PoliticsNation, Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
Read the transcript from the Wednesday show
Show: POLITICS NATION
Date: January 7, 2015
Guest: Jim Cavanaugh, Brian Levin, Laure Bretton; Jim Arkedis
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR, POLITICS NATION: Good evening, Ed.
And thanks to you for tuning in.
We start with breaking news. French police have identified three suspects
in the deadly attack that shocked the world. NBC News reports two men are
in their 30s, both French nationals. And that the third is 18 years old.
His nationality is not clear. The "AP" reports one of the men was
convicted in 2008 for helping to funnel fighters to insurgents in Iraq.
The Paris attack targeted a satirical magazine known for its controversial
cartoons of the prophet Mohammed. It left 12 people dead. A shoot-out on
the street that outside the office was caught on tape.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)
SHARPTON: The two masked men firing with automatic rifles before climbing
into a getaway car, manned by the third suspect. The suspects later
abandoned that car. It is now being processed for evidence.
Tonight as the clock strikes midnight in Paris, we are getting reports of
some kind of police operation underway northeast of Paris. We have team
coverage with the latest from Paris. Updates on the manhood and what
happens next in the fight against terrorists.
And we start with NBC`s Cassandra Vinograd, live in Paris.
Cassandra, what are officials saying about these three suspects and the
search to find them?
CASSANDRA VINOGRAD, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: To be honest, officials are
saying very little about the suspects other, than to confirm their names.
As you said, two are in their 30s and the third is 18 years old. Other
than that, they`re really releasing very little information other than to
say that they will track them down and punish them.
SHARPTON: Now, the background of them, we know one was convicted. What do
we know about the other two if any, and are there any hints that they may
be connected to some larger group? Or are they acting solo or is it too
early to tell? No one is leaking anything.
VINOGRAD: I think it is really too early to tell, to be honest with you.
There are a lot of media reports floating around at the moment about how
one may or may not have gone to Syria at some point in time. But until we
final out more from the officials themselves, I would rather not say.
SHARPTON: Have there been any briefings in terms of where they are
securing other locations around Paris? Whether or not they feel that they
may be more involved than this or is it pretty tight-lipped?
VINOGRAD: Well, they`ve been very clear to state that they are really
ramping up security, not just in Paris but throughout France. They`ve
deployed tons of extra police officers. They`re sending more military
personnel on the streets and they`re very clear that they`re doing
everything they can to ensure the security of the French people.
SHARPTON: Do people feel under siege or what is the mood? What is going
on around the city?
VINOGRAD: It is a mixture of shock and determination. Right now, you
know, some people in France are saying, this might be their 9/11 moment.
It is the largest attack on French soil in probably two decades. At the
same time, there`s been a huge outpouring of solidarity. Not just for the
victims of the attack on "Charlie Hebdo" but for the press and the French
There has just recently earlier in Paris, a massive rally at the Place de
la Republique, a key tourist attraction and landmark here in Paris. And
tens of thousands of people turned out to show support for the magazine,
for its staff, for the families who lost loved ones, to say we will not bow
to this. We will not cave to terrorism. And we also will not support any
sort of attack on freedom of the press.
SHARPTON: All right. NBC`s Cassandra Vinograd, thank you for your
Because the attack occurred in a major urban center, there were
eyewitnesses who saw it all unfold. It was a shocking interruption to what
had been an ordinary workday in Paris.
Joining me now is Laure Bretton, a French journalist who witnessed part of
the shooting. Thank you for joining me.
LAURE BRETTON, EYEWITNESS TO SHOOTINGS (via phone): Good evening.
SHARPTON: Tell me what you saw.
BRETTON: So, I saw the end of the shooting. I witnessed some people
fleeing the, on the street, and heavy policemen coming to, toward the
shooters and the gunmen. And the policeman who was shot in the head, was
shot in front of our building. And while they were, the gunmen were
fleeing. I was overlooking and I saw the people who were trying to escape
and this policeman tried to hide from the shooting because the gunmen were
in the car. And they were actually trying to escape as well. But they
stopped the car and they shot him in the head.
SHARPTON: Now, we`re seeing vigils all over Paris. But we`re seeing
people standing up, saying we`re not afraid. The mood right now in the
city is, give me a description how you would say the mood is, Laure.
