Melissa Harris-Perry, Transcript 12/5/2015
Show: MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY
Date: December 5, 2015
Guest: Malcolm Nance, Katharine Rhodes Henderson, Yolanda Pierce, Eugene
O`Donnell, Russell Brandom, Ronal Serpas, Jonathan Metzl, Linda Sarsour,
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question, what
qualifies as accountability? Plus, the Secretary of Defense tells Congress
we`re at war. And the good news that you may have missed this week. But
first, the latest on the shootings in San Bernardino.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. We want to bring you the latest
this morning on the shooting Wednesday in San Bernardino, California, that
left 14 people dead and 21 more wounded. This morning, the Islamic State
or ISIS said in a radio broadcast that two of its followers carried out the
attacks, according to Reuters. Now, the terrorist organization did not
claim that it directed the attack. And U.S. officials say there`s no
evidence that they did so.
The attackers, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, were killed Wednesday in a
shootout with police, hours after they opened fire during office holiday
party. Yesterday, the FBI assistant director in Los Angeles who is leading
the investigation there announced that the FBI is now investigating the
shooting as an act of terror.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID BOWDICH, FBI LOS ANGELES: As of today, based on the information and
the facts as we know them, we are now investigating these horrific acts as
an act of terrorism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The director of the FBI, James Comey, elaborated on on the
possible terror connections in the case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: The investigation so far has developed
indications of radicalization by the killers and of a potential inspiration
by foreign terrorist organizations. So far, we have no indication that
these killers are part of an organized larger group or form part of a cell.
There`s no indication that they are part of a network.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Comey also said the suspects, a married couple, had not been
on the FBI`s radar as potential threats before the attack. Law enforcement
sources told NBC News that one of the suspects, Malik, posted an oath of
allegiance on the Islamic State on Facebook just before the shooting.
Joining us now for the very latest is NBC`s Chris Jansing. Chris, where is
the investigation at this point?
CHRIS JANSING, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think this is a very hard focus
on the electronic evidence. One of the things we heard yesterday, Melissa,
from Director Comey is they have a large volume of it. Cell phones and
computers, but also that the couple tried to destroy them. Two of those
cell phones were found smashed and in a nearby garbage can. And so, they
have flown those to Quantico, Virginia. The FBI has highly sophisticated
labs including the operational technology division that has a number of
subunits. And that is their complete area of expertise. Each of them who
are focused on retrieving evidence from these kinds of situations. It`s
not uncommon in any kind of investigation that someone tries to destroy
anything that might be part of a digital footprint. They also have
something called the computer analysis lab. Then there they will look very
specifically at what can they extract. Were there photos on there that
might provide some clues? GPS coordinates obviously could be very
important to where they may have traveled. Does that lead them either to
people or places where they got some of the equipment that we know now was
now inside their home that looked like a virtual bomb factory.
Any kind of records that would give them an indication of how this came
together. All of it leading to the one big question that they just don`t
have an answer to, which is motive. This is a couple that seemed to be
leading essentially a double life. We haven`t found anyone who seems to
have any inclination to suggest that they were in any way unhappy, in any
way could have been radicalized or were doing anything but living the
American dream here. And yesterday, when I talked to the husband`s sister,
she clearly was in a state of shock, talking about a couple who was
celebrating the fact that they had a 6-month-old baby, how he would play
with that baby for hours at a time. And then you also have these questions
about the disconnect between what they clearly did in this building behind
me and what happened in the days leading up to it. There was a scare
yesterday at a local UPS facility because there was a package addressed to
them. It turned out that there were clothes in it that they had ordered
online. Do you order clothes online if you are planning to commit a
terrorist attack like this? A lot of things that just don`t make sense.
One of the ways that the director put it, a lot of evidence in this case
that doesn`t quite make sense. And so, they really are just in the early
stages of this. But hundreds of investigators literally all around the
world, Melissa, who are looking into this motive and what really happened
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, to Chris Jansing in San Bernardino, California.
It took about 48 hours after Wednesday`s shooting for the FBI to declare
that it is investigating the shooting of an act of terrorism. Authorities
previously were unsure, saying the shooting may have been a terror-related
or could have been motivated by something more mundane, namely a workplace
dispute. One of the shooters Syed Farook, had for years worked with the
county health department. It was the department holiday party where Farook
and his wife Malik opened fire and killed 14 people. But as the
investigation continued, the FBI increasingly suspected terrorism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOWDICH: There`s a number of pieces of evidence that has essentially
pushed us off the cliff to say we`re now investigating this as an act of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now is Malcolm Nance, executive director of the
Terror Assymetrics Project and author of the upcoming back, “Defeating
ISIS: Who They Are, How They Fight and What They Believe.” Malcolm,
obviously, we heard from Chris there that there`s confusion here. That
there seem to be things that don`t add up. You`ve been doing this work for
a long time. What are you seeing?
MALCOLM NANCE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ASSYMETRICS PROJECT: There are many
things about this story that don`t add up. Let`s walk it back to the
initial attack. If these people were radicalized, and clearly they were in
some way, shape or form, they had tactical equipment, they had very long
high caliber weapons. They had a bomb laboratory and bomb factory inside
their garage. They went to this party, they carried out this massacre.
Which would make you ask initial question, those of us media, intelligence,
community - why wouldn`t they have gone to a bigger target, a better
target? Why would they have such a personally focused target? So that`s
question number one. Question number two is most people who do this sort
of thing, they will carry out an attack and they generally won`t leave a
six-month-old baby behind. We`ve seen it in Nigeria, Boca Haram, they
killed their family before attacks in order to meet them in heaven soon
afterwards. I`ve seen it in Iraq, people actually use their baby as a
bomb. But we`ve never seen one where they just hand the baby off to the
mother, say, I`m going out to the doctor, and then carry out at terrorist
attack. So, it`s a hybrid. It`s almost a combination between a workplace
violence incident, which may have precipitated and stopped a much larger
terrorist attack on a more popular or a more strategic target in the area.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to talk about something else in the context of all of
this. So, we`ve also heard there from Chris Jansing that hundreds of
investigators are looking at evidence all around the world. You know, the
big thing that happened on air yesterday, though, was that dozens of
members of the American media including some of my colleagues here at
MSNBC, went into the home where this couple was living after apparently the
FBI had already been through. Walked through. There was like a live feed
of us watching these things. And I guess I am wondering in a moment like
that for me, both whether or not there`s any sense that there would be
valuable evidence that media would uncover, but also really importantly to
me, I keep hearing this language of radicalization.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I found those images very hard to watch. Very
distressing and disturbing about who we are. And I`m wondering whether or
not those images also then become troubling images for the rest of the
NANCE: Well, they could actually become troubling images if - it depends
on the media team of ISIS who are very, very good at exploiting propaganda.
Believe me, we have not yet seen the ISIS video that will come out in the
next few days where they probably will take claim for this attack and show
how their lives of these people afterwards were ripped apart in a raptor-
line fashion by the news media. I mean you watched them going through the
baby crib. You watched them checking the pampers. Granted, the news
media, sort of its own intelligence collection organization and you wanted
to know something that other people didn`t know. And it generally wasn`t
going to be left behind, but perhaps this could have been handled better.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to also ask you about something that the president
said. Let`s take a quick lift into what he said about preventing this
ideology from taking hold.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: And even as we
work to prevent attacks, all of us, government, law enforcement,
communities, faith leaders, need to work together to prevent people from
falling victim to these hateful ideologies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: What do you make of this language of hateful ideologies?
When we`re not quite sure yet what the motivations are?
NANCE: Well, I think the president speaking in a much grander sense, you
know. In terms of he, of course, is the person who is briefed of every
aspect of this. There are intelligence factors here which may not have
filtered their way down at the law enforcement, which may have been briefed
to him from a national security level using national assets. So, things
that we may not know about are happening in Syria, he may have on his desk.
The ideology here clearly played itself out, manifested itself in the way
that they carried out the attack.
Also, we see indicators of the ideology in the way that they carved out
their family and abandoned their family. And that`s a core ideological
factor. Part of dogma of al Qaeda and ISIS ideology, which is Hijra, leave
your family behind and emigrate either mentally or physically to the place
where jihadists operate. So I think that the president himself understands
that. To do something, you have to call upon the community to at least
give you any indicator, but this ideology works without indications in
many, many circumstances because, of course, they`re not Islamic, they
leave Islam behind. And that`s the painful part is the Muslim community in
the United States and around the world are going to suffer for that.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s a critical point, it feels like to me. Because I
think the way that we often talk about in discourse, is as though this is
an out-birth of Islam as opposed to a rejection of Islam.
