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Meet the Press Transcript - January 11, 2015

MEET THE PRESS -- SUNDAY, JANUARY 11, 2015

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, terror in Paris. How were suspects known to French and American authorities allowed to commit these atrocities?

EVAN KOHLMANN:

The more of innocents who are killed in these attacks, the greater the impetus is for others to carry out similar attacks.

CHUCK TODD:

Attorney General Eric Holder will join me from Paris. Plus, inside the mind of a terrorist, I'll talk to a journalist who interviewed one of the men who carried out the terrorist massacre. Also, why homegrown Islamic terror has been less of a threat in the United States.

MOHAMMED ABDRABBOH (DEARBORN LAWYER):

The person who immigrated here 20 years ago named Mohammed, their grandson who is named Mohammed is now Mike.

CHUCK TODD:

And in 2015 news, Mitt Romney now says he's considering a third run for the White House. What's behind this change of heart. I'm Chuck Todd. And joining me to providing insight and analysis on this busy morning are David Brooks of The New York Times, NBC's Andrea Mitchell, Helene Cooper of The New York Times, and Rich Lowry of National Review. Welcome to Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News in Washington, this is Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD:

And good morning. France's leadership has declared that the country is at war with radical Islam, after three days of horrific terror attacks, which brought fear and despair to the city of Paris. Seventeen civilians are dead, 12 at the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, four shoppers at a kosher supermarket, and a policewoman.

All three attackers are dead as well. An alleged female accomplice, Hayat Boumeddiene, is on the run, and believed to be in Syria after leaving France at the beginning of this month, meaning she wasn't actually part of the attacks, contrary to some reports out there. Now overnight, a German newspaper, the Hamburg Morgenpost, which had printed cartoons from Charlie Hebdo, which targeted in an arson attack.

Now no one was injured and two people have been arrested. This morning, a video has emerged appearing to show the supermarket gunman, Ahmed Coulibaly, pledging his support to ISIS. NBC News has not yet verified when, where, or under what circumstances that this video was produced.

And right now, there's a massive rally today taking place in the French capital, part of what the French prime minister has called a quote, "cry of freedom," with up to a million people attending, along with dozens of world leaders. NBC's Chief Global Correspondent Bill Neely joins me now from this rally. Bill, tell me about this atmosphere.

BILL NEELY:

Yes, good morning Chuck, from the very heart of the demonstration, now for a week of horror that has seared itself into the very soul of France. This is a day of defiance. Hundreds of thousands of people gathering here, showing the flags not just of France, but of Israel, Algeria, Tunisia, Muslim, Jewish, Christian countries summoned together.

A few minutes ago, they hoisted up a giant pencil, a symbol of free speech here. Also gathering here already to march, the leaders of Britain, Germany and Israel showing their solidarity. This could be the biggest rally in France since Paris was liberated from the Nazis at the end of World War II.

But as those leaders march and as they meet, they have a challenge. How to confront the terrorism here without overreacting legally, in terms of police measures, and without alienating the population. Remember, France has a Muslim population of 5 million. That's about 9% of the population. Any overreaction could alienate a lot of those people and would be a disaster.

So it's a challenge to hold the populations together. France's president, François Hollande, who will lead the march here, has described this as a test. It is, but it's a test not just for France, but the whole of Europe and the whole of the West. Chuck?

CHUCK TODD:

It has lots of implications for this around the world and French politics as well. Bill, thanks very much. We're going to talk to Attorney General Eric Holder in a moment. But first, the Paris attackers were known to the authorities in France and here in the United States. So the big question is, how did this happen? Our chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, has been looking at what went wrong, and the challenges that face the security services around the world to stop a similar attack.

(BEGIN TAPE)

RICHARD ENGEL:

These were not lone wolves, but trained and disciplined killers on a mission. Their victims executed with single, controlled shots. This is what homegrown terrorists look like in the era of the Islamic State. Like soldiers, the Kouachi brothers were known militants. They'd been under surveillance, but not for long.

Counterterrorism sources say they were deemed to be a minor threat, and surveillance is expensive and time consuming. There were simply too many targets for security services to follow. This is the Paris tourists don't normally see, the slums where illegal immigrants rub shoulders with drug dealers and religions extremists. And for Islamic radicals, these affected neighborhoods have long been a fertile source of recruit. This week's attacks in France were tragically foretold.

RICHARD ENGEL:

Were you surprised by this attack?

JEAN-CHARLES BRISARD (TERRORISM AND SECURITY EXPERT):

No. France was expecting a terrorist attack sooner or later.

RICHARD ENGEL:

But do you think there would be an attack on this scale?

JEAN-CHARLES BRISARD:

No. On that scale? No.

RICHARD ENGEL:

The reason why it was so big, because at least one of the brothers traveled to Yemen and trained with Al Qaeda there. Yemen, Somalia, and the so-called Islamic State in Syria and Iraq are part of a growing number of lawless places where radical Islamists are free to train recruits from the Western world. Give them a taste of real warfare, and send them back to the West with money and a mission to launch spectacular attacks on soft targets.