BRETTON: What I`m going to describe is very simple. It is the sites where
the policeman was killed in front of my building after the security
perimeter was off. A lot of people, a lot of people who live nearby came
with candles and roses and flowers and they gathered and they remained
silent and they were united. And I think this is a small example of what
is happening tonight in France. Everybody is standing there and united.
SHARPTON: Well, Laure Bretton, thank you very much for your time.
BRETTON: You`re welcome.
SHARPTON: I want to bring in Evan Kohlmann, NBC news terrorism analyst and
Jim Arkedis, former department of defense counterterrorism analyst. Thank
you both for being here.
Evan, French police now identifying three suspects. What do we know?
EVAN KOHLMANN, NBC NEWS TERRORISM ANALYST: We do know that one of these
individuals has been named, Cherif Kouachi was actually, not only was he
convicted, he was actually arrested back January of 2005 supposedly when he
was in the final stages of planning to travel to Syria and then travel on
to Iraq to join what was then Al-Qaeda and Iraq which was now obviously
Now whether or not he actually made to it Syria or Iraq, whether or not he
was given instructions by this group, we really don`t know. And there are
still some suggestions that these folks were identifying themselves, at
least to the eyewitnesses as being affiliated with Al-Qaeda`s branch in
Yemen, Al-Qaeda of Iranian Peninsula. There is no love lost between ISIS
and Al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula. They hate each other. They hate
each other in a public way. They issue nasty statements about each other.
It is not possible that they were both. Maybe they were something else.
Maybe they were home growns. Maybe they were doing this out of inspiration
from seeing AQAP in Yemen, from having seen ISIS and taking mat enters into
their own hands. We don`t know.
SHARPTON: We don`t know yet.
KOHLMANN: But certainly, there are ties between these folks and the
recruitment networks that have led people to Syria and Iraq to join these
SHARPTON: Jim, let`s talk about that suspect Evan was just talking about.
He reportedly helped funnel fighters to Iraq`s insurgency and was sentenced
to 18 months in prison. How closely was he being monitored?
JIM ARKEDIS, FORMER DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Well,
it is difficult to say, obviously, because it is conducted by France`s
intelligence service. What I can tell you is that the French intelligent
services both at home and abroad, they are really, really good at what they
do. And so while we don`t have specific information about this suspect
just yet, generally speaking, I can say without a doubt that the French
intelligence services are quite in tune to the Islamic extremist problem
they have in their country.
SHARPTON: Evan, what are the French intelligence officials doing now? Are
they looking at these suspects? Where more Contacts? What are they doing?
KOHLMANN: Well, first of all, if these really are the suspects, there`s no
doubt that right now they`re trying to figure out did these folks have
residences? In those residences, are there computers, are there cellular
phones, are there mobile devices, are there satellite phones, any kind of
device that would show these folks are conspiring with anyone else either
local, lone wolf extreme or organizations outside the borders of France.
Obviously, one of the first things they would have done was saying look,
were there mobile phones being used at the exact time and place of the
attack itself. Who was using these phones? Did someone record and of this
These are the kinds of things they`re looking at right now. But look, if
these really are the guys, it looks like they were already known to French
authorities. And one of the questions that we are going to have to answer
in the coming days is, if someone is arrested and convicted in a country
like France, for shepherding individuals to Iraq to join is, how is it that
person then later on, a year later, carries out an attack like this and
nobody knows anything about it until it is too late.
SHARPTON: Good question, Jim. You know law enforcement in France pretty
well. What, they caught flat footed here? I mean, what happened?
ARKEDIS: Well, I mean, the reality is that we can never be 100 percent
safe no matter who you are, no matter which intelligence service you`re
talking about. The French are certainly excellent but the reality is that
you can`t have your thumb on every single suspect at all times.
Intelligence and law enforcement is as much an art as a science. It is
piecing little puzzle pieces together and hoping that you end up in the
right place at the right time when something bad is about to happen.
And here, yes, we have some information that this individual was involved
in some nefarious activity. But quite honestly, at the end of the day,
French intelligence services or anyone else just doesn`t have the resources
to watch everybody all the time. And so, unfortunately, planning can go on
in a clandestine fashion.
SHARPTON: Has a lot of people, Even, concerned right here in the United
States. What do we say to people at home tonight that are very concerned?
What do we say?
KOHLMANN: Well, look. I think first of all you have to understand that
the threat of individuals within France of being radicalized in joining
groups like AQAP or like ISIS, it is more of a problem here than it is
here. There is no doubt about it. Just look at the number of individuals
who have traveled from France to Syria. You`re talking about ten times or
more the number of Americans that have gone.