NANCE: No, this is a cult. Islam has had five different cults in its
history. In 644, you have the Hoaredj (ph), and then in the 11th century
you have the Karamites (ph). And then you have the Madis (ph) os Sudan.
And then Oteibi who seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979. And those
survivors went into al Qaeda. And this ideology is so un-Islamic. It`s
anti-Islamic. They consider the Muslim world their victim base.
HARRIS-PERRY: Malcolm Nance is going to be back with us later in the
program. Up next, the surging business of guns made right here on the USA.
HARRIS-PERRY: This year, many Americans chose not to do substantial
holiday shopping on Thanksgiving weekend. Retail spending dropped 11
percent over the Thanksgiving weekend. Sales at retail stores on Black
Friday were down by $1.2 billion. The two key factors, more people
shopping online and more stores offering their so-called Black Friday deals
actually over the course of several days.
Now, it`s too soon to tell, but maybe this is the beginning of the end of
the tradition of a single day of massive spike in sales to feed our frenzy
of consumerism. Black Friday is just not the day for shopping it once was.
Unless you`re in the market for a gun. If you are shopping for a gun,
well, apparently Black Friday was the day for you. Even as a shooting
rampage played out at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, the
“New York Times” reports that the FBI was busy processing about 2 firearm
background checks per second.
All told, “The Times” reports that, quote, “the agency ran a record 185,345
background checks on Friday.” About five percent more than the number
processed through the national instant criminal background check system on
that same day in 2014.
Throughout the year, month after month after month has seen a record number
of background checks for gun purchases. According to the Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, gun manufacturing is up, way up. A report
released earlier this year, showed gun manufacturing in America started
climbing in 2009. The first year President Obama was in office. And by
2013, had doubled. 10,884,792. That`s how many guns were made in the
United States in 2013. The last year for which we have data. According to
the National Shooting Sports Foundation, companies in the United States
that manufacture, distribute and sell firearms, ammunition and hunting
equipment employ as many as 128,794 people in the country. And generate an
additional 133,850 jobs in supplier and incilary industries. The NSSF puts
the total economic impact of making and selling guns, ammunition and
hunting equipment at 42.9 billion. Billion. With a “b.” in 2014. And the
gunmakers - well let`s just look. Smith & Wesson, and it`s more than half
a billion dollars in sales last year. Smith & Wesson`s stock price is up
93 percent this year. And in its latest conference call, the company said
the reason for strong sales is simple, high demand.
Shooting after shooting. Body after body. The inaction is staggering.
And the polling shows us that America is near evenly split between those
who say it`s more important to control gun ownership versus those who
prioritize the protection of gun rights. And we think that the political
divide on the issue or the power of the NRA and it`s $250 million annual
operating budget leads to this lack of political will among our elected
leaders to enact meaningful gun reform. Maybe. Maybe. Or may just maybe
the economic impact of $42.9 billion thanks to the manufacturing and sale
of guns and ammunition in America is playing part in that politics too.
HARRIS-PERRY: In the immediate aftermath of the San Bernardino shootings,
before we really knew much of anything about the victims or the suspects
involved, we knew we`d hear one sentiment repeatedly. One that we`ve come
to expect in the wake of every national tragedy. An offering of thoughts
and prayers for the victims and their families. Politicians and others
took to social media and to the airwaves to say essentially the same thing,
even if the words were different.
It`s a common reaction in the time of grief and tragedy. But this time,
there was also a sense that thoughts and prayers may not be enough.
Headlines like this one from “The Huffington Post.” “Another Mass
Shooting. Another Deluge of Tweeted Prayers.” As the suspects` motive was
still under investigation, some lawmakers focused on the suspects` most
deadly weapons. Guns. Noting that prayer in the absence of meaningful gun
policy change is insufficient. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut where
20 children were shot and killed in Newtown in 2012, tweeted this message,
“Your thoughts should be about steps to take to stop this carnage. Your
prayers should be for forgiveness if you do nothing again.” And “The New
York Daily News” put it even more bluntly with the cover reading, “God Is
Not Fixing This.”
As we learn more about the suspects` motives in this shooting, it appears
many are re-examining the role of prayer in our response. Joining me now,
the Reverend Doctor Katharine Rhodes Henderson, President of Auburn
Theological Seminary. And Yolanda Pierce, associate professor of religion
and literature at Princeton Theological Seminary. I want to ask you a
little bit, in part because of the work of Auburn is about our public
discourse about religion.
REV. DR. KATHARINE RHODES HENDERSON, PRESIDENT AUBURN SEMINARY: Right.
HARRIS-PERRY: So when we tweet prayers, when we say I`m praying for you,
what are we saying, what is the content of that?
RHODES HENDERSON: I think that what we`re saying is, that we`re aligning
ourselves, that we are putting ourselves in the space with those who are
suffering and we`re also acknowledging that that`s not just humans who are
doing this, but God is grieved and we believe that God suffers with all of
those in this case, those who have lost family members in these shootings.
So it`s aligning us with the will of God. It`s aligning us with all of
those other people who are grieving and with those who are suffering. I
think that the recent conversation that you`re referring to about prayer is
very important, because I think that what the public was reacting to, was
the sense that prayer alone can be shallow, that it didn`t ring true, and
there were some of us after Charleston, for example, who picked up this
hash tag “prophetic grief.” Not pathetic grief …
RHODES HENDERSON: Where you`re not going to do anything and not just
empathetic grief, which is compassion, which is very important. But
prophetic grief where you are actually committed to doing something.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, part of what I find fascinating, about what Anabel what
has now been called prayer shaming in response to the kind of prayers
offered, is this idea that they are somehow divided, that there`s either
praying or there`s doing something as opposed to kind of a rich social
movement tradition, in which both things were happening at the same time.
YOLANDA PIERCE, ASSOC. PROF. PRINCETON THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: Right. And I
think that`s the important piece to like really focus on. People don`t
know what to say when people are hurting and grieving. And so, prayers and
thoughts is sort of what they immediately say. I think the critique is
when your prayers and thoughts are contradictory to your actions, right, so
I am praying that there won`t be any more gun violence, even as I am
actually doing something that is the opposite, promoting more gun violence,
right? And so, how do we deal with the hypocrisy. And then also, I think,
people are tired of like saying, well, we`re waiting on something
supernatural to happen. We could end gun violence if we wanted to. We
could end poverty if we wanted to. We as humans have the tools at our
disposal to end these things that grieve us so. And so, many people are
objecting to this notion that, well, what are we waiting for, right? If
we`re only seeing prayers and thoughts when we have the capacity to make a
difference right now.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask about one other aspect of the politics of this
prayer question. So prayer, multiple times a day and often publicly is a
pillar of Islam. It is one of the ways that Islam is kind of an
identifiable public practice, right, is this notion of multiple times a day
of prayer. And yet, somehow this - so maybe I`m reading this wrong. I
want to check me if I`m wrong on this. I keep feeling like when we say,
I`m praying, that we think we`re praying to some kind of God that is anti-
Muslim, that is counter-Islamic, and that we consistently will see Muslims
in prayer as somehow dangerous, threatening, as opposed to prayerful and
RHODES HENDERSON: I think that I mean in my tradition we say pray without
ceasing and prayer is always in season, so our prayer actually connects us,
I think to all of those other people, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs and others in
the world who are also praying. And I was in a cab last night and my cab
driver was a Muslim and I was tweeting away and he wanted to really engage
me in a conversation, a conversation about prayer, a conversation about his
grief, my grief. And his love of America, my love of America. And I think
that sort of through our conversation about prayer, we figured out what our
shared values were. And I think that, you know, he was demonstrating that
it`s our connections with each other that are in the end that are love,
shall we say, for each other, in the end, will be the only thing that will
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah. I`m going to stop you here only because I know you`re
going to be back with us. We are going to actually talk more through this.
I want to say thank you to the Reverend Doctor Katharine Henderson, Yolanda
Pierce is, in fact, sticking around. We have so much more on this this
morning, on the San Bernardino shooting, but up next, we`re actually going
to go to Chicago. And to the shooting of Laquan McDonald. And what we
mean when we say accountability.
