we had hassan self-radicalized the tsarnaev brothers. there have been other individuals arrested going over there. do you think it's a matter of time before we see an attack in the united states like we are seeing in france and like what could have happened in belgium? >> i think the risk is going to increase over time.
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now, one thing we have not seen in this country is home-grown attack of the sophisticated nature we saw in paris and that we saw in mumbai in 2008. we have rather seen kind of one individual or a couple of individuals, maybe getting radicalized over the internet and doing a home-grown plot. if we got to the level of what you saw in paris or what we saw in mumbai, you could have a much more consequential plot with a lot more loss of life. so this is i think at the top of the list of what concerns homeland security and police officials here in the united states. >> in fact jay johnson, your successor in the department of homeland security was here a few weeks ago and i asked him about an entirely separate issue, what he was concerned about, and he said he was concerned about lone wolf attacks. this was his big preoccupation. secretary chertoff thank you for your time. we appreciate it. as we have been reporting, the terror suspects killed in that raid in belgium have reportedly recently returned to that country from syria. they had been under surveillance for weeks. who did they meet in syria?
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welcome back to "the lead." i'm jake tapper. we will continue with our breaking news in the world lead. terror raids in belgium, two suspects dead a third in custody after police disrupted what they describe as an operational terrorist cell with ties to isis that they say was preparing to carry out quote, a major attack. they say it was going to be imminent. joining us now is cnn terror analyst paul cruickshank, author of "agent storm, my life inside al qaeda and the cia." thanks for joining us. how significant is this latest operation and the unfolding terror picture we are seeing in europe? >> this may be a big game changer. i spoke to a senior belgian counterterrorism official. they have been monitoring this group for some time gathering
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intelligence on them and they suspect that this group, the group in verviers was tied to isis connected with isis in syria and were directed by isis to launch a terrorist attack in belgium, a terrorist attack in europe in retaliation for the air strikes in syria and iraq. belgium is part of that anti-isis coalition launching air strikes, belgium is launching air strikes against isis in iraq. that would be a game changer because isis up to this point has not orchestrated any terrorist plots in the west. there have been some isis fighters who have come back but they have launched plots on their own steam. for example, last spring with the brussels museum shooting. this would be a game changer because of all isis' capabilities in syria and iraq they are huge cash reserves training camps, and up to 3,000 europeans who have made the trip to syria and iraq and about 1,000 europeans believed to be with isis right now.
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i'm told more than 500 extremists have returned from syria and iraq to europe. that's a very very big number indeed. i'm also told this threat is not just about belgium tonight, but it's also other european countries as well this concern in the uk concern in france as well. i was told that by european counterterrorism officials that this cell may have connections in other countries, too, so very very worrying times indeed. unprecedented threat on the streets of europe. it may be that isis is now taking its war right into the heart of europe. >> i know it's early yet, this story is just developing. do we have any idea what this major terrorist attack was supposed to be, according to belgian police? >> there are some indications that they wanted to go after multiple police stations. not exactly clear if there were other targets as well but these were men who were well armed. when police went in they had kalashnikovs they had automatic weapons. the belgians feared they were
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about to launch a massacre somewhere on the streets of belgium just a week after we saw another massacre in paris. concern that this group may have accelerated its plans because of what they saw play out on the streets of paris. and if indeed they had a link back to isis then there's a kind of oneupmanship. now isis trying to launch a major plot in brussels potentially from what i'm hearing from european counterterrorism officials. this is still a very fluid situation. it's not over. they are trying to round up all these guys at once in different locations in belgium and brussels. there is concern that some gunmen might get away and be able to carry out attacks. there was an incident on the brussels metro today where a man was arrested after shouting allah akhbar it's been widely reported in the belgian media. he had a gun, also being widely reported in the belgian media. there's a lot happening very quickly in belgium right now.
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very concerning times for europe. >> paul cruickshank, thank you so much. just to remind our viewers, the museum event you were talking about was in may, when a gentleman with algerian roots attacked innocent people at the brussels jewish museum and killed four innocent people. we will take a very quick break and come back with more on this breaking news. coming up new details on this plot and the raid in belgium. stay with us. vo: 85 percent of people who travel will go someplace they've already been.