This week in Paris, three radicals killed 17 people and brought a world capital to a standstill. Others may try to repeat their success. The question is, can Western governments find a way to stop them. Richard Engel, NBC News, Paris.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

We're joined by the attorney general, Eric Holder, who was in Paris for a security summit today with intelligence and law enforcement officials from around the world. This morning, he announced that another international summit on preventing extremism will be held at the White House next month. Mr. Attorney General, welcome back to Meet the Press. And let me start with the first question here. The French prime minister this morning declared that France is at war with radical Islam. Would you say the United States is at war with radical Islam?

ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER:

Well, I would say that we are at war with terrorists who commit these heinous acts and who use Islam, they use a corrupted version of Islam to justify their actions. We are bound and determined to hold them accountable, to find them wherever they are, and then to try, as you indicated, to come up with ways in which we prevent young people who become attracted to this radical ideology from becoming members of these groups and perpetrating these heinous acts.

CHUCK TODD:

Now it seems that according to various sources we have here, that the United States warned France that these two brothers in particular had gotten training in Yemen nearly five years ago. Is this an intelligence breakdown that happened in France or a law enforcement resource issue? Because they can't follow everybody?

ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER:

Well, I'm not sure at this point that it would be fair to comment in that way. We are still dealing with the immediate impact of these terrible acts that occurred here in France. There'll be time for an after-action analysis of exactly what might have been done better. As we've always done in the United States when we have had to deal with these incidents ourselves, or where we have disrupted plots, you always look back and try to determine how you might do things better. I will say that the French have been among our best allies, our greatest friends in this fight against global terrorism. And we are here to express our solidarity with them.

CHUCK TODD:

Considering, though, that it looks like Al Qaeda and Yemen had some impact on this operation. You know, in 2012, John Brennan, when he was the president's counterterrorism aide, now of course, he's head of the C.I.A., he had said that you guys had made some progress degrading Al Qaeda in Yemen. And yet, they're clearly still inspiring and possibly funding attacks. What is the status?

ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER:

Well, I don't think there's any question that we have certainly decimated core Al Qaeda. The threat now really I think comes from Al Qaeda affiliates. And chief among them would be Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula. But I think that we have had an impact on them, but they still remain a very viable threat.

They have the ability to inspire people around the world, unfortunately, they have explosives experts in Al Qaeda near the Arabian Peninsula, and a capacity that I think is unmatched by any other terrorist organization. So they remain a very virulent and viable threat that we have devoted considerable attention to and will consider and continue to focus on.

CHUCK TODD:

Considering that these two brothers potentially were a sleeper cell, if you want to call them that, for nearly five years, if their training in Yemen took place in 2010, and here it is 2015, are you now concerned that there are potentially people in the United States that maybe the intelligence community asked you or the F.B.I. to start following these folks, you stopped following them because you thought they didn't present a threat. Do you have to reconsider some folks here in the United States that maybe you thought weren't a threat that maybe they are? Maybe they're sleeper cells?

ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER:

Well, we are constantly evaluating where we stand with regard to those people who we have suspicions about. We have a universe of people who we focus on using all legitimate means. And keep track of them. Keep track of their movements, again, using appropriate mechanisms, monitor them as best we can.

And we do this in conjunction with our state and local counterparts. And I think the American people should feel secure in what it is that we do. Now, one has to understand that it is very difficult to maintain a good contact, to stay in touch with all the people who are potentially going to do these kinds of things. That is the thing that I think keeps me up most at night, this concern about the lone wolf who goes undetected. But we're doing, as I said, the best that we can, marshalling the resources that we have.

CHUCK TODD:

Nearly a year ago, we were having a debate about privacy in this country. Frankly, Western Europe was very upset with some of the surveillance tactics that they thought the United States was using in order to deal with terrorism, in order to track potential terrorists. There've been some announcements made that some reforms, some sort of rolling back of this aggressive surveillance. Any second thoughts about rolling back the aggressive surveillance that the United States was doing over, say, the first eight, ten years after 9/11?

ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER:

Well, I think what we looked at was changing the way in which we conduct some of our electronic surveillance programs so that we are focusing that effort on those people who we are most concerned about. We're not going to do anything that you would term a "rollback" that would endanger the American people.

We have talked to people in the intelligence community, we've talked to people in our Congress, and I think have come up with a way that we can enhance the privacy concerns that people have expressed, while at the same time, making sure that we keep the American people safe.

CHUCK TODD:

I've got to ask you one last question, another topic. Former C.I.A. director David Petraeus has been under investigation for possibly sharing classified secrets or classified documents with his former mistress. There was a leak that prosecutors have recommended that this go to trial. And that you, Mr. Attorney General, are the final arbiter of this, the final decision maker. Are you going to make this decision before you leave office?

ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER:Well, I don't want to comment on what is an ongoing matter. I think that anybody who shared information

that led to that report did so inappropriately. The determination has yet to be made. And we will just see how things play out before any final decision is made.

CHUCK TODD:

But you were going to make this decision, not your successor.

ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER:

Well, again, I don't want to comment on an ongoing investigation and say where we stand with regard to any matter. This will be something that will have to be decided by the appropriate people in the Justice Department.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. I will see that as a bit of a duck there. Mr. Attorney General, thanks for coming on Meet the Press.

ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER:

Alright, thanks.

CHUCK TODD:

Let's get some reaction now from the panel, David Brooks, Andrea Mitchell, Helene Cooper, and Rich Lowry are here. And Andrea, I want to start with you. If this attack had happened in the United States, and there was evidence that the United States intelligence agency had identified these two brothers, and all three of these guys as potential threats, had gotten training in Yemen, we would call this an intelligence breakdown. This is not a lone wolf. Four days ago, we were talking lone wolf. This is bigger.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

It is bigger. It is an intelligence failure. U.S. officials are privately saying that it was a French intelligence failure. But look at the Boston marathon. There was tracking of Tsarnaev, then there were gaps. And Boston came together, America came together, and we didn't go through a whole, "who messed up in Boston?"

I think France similarly has to learn lessons from this, because clearly, they are not equipped. And the lesson here is also that they don't have the manpower, the intelligence services, very few countries do, to keep track of all of these individuals, especially in Europe, where they can easily go back and forth from Syria and the civil war, back to the continent.

CHUCK TODD:

Helene, is this a bigger problem for France than it is for the United States?

HELENE COOPER:

I think absolutely it is, because they have a far bigger Muslim population in France than they do in the United States, and that population hasn't really been assimilated. France has had enormous problems with how immigrants to France have been treated as part of French society. This immigrant population that sort of rings Paris, in the Parisian suburbs. And they're not really part of French culture.

You have the laws that have been passed in France restricting wearing burkas. And it's just so different from the way the United States is, which is, we are a melting pot here in the United States. And my family moved to the U.S. 20 years ago, and there's a reason why we chose to come to the United States, instead of moving to Europe. And that was one reason, was we thought we'd be treated better.

CHUCK TODD:

David Brooks, 17 people are dead in Paris, 2,000 Nigerians in the name of Islamic radicalism also were killed this week, Boko Haram in Nigeria. It's worldwide. What is this?

DAVID BROOKS:

Well, it's failed states. And I would say, say you're in college or say you want to give money, but we give money to bed mats, we give money to clean water, all that antipoverty stuff. But central antipoverty program is law and order. You can't get rich if you're afraid of getting shot in the back of the head at night. And so if you're giving as an individual, if you're thinking as a state, giving to law and order groups like International Justice Mission, things like that, that is essentially the basis to get an antipoverty program. So Bono's doing great stuff with the diseases and the Gates Foundation. Law and order always conserves.

CHUCK TODD:

And Rich Lowry, what should the U.S. policy action be here? How should policymakers be reacting?

RICH LOWRY:

Well, a couple things, it highlights the importance of surveillance. And these guys fell through the cracks in France, just as Andrea was astute, there are too many targets to follow in France. But this is a reason why we have things like the NSA program.

And there's also, this attack highlights just the domestic security consequences of having the greater Middle East in flames. Because you have extremists with space to occupy and train people. And then there's just the radicalizing effect of this mayhem and sectarian warfare.

CHUCK TODD:

But there doesn't seem to be, Andrea, any, "Okay, we're at war there, it radicalizes people. If we're not there, it radicalizes." I mean, there is sort of this catch 22.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Well, and the fact is that we have, as a global society, basically ignored the fact that Syria has been in civil war, hundreds of thousands of people dying for four years. This is radicalizing. The age-old conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians.

But also, bring back our girls. The fact is, the corruption in the Nigerian military was so dismaying that the U.S. government pulled back from its coverage and help to try to find the girls. And Boko Haram is just marauding throughout Chad and Nigeria unstopped, undeterred.

CHUCK TODD:

Arguably, the most violent of these Islamic, radical-based groups here. I'm going to put a pause here. We're going to talk more on this topic. Don't go anywhere. In just a minute, a journalist who five years ago was working on a story about the so-called "underwear bomber," if you remember, when he met and interviewed SaeedQureshi.

***Commercial Break***

CHUCK TODD:

More pictures of the millions-strong rally in Paris. Welcome back. We've learned that both Cherif and Said Kouachi spent time in Yemen, prior to carrying out this week's attacks. Yemeni journalist, Mohammed Al-Kibsi, met Said Kouachi in Sana'a, the Yemeni capital in January of 2010, while he was working on an article about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, of course, known as the so-called "underwear bomber," who tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner in 2009. Earlier this morning, I spoke to Mohammed Al-Kibsi via Skype from Yemen. And he talked about finding Said Kouachi during his investigation of life for the underwear bomber in Yemen.

MOHAMMED AL-KIBSI:

While we were walking on the street, trying to get to the residence where Umar Farouk used to live. And while we were on the street, we found a guy -- a foreigner guy -- playing football with some kids on the street. And we approached him, trying to talk to him, because we knew that he was a student and we expected that he might know something about Umar Farouk.

And surprisingly, Said -- I made sure now after I looked at the pictures. And found out that the picture that was released by the French police, was for Said, the one that I recognized. So we approached him and he talked to us and he was very polite.

And we asked him if he was studying at that school and he said, yes, he was studying at that school. And he was doing an Arabic grammar course. And then we started asking him questions about Umar Farouk, and he said he knew him, and that he lived with him in the same residence. And he was-- yes.