HARRIS-PERRY: The question of accountability has hounded Chicago Mayor
Rahm Emanuel since the video showing the police shooting death of Laquan
McDonald prompted a demand for answers about why it took 13 months and a
court order to force the city of Chicago to release the footage. And bring
charges against the officer who shot McDonald 16 times. When asked about
the delay and his decision up until a week ago not to watch the video
despite having previously been aware of its contents, Mayor Emanuel said
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAHM EMANUEL, MAYOR OF CHICAGO: We have a practice not unique to Chicago
that you don`t do anything as it relates to material evidence that would
hamper, hinder, compromise an investigation. I don`t look at material in a
criminal investigation, any of them. And if I had looked at that video,
your question before over the next several months is why do you get to see
it and nobody else does? So, I would see it when everybody else would see
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The mayor gave that response to his critics in a Tuesday
press conference where he announced that he requested the resignation of
Chicago police super-intendant Gary McCarthy. Now, McCarthy`s removal was
a partial victory for activists who have demanded the resignation of
McCarthy, Mayor Emanuel and Cook County State Attorney Anita Alvarez. And
it was also a partial response to the call for accountability. Not just
from individuals responsible for the police, but from the institution that
they represent. Mayor Emanuel addressed some of those concerns with the
announcement of a police accountability taskforce. And the expanded use of
body cameras. But as “The Chicago Tribune” pointed out this week,
Emanuel`s narrative comes against a backdrop of decades worth of Chicago
police torture and wrongful conviction cases, corruption and slap-
ineffectual oversight practices in shootings and other excessive force
actions by officers.
Time and again, the police department has quickly cleared officers of
allegations only to have civil litigation later reveal video and other
evidence that painted a much darker picture of police misconduct.
It is an indictment that implicates not only individual policies and
people, but the entire culture of policing in Chicago. And given the last
year in which Chicago, Ferguson, Baltimore and so many other cities have
stood as a testament to the consequences of what kind of culture and what
kind of meaningful accountability can there be in these circumstances.
Joining me now is Russell Brandom, who is reporter for “The Verge”, Yolanda
Pierce, associate professor of African American religion and literature at
Princeton Theological Seminary, Dorian Warren, MSNBC contributor, and host
of “Nerding Out” on MSNBC shift. And from Chicago is Eugene O`Donnell,
professor of law and police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice
and a former officer with the NYPD.
I want to start with you, Eugene. Just to ask the very simple question of
whether or not it makes a difference in a department who the police chief
is or whether or not the chief is kind of far enough away that they don`t
actually impact the culture of what happens on the ground.
EUGENE O`DONNELL, PROF., JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Well, these
are political failures. All this. Always, these are political failures.
That`s where the start is. And political people like to point out, down
and around, but don`t want to be held accountable themselves almost
invariably. It looks, the more you look in Chicago, the more it looks like
they need a nap commission like you had in New York in the early 1970s.
They had systemic corruption. They assumed that 80 percent of the people
wanted to be good, 10 percent of the people were good and 10 percent of the
people were bad and you had to actually liberate the agency for the good
people. You had to rearrange the whole organization. And it was muscular.
It was - and it may have to be for the whole criminal justice system. It
has to be people that are credible and are strong and are willing to go
where they have to go.
And where it`s - and ultimately, because what we`re talking about is ending
wrongdoing. We need to do that of course, we also in Chicago urgently have
to create right doing. A culture of right doing in their police
department. So, they need to really be aggressive. A federal overseer is
a piece, but it`s only a tiny piece. There needs to be a radical reform.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stick with me, because Dorian, I want to ask you the
question of whether or not it is even conceivable to have radical reform
while the same mayor is in.
DORIAN WARREN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: No. And the mayor has to go. The state
attorney has to go, Anita Alvarez, and frankly, I think we need to start
asking some questions about the city council which voted on the $5 million
settlement to the McDonald family.
HARRIS-PERRY: Apparently without seeing the video.
WARREN: Apparently without seeing the video. Maybe some did, maybe some
didn`t. Maybe some actually read through it. Maybe some didn`t. That
goes to the incompetence of the entire city council and particularly the
black caucus. I need to be very clear about this. We need to ask
questions of all of those political leaders in that city, from the mayor on
down. They all need to go. And we need some viable reformers. There is a
question, we were talking before.
HARRIS-PERRY: So who`s …
WARREN: Right, and who?
HARRIS-PERRY: Is it - does Garcia show up and change this.
WARREN: But the final thing in terms of - in terms of Rahm Emanuel, when
you are opposing the inspector general of the city, when you are going to
court to fight against having the inspector general, who is one formal
mechanism of accountability, from seeing public documents, that I s- that`s
the level of corruption at the highest levels. The lack of transparency,
the lack of accountability.
HARRIS-PERRY: Are those documents public? And so, this is - you know, you
have this great piece that have all of us kind of debating this in part
because I`m thinking, all right, that`s the police, that`s people, my tax
dollars, whatever they got, that`s actually my stuff, right, from the
perspective of folks who are living in a city. And so, why in the world
would it take 13 months? And then your piece helps me understand, oh no,
but police either says, we bought it out of the budget, that`s ours.
RUSSELL BRANDOM, REPORTER, THE VERGE: Yeah, I mean that`s the thing. I
think in some sense, you know, it`s public so they can`t get rid of the
video. That`s the part of it that worked. But once it`s in the system,
that`s very much under police control the same way, you know, I think they
see something, you know, if it`s in the evidence locker, something like
that, you know, there very - when they are buying these systems, which -
and these are all systems that are bought and paid for by, you know, that`s
coming out of the police budget. They want to buy a system that will give
them control of the video.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, in part, and Yolanda, this for me is the challenge,
you know, body cameras have been part of what Black Lives Matter, other
activists have been asking for in part because it does feel like once we
see the video, as we did in the McDonald case, it can change our - but on
the other hand, I also wonder, doesn`t this create more surveillance? Like
the very fact that police want them makes me a little nervous this is going
to create police accountability.
PIERCE: Well, it`s a couple of things. One is that the surveillance is
always pointed at the people who are supposed to be the potential
criminals, the potential trespassers. And who`s watching the watchers?
And I mean that`s the question I think people are talking about. So, on
one hand, these body cams which has given us evidence that we otherwise
would not have had and has disrupted the narrative that we got from police
officers about these particular cases that`s so crucial, but it`s pointed
So, people are asking the question, who`s pointing certain cameras inward
so that we can see when the violation is actually happening among law
enforcement? So we see this with the missing minutes, right, the missing
footage. If we did not have other footage that showed us that in fact, a
video was, in fact, missing these minutes, how would we have ever known
that? So body cams are not enough. And I think Black Lives Matter
activists and other grassroots groups have always said that, it`s simply
HARRIS-PERRY: And your point about who`s watching is so important.
Because the answer is supposed to be the state - the answer is supposed to
be that independent media are meant to be able to have a sense of – that
we are supposed to in part to be able to hold these organizations
accountable. You see the tribune and saying this in part about Emanuel,
but then I wonder about the ways, in which people wonder if we are even
accountable, right, whether or not we can make those - those right - we`ll
talk much more about all of that when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, of Chicago next week may feel familiar with the city
expected to allow the release of another dash cam video showing another
police officer shooting and killing of another African-American man. This
video like the footage of the Laquan McDonald shooting is also more than a
year old. And the family of 25-year-old Ronald Johnson III has been
fighting for the release of the video since he was shot and killed on
October 12, 2014, just eight days before the Laquan McDonald shooting. At
the time of the incident, a spokesman for the fraternal order of police
said that Officer George Fernandez shot Johnson after he turned toward him
while holding a gun. But Johnson`s mother, Dorothy Holmes, says she has
watched the video and in a Tuesday press conference she talked about what
she saw and her decision to turn down a settlement offer that she says was
proposed to her by the city.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOROTHY HOLMES, MOTHER OF RONALD JOHNSON: He didn`t have a gun in his
hand. Because I also seen the video. I looked at the video twice. My
main concern is, my son life didn`t have a price tag. And if whatever
money recover can get this man convicted that murdered my son, then they
keep. Because it`s still dirty money. It is not going to bring him back.