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welcome back to "the lead." i'm jake tapper. we will continue covering the breaking news in our world lead. belgian special forces raiding a suspected terrorist cell believed to be directed by isis. that's what belgian authorities are saying at any rate. officials say the police swooped in just in time and attacked what was supposed to be major and imminent. how many more would-be terrorists are still out there remains an open question. let's bring in cnn global affairs analyst lieutenant colonel james reese, also a former u.s. delta force officer. also joining us from new hampshire is ambassador daniel benjamin former state department coordinator for counterterrorism and he is
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currently the director of the john sloan dicky center for international understanding at dartmouth college. colonel, the terrorists according to authorities well-trained and the belgian cell had recently returned from syria, where they potentially were fighting with isis. how do you combat that threat? >> well it's difficult. one of the things security services are good at doing is tracking these people coming in. the tough part is you're starting to get so many of them coming back that threat matrix becomes bigger and bigger and the folks that are the ones that manage this have to start making decisions on where to put their assets to cover these, because we don't have enough assets for all the people that are doing this. >> ambassador benjamin give us an idea of how much authorities likely know about these individuals, because often they fly to turkey and then just kind of vanish they cross the border into syria later on after there's an incident or after there's an arrest we tend to
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hear oh, they traveled to syria as we did with the brothers traveling to yemen, the kouachi brothers. but is that known in real time? >> frequently it is known. there are persons of interest who are being tracked the whole time. we are in a period now where u.s. and other authorities are doing their best to build up their ability to collect intelligence inside syria so that we have a better idea of who has gone there and who might come back but it's spotty and of course the flow of fighters to syria has been going on now for many months and i think that there was probably a lag between the time that that was taken off and the intelligence collection began. so there are going to be some holes, there are going to be some challenges and we also have not the strongest border security between europe and points farther to the east. >> colonel, officials in belgium
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say that these men had been under surveillance for several weeks and they say they have not been able to discern any connection to the attack we saw in france last week. does that indicate that we really don't know how many jihadist threats are actually out there? >> well no i don't think we actually have a hard number. i think several of the analysts and the folks that work in these operation intel centers have a pretty good understanding but nothing hard. i agree, i don't think this has anything to do with the paris piece but just like we talked about before you have our side that's probably looking hey, we need to ramp up our operations to start neutralizing these threats and now the cells that are out there looking hey, we want to follow this wave of what happened in paris so let's execute now. >> ambassador benjamin what do we need to do to prevent this from happening in the united states more than it already has happened of course with the tsarnaev brothers or nidal
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hassan? >> well jake of course increasing your intelligence collection searching your resources in that direction is vitally important. we have very good border security. it's actually the case that we have a lot more to collect on when people are coming in this direction even from europe even from countries that have visa waiver programs. so we are able to do a lot of winnowing and a lot of assessment that our european partners can't do. the main thing right now is for us to continue to be vigilant about what's going on within communities in the u.s. and to ensure that we have a bead on anyone who is becoming radicalized at home like the individual who was arrested just yesterday coming out of hawaiiohio. >> thank you both so much. our top story today terrorist raid in belgium ending with two suspects dead. one in custody. officials say that this terrorist cell was plotting an
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imminent major attack and that the cell fired on belgian police when they arrived. former prime minister of england tony blair was the prime minister when that terrorist cell attacked the london subway system in 2005. he will join me next for an exclusive interview to talk about the terror threat throughout europe and how to combat it.