CHUCK TODD:

When you saw and when you talked with Said Kouachi, did you get the sense then this was a terrorist in training?

MOHAMMED AL-KIBSI:

He was very, very normal and he talked to us normally. Actually, I got shocked when I saw his photo on the press saying that this guy was the one that attacked the French newspaper.

CHUCK TODD:

Up next, what makes the U.S. different? Why we think homegrown Islamic terrorists seems to be less of a threat here at home.

***Commercial Break***

CHUCK TODD:

Well, as we've been discussing, France is still reeling from this week's atrocities, attacks carried out by terrorists born and raised in France. So why do a small minority of European Muslims become radicalized? And why is there less of a problem in the American Muslim community? Ayman Mohyeldin of NBC News, we asked him to go to Dearborn, Michigan, just outside of Detroit, a city where Muslims make up more than a third of that population.

(BEGIN TAPE)

AYMAN MOHYELDIN:

The attacks in France may be over. But questions about the attackers are just beginning. Many who are young, economically disadvantaged, politically and culturally disenfranchised, like the Kouachi brothers, are ripe for exploitation by militant recruiters and radicals. But do similar conditions exist here in the U.S.?

MALE SPEAKER IN DEARBORN MOSQUE:

An extremist in Paris … and that action, we don't accept it at all.

AYMAN MOHYELDIN:

No, say some of America's Muslim leaders and activists.

RON AMEN (ISLAMIC CENTER OF AMERICA):

I think America is generally a more accepting country of newer immigrants. That's what this country was built on.

AYMAN MOHYELDIN:

We traveled to Dearborn, Michigan, a city with one of America's largest and oldest Muslim and Arab communities, and where a constant stream of new immigrants are arriving.

RON AMEN (ISLAMIC CENTER OF AMERICA):

Some of them don't speak any English yet. So they come to the mosque. If we can't give the service that they need, we have contacts who will make those services available to them.

AYMAN MOHYELDIN:

Sixty-five percent of Muslims in Europe say they identify with their faith before their national identity. In the U.S., it's considerably less, at about 45%.

KASSEM ALLIE (ISLAMIC CENTER OF AMERICA):

We believe that you can be fully American and fully Muslim. And practice your faith freely, without restriction.

AYMAN MOHYELDIN:

Mohammed Abdrabboh is a lawyer and activist in the local Muslim community.

MOHAMMED ABDRABBOH (DEARBORN LAWYER):

The person who immigrated here 20 years ago named Mohammed, their grandson who is named Mohammed is now Mike. I see an assimilation on a lot of different levels.

AYMAN MOHYELDIN:

But for some, radicalization and attacks against the U.S. stems from anger. And American foreign policy is in wars in the Middle East. While the overwhelming majority of Muslims have successfully assimilated and integrated into U.S. society, the challenge remains to find individuals who may be on the fringes of some of these communities and are also alienated.

KASSEM ALLIE (ISLAMIC CENTER OF AMERICA):

We will be able to inoculate them against being radicalized, regardless of where they come from, whether it's the internet or television, this Islamophobia that's been going on for the last several years, you know, has hurt. It has really hurt.

AYMAN MOHYELDIN:

That's because when every attack carried out around the world, it's the Muslim community that feels the blowback. For Meet the Press, Ayman Mohyeldin.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm joined now from Los Angeles by Reza Aslan, professor at UC Riverside, and author of many books on religion, including Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in a Globalized Age, and Arsalan Iftikhar, senior editor of the Islamic Monthly. I'm going to bring the panel in as well.

Reza, let me start with you. Should we be looking at this, as we heard the French prime minister today say they're at war with radical Islam. Are we at war with a strain of Islam? Or is this a perversion that we pretend doesn't exist?

REZA ASLAN:

Well, there's no question that there has been a kind of virus that has spread throughout the Muslim world, a virus of ultra orthodox Puritanism. But there's also no question about what the source of this virus is, whether we're talking about Boko Haram or ISIS or Al Qaeda or the Taliban.

All of these have, as their source, a single sect, Wahhabism, the state religion of Saudi Arabia. And as most people know, Saudi Arabia has spent approximately $100 billion over the last 20, 30 years, spreading this ideology throughout the world. And so we do have a problem within the Muslim community. But that problem tends to be very much localized within a particular ideology that must be confronted first and foremost by Muslims themselves.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I was just going to say, and Arsalan, we've had this conversation previously on this show, not very long ago. Let me get you to react to something that you were going to but appearing with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. And she just decided to not appear. But I want to read a part of her op-ed for The Wall Street Journal on Thursday. And of course, she was a former Muslim.

And she writes this, "If we take the position that we are dealing with a handful of murderous thugs with no connection to what they so vocally claim, then we are not answering them. We have to acknowledge that today's Islamists are driven by a political ideology, an ideology embedded in the foundational texts of Islam. We can no longer pretend that it is possible to divorce actions from the ideals that inspire them." What would you say to her?

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR:

Well, I would say that she's being too reductive in her reasoning and I think that it's important to keep in mind that when you're dealing with the second-largest religion in the entire world, and 1.7 billion people, there's no minority demographic group today in Western societies that has placed more collective guilt than Muslims.