Nonetheless, the same way that there are individuals from France that have
gone to these places whether it is Yemen, Syria, Iraq, have gotten training
there and have sought to carry out attacks later. That`s a threat we face,
too. It may not be on the same scale of what France is looking at right
now. But look, there is nothing stopping someone who has received any
degree of training from carrying out an attack like that here in the United
Nothing about this terrorist attacks screams organization, assistance from
abroad, highly sophisticated technique. This was not an underwear bomb.
These were automatic weapons. And unfortunately, these kind of weapons can
be obtained by almost anyone here in the United States or foreign
SHARPTON: Jim, where do we go from here? Walk me through the manhunt and
then what is next and what happens in France and what happens around the
world in terms of reaction and making people feel secure?
ARKEDIS: Well, law enforcement organizations are undergoing operations
within France right now. The country is going to be on lockdown over the
course at the next at least 24 hours as we are concerned about subsequent
attacks or even copycat attacks. Individuals who are inspired by what they
have seen and choose to take their extremist ideology and perhaps act on
That said, I don`t want to, you know, arouse fearful, but France borders to
the extent that they can because they are part of the European Union will
be closed down on all sorts of transportation mechanisms. Police and
(INAUDIBLE) who are the sort of counterterrorism experts and special
forces, will be on high alert on trains because France does have quite
extensive train network and obviously, airports and sea ports, as they try
to track these suspects before they can move. Because right now, we don`t
exactly know where they are. There are beginnings of rumors, police
operations. AFP is reporting about one in France. So the French law
enforcement officials are going to want to disrupt this network if it
exists to prevent any follow on attacks and make sure these suspects don`t
have the opportunity to flee the country.
SHARPTON: Evan, please stay with me. Jim Arkedis, thank you for your time
ARKEDIS: Thank you very much, Al. Appreciate it.
SHARPTON: Up next, what do we know about the terrorists? We`ll look at
how experts are analyzing this tape for clues to catch the killers.
Also, are we safe here at home? How do we stop a similar attack in the
U.S.? And will the terror attack back fire?
Huge rallies today in support of free speech. Standing up against fear.
You`re watching MSNBC`s breaking news coverage of the terror attack in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our thoughts and prayers are
with the families of those who have been lost in France and with the people
of Paris and the people of France. And those who carry out senseless
attacks against innocent civilians, ultimately they`ll be forgotten and we
will stand with the people of France through this very, very difficult
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: We`re back with breaking news at the offices of "Charlie Hebdo,"
a humor magazine. And this was not the first time this magazine has been
NBC News foreign correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin has been reporting on the
magazine`s history and he is with us tonight.
Ayman, what can you tell us, Ayman?
AYMAN MOHYELDIN, NBC NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Rev., you know, this
magazine as you mentioned is one with a lot of controversy. It has over
the last several years targeted all kinds of religious groupings with its
caricature. In fact in 2011, it was criticized widely by a lot of Muslim
groups for at the time inviting the prophet Mohammed to be a guest editor.
And it was as a result of that particular issue that the magazine was
attacked. In fact, it was bombed by it at the time suspected militants.
But more importantly in 2012, when there was all this controversy going
around about a video called the innocence of Muslims that triggered
protests around the world, the magazine also came under criticism by the
French government which rebuked and it asked the newspaper, the magazine
not to publish those images. But the magazine defied the French government
and insisted that it had the right to do so and in fact it did. And that
forced the French government to crack down -- to shut down, rather,
embassies and schools, French schools all around the world.
In 2014, the magazine was once again accused by various NGOs, Muslim groups
in France and elsewhere of blasphemy. That`s because in a 2014 issue, it
had an offensive cover, it had a man holding the copy of the Koran and at
the time the headline said the Koran does not stop bullets. And Muslims
felt that was very offensive and blasphemous.
The organization know as we are saying, the magazine rather, does not hold
back its punches against all groups. It has criticized the Pope and
Catholics. It has also criticize the orthodox Jews and French politicians.
So it is a magazine that nonetheless does not shy away from controversy and
that a part of the history of the magazine, Rev.
SHARPTON: Ayman, thank you for your time tonight.
Coming up, we know the name of the attackers, but who are they and what are
And later, what are we doing at home in response to the tragedy today?