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welcome back to "the lead." i'm jake tapper. we will continue with breaking news in our world lead. more gunfire, more death, this time in belgium as special forces raid a suspected terrorist cell one believed to have been directed by isis. belgian authorities say they had the group under surveillance for weeks and they were supposedly plotting with isis, this terror cell to pull off an imminent attack. we have been showing you this dramatic video of the raid as
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officers moved in on the suspected terror cell. we now know that at least two people were killed and a third was taken into custody. all of them members of the cell alleged members of the cell. this all comes of course a week after the terrorist ambush on "charlie hebdo" magazine in paris which has put much of europe on high alert, not to mention of course the slaying, the cold-blooded murder of a french policewoman and killing four jewish frenchmen at a kosher supermarket. cnn's john berman is live in paris, he has all the latest developments. we have also been told about raids being carried out in other cities not just this one. what can you tell us about that? >> reporter: the raid in verviers where two suspects were killed and one apprehended apparently one of ten that have taken place in belgium over the last several hours. ten raids in four separate cities. this raid in verviers turned up what authorities are calling an operational terror cell that was
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planning a major imminent attack inside belgium. most importantly, belgian officials say that these men are the individuals who were killed and one apprehended, had been in syria fighting alongside isis and had returned to belgium at the direction of isis to carry out these attacks inside that nation. the news conference where they announced this information was brief and officials say deliberately so because they did not want to reveal too much information about what they were doing at that time leading one to believe that perhaps there are still ongoing operations in belgium overnight. one suspect in custody, no doubt they are pressing him for information about the possibility or existence of further people who may be involved in terror operations there. crucially at this time they do not see any connection direct connection between these raids in belgium and what happened here in paris, the two attacks
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in paris that left 17 people dead. again, operations could still be going on. two suspects killed one now in custody four hours from where i'm standing in verviers in belgium. >> john berman thanks. lest we forget it was may of last year that an islamic terrorist who had just returned from syria went to the jewish museum in brussels in belgium and killed four innocent people. there are few world leaders who have more experience battling islamic extremism than former british prime minister tony blair. in 2005 as you no doubt recall muslim terrorists killed 52 people and injured more than 700 in that horrific coordinated bomb attack on london's transit system. since leaving office, eight years ago, the former labor party leader founded the tony blair faith foundation which is working to root out religious fundamentalism around the world. i spoke with the former prime minister earlier today. we talked about the terrorist
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attacks in europe and the many challenges ahead. it seems as though these terrorists who carried out these attacks in france were known by french authorities, by british authorities, by american authorities. was this do you think, an intelligence failure or is this just a reflection of the reality that there aren't enough people in law enforcement and intelligence to keep track of everybody who might do something like this? >> i am completely sympathetic to the security services in this situation. they are trying to track a whole lot of different people who may or may not constitute a danger. you look back when an event like this happens and say well surely someone should have thought that maybe they were the people but i know from the british security services they are tracking cells of people all the time. >> i want to ask you about a headline in the "new york times" and a debate about what was behind this terrorist attack and
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what is behind other terrorist attacks. it says crisis in france is seen as sign of social ills alienation of muslims in core of suburbs. do you buy that? >> i think you can have a multiplicity of factors, poverty, alienation particular psychological reasons related to the individual, why people do these things. if we believe that by different programs on unemployment or social regeneration you are going to deal with this problem, you have also got to deal with the fact that there are young people being radicalized and in some cases by the way, as in the case of the british bombers in 2005 they are not people who are poor and they are people who have all the benefits of the welfare systems and the social support that our countries can give. >> there was just an arrest in the united states of an ohio man who did not seem to have any problems like the alienation or
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poverty that is discussed in that article who was planning to get bombs and had bought two semiautomatic weapons and 600 rounds of ammunition and was planning to go to capitol hill and kill a bunch of government officials. >> the debate certainly over in europe now is do you regard this as a huge threat a global threat and the terms in which i'm talking about it in which case you have to adopt the strategies and policies and recognize this is a long-term struggle it has to operate at different levels it's going to be a big part of our preoccupation over the years to come or do we say look these are isolated fanatics you can tame them as best you can, you hope that you minimize terrible events like those in paris, but you don't treat this as if this was a global security threat that requires the energy and focus and discipline from the world's governments to deal with it.