And I think it's important that we do not have this double standard in terms of calling out terrorism. I think terrorism that has been co-opted to only apply when brown, Muslim men commit acts of mass murder and when white Christian people, like Anders Breivik in Norway killed 77 teenagers and tried to bomb the prime minister of Norway's office, we didn't ask Norway's Christian leaders to come out on national television and condemn him. So I think that it's a little reductive her conflation.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, there has been, and Reza, you just brought this up in saying that the Muslim community needs to stand up. Well, who are these? Who are these folks? Who's going to do it?

REZA ASLAN:

Well, first of all, let's be clear that every single organization, Muslim organization, and some other organizations throughout the world, and in the United States and the prominent individual, be it political or religious leaders, everyone has condemned, not just-- this is why I said every attack that occurs in the name of Islam, and anyone who keeps saying that we need to hear the moderate voices of Islam, why aren't Muslim denouncing these violent attacks, doesn't own Google.

But that said, I do think that we do need to do a better job of providing a counternarrative. And the really puts a real obstacle in the way is opinions like Ayaan's and so many others in the political and the media mainstream who continue to say that 1.7 billion people are responsible for the actions of these extremists.

That doesn't help the fight against radicalism. The answer to Islamic violence is Islamic peace. The answer to Islamic bigotry is Islamic pluralism. And so that's why I put the onus on the Muslim community, but I also recognize that that work is being done, that the voice of condemnation is deafening, and if you don't hear it, then you're not listening.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm going to bring in the rest of the panel. Rich Lowry, many Americans don't give a difference to radical Islam and moderate Islam.

RICH LOWRY:

Well, I think it's a pretty easy distinction to make. Obviously, not all Muslims, not even a majority of Muslims in any way justify this kind of radicalism. But these radicals do cite texts to support their actions, they do have significant authorities that back up their interpretations.

You go to Saudi Arabia, you go to Iran, and you say negative things about Muhammad, very bad things are going to happen to you. And you can insult in the West, Catholics, Baptists, Presbyterians, Quakers, no one is going to show up at your door with an automatic weapon. That is not true when it comes to Muslim radicals.

CHUCK TODD:

You're actually providing a transition that I want to get to. And that is this idea of how should the media be handling this? And is Mohammed up for the same satirical treatment as Jesus Christ is, as the pope, all of those things? David Brooks, you wrote something that I can tell you, more people emailed me about your column on Friday than I get usually.

"The journalists at Charlie Hebdo are now rightly being celebrated as martyrs on behalf of freedom of expression, but let's face it: If they had tried to publish their satirical newspaper on any American university campus over the last two decades it wouldn't have lasted 30 seconds. Student and faculty groups would have accused them of hate speech. The administration would have cut financing and shut them down."

DAVID BROOKS:

We lionize people abroad for things we would not tolerate here. And so the reaction should be for us domestically is, hey, let's get offended a little more. Let's tolerate a little offensiveness. There's a new thing on campus, microaggressions. It's like some minor offense against people.

But you just have to learn to tolerate that. We have to do two things, one we have to uphold standards of civility and decency, but we ought to let the clowns among us say what the clowns do. And you never do that with law, you never do it with speech codes, you don't disinvite speakers, you allow them to talk, but you have distinctions.

So there are some people like, frankly this show, we're at the adult table of conversation. Some people like Ann Coulter, they're at the kiddie-table. Charlie Hebdo, that's the kiddie table. Let the kiddie table have the kiddie table. Because sometimes they'll say things that those of us at the adult table need to hear. Don't crack down on them.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, it's interesting. When it comes to satirizing Muhammad, about the only American organization that I've seen that has really done it is South Park. I'm going to play a clip.

(BEGIN TAPE)

FOX NETWORK PRESIDENT: I can't be responsible for people getting hurt, especially me.

KYLE BROFLOVSKI: Yes, people can get hurt, that's how terrorism works. But if you give in to that, Doug, you're allowing terrorism to work. Do the right thing here.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Well, we laugh about it, but Reza, what is the right thing? Does the Muslim community in general need to learn more tolerance of being satirized? Or as you say, is this also isolated?

REZA ASLAN:

Well, I think it's a generalization to say that Muslims don't tolerate being satirized. Look, there is such a thing as privileged communities. Yes, it's okay, nobody really bothers you if you make fun of Christianity because 70% of Americans are Christian. It's the same issue that we have with regard to black/white relations and what is and what is not proper speech when referring to various stereotypes of either group.

And look, the fact of the matter is, is that even in the most free democracies, there are limitations about what you can and cannot say. In France, there are limitations about what you can and cannot say about the Holocaust. In India, there are limitations about what you can say about religious communities, and particularly, religious minorities.

But again we have to stand up as individuals and make sure that we are being counted. So with regard to your question, if we're talking about what Muslims can do, what they can look to, I think the best person to look to is Ahmed Merabet, the police officer, the Muslim man who was killed by these terrorists for defending the right of people to caricaturize his religion. That's the model that we need to go forward with.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Reza, Arsalan, thank you both for joining. The panel is going to come back, we've got a lot of domestic politics we're going to do. Up next, states of play. Wait until you see this. The states where you can smoke pot, pack heat, and marry your same-sex partner, all in the same state.