SHARPTON: More than 12 hours after this morning`s deadly terror attack in
Paris, the three gunmen are still at large. NBC News reports two of the
suspects are French nationals, in their 30s. The third is 18 years old.
It is unclear if he is French, too. The "AP" reports one of the men was
convicted of terrorism charges in 2008.
Today`s attack was carried out with military style equipment, including
bullet-proof vests and AK-47s. After driving away from the scene, the
gunmen abandoned their car, hijacked another and drove away.
What kind of training did they have? Are they part of a larger group? And
the big question, where are they?
Back with me is NBC news terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann and Jim Cavanaugh,
retired ATF agent and MSNBC law enforcement analyst. Thank you both for
KOHLMANN: Thank you.
JIM CAVANAUGH, MSNBC ANALYST: Thank you, Rev.
SHARPTON: Jim, you`ve seen the video of the attack. What do you think of
the tactics and training?
CAVANAUGH: Well, I don`t see a lot of training in there, Reverend Al. But
I do see some familiarity with the firearms. You know, maybe one of these
guys or both have been in a conflict area before. They`re outfitted
correctly. They have gloves.
When you shoot a gun like that, like a Clikalashnikov (ph), it gets very
hot. So you know, they have the gloves. They are medium shots. And you
know, they`re not expert marksmen but they got a tight group on a police
windshield. They are determined. There`s some planning. But I don`t see
a lot of military training. But maybe they have been in a conflict zone,
Syria, northern Africa, somewhere else, or they could have just had
firearms training and practiced a lot. You know, they have the desert
ammunition vest, et cetera.
But they flubbed a lot of stuff as well. Just quickly, Reverend Al. You
know, they went to the wrong door. The one guy jumps out of the car with
his shoes untied. You know, there`s a highly trained military people.
They get cartoonist and put the gun to her head to get into the building so
all these things don`t indicate, you know, the style like Evan describe of
years of planning or something that Al-Qaeda would do. They would know the
combination. They would tie their shoes. They would know who they`re
going to kill. And -- so I don`t see that. I think it is more like, you
know, probably a home grown group, a Wolf pack that may be connected
somewhere. It may be inspired, but we have to wait and see.
SHARPTON: What are authorities doing right now to final these men, Jim?
CAVANAUGH: Well, they`re doing all the things that normally we would do in
an investigation. Certainly, closed circuit TV all across Paris prior to
the incident. They`re doing cell phone tracking. They are going right
back into their database. You know, if the information you put out
already, Reverend Al, about, it might be two brothers and a third man known
to the authorities, previously convicted of supporting terrorism, you know,
two brothers acting in a terrorist attack.
We`ve seen that in Boston, the Tsarnaev brothers. And there`s many family
ties in terrorism in Al-Qaeda, in AQAP, all through it. And Evan can tell
you, the stiff familial ties that bring people into that kind of thinking.
So that wouldn`t be surprising if it was.
They`re getting tips. They may recognize them. Intelligence officer may
even recognize them on the video. Neighbors could flip them in. There`s
all kinds of possibilities that they got their county that quickly. Now
they have to find their whereabouts if they don`t know.
SHARPTON: You know, Evan, how is Muslim extremism in France different from
other western countries?
KOHLMANN: I think you have to understand, to be fair, the cleavages that
exist between Muslims and non-Muslims are far more severe than in the
SHARPTON: Far more severe.
KOHLMANN: Yes. And again, to be fair, Islamophobia and prejudice against
Arabs in France is a real problem. I can tell you that grew up there. I
saw this personally. A lot of my friends were of north African origin.
And the way that they were treated by the authorities and the police, it
created a certain mentality. And the mentality was is that these people
were at war with us. And unfortunately, some of the folks who have grown
one that mentality have pushed this to a new level.
So I think part of this, look, there is no doubt, there is no excuse for
launching an attack on newspaper office and murdering people. There is no
excuse. There is no way to justifying that. But it is also important that
the French society realizes as a whole, if it want to prevent these attacks
in the future, one method is try to identify would be attackers before they
launch an attack. Another method is to take away the ideological basis
that they`re using to launch this. And the sympathy that they get is
because of the fact, again, there is a problem with Islamophobia in France.
Anyone who has live there or spent time there know that.
And we have to try to resolve that issue because that will help resolve
some of the cleavages and hopefully help dissuade some of the people that
to have gone Syria and Iraq and elsewhere and who are trying to wage war
against their own society. This doesn`t make any sense. But again, as
long as there is this problem, with Islamophobia in France, there always
have these issues.