It`s not going to make me happy. I don`t want it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Miss Holmes was joined at the press conference by her
attorney who discussed the family`s motivations for pursuing the release of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL OPPENHEIMER, RONALD JOHNSON FAMILY ATTORNEY: Taxpayers have paid
for those dash cams. They have paid for those cars. And what the city has
done is taken that video, taken the important evidence in this case, and
denied the public from seeing it. The public has the right to see it. And
that`s one of the reasons we`re here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so I got so many different things on this. Let me just
real quick come to you, Dorian, on what we were talking about before, which
is what can sometimes feel like an unholy alliance between media and these
reportings. So the police say, such and such and such and such and such,
and then media, we report on it. The police said such and such and such.
And here`s a mother who`s incredibly compelling saying, no, I saw it and
that`s not what I saw. We often take kind of what of the police report is
as though it just is what happened.
WARREN: Never again, at least in the city of Chicago, and probably most
other cities. We can add Minneapolis, Baltimore. Let`s keep adding to the
list. No longer can we take a police report for granted as the truth.
Because let`s be very clear. They lied on the police reports. And but for
independent journalists, not even from “The Tribune” or “Sun Times,” let`s
be clear about that too, independent journalists who probably are going to
be blacklisted for this, but for them doing the flier request to get access
to the autopsy report and the video cam from the dashboard, we wouldn`t
have known that the police lied and everybody all the way up to Rahm
Emanuel knew about this.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And so, here we are again. This young man shot
eight days before Laquan McDonald. Again, you know, all of these months
passed. We still don`t have the video. Will video save us? I mean we
were talking in the break, the Burger King was the hero of the Laquan
McDonald case. Is video enough to bring about accountability and justice?
BRANDOM: I mean I think we have seen video, it just hasn`t been police
video. Right? It`s been - standard video. That`s what we saw with Walter
Scott. What we saw with Eric Garner. And that`s why I mean I think, you
know, if you want to hold police accountable with video, the answer isn`t,
you know, lobbying for buying body cameras, it`s protecting the rights of
citizens to film the police. Because that`s - you know, then we don`t have
to have this year long legal case. We don`t have to be playing political
football over who deserves …
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, because if it`s on my cell phone.
BRANDOM: Yeah, it`s my video, we`re releasing it, that`s it.
PIERCE: So, what makes me frustrated about this, is the way in which we
position grieving hurting people as the people who are responsible for
bringing justice. I was watching the clip of Ronald Johnson`s mother. And
I`m near tears.
PIERCE: She has to take on the responsibility of making sure that justice
can be done. And that`s what`s unfair. That`s what should challenge us.
We were talking earlier about prayer, right, that`s where we have to say
it`s enough. It should not be the responsibility of a mother who has just
lost her child to have to pursue this to the ends of the earth, whether
it`s through the body cam or whether it`s through bystander video. Where
is justice for her and why is it on her grieving body?
HARRIS-PERRY: I thought about this so often when all of us, of course,
fell for the vice president when he talked about the grief that he had and
how difficult it was to think about running for office. And while feeling
that, I also have thought about all of the mothers who have lost children
and yet immediately found themselves, not public people before that,
suddenly basically having to run political campaigns in order to just get
justice for their kid. Eugene, let me come to you on this as well, because
you talked about not only stopping wrongdoing, but beginning right doing.
And it feels to me like part of what Yolanda was saying there is, it ought
to be police officers who are most interested in the question of justice,
who are most interested in being sure that when they are policing that when
they are engaging that they are, in fact, protecting and serving. So, why
isn`t it the police who are saying let`s find these videos and let`s look
at them and let`s investigate?
O`DONNELL: Which is so important. As the conversation that gets
polarized. People are most interested in hearing about right now, again, I
want to hear what the cops have to say, the good cops who are out there,
for the right reasons, what they feel their job is about, what it looks
like and the community, what the community wants. And I think there will
be surprises in that conversation. But no question, this whole – the
issue with these body cameras, ultimately political people love these body
cameras. Police chiefs even love these body cameras. It takes systemic
failures and shortcomings and problems and it pushes them down on the
lowest possible level.
O`DONNELL: In this Laquan case. None of the cops there had a taser. Now,
I`m not a big fan of tasers, but I`m a big fan of saving life. How is it
that nobody had a taser there?
O`DONNELL: There is very large questions that need to be raised. In a
gotcha culture, not only is bad in terms of ultimately we`re just trying to
penalize the police. You`re losing lives.
O`DONNELL: You have two dead people. It`s too late now. We need to be
doing systemic proactive reforming.
HARRIS-PERRY: I actually really want to underline that. Because I think
that that`s not a small point. That it becomes overwhelmingly easy to look
at the person who is the shooter, right, I mean not that there isn`t
responsibility there. But the ways, in which we have all of these
incentives that then create these bad acts kind of at the lowest level, but
often not walking back up the chain and saying where do these incentives
come from, what kind of messages are people getting and quite honestly,
this idea of like good officers, but still part of a culture who, like
where you just don`t speak against your boss, right, or you don`t speak
against the blue coat.
DONNELL: Well, I mean there should be accountability, but we also have to
remember, what you were talking about earlier in the show, seven people are
shot in Chicago every single day on average. If you did a shooting map of
this city and many other cities in America for five or ten years, you can`t
see the city. The city is covered with dots. I believe it`s 5,000.
Several. It`s - pardon me, it`s 10,000, 12,000 shootings in five years.
10,000 shootings since this mayor took office. How do these kids, how do
these children for the most part, young adults, how are they able to access
firearms? How are firearms so readily available?
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Eugene O`Donnell, in Chicago, you`ve raised
deeply important questions for us. The issues of the actions of police and
who`s responsible. We`re going to talk to somebody who was responsible for
a police department, as soon as we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMANUEL: I want to have somebody that will meet the needs of both the
public safety, help, obviously, in this issue of both changing the culture,
putting in place the building blocks to restore the confidence and trust
that we are seeing - we want to see in the city of Chicago. And have a
record of in a police department of invigorating the type of not only
commitment to a - but the type of commitment I want to see to make the
changes necessary. Not only to lead the department, but to lead the
changes in the department to get the results we want.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: It was Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday, discussing the
responsibilities of the next person to hold the position of police
superintendent in Chicago. Joining me now is someone who have had
firsthand experience of doing that job in another big city. Ronal Serpas
is the former New Orleans` police superintendent and now criminal justice
professor at Loyola University.
I want to point out that you and the recently fired police chief of Chicago
share the unique experience of having been chiefs, going to a troubled
city, leading the force and then resigning after a controversial public
And so, I`m wondering, what you can tell our viewers about what that
experience is like.
RONAL SERPAS: You know, being a chief in the large city, and thank you for
having me, Melissa. Being a chief in the large city has a lot of
complications. I think we can all agree there are a lot of issues going
around in Chicago and other cities.
I think police chiefs who are willing to go to another community and take
on the challenges of being an outsider, also bring with them a certain time
calendar of their term of office. Many people are going to resist change,
they are going to resist it heavily. Labor organizations, civil service
commissions and rules, state legislative processes, so when a guy like Gary
or myself, or Chuck Ramsey or Bill Bratton takes on a large city coming in
from the outside, we know we are going to have a lot of resistance, but we
are going to be there to make as many differences as we can when we are
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Chief Serpas, you are talking about the kind of the
timeline. You actually resigned as chief of the New Orleans police just
four days after it became clear that an officer-involved shooting of a man
during a traffic stop hadn`t been disclosed to the public. And yet, you
are actually now leading - and one of the leading voices of the 21st
century policing reform effort.
Should this public be concerned about that?
SERPAS: I think what the public recognizes, that we are going to try to
get it right every day, that we have many people who work for us, who
sometimes get it right, and sometimes mistakes are made. And when a
mistakes is made, you`ve got to stand upfront really quickly and say, a
mistake was made, which is what we did. What we are leading now, is 130 -
150 law enforcement leaders who are saying, we know counter intuitive as it
may see, we know that we can reduce arrest and we can reduce incarceration
at the same time. And we have plenty of evidence and stories to show it.
We absolutely believe that we need to find alternatives to arrest, deal
with mandatory minimum reforms, deal with changing laws to keep up with
current days and continue to build our support in relationships with the
communities and I`m very proud to be working with the Brandon Center to do
HARRIS-PERRY: So, obviously, there is a great deal of conversation right
now in Chicago about the mayor. And the idea that the police chief goes
with the mayor is still there.
And so, I`d like to ask you. I know that you came in initially in New
Orleans, had a positive relationship with Mayor Landrieu, but on your way
out, it was made clear, that you had been asking for more resources, that
you`d wanted more money, more funds for the police and that those hadn`t
been forthcoming, even as requests from the mayor.