And some of the states where you can't do any of it. As we go to break, by the way, more scenes from the massive unity rally in Paris and as you can see there, a bunch of world leaders. I believe right up there is Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. We'll be right back.

***Commercial Break***

CHUCK TODD:

NerdScreen time, this is a fun one, you're going to enjoy it. This week, Florida became the latest state that has to allow gay couples to marry, I say has to, because there was a court order in this case. So here's what it does, it brings the total number of states recognizing same-sex marriage to 36, throw in the District of Columbia. It's all in blue here.

So now, seven in ten Americans live in a state where same-sex marriage is allowed. So this got us thinking about how your individual rights depend on where you live. So let's take a look. This is some states that allow some use of marijuana. Nineteen states where medical marijuana is legal, and four, plus D.C., that allow recreational marijuana. And they also allow gay couples to marry, all except Michigan.

And by the way, all but two of these states, Arizona and Montana, voted for President Obama twice. Now let's take a look at gun rights. Take a look at this map. Here, the states in red, almost all of them, have the most lenient gun laws, a more conservative position in this case.

It's almost exactly the opposite, of course, of the past two maps. Roughly a fifth, five of 26 voted against President Obama in both of the last two presidential elections. So let's rank the states here when it comes to individual rights. Which states have the greatest number of more liberal laws, ideologically, and which ones have more conservative ones, ideologically?

These are the 15 states that we consider the most liberal, where you could have some form of marijuana legally, marry anybody you want, same-sex marriage, and earn a minimum wage that is higher than the federal average. Not surprisingly? All of these states here voted for President Obama in 2008 and 2012.

Now let's take a look at the other side of the pendulum. Here are the states with more conservative positions on things like guns and abortion. Again, not a surprise that all of these states here, mostly in the South, went red in the past two presidential elections.

So finally, let's talk about the states that straddle the divide. In other words, the libertarian utopias. You can marry anybody you want, smoke weed, and carry a weapon pretty much anywhere you want. Well guess where this is? Think small and sparse areas: Vermont, New Mexico, and Alaska. Libertarians, you should be moving there. In a few minutes, the real reason Mitt Romney is now talking about a possible third run at the White House.

***Commercial Break***

CHUCK TODD:

It was 13 years ago today that the United States government decided to open up a prison on the island of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. And six years ago, almost to the day, President Obama tried to make good on this campaign promise.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

And we then provide the process whereby Guantanamo will be closed no later than one year from now.

CHUCK TODD:

That's obviously not the case. Congress made it virtually impossible to move any detainees to prisons on American soil. And the detainees that are there include some of the worst, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind in the 9/11 attack. In fact, when President Obama took office, there were 242 men who were in prison there.

Now, 127 remain, including 59 who have been approved for transfer. To go in depth, I'm joined by Danielle Pletka, who is the senior vice president for Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, Clifford Sloan, the recently now former State Department special envoy for Guantanamo closure, and Carol Rosenberg, the tireless reporter from The Miami Herald, who has covered Guantanamo Bay extensively, perhaps the most extensive of any journalist in the world.

Welcome to all of you. Given what we're seeing and what unfolded in Paris, Clifford, I want to start with you. One of the three now dead terrorists was somebody who got radicalized in prison. Now this was a regular prison, a regular jail. The big fear, obviously, that is used to slow down and prevent figuring how to empty out Guantanamo is this fear that they're going to return to the fight. What do you say to this?

CLIFFORD SLOAN:

Well, one point that is very important, Chuck, is that there was a very intensive review of every person at Guantanamo in 2009. President Obama ordered this on his second day in office. And when you say, "approved for transfer," it's very important for people to understand what that means, because it relates exactly to your question. There was a year-long process. And for somebody to be approved for transfer, it meant that six departments and agencies had to agree that the person can be transferred--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

We're talking national intelligence, D.N.I.?

CLIFFORD SLOAN:

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Department of Justice, Homeland Security, the State Department. And what that means is that you had military intelligence, law enforcement, Homeland Security, foreign policy perspective. And all six had to unanimously agree that the person can and should be transferred.

And that process has stood the test of time. It was a very intensive review. They looked at everything about the person and the risk that he presents. And the percentage of those who have subsequently engaged in wrongdoing is small. It's 6.8%. Now, everybody wants that number to be zero. That's 6.8% too much.

But that means that well over 90% of those who've been transferred in this administration, after going through that process, not only are not confirmed of engaging in wrongdoing, they're not even suspected of engaging in any wrongdoing. It's a very thorough process.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Well, yes. There's a return-to-terrorism problem. And I think that there's a vast number about which we know very little. You mentioned the Paris attack. One of these terrorists that killed people in Paris had been in Yemen. What did the intelligence services reportedly say? "Well, yes, we know he went to Yemen. But then there's a big hole for the two years after that."

And I think there's a big hole for a lot of the people that left Guantanamo. The choice really is, if you're not willing to arrest people, if you're not wanting to take people into custody, then you have to kill them. That means that you don't know anything about any of these terrorist organizations out there. And that's the position we're in right now.