SHARPTON: How will this end if they`ll always have these issues? If you
have all these disaffected voices, how does this end? How does this end?
Where does this go?
KOHLMANN: Now, look, it is up to moderate voices within both sides. I
mean, number one, it is up to individuals within the French Muslim
community to come out very strongly and condemn this. Explain this has
nothing to do with Islam. It has nothing to do with Islam, faith in Islam
or honor about Islam. That this is a dishonorable act by any definition of
Islam. And it is also up to French society and the authorities to come out
and say very strongly, this is not about Islam. It is not about Muslims.
This is about a small group of extremists who are out there murdering
people for abstract reasons that they`re using religion as a cover for.
SHARPTON: What is the precedent for this kind of attack in Europe?
KOHLMANN: Look, there has been a number of them. I mean, you can go all
the way back to 1996 where there are a group of guys who came back from
Bosnia (INAUDIBLE) including native Frenchmen who brought back an arsenal
of weapons back with them and they decided they were going to wage a war
against French society. And they started trying to launch bombing attacks
against police stations. It ended up there was a big shoot-out on a
highway between France and Belgium and these guys know what they`re doing.
They`re heavily armed.
Unfortunately, there is precedent for this. And just in the past year,
we`ve seen look, (INAUDIBLE), an individual who was train in Syria, who
came back to France, who launched an attack, a shooting attack on the
Jewish museum in Brussels. This guy did an extremely, you know, capable
attack. He made international headlines and there`s not one shred of
evidence suggesting that he was directed to do that by Al-Qaeda in Iraq, by
ISIS, by Al-Qaeda in Syria, by AQAP. He did he this apparently all on his
SHARPTON: But Jim, there is still a threat. Even if they`re not connected
to a bigger group. Clearly they are still a threat. And what Evan is
telling us about, the feeling of disaffection, this could be serious
threats in the future.
CAVANAUGH: Right, Reverend Al. It could be an inspired wolf pack, it
could be a connected wolf pack. I just wanted to build on what Evan is
saying. Because it is so important and it is really the larger discussion.
You know, the terrorists want to be identified with Islam. They want to be
identified as representatives of Islam which they are not. They want to be
identified in this case as avenging the prophets` insults which they are,
you know, are not part of Islam. And we in the west have to do what Evan
is saying. We have to make the separation between the terrorists and the
1.3 billion Muslims in the world who are not part of it and don`t support
But yet, we in our language constantly say, Islamic state. We shouldn`t
call these people that. It should not happen. You know, the president
could issue a directive in one minute that nobody in the government should
ever call them that. They`re not. They don`t represent 1.3 billion
people. We shouldn`t play their game that they`re trying to play that
their a representative of Islam. That`s what Evan is saying. Call them
something else. And we can start there to, you know, make the world
SHARPTON: Jim, stay here with me. Evan, thanks for your time tonight.
KOHLMANN: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Coming up, a massive manhunt is underway in France. We`re
getting word of a police operation underway northeast of Paris. Richard
Engel joins us ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The neighbor called to say there
were armed men in the building and to close the doors of the offices. It
was as if we were in a state of war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They went inside the offices. It
is like butchers inside there now. There are so many dead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Coming up, a massive manhunt is underway in France. We`re
getting word of a police operation underway northeast of Paris. Richard
Engel joins us ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN (through a translator): The neighbor called to say
there were armed men in the building and to close the doors of the offices.
It was as if we were in a state of war.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN (through a translator): They went inside the
offices. It is like a butcher inside there now. There`s so many dead.
One of my colleagues is in a critical condition.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: We have breaking news. NBC has just learned that one of
the suspects have been killed and two are in custody. I repeat, one of the
suspects has been killed. And two are in custody in the killings in Paris,
France today. Let`s go back to Jim Cavanaugh. Jim, are you with me?
JIM CAVANAUGH, MSNBC LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I`m here, Reverend Al.
SHARPTON: What happens now? We just confirm one of the suspects
killed, two in custody. We don`t have any further details but NBC can
CAVANAUGH: Right. Well, massive investigation on the other two
certainly. You know, what weapons did they have. Searching their houses,
cars, apartments, connections, other foreign connections, is there any
other players in the conspiracy, logistical support. They`ll certainly
going to be interrogated, all that`s going to happen intensively. You
know, it reminds you of the Madrid trade bombings in 2004, I believe it
was. Where the perpetrators went off, got away and then when the police
went to their hideout, they detonated explosives and killed themselves.