And so, can you talk to me a little bit about what it means to be a police
chief and the mayor. Who should be held accountable in these
SERPAS: You know, I was blessed with the opportunity. I worked for a
governor, and I worked for three different mayors. Mayor Landrieu was the
last elected leader I worked for. And in every one of those governments,
or governments who actually going broke, believe it or not, at the same
time, from 2001 forward, that was my job, and I took my job very seriously
to express what I thought I needed, just like a football coach went to the
owner. I need these players in these positions in this field. Every
police chief is going to make those requests, and every police chief is
going to, you know, argue hard for their department. Mayors have to make
different decisions, and I certainly respected and understood I was part of
a team, and I still think that I was part of a team, but at the end of the
day, I`m convinced that we needed to hire more, and we needed to hire more
frequently, and we needed to maintain educational achievement requirements
for hire. I think that`s what`s going on around the country. We have to
hire all the time to get these officers and fill these billets.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Ronal Serpas in New Orleans, and here in New
York, thank you to Russell Brandom and Dorian Warren. Yolanda Pierce is
going to be back with us in the next hour. At the top of the hour, we have
the latest on the investigations of the San Bernardino shooting as well as
understanding what it means when our secretary of defense says, that we are
a nation at war.
HARRIS-PERRY: Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
And we begin this hour with the latest details on the mass shooting in San
Bernardino, California, which the FBI is now investigating as an act of
“Reuters” is reporting that ISIS said in an online radio broadcast that
followers of the group carried out the attacks that killed 14 people.
The FBI says there`s no evidence that the attack was directed by ISIS. But
officials say one of the suspects, Tashfeen Malik, pledged allegiance to
ISIS in a Facebook post in about the same time she and her husband Syed
Farook launched their attack.
In his weekly address released this morning, President Obama had this to
say about the investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s important to let the
investigators do their jobs. We need to know all the facts. At my
direction, federal law enforcement is helping in every way that they can.
We`re going to get to the bottom of this. It is entirely possible that
these two attackers were radicalized to commit this attack of terror. It
would underscore a threat we`ve been focused on for years, the danger of
people succumbing to violent extremist ideologies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining us now for the very latest from San Bernardino,
California, is NBC`s Chris Jansing.
Chris, what kind of evidence are investigators focusing on right now?
JANSING: Well, one of the key questions, Melissa, was, where did this come
from? Was this a lone wolf kind of attack? Were they self-radicalized or
were they in touch with other people?
We said this morning, again, that there was some confirmation that right
before this attack took place or almost simultaneously, the wife of this
couple posted online that there was – that she was connected – not
connected to but she pledged allegiance to ISIS.
Well, now our partners at Flashpoint are saying to us, ISIS is clearly
saying we did not direct this attack – very important distinction between
directing an attack and inspiring an attack. They seem to be trying to
send the message that this was, indeed, a self-radicalization situation.
Much of the evidence that the FBI is looking at right now has to do with
electronics. They have a large volume of it, but also the couple tried to
destroy it. We heard from FBI Director Comey yesterday about how critical
this evidence is. Much of it has already been flown back to Quantico where
the FBI has a number of labs, sub units, that do nothing but look at this
kind of electronic evidence.
Two cell phones in particular that were smashed and thrown into the garbage
cannot far from their home. They`ll try to retrieve whatever information
they can get off of those. At least one computer hard drive that was taken
from their home.
What are they looking for? Well, among other things, they`ll be looking at
what kind of records there might be. Where did they get, for example, much
of this bomb making material? They had a virtual bomb making factory
inside that suburban home. Photos, is there anything that can tell them
about location? In particular, with the cell phones, the GPS, where did
they travel to? Would that give them indication of where they bought some
of this stuff or who they might have met?
And then as Director Comey said yesterday, there`s a lot of evidence that
just doesn`t make sense and much of that is personal, the 6-month-old
child. The family that seemed to be living the American dream. Why would
you just walk away from all that?
Yesterday, there was a scare at a local UPS facility and it turned out this
package addressed to them was just some clothes they had ordered online.
Why would you order clothes online if you knew you were going to mount an
So, a lot of evidence that they are looking at but so far the key question
that is hanging out there is what was their motive? And that answer is
elusive right now – Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to NBC`s Chris Jansing in San Bernardino,
The San Bernardino shootings came less than a week after a gunman opened
fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado killing three people. And
according to the database, shootingtracker.com, it was at least the 353rd
mass shooting of the year. With mass shootings defined in this case as
those with four or more people killed or injured. By that scale, that`s
more than one a day in the United States.
But other databases using other criteria cite much lower numbers.
According to “Mother Jones”, San Bernardino shooting was the fourth mass
shooting of the year. And despite these recent premeditated attacks, the
overall number of Americans killed by gun violence is actually on the
decrease. According to analysis from the Pew Research Center, the rate of
homicides by firearms was cut in half between 1993 and 2013.
But the impact of these incidents is not just about the numbers. It`s also
about perception. With each report about mass shooting, Americans are
pushed into a cycle of fear and grief and mounting anger and frustration
over our inability to make them stop.
And now, add to the mix the specter of terrorism and you can understand why
the American psyche may in fact be under duress.
Joining me now are Malcolm Nance, executive director of the Terror
Assymetrics Project, Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab-American
Association of New York, MSNBC military analyst Jack Jacobs, and Yolanda
Pierce, associate director of Princeton Theological Seminary.
And joining me now from Miami, Dr. Jonathan Metzl, director of the Center
for Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt University, and research
director of the Safe Tennessee Project, which focuses on gun violence as a
public health issue.
I just want to ask you this question, how is it that fear affects,
Jonathan, our individual psyche and decision-making? And is there kind of
a collective aspect to that as well?
JONATHAN METZL, DIR., CTR. FOR MEDICINE, HEALTH & SOCIETY, VANDERBILT
UNIVERSITY: Well, I think it`s a great question. It`s a question many
people are asking at the present moment. I think that partially, it`s
because in the aftermath of acts of terror, there is something incredibly
unpredictable in a way. We can`t predict mass shootings. And very often,
we hear these shootings of, you know, this person was living the American
dream as the reporter before said.
So, there`s this sense that we can`t keep our family safe, that how can we
predict this if we`re not safe at movie theaters, in churches, in places of
work and holiday parties? I think it`s those moments, though, it`s
important to remember that even though it`s very hard to predict mass
shootings in advance, that we`re here in part because of decisions we`ve
made as a society.
And so, we`re not just anxious and less safe because of mass shootings,
we`re also less safe because the bigger lessons of mass shootings are that
it`s far easier to amass a personal arsenal and that`s legal in many ways
as we`ve seen.
So, we`ve made societal decisions that made it much easier for people to
get guns, to amass ammunition, to do all these factors. And the other
thing is we`ve also increased, you know, weapons in seemingly safe spaces
like parks and churches and bars.
So in a way, the way we think we can address our society even after we ask
these hard questions is to also step back and say what are the policy
decisions we can make, what do we do to get here and how can we step back
and really reverse some of those policy decisions.
HARRIS-PERRY: It also, you know, it`s interesting to me, in part, you
know, living in a time where there are many different ways in which gun
violence enters into our lives. And yet the language of terrorism in
particular, or mass shootings of strangers in public places, let me think
of it that way, leads to a kind of frenzy and a set of incentives that I
think actually creates all kinds of poor chooses.
I mean, I think we saw this in some of the policy making we made in a post-
9/11 world. I honestly think we saw that in part in some of the decision
making by the media yesterday. A kind of frenzy that led us to not do, to
not make choices we would have otherwise made.
METZL: Well, I think it`s a mistake because I think part of the issue that
happens in the aftermath, and we even heard it in some of the statements
before, is this shooting was driven by ideology. Therefore, it must be
driven by terrorism, unlike other mass shootings. But I think it`s also
important to remember that many mass shootings are driven by ideology.
That distinction is a very weak one in a way.
Look at the Charleston shooting, for example. I mean, how could you
possibly think that wasn`t driven by some kind of ideology.
And so, in that sense, I think there`s a bigger question about our society
and really I think we`re starting to ask that now. I think this is an
important conversation we`re having, which is what are the frames we put
around these issues and how are they linked to broader societal
stigmatization and biases in a way that helps us in a way address some of
HARRIS-PERRY: So, what, Malcolm –
HARRIS-PERRY: – what are the frames that make sense? Because what I
don`t want to do is say, we shouldn`t use a terrorism frame because that
leads us to not being able to identify things that are meaningfully
different than, for example, interpersonal violence that might lead to gun
violence. On the other hand, I am really worried about what we call
terrorism and what we don`t.