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and that's a very live debate. >> you clearly are on the former side. >> i am although i understand those who say no if after 9/11 we hadn't done afghanistan and iraq if we hadn't done these things we would be in a better position. my own view is that in the end, this is not something we have caused it's something we have been caught up in. but i think what is interesting is if you look at france and you look at the justifications being put round for this killing, and you know again, let's be clear. there are -- it's a minority a small minority but it's a significant minority of voices out there effectively supporting what those people did. >> so you don't buy those who say hey, tony blair, hey, george w. bush some of these attackers say it's the war in iraq it's guantanamo, it's abu ghraib. you don't see that as legitimate because you think the terrorists
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are going to seize on any excuse to carry out their acts. >> i think you can have a very sensible debate about whether it was sensible to do iraq or sensible to do guantanamo. what i'm saying is if you look at the justifications given, they are multiple and there's always a justification. in respect of france for example, they were opposed to the war in iraq and yet still, this terrorist attack occurs. when you look at it and analyze it whatever the justification that they give there always is one and it's always justifying killing totally innocent people. my view is this is deep it's global it's grown up over a number of decades and policy to deal with it has to deal with it recognizing that you are going to have to have short-term security measures in order to try and protect yourselves and then there's this longer term part which is around education
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and why is this ideology taking root that i think is the best that at the moment might be completely missing from this debate. >> obviously the west needs to learn from the mistakes of the past. you have been criticized a lot, as has president george w. bush for the war in iraq. looking at the security situation in iraq and syria right now, with isis, do you think that there's a lesson there in terms of what the west needs to do going forward in terms of people whom we don't like and the alternative might actually be worse. >> right. there's a very good point, and the lesson undoubtedly on not just iraq but afghanistan, but policy didn't stop in 2008. the lesson is this. when you remove the brutal dictatorship then a set of problems or elements or tensions that were suppressed then come to the surface.
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so the argument then goes maybe you better leave these dictators in place, even though they do terrible things maybe it's just better to deal with them. but here's where people have got to understand the significance of this growing young population in these countries, and the so-called arab spring or arab revolutions, as i call them. these dictatorships weren't going to last anyway. so all of these societies, the question is now how do they transit with this young population to what i would call an open-minded view of the world. and we can debate whether the policies of the past were right up to 2008 or indeed since 2008 when you would have to say things haven't got markedly better or is it best now to say okay what have we learned from that early policy post-9/11, what have we learned from the last few years and the arab spring and how do we put together the alliance that isn't about the west versus islam but is about modern-minded,
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open-minded people whether muslim christian, jew or whoever they are, against those who are reactionary in extreme. >> you can see more of our interview with the former prime minister tony blair, on our website, we will continue breaking news next. belgian authorities say they stopped a major terrorist attack right before it was carried out. coming up next what the u.s. knows about those involved and how did this raid go down? ♪♪ hi, tom.
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welcome back to "the lead." that video you're watching that was earlier today in verviers belgium. security forces storming a suspected terrorist cell that one government official says was taking orders from isis and was potentially days away from launching attacks in europe. barbara starr is live at the pentagon. barbara, this attack already prompting movement from u.s. officials and nato. what's going on there and what if anything did the u.s. know
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about this alleged terrorist cell? >> reporter: well u.s. officials are saying they did have some understanding that the belgians were facing this very specific threat. they are not willing to say yet how much the u.s. knew about it and when it knew. however, remember belgium is the home to nato, the international european and u.s. military alliance headquartered there in belgium so we also know that the nato supreme commander tonight, general philip breedlove, a u.s. air force four-star general, is being briefed on this situation. he has been briefed on paris. we are told by a u.s. official he is being kept very closely in touch with all of the intelligence all of the information, especially now that there has been this situation in belgium. there are about 60,000 u.s. troops in europe and as you know isis has vowed repeatedly on social media and in other ways to try to attack u.s.
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troops and their families so there is plenty of concern about all of this. jake? >> barbara starr at the pentagon thank you so much. another suspected terrorist attack stopped right here in the u.s. an ohio man accused of planning a vicious attack on congress. what is his own father saying about the accusations against his son? [ female announcer ] we help make secure financial tomorrows a reality for over 19 million people. [ alex ] transamerica helped provide a lifetime of retirement income. so i can focus
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duh. you know those change, right? tattoos don't change. try credit karma. it's free and you can see what your score is right now. aren't you a little bit curious? i just got my free credit score! credit karma. really free credit scores. really free. i have got to update my ink. welcome back to "the lead." we will turn now to our national lead the terrorist threat here at home. we are learning more details about one ohio man's alleged plan to bomb congress and then gun down law makers and staff and tourists as they fled. that's at least what a criminal complaint says this man, christopher lee cornell, all of 20 years old, plotted to do. he even bought the guns he intended to mow down the law makers with two m-15 rifles and 600 bullets.