So, one of these guys is killed when the police arrive. You know, they
could be in some shoot-out with the officers and they captured the other
two. It will give Paris and France, you know, a sigh of relief that at
least this crazed wolf pack is not loose. So some good fast work by the
police. But it also shows that they`re not, you know, the giant
international terrorists that they want to be. They`re just some criminals
with a, you know, distorted view of the world and they`re going to massacre
innocent journalists and police officers and citizens.
SHARPTON: Now, we`re getting this -- NBC is getting this from a
senior U.S. counterterrorism official. And clearly, this manhunt if what
we`re being told has worked in terms of tracking these three down. One
dead. Does that tell you there might have been some kind of confrontation
or resistance? I mean, without any real details released, how do you
assess the fact that within these 12 hours. They have found them but one
is dead and what may have lead to his being killed.
CAVANAUGH: Right. Well, you just have to assess it from the prior
behavior that we`ve seen this morning. The vicious shoot-out with the
police on the street and the killing of the journalists, and you take that
into, you know, later in the day. There`s an apprehension. And you would
believe that same type of resistance behavior may, you know, continue. So,
the police could have been involved in a shoot-out with them and one of
them was killed and the other two captured and could be wounded. We don`t
know that some could be wounded. But it is good news for the police that
they might have got on these guys real fast. Now they have to look for,
you know, other players.
SHARPTON: Yes. That`s what I was going to ask you. They don`t stop
this thorough search to find out if there`s some connective even if there`s
a home grown group and assuming that the two that have been apprehended are
not severely wounded. Wouldn`t they be putting them under every
interrogation, trying to break them to final out all that they could, Jim?
Walk me through that.
CAVANAUGH: Yes. Absolutely, Reverend Al. They`ll be interrogating
those apprehended separately if they`re like, you say, not wounded and able
to talk. That will be I`m sure extensive, long time interview
interrogation of them to get all the information on any possible
confederates, conspirators, support, logistics, foreign connections, all of
those things. They`ll be looking at their computers. Did they post
anything, list anything, store anything prior to the massacre that would
have shown the planning, what they wanted to do, how they wanted to carry
it out. And they`ll be looking at their cell phones and all their
electronic devices to see who they were talking too? Whose might have
helped them but not, you know, been a trigger puller. There could be some
other people to roll up as well. They could just supplied them with
weapons, safe houses, you know, all kinds of money, any kinds of things
that could have helped the massacre occur.
SHARPTON: We believe that the manhunt was in the city of Reims north
of Paris. And there is a photo of it. And we are confirming that. But
clearly, as we hear you break down the possible solo interrogations, or
individual ones, depending on the suspects, would they also be talking to a
lot of people in Reims and where they were found, and what I`m trying to
find out is the intensity of trying to found out exactly who and what may
have been helpful to them. Had knowledge or connected dozen stop. Even if
they are, as you say, they may have gotten the three suspects.
CAVANAUGH: Well, that`s exactly right, Reverend Al. And the priority
is always, is there another attack at foot? So law enforcement is always,
you know, conscious of that first of all. Once these guys are at hand, you
know, was there a further plot either by them or co-conspirators that could
be now interrupted? So that`s all is the very first effort. You know, to
find out if anything else is going on. I would say that literally
thousands of law enforcement and intelligence personnel, military personnel
across France, are involved in this. Not only interviews with neighbors,
family, associates, but they`re looking to cross the electronic world to
see where they`ve been, what they`ve done, you know, all their financial
records, where they`ve traveled, everything about them. You know, going
back, you know, certainly quickly, six months, maybe a year, maybe further,
as time goes by. They want to know everything about him. And of course,
they`re going to have a trial if they live and, you know, all those facts
have to be uncovered. The first thing, is there another attack that can be
stopped? Next, the complete investigation for the whole scenario for co-
conspirators, confederates and evidence.
SHARPTON: Now, Jim. This is a video, a little jerky, of the city or
Reims where we believe that the manhunt took place tracking down these
three. Which is outside of Paris. But this is Reims where we believe the
manhunt successfully tracked down these three. As I said a little north of
Paris but definitely outside of Paris. Does that tell us anything?