NANCE: Well, terrorism is clearly defined. You know, it`s an act of
violence or political violence or threat thereof which impacts an audience
outside of the immediate victims. And we won`t know until the FBI starts
doing much deeper forensic analyst. You know, the personal motivation of
the shooters themselves. We have an indicator that someone may have
pledged their loyalty to ISIS. Well, then that would take it outside of
the frame of what workplace violence and outside of the frame of regular
violence and would bring it clearly into the definition of terrorism.
HARRIS-PERRY: But as clear as that definition is, when you say it, it
sounds like, yes, of course, that makes perfect sense to me. We are the
resistance to using terrorism, for example, to talk about Charleston or to
talk about even the Planned Parenthood shooting, versus the willingness,
Linda, to talk about it in context when, in fact, shooters are also people
who are Muslims.
LINDA SARSOUR, EXEC. DIR., ARAB AMERICAN ASSOC. OF NEW YORK: I mean, it`s
deja vu for me every time that perpetrators end up being Muslim. We went
from immediately knowing from eyewitnesses that they were three white
males, which, by the way, multiple witnesses, three medium built, white
males, and let`s not even go there. And then you were talking about gun
control and Think Progress went all over the Republican candidates about
thoughts and prayers, not fixing the laws.
And then, all of a sudden, find out they`re Muslim – bam, gun violence is
out of the question. We start talking about terrorism. And I`m extremely
disturbed. I mean, I look at “The New York Times” cover today, here you
have a whole op-ed on gun control, great. Right next to it is pictures
from the apartment of things that I have in my house.
SARSOUR: Like these are things that all Muslims had in their house.
There`s nothing about that that tells you a story about what terrorism
looks like. So, you`re telling me when my friends who are not Muslim come
into my home and see a Koran or see frames on the wall with a scripture
from my religion, is that supposed to tell you something? I mean, it`s
We would never do that to anyone. We didn`t do that to Dear. We didn`t do
that to Roof. I`m tired of the double standards of how we treat Muslims if
they are the perpetrators.
HARRIS-PERRY: That image and then also right next to it is image of the
shooter, the suspect, in the hijab. The idea that, like, OK, this is what
terrorism looks like. For me, that is a difference. It is a material and
meaningful difference in how we – so, on the one hand, I want to be able
to talk about what the thing is that is terrorism. On the other hand, I
have to reflect that this happened only for a specific community.
PIERCE: Some people are terrorists and some people are not. Some people
get branded terrorist very quickly and some people do not. Some people get
searched with extra scrutiny at the airport and some people do not. I
think we have to talk about the inconsistency. I think we have to talk
about the double standards.
I also think we have to talk about our cultural amnesia, which is that we
have a frenzy after something happens, and then it goes away and we forget.
Then it happens again and we have the frenzy again.
What does it mean to have a sustained conversation in our country about gun
violence, or about terrorism, or about the acts of disparity when it comes
to particular racists and cultures who are under particular kind of
scrutiny and not simply wait for the frenzy to happen but to have something
sustained so we can actually make some changes, so it`s actually
unacceptable to frame people of one religious group, as somehow inherently
more terroristic than people of other religious groups.
HARRIS-PERRY: When we come back, the FBI director talks about this issue
and how are we to react in the face of terror.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: We know this is very unsettling for the people
of the United States. What we hope you will do is not let fear become
disabling but to instead try to channel it into an awareness of your
surroundings, to get you to a place where you are living your life but if
you see something that doesn`t make sense, you say something to somebody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was FBI Director James Comey on Friday commenting on
the terror investigation in the San Bernardino shootings and how the public
should respond. It was interesting for me that he was saying, oh, you
shouldn`t get sort of so worked up and afraid even though this is
terrorism, especially considering what he said about police officers and
YouTube earlier in the year. Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: YouTube world, our officers reluctant to get out of their cars and
do the work that controls violent crimes, our officers answering 911 calls
but avoiding the informal contact that keeps bad guys from standing around
especially with guns. The suggestion, the question that`s been asked of me
is, are these kinds of things challenging police behavior all over the
country? I do have a strong sense that some part of the explanation is the
chill wind that is blown through law enforcement over the last year and
that wind is surely changing behavior.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, Colonel Jack, so, I don`t know – police officers are
too afraid of YouTube to do their jobs but the rest of us are not meant to
COL. JACK JACOBS, MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, I doubt it. I think that
was a knee-jerk response to what was at that time something of a frenzy.
You know, we`re in the middle of probably the biggest revolution,
distribution of information since the invention of the printing press, and
I think none of us knows exactly where it`s going to go. And that`s why
reactions like the director had. Immediately in the aftermath of that
saying – well, everybody`s going to be scared to do their job seemed like
a good idea at the time. It seemed like it was perceptive at the time.
But, obviously, in retrospect, it`s not. At least part of it`s because we
don`t know the full reach of information in a way it`s changing.
But I don`t think – I mean, I`m not a cop and I don`t know, but I spent a
lot of time in combat and I wouldn`t have acted any different and you have
too. I wouldn`t have acted any different if I had a camera on or I didn`t
have a camera on in the middle of combat. I would go ahead and do my job.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to come to you Jonathan, because in a moment like
this, you know, there can be an effort to either link the shooters in San
Bernardino to a broader set of cultural religious, you know, community
questions by trying to make this argument about ISIS or one can just say,
oh, there`s individuals who are deranged, crazy. We should think of them
as individuals with mental illnesses.
You know, honestly, I`m not sure which one I find more troubling as a kind
of sort of stereotype. So, talk to me about how we should think about kind
of individual mental state versus these narratives about broader
METZL: Well, let me just say, first of all, we live in a very scary time.
I mean, it does seem like there`s a repetitive death cycle on the news.
Shootings are happening all the time. We live in an era of great
uncertainty. And it does almost feel like, you know, who`s in control,
who`s going to keep us safe.
And so, in an that sense, there`s a disseminated sense of anxiety, and it
makes sense, especially given these events, why gun violence and issues
like this are presented as the FBI director was saying, kind of beware,
observe external threats.
But again, I think it`s important to note that if you look at trends in gun
violence in the United States, that you`re far more likely to get shot by a
relative, a neighbor, a sister, you know, a domestic violence kind of
thing. We also have 20,000 gun suicides a year in the United States.
You`re in danger of yourself in a particular way.
So, in a sense, externalizing this threat, which is I think again on one
hand understandable, kind of effaces the real threat of gun violence which
is that gun violence very often happens in social networks. And so, I
agree with the comment before, which is we need to have a sustained – a
sustained conversation in this country about the broader implications, not
just of gun violence but of the increasing kind of militazation (ph) of our
society, because I do think that`s contributing to a sense of anxiety.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, we`re talking earlier also, Linda, about
surveillance, when we`re talking about policing, but when I also hear the
FBI director say, be aware of your surroundings that if you see something
threatening, I have to say, in this moment, you look threatening, because
what we have done on the front page is to put someone who looks like you on
it and I certainly know something about sort of living in that world where
on any living day, Malcolm is what looks threatening in the world, right?
And so, I wonder about making a piece of advice that what we should do in
order to keep ourselves safe is to look around us and look at who looks
suspicious, when we know that there`s so much implicit bias in that.
SARSOUR: Absolutely. I mean, right now, I`m watching American Muslims,
particularly young American Muslims, who are also shocked and mourning, you
know, loss of life. We mourn loss of life every day. We just came out of
Paris recently. We came out of Beirut. We came out of Kenya and Nigeria
and every day, you know, we`re experiencing these things.
And here are American Muslims telling each other, here are five self-
defense, you know, tactics that you should learn. Woman in hijab, don`t
take your hijab off but maybe you could wear a hat, or maybe you could tie
it to the back. Don`t stand too close on the train platform. Wait until
the train gets there and stops until you get on the train.
I mean, this is the things that we`re telling each other, that we don`t
trust our fellow Americans, that they can look at us as fellow Americans,
as fellow New Yorkers, that we are just as horrified as anybody else on
these shootings. As a matter of fact, one of the women who was shot in San
Bernardino was a Muslim social worker.
SARSOUR: These terrorists when they do this, I don`t care what – look,
terrorists are all kinds of people for me.