CHUCK TODD:

Carol, I want to return this back to the issue of Guantanamo and Danielle brought up Yemen. And Yemen's important here because a majority of the folks left in Guantanamo in this prison are Yemeni. And there has been a concern that Yemen's not stable enough to return them. That still seems to be the case.

CAROL ROSENBERG:

Absolutely. And I think the blowback from the events in France from the past week is that nobody's going back to Yemen. And they'll have anybody--

CHUCK TODD:

Right, particularly when we find out one of the brothers in France trained in Yemen.

CAROL ROSENBERG:

Correct. And there's been a reluctance to having the people who are cleared who need to find new homes to Yemen, and I think the threshold just got that much higher.

CHUCK TODD:

Cliff Sloan, this was your job. You were trying to find these folks home. Here's something the president said very recently at the end of last year.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

There's going to be a certain irreducible number that are going to be really hard cases, because we know they've done something wrong and they are still dangerous, but it's difficult to mount the evidence in a traditional Article 3 Court.

CHUCK TODD:

You can't deal with them in the courts, even the military tribunal, and you can't return them. Where are these people going to go?

CLIFFORD SLOAN:

Well, Chuck, first of all, there are a lot who've been approved for transfer who don't present that problem. And the first priority is move those where have been approved for transfer now. So the first step in closing Guantanamo is transfer all of those who can be approved for transfer. And then you're going to be left with a small core. And at that point, the case for doing so, when it's down to a very small core, will be overwhelming.

CHUCK TODD:

And Danielle, very quickly, do you believe that Guantanamo is a recruiting tool for terrorism?

DANIELLE PLETKA:

No, absolutely not. You know, there are always those who will seek to explain away why things happen. You tell me if what happened in Paris was because of Guantanamo or because of the occupation of Jerusalem, or because of the Iraq war, or because of something that happened. There are always excuses, because it's a reason to deny the fact that we're in an ideological battle.

CHUCK TODD:

Clifford Sloan, by the end, before the president leaves office, that at a minimum, it'll be down to 16 prisoners.

CLIFFORD SLOAN:

Well, I believe Guantanamo's going to be closed by the time the president leaves office.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you really?

CLIFFORD SLOAN:

I do. Nobody should have to--

CHUCK TODD:

With a Republican Congress?

CLIFFORD SLOAN:

Nobody should underestimate President Obama's determination and commitment on this issue.

CHUCK TODD:

Carol, you've spent a lot of time down there watching a version of justice. Describe that version of justice.

CAROL ROSENBERG:

So Chuck, the problem is, there are 127 men down there, and only ten are before that version of justice. And so the rest of them are captives in this thing we call the war, for which there is nobody on the other side to surrender for that war to end for a mechanism for them to leave. So the question becomes when does that war end, and how long do you keep people as captives of that?

CHUCK TODD:

Has the United States government given these detainees due process? Of any form that is defensible?

CLIFFORD SLOAN:

Well, the United States government position: It defends the legality of the detention of everybody who's there in court. My own personal view is that holding men for 12, 13 years without charges, many of whom have been approved for transfer for almost half of the time of their imprisonment is deeply inconsistent with the kind of country we want to be.

CHUCK TODD:

Danielle, Cliff, Carol, appreciate it. We're going to have more of this conversation online at MeetThePressNBC.com. As you know, when it comes to Gitmo, there's a lot more to say, and we couldn't get it all in this Sunday. We'll be back here on this show in less than a minute.

***Commercial Break***

CHUCK TODD:

You know, it was an extremely busy week in the world of politics, particularly 2016, took a backseat obviously to the events around the world. But let's take a look at three headlines this week that made news in the 2016 front. First was Jeb Bush, officially launching his political action committee.

He released a mission statement, and boy, did that statement look a lot like his brother's 1999 and 2000 definition of, quote, "compassionate conservativism." The Iowa Republican Party yesterday voted to preserve Andrea Mitchell's favorite event, quadrennial event, the Ames Straw Poll, the august winnowing effect that it has had over the years.

But probably the most important headline of the week came from courtesy of Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney says he is considering a third run for the White House. Alright Rich Lowry, Romney versus Bush. Here, we have stopped saying Mitt Romney's name the minute Jeb Bush said he was interested in the establish primary win. What's this about?

RICH LOWRY:

Well, it may be that Romney looks at the field, thinks they're all flawed, and thinks, "Well, I have different thoughts, so why not?" But he can look and say, "I ran a very credible campaign against an incumbent, and maybe against someone that doesn't have those advantages, it'll turn out different." But for me, Chuck, I think it has to be a turn-the-page election for Republicans. And how's been making the most noise? Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, and Mitt Romney. These are not fresh faces.

CHUCK TODD:

This is not turn the page. Andrea Mitchell, we just observed a focus group out in Colorado that Peter Hart did, and he brought up Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, and it was a lot of people sounding like Rich, turn the page--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

--and they're like, "No more Clintons, no more Bushes."