CAVANAUGH: Well, it is likely they thought they could get away,
Reverend Al. You know, they had an escape plan and they wanted to live. I
mean, I think you can see that. They were prepared to die. That you they
wanted to live. They had masks on, they had an escape plan, they had one
actor set as a driver and they were willing to confront the police and get
away. They could have stood there. In another scenario, and just shot it
out with every arriving officer if they wanted to die. But they wanted to
get away and not be recognized by use of the mask. So, that shows some of
the criminal purpose. Then to go to Reims, whether or not they leave
there, associates there or hideouts there, or maybe not, maybe they were
just going to escape to there, it shows they certainly had a plan to get
away and, you know, act another day. Or do something else. Or escape to a
foreign land. So they had a plan. We don`t know what it is now but the
police will be sorting that out to find out what exactly it was.
SHARPTON: Jim, stay with me. Joining me now, is NBC News chief
foreign correspondent Richard Engel. Richard is live from Istanbul.
Richard, what are you hearing about these attackers?
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are
going to learn a lot more about the attackers in the coming hours and days,
it seems. Especially after these reports from two U.S. officials, that two
have been captured alive. Which doesn`t always happen, as your previous
guest was just saying. A lot of dedicated militants wear suicide vests,
they keep hand grenades on them so that they won`t be taken alive.
Apparently however two of them were captured alive and another one was
killed in a raid operation. At this stage we just know that at least one
of the three suspects was a well-known Islamic radical. Someone who in
2008 had actually been convicted on terrorism charges at the time he was
trying to funnel fighters and money to the war in Iraq. There were two
brothers among three suspects of North African descent.
But it is unclear exactly if they were working on their own, if this
cell of three was independent or if it was officially tied to a major
terrorist organization. And that has been something people have been
trying to figure out all day. Because if you look at the claims online,
you don`t want to believe everything that comes out immediately. There
have been quite a few competing claims with different radical groups kind
of falling all over themselves to try and take credit for this horrendous
SHARPTON: But we know one of them was charged with trying to funnel
and support what was going on in Iraq. Is that correct?
ENGEL: Correct. One of the two brothers, so there were three
ENGEL: One apparently dead. Two apparently in custody. One of the
two brothers was convicted and served time in prison in 2008 for trying to
send fighters to Iraq. And there are also reports that the two brothers
may have later on traveled to Syria where they would have possibly seen
combat. Received combat training. But like I said, we`re going to learn a
lot more about their specific motivations and their connections to
potentially to international groups as the French authorities release
SHARPTON: On this side, Richard, they reportedly shouted, Allahu
Akbar. What does that this attack seem like to you? How would it be
ENGEL: Oh, I think it is quite clear what the motivation of this
attack was. When you look at the target, when you look at what they were
shouting, they weren`t just shouting Allahu Akbar which is to say, which is
a Muslim slogan that is often used in normal Islamic activities. But
Islamic extremists tend to shout it also when they`re carrying out attacks
as a call of bravery, to say God is great, God is greater than my enemies.
SHARPTON: Which is not how it is always used.
ENGEL: Absolutely not. It was a very, very common phrase in Islam.
It is something I hear covering the Islamic world every single day. It is
not a terrifying phrase. It is something you hear during the call to
prayer five times a day. It is absolutely main stream. But Islamic groups
have turned it also into their battle cry. The fact that they were
shouting Allahu Akbar is not unusual and doesn`t really reveal much. It is
very typical of Islamic militant groups. They tend to shout that when they
carry out attacks. What it`s most specific and most revealing is the
target, this satirical newspaper that have been threatened in the past,
threatened attacked in the past because it published images and satire that
was offensive to Mohammed. And the attackers were also apparently saying
that they came there to avenge Mohammed. So they felt that they were doing
this in order to act on behalf of fellow Muslims who of course never asked
for them to be their guardians or their protectors.
SHARPTON: Richard, you have such extensive experience in the Muslim
world. What is your feeling that needs to be done to stop and/ordeal with
the home grown terrorists if this ends up being that. How do we deal with
ENGEL: Well, right now there`s a major problem. France and a lot of
European countries have long had histories with Islamic radicals among them
in their midst. But right now, there is a safe haven. There is a safe
haven in Syria. There is a safe haven in Iraq. There is an active battle
underway and a place where militants can go. They can fight, they can be
inspired, they can watch videos. So, it is not theoretical anymore. These
groups have a home address. If they can fight in Syria, they can fight in
Iraq. But now the groups in Syria and Iraq are actually telling would be
supporters and recruits, don`t bother to go to the war zones. Just take
your fight to the streets of your home city. But I think a big problem is
really the safe havens that exist right now. They`re fueling this war that
these radicals are now deciding to carry out on their home soil.