SARSOUR: They don`t care who they`re shooting. I mean, we talked about
ISIS and we talked about this with you before. The largest group of
victims of ISIS are Muslims. No one wants to talk about that. Here are
young people born and raised in this country who are fearful and don`t feel
like they belong in a country that has Muslim lineage from the days of its
founding and it breaks my heart every day, my children included.
HARRIS-PERRY: Malcolm, I have more for you on this but they`ll make me
take a commercial. But I actually want to ask you, because we know
profiling actually leads to a bunch of bad outcomes in local policing. And
so, I`m also wondering about what it keeps us from doing well when we talk
about counterterrorism as well.
Thank you, Jonathan Metzl in Miami, Florida. Enjoy the nice weather down
And up next, we are at war. That is what the United States secretary of
defense told our Congress this week.
HARRIS-PERRY: This week, the U.S. raised the stakes in its fight against
ISIS. Defense Secretary Ash Carter told a House hearing the Pentagon will
expand into the special operations force in Iraq to fight Islamic state
militants in Iraq and Syria.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASHTON CARTER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We`re at war. We`re using the might of
the finest fighting force the world has ever known. These special
operators will, over time, be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather
intelligence, and capture ISIL leaders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The new deployment will build upon the 3,500 troops already
in Iraq and is being called, quote, “a specialized expeditionary targeting
force”. The raids it will be able to conduct will target Islamic State
militants, what the Pentagon calls, quote, “high value target”. Secretary
Carter did not say how many new troops will be sent to Iraq but defense
officials told NBC News the new standing force would comprise of 250
special operation forces that would conduct ground combat raids against is
targets in both Iraq and Syria.
This change in strategy marks a deepening involvement for the U.S. military
and at a time when some critics are pushing President Obama to go further,
Republican Senator McCain who is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services
Committee said in a written statement Secretary Carter`s announcement is
quote a belated step forward.
So, Jack, I don`t know quite what to do with the war language because –
JACOBS: Ignore it, I think –
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, it feels odd when we think about what this particular
engagement is. War always sounds like we`re fighting a nation state which
is not what`s happening here.
JACOBS: Well, it also sounds like it`s putting people in uniform and
having them go out there and fight the bad guys to kill or capture them as
we do in the infantry and then hold on to the terrain as long as necessary
in order to reinstitute the government and all the rest of that stuff. But
that`s not what we`re doing at all.
There are two things about that, all that. The first is we`re focusing on
equipment that is bombs rather than people. That usually doesn`t work.
Unless you`re going to use strategic weapons, which are nuclear weapons
which we`re not going to use. Tactical weapons don`t work. Even over a
long period of time.
We firebombed Dresden. We firebombed Tokyo. We firebombed Hamburg. We
killed more people with firebomb in the Second World War than we killed
with nuclear weapons. The Nazis bombed London. None of that, none of the
conventional weapons did anything at all. I`m not arguing to use nuclear
weapons because we`re not going to do it, it doesn`t make any sense.
But the real point is the only purpose for these weapons is to make it easy
for people on the ground to seize and hold the terrain. Now, that`s not
going to be us. That`s going to be people – it should be people from the
region who have a stake in what really happens here.
But so far, we haven`t been able to motivate them to do that. That
requires – that`s going to require diplomacy and not bombs.
HARRIS-PERRY: So when you say – when you make that point about bombs, I
feel like that is largely lost on ordinary folks. You know, you go to war,
you bomb some stuff, people are like, please stop bombing, and then they,
you know, sort of give in –
JACOBS: And then a miracle happens.
HARRIS-PERRY: But that is not what we`re facing here, right? When you
hear the kind of public discourse around this, or even the statements from
Ash Carter there, all we`re doing, the kind of counterterrorism that is
NANCE: Well, in the capacity that we have right now, the president`s
strategic policy has been to contain ISIS. And the way they`ve been doing
that is through, you know, interdiction of their combat capacity on the
ground. That`s bombing tanks that were seized by the Iraqi army, artillery
pieces, things like that, only in very strategic points. Seventy-five
percent of the aircraft that go out on sorties come back without dropping
their ordnance, that`s because what they don`t have is they don`t have
terminal ground attack controllers, people putting eyes on to the target.
And then a force that will move in once they`ve displaced some sort of
military obstacle in the way.
So, you can sit and bomb Raqqa all day. It`s very satisfying, you know, we
want ISIS to understand that we have the capacity to reach them. But as
the colonel said, they`re not going to surrender because of a strategic
bombing campaign. So, this task force is going to be linking up with
ground force and doing unconventional, real special operations. But until
we displace and break ISIS` line of communication.
JACOBS: Let me throw one further thing out there real quick, one of the
objectives is to make it impossible for them to fund anything because we`re
knocking out all their oil revenue. But, you know, attacks like the ones
that took place in California and – cost like 20 grand –
HARRIS-PERRY: So, here`s what I find interesting, to connect those, we
don`t know yet whether or not ISIS and the California shooters, but there
at least seems to be some sense from the California shooters they have some
sympathies with the question of ISIS.
We are, I presume, going to bomb suburban homes in California. We are not
I presume going to bomb suburban areas in Paris. Is this just a
fundamental misunderstanding of how our kind of bombing action impacts the
sentiments of people who watch what we are doing internationally?
NANCE: I think we`ve learned a lot since 9/11 to know that, you know, and
certainly since the invasion of Iraq, which is a phenomenal mistake, that
going in and conducting these massive ground combat operations just creates
organizations like al Qaeda in Iraq which is now called ISIS. Not one of
those people existed before the day we invaded that country.
So, now, we`re dealing with guys who have carved out their own nation
states of Sunni radicals. You know, the United States needs to understand
the only way to defeat this, and I know, I`ve been a ground combatant in
these wars, you can kill a man, but you can`t kill his ideas.
And we have to go after what I call counter-ideological operations and
warfare. We must expose and destroy the ideological cultism that is anti-
Islamic, that is virulent anti-Islamic in ISIS`s ideology. They have
bizarre traits. They say there`s seven pillars of Islam, not five.
NANCE: They are a cult. Until we in the Muslim world engage that to the
point where no one will deal with them, we`re going to be dropping bombs.
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, the new report on ISIS-related arrests here in the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We know that ISIL and other terrorist groups are actively
encouraging people around the world and in our country to commit terrible
acts of violence, oftentimes as lone wolf actors. And even as we work to
prevent attacks, all of us, government, law enforcement, communities, faith
leaders, need to work together to prevent people from falling victim to
these hateful ideologies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was President Obama this morning. One day after
authorities revealed that Tashfeen Malik, one of the shooters who killed 14
people in San Bernardino, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in the
Facebook post. The FBI is investigating the shooting as an act of terror.
The agency has not made any firm conclusions but the case underscores
concerns about homegrown terror.
Since 2014, 71 individuals linked to ISIS have been charged in the U.S. for
terrorism-related activities and 56 have been arrested in 2015 alone, which
is a record number of terrorism-related arrests for any year since 9/11.
That`s according to a new study by George Washington University made public
this week. The study ISIS in America reports that those charged – of
those charged, the average age is 26, 86 percent are male, the vast
majority of those arrested are U.S. citizens, and 27 percent were involved
in plots to carry out attacks in U.S. soil.
The FBI has stated ISIS-related investigations are active in all states but
21 states have at least one arrest within their border. The highest number
of cases in New York followed by Minnesota.
So, I read the report because I feel like that`s what you do, and you find
out that new report has told us new things and I am deeply distressed by
the idea that this would constitute social scientific evidence that we
would then make, for example, policing and counterterrorism decisions on.
And you and I were remarking in the break, Yolanda, that just looking
through the images of it and these kind of Facebook pictures and Twitter
posts – heck, you know, they look like brothers and cousins and friends
PIERCE: They look like my cousin Tyrone.
So, I think that – this is what I was going to say before the break, I
think we so desperately want things to be – this is a bad guy and we`re
the good guy. We want it to be clear cut. We don`t want there to be
shades of gray. If we identify a group of people as the bad guys, then we
can bomb them or we can wage war.
We don`t know what to do with the messiness of all this.
PIERCE: We don`t also know what to do if conventional weapons of,
quote/unquote, “warfare” simply do not work.
HARRIS-PERRY: But I feel like we do know. I think that`s part of it.
That this moment, the San Bernardino moment, connects us and makes us
think, OK, now we are personally under attack by this thing that is ISIS.