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the complaint alleges cornell wanted to do all this in the name of jihad. luckily, his partner in this plot someone that he thought was another would-be jihadist with whom he conspired online and over twitter, that partner turned out to be an fbi informant. yesterday, more than a dozen agents and local police broke down his door and took him into custody. today the speaker of the house, john boehner, who may have been among those in the cross-hairs, credited the fisa program which allows for nsa snooping on communications with preventing this attack. cnn's alexandra field is live for us in cincinnati. alex you spoke to this man's father. what did he have to say about his son being accused of this horrific terrorist plot to systematically murder members of congress, staff and tourists? >> reporter: both of his parents are heartbroken, devastated as you would imagine they would be but his father says to me that his son is 20 going on 16. this is a young man who lived
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with his parents, was working a seasonal job. the dad says his son didn't have a car, rarely left the house, never left cincinnati. the family thinks that he did not have the resources or the capability to pull off an attack so what was he doing here buying guns? the dad says he believed his son was coerced. john cornell and angel in their living room shocked with the realization their son is in custody, arrested in a sting operation and charged with plotting to blow up the u.s. capitol. >> chris has never been out of cincinnati. i believe he was coerced into a lot of this stuff. i believe that this so-called snitch filled his head with a lot of stuff. >> reporter: john cornell says that his son recently took up an interest in islam but emphasized its peaceful qualities and never mentioned isis. >> my son is not a monster. i'm not just saying that because he's my son. if i thought he was up to something, i would have beat his butt and i would have been the first one to turn him in. >> reporter: the 20-year-old was
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first brought to the fbi's attention several months ago after social media posts talking about violent jihad. they say cornell planned to detonate pipe bombs around the capitol and then shoot people as they fled. but a man cornell believed would be his partner in the plot was actually an fbi informant. the fbi says cornell told the informant he had contacts overseas that he had aligned himself with isis and believed law makers were his enemy. the criminal complaint says cornell did not think he would receive isis authorization to conduct a terrorist attack in the united states but he wanted to wage jihad on his own, writing i believe we should meet up and make our own group in alliance with the islamic state here and plan operations ourselves. according to investigators, he researched the targeted government buildings and the construction of pipe bombs. wednesday, cornell purchased two ar-15s and 600 rounds of ammunition from this gun store in cincinnati before fbi agents arrested him in the parking lot. the gun store owner who was
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working with authorities described cornell's demeanor. >> well-spoken but soft-spoken. lots of questions. he's a little chatty. if i hadn't had been given any kind of warning ahead of time i probably would not have suspected him as up to what he was doing. >> reporter: cnn reportedly reached out to cornell's court appointed attorney but has not received any response. cornell's bedroom which he shared with his brother, seemingly that of a typical young man with movie posters and video games. the principal at the high school he attended and where he wrestled described cornell to cnn as a normal student, saying christopher was not a disruption or a discipline problem in school. a quiet but not overly reserved student who would participate in class, did not withdraw from his classwork. but now authorities are tracing the steps of the young man accused of a plot to attack his own country. because investigators were following cornell, they say law makers were never in imminent danger and jake cornell will appear in court tomorrow. >> alexandra field in
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cincinnati thanks for that report. that's it for "the lead." i'm jake tapper. i now turn you over to wolf blitzer in "the situation room." wolf? a deadly raid thwarts what officials say are major imminent attacks by jihadis back from syria. what were their ties to isis? growing threat. fear of terror attacks across europe as militants return from training with the islamic state. how many cells are waiting to strike? and most wanted woman. new details of the intense search for the girlfriend of one of the paris terrorists. what important clues are investigators picking up from her cell phone? i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." let's get right to the breaking news. a deadly anti-terror raid in belgium, where officials now say jihadis who had returned from syria were poised to launch major terror attacks on orders