SHARPTON: Richard Engel, thank you for your time. Jim Cavanaugh,
please stay with me. We`ll be right back.
SHARPTON: Our breaking news tonight. NBC News is reporting that one
of the suspects in the Paris attack has been killed and the remaining two
are in custody. They`re coming from two U.S. senior U.S. counterterrorism
officials. Back with me now is retired ATF Agent Jim Cavanaugh and Brian
Levin, the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at
California State University. Thank you for being here this evening.
BRIAN LEVIN, CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF HATE AND EXTREMISM: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Jim Cavanaugh, this was a manhunt of several hours. How do
you assess the work by the French?
CAVANAUGH: Well, I think they did a great job in getting on the
terrorists quick, trying to locate them. Certainly apprehending them. It
is different than what happened this morning. I mean, I think the police
response this morning, even though there were officers present with maybe
sidearms, you know, these guys rampaged around there for more than ten
minutes. And cities can`t have that. You know, you have to put a police
rifle team anywhere in the metropolitan downtown pretty fast. And
everybody has to assess how quickly they can do that so you can stop a
rifle attack. The security at the building is another issue that can be
discussed at length. It wasn`t any security against the rifle attack. But
as far as the investigation to find the guys, Reverend Al, I think very
good. They were on them. They actually have to find out, is there another
attack afoot? Where is the weapons cache? Is there any co-conspirators
and so forth.
SHARPTON: Brian, a lot of concern back here at home. A lot of
concern. A lot of questions back here at home. How do you assess, is
there any reason for alarm here in the United States?
LEVIN: I wouldn`t say alarm. I would say concern. I think Evan
Coleman touched on some things before. France is a little different. They
have a much larger Muslim population. It is not as well assimilated. Here
our citizens are much more mainstream than in France. France has the
largest Muslim population in Europe. And again, France has been active
also in North Africa and there are some colonial issues as well. Let me
say this though. David Headley, an American, was involved in a plot to hit
the Danish newspaper back in October 2009 he was arrested. So the fact of
the matter is we do have a very small sliver of extremists here and we do
have an active front, meaning Syria, where folks can get training or
Furthermore, one last point. In Europe, it is much easier, and I
spoke to a European police official just last month. For folks to cross
borders. I`m not saying this happened here. But the fact of the matter
is, we had someone who was engaged in terrorism and then went out to commit
terrorism again. That`s scary. We have a lot of soft targets here and I
think this will cause a lot of people here in law enforcement and policy to
take a breather and say, what can we do better?
SHARPTON: What are your questions given your expertise in studying
hate groups and things of this nature? What are the questions that are in
your mine tonight, Brian?
LEVIN: Well, the biggest Achilles` heel I think we have are people
who have some degree of minimal competency. And I think that`s what we`ve
seen here. While these guys are not the super stars that they were made to
be at first. They left their I.D. cards for instance in the abandoned car.
But there is this neither region between complete amateurs and totally
trained and directed extremists and those in the middle that we see maybe
in some training and some instruction, but they`re not coordinated and
directed by an organized terror group. And that`s what I want to see.
What is the connection to foreign fighters or foreign terrorist groups? We
had an attack by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula today in Yemen as well
that killed a couple of dozen people. So I want to know, what connections
exactly they had. Because our biggest Achilles` heel are those who have
some degree of competency but may not be directed and in communication with
groups in real-time. And that`s where we`re at risk. Those people who
fall between the cracks but have a degree of competency.
SHARPTON: All right. Many questions and we`ll be following this to
get the answers. I`m sure over the next few days. Jim Cavanaugh and Brian
Levin, thank you both for your time this evening.
LEVIN: Thank you.
CAVANAUGH: Thanks, Reverend.
SHARPTON: When we come back, the vigils and tributes for the victims
from all over the globe. That`s next.
SHARPTON: There`s an outpouring across Europe and across the world
tonight but it was this image that really hit closest to home for me. It
shows a plane with two pencils representing the Twin Towers. This was
their 9/11. I remember 9/11. In New York, it brought us all together,
different races, different religions. You gain by getting beyond your pain
by reaching out, touching, and standing up saying, no matter what you do,
we are not afraid. I saw that in Paris today.
Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.
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