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

One guy wanted a congressional resolution that said Clinton and Bush couldn't run.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Well, the desire for something new may advantage Rand Paul. I think Mitt Romney's motivation here, people close to him think, in the end, he won't do it, that all this talk is really antagonism against watching Jeb Bush getting so far out front that this is kind of, "If Jeb can do this, I can do it." But that in the end, he'll realize, there'll be a reality check. The third time is not a charm.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, part of this is personal. We always have to remember politics is always more personal than we think, David. Jeb never respected Mitt Romney's decision to flip on immigration. And he's basically held it against Mitt Romney ever since.

DAVID BROOKS:

The world is governed by four year olds. We're on the nursery-school playground.

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

That's preaching to Helene's choir over here. We're at the adult table.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID BROOKS:

The adults look at the kids at the playground. I'm waiting for Calvin Coolidge and Barry Goldwater. You can tell what kind of conservative you are by what year you want to go back to. So I don't think Romney's old enough. No, but going back to that Peter Hart thing, as Bush steps out, as even Romney steps out, as Clinton steps out, the country's recoiling. I think that focus group is part of that recoil. If ever there was a superhighway for Elizabeth Warren and somebody like that, that is just wide open.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Helene--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

Helene, we have fun with 2016 with you, and you said, "Oh my God, it's so early." But it is interesting, going to this Clinton/Bush thing. Around the world, there is a rise of populism. And when you have a rise of populism in Western democracies, it's not just in America, it's in France, it's in Britain, it's taking place in Western Europe, it also means it's a revolt against the establishment everywhere. That's what's taking place, that's what's really going on here.

HELENE COOPER:

That's absolutely the case. And what's really funny is I was talking to a French friend of mine about what's--

(OVERTALK)

HELENE COOPER:

About the Romney, pseudo, not really an announcement, announcement. And she said, "Are you sure you guys don't have a monarchy in the United States? Because you're telling me we're looking at an election with Clinton, Bush, and Romney? Are we really talking about that?" There's something about that that just strikes people as everywhere as just completely offbeat.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Although I do think that these terror incidents and the real concerns about what might happen here will change the dialogues.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm with you, Andrea.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

You're not going to have the kind of Republican field and that endless primary show with the Herman Cains and all the rest. This is going to be a more serious election.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, speaking of four year olds, and not serious, but presidential politics, very important to you, again, Helene, football season is coming to an end. And presidential politics has seeped into football season. It's a few things that have shown, we've got video, of course Chris Christie, your Dallas Cowboys there, David Brooks, and there's, okay, Chris Christie, hugging Jerry Jones. It was that awkward, ew, this is stuff you wish wasn't on television. Somebody--

(OVERTALK)

ANDREA MITCHELL:

--knows that this is covered, doesn't he?

CHUCK TODD:

Apparently he does, doesn't realize how much the Fox cameras caught that. What was interesting there though is Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin, Packers play the Cowboys today, Chris Christie is going to Wisconsin. Scott Walker, who there's not a lot of love lost between Walker and Christie, and it goes over to a fight that they had over a Wisconsin governor in 2014.

But he tweeted, it's like, "If you're dancing with owners," here's what he put up, he tweeted this about an owner, he said, "These are the types of owners I'll be looking to hug after the Packers win on Sunday." We of course know that the Packers, so Chris Christie had to fire back with his own tweet, and he superimposed Scott Walker in his bro hug. What do we think, David Brooks, are you a fan of Chris Christie as a Cowboys fan? Are you comfortable with that?

DAVID BROOKS:

We'll take any Northeastern for Cowboys. We're for that. If Scott Walker is really against owners, he's going to have a big fundraising problem.

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

In reality, Scott Walker is about the over governor that Jeb Bush hasn't squeezed out of this thing, right?

RICH LOWRY:

That's right. He has this national fundraising base because he's run so many times, including the recall, where he can go around the country and raise big money. So he is someone that can potentially really bridge this establishment grassroots--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

You supposed to say bridge? We were talking about Christie.

(OVERTALK)

RICH LOWRY:

But I don't think anyone's going to hold it against Chris Christie. He obviously needs to practice his bro hugs in the mirror to kind of get it down a little bit more. But no one's going to hold it against him that he's such an enthusiastic fan of his team.

CHUCK TODD:

Chris Christie had a bad week this week, by the way, didn't he, Andrea?

ANDREA MITCHELL:

He had a bad week this week.

CHUCK TODD:

If he wants to be president.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

If he wants to be president. And there's a lot of criticism back home also of all the travel, he's the Republican Governors Association leader. But at the same time, things at home are not so good. And the bridge.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. We all know that people worry about bias in the media, so I will say this, because we just did the Walker. Full disclosure here, I am also a Green Bay Packers owner.

DAVID BROOKS:

Me too.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay, oh, you are too? You're going to root for the Cowboys, and you're an owner of the Packers?

DAVID BROOKS:

I'm--

CHUCK TODD:

Split allegiance?

DAVID BROOKS:

I'll split allegiance. Bad--

ANDREA MITCHELL:

But there's no big superbox at Lambeau Field.

CHUCK TODD:

There is no big superbox, that's right.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

So they're going to be freezing in there.

CHUCK TODD:

They're going to make Jerry Jones be iced up there. No heat for Jerry. Alright, that's all for today. We'll be back next week, because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.