You know, Dylann Roof, Charleston church, nine people killed. Transwomen
killed in 2015, likely as a result of their identities, 22 of them.
The number of shooting victims in Chicago this year, although not all of
them died, 2,777. The number of Sikhs killed in a temple in Oak Creek in
Wisconsin, six people, and need I point out the police in this country have
shot and killed more than 1,000 people today. And we don`t think we should
go to war with any of those people.
SARSOUR: I just want to – Melissa, you know, terrorism or acts of
terrorism or even ISIS sympathizers, it`s not an epidemic in the Muslim
community. I mean, the fact we`re sitting here and making it sound like an
every day occurrence, we are 7 million to 10 million Muslims in this
HARRIS-PERRY: But 71 individuals have been arrested.
SARSOUR: Seventy-one whole individual. And the fact we have, again,
distracted from the issue. These two people or three bought legal weapons.
Either they bought them or someone else bought them. They`re buying
tactical weapons. No one thinks that`s the problem here. How did these
And then this idea of, like, countering violent extremism in this country
continues to be directed exactly at Muslims as if there`s no other
community in this country that engages in extremism. We`ve seen studies
and studies from the New America Foundation and others that more people
have been killed by white supremacist groups than by quote “jihadists” or
whatever they want to call them.
HARRIS-PERRY: Southern Poverty Law Center is one of the few who are saying
terrorist groups in America, what they are mostly talking about is right
SARSOUR: But now, it`s terrorism so we just have to go focus and be very
narrow focused. There`s no silver bullet profile to any of these. They
could be doctors, they could be Middle America, they could be poor, they
could be black, they could be converts. I mean, there is no special –
like, if this person is like this, this is how it is.
And if we are really engaging in, quote, “unwarranted surveillance”, which
I believe our government is against Muslims, how did you not catch Mr. Syed
Farouk buying tactical weapons and having all this ammunition? If that not
raise a flag, and it`s why we need gun control in this country, why we need
But, of course, the Republicans don`t want them. But they will vote for a
war against –
HARRIS-PERRY: I`ll tell you, it`s not the Republicans don`t want,
Democrats don`t want it. This one may be bipartisan in kind of lack of
action. That said, this is something that I was bringing up earlier. When
you say, OK, how did we miss them? One of the things we know is it leads
to poor law enforcement. And I wonder if this is also true even on the
NANCE: Well, it is. Let me pitch in on that. I wrote a book 14 years ago
called “The Terrorist Recognition Handbook”. I was bringing three decades
at that time of intelligence collection experience to law enforcement. And
the first thing I said, that`s known within the intelligence community,
those were active practitioners, we are color neutral. We are race and
Terrorists will identify themselves through the manifestation of their
activities, all right, and then once they cross a certain line, you`re a
terrorist. If you act in a political way and you have a political message
and you need to do that impact beyond the immediate victims, you cross and
you get the “T” word branded on to you.
Unfortunately, that hasn`t filtered into the media, and it hasn`t filtered
into law enforcement, you know, at the same level that the U.S.
intelligence community does. So, we need to understand ISIS can be anyone
anywhere any time, who claims that they`re ISIS. And the overwhelming
preponderance of people who were carrying out these acts in the United
States and the West are not Muslims, OK. Military age Muslim is almost a
profile to get caught if you`re actually going to carry out a terrorist
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to pause and when we come back, I want to talk a
little bit about things that make us feel like this is different, unusual,
hard to understand, when we talk about the San Bernardino shootings, and
there`s one aspect in particular I want us to dig into.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to come back now again, this information we`re
learning about the attackers in the San Bernardino shooting. Yesterday, we
heard from lawyers representing members of Syed Farouk`s family.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOHAMMAD ABUERSHAID, ATTORNEY FOR SYED FAROOK`S FAMILY: Would go over to
the house, they wouldn`t all be together in the room. The women would sit
with the women and the men would sit with the men. But that is very
traditional way of acting. It wasn`t anything that was different.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I think we`re hearing a lot now and a lot of anxiety
around particularly the idea, two things, the family piece. So, the idea
that one of the attackers is a woman and that there was a 6-month-old
child. And I wanted to just come back to some of what you said in the
first hour, Malcolm, that this anxiety around – or this sort of shock
around this idea that these are family folks who, you know, order something
on Amazon and then have acted in this way.
NANCE: OK. Well, let`s take a projection here. Let`s make a leap. Let`s
assume based on the evidence that we have right now that they have – that
she has actually radicalized. She did swear a bayat, she swore a loyalty
oath to ISIS and her husband went along with that.
Obviously, the evidence shows that, bomb factory, lots of weapons.
Obviously, she knew how to handle weapons. She had a run and gun battle
with police. So, we take that into account.
And we have to understand – now, how is it the family don`t know anything
about that? All right. It`s quite simple. If they have radicalized, they
bought into the concept of hegira, which is this ISIS/al Qaeda/cultist
belief harkening back to the Prophet Muhammad leaving Mecca. They call
this immigration where they leave mentally or physically the land of the
And you can either stay where you are and do that, right in your backyard
or right in your bomb factory, and your family has to be isolated and cut
away from you.
So, they still could meet with their family and never let them know what`s
going on. And thinking – well, I`m going to abandon you to this fate.
But the child is a very, very strange thing. I have never in my entire
career seen one where a child was abandoned to go do a suicide mission.
I`ve seen them use children as the bomb. I`ve seen them kill their family.
We`ve seen husband and wife teams go out as dual suicide bombers. But this
very thought they would carry out, adopt this ideology and then abandon
their child into the land of the infidels is quite strange.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Malcolm, one of the things I find fascinating in talking
to you in this moment, as opposed to some of what we hear, and, Colonel
Jack, I want to come back to the point you made, which is this idea that,
you know, we can bomb everything but as we engage either domestically or
internationally – we`re going to have to have information. We`re going to
have to be able to have conversations across different, we`re going to have
to engage diplomacy.
I keep wondering if, in fact, our best tools for generating a different
safer world is one where we actually learn multiple religious traditions,
where we actually learn multiple languages where we actually aren`t sort of
– one of the ways to push back is to know more. So that we can engage
more intelligently as we see the things in the world.
JACOBS: Well, our intelligence sorely lacking. We can go back several
decades and realize every administration going back a long way has been
complicit in reducing our ability to get timely human intelligence from
places we need to get intelligence and then converting that into finished
intelligence on which we can act. We`re terrible at it. We`re just now
playing catch up after decades and decades of completely eliminating our
capability to do so. So, we need to get better intelligence. We need to
do it very, very soon.
PIERCE: But I would say more than better intelligence, better
intelligence, but cultural, religious understanding, interfaith
conversation. One of our favorite poets, Elizabeth Alexander, what if the
mightiest word is love, right? What if the answer is not war and bombs but
cultural understanding, religious understanding, sustained conversation?
What if we stopped pretending? The Muslims are praying, what does it mean?
When almost every faith has prayer rituals, right, what would happen if we
actually did that and that`s our fine line of defense? Our education is
our first line of defense. That`s how we deploy our resources and our
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, that`s exactly – so on the one hand, yes, this
question of intelligence. But the idea of actually becoming more
intelligent about the world we live in, because it does seem that part of
what`s happening here is we`re constantly behaving in ways that are based
in ignorance and fear.
SARSOUR: Absolutely. When people look at someone like me, they think I`m
an anomaly. This is what Muslim women are. We are educated. We are
mothers, but we`re also workers. We`re the backbones of our communities.
There`s a lot of information and misconceptions. People are OK with that.
It`s acceptable. We allow media pundits. We allow presidential candidates
– I mean, the stuff that people are saying about Muslims, if they were
said about any other faith, group, we would be up in arms as a country.
Forty percent of terror plots or alleged terror plots have been foiled by
Muslims and information from Muslim communities. The last thing we need in
this country is to push Muslims to margins of society. To then – to
actually then fuel potential radicalization and anti-American hate, because
actually that`s what is feeds off of.
They`ll tell young Muslims in France, they don`t like you, you don`t belong
there. This is the conditions you are in, is because of the other and
otherizing. And this is what we don`t want. Our tools to combat terrorism
is unity, it`s staying together. It`s looking at me in the street and
saying, that`s my sister, she`s my American sister, I got her back, just
like I know that she got my back. And that`s not the sentiment that we are
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Linda Sarsour, and also thank you to Malcolm
Nance, and to Colonel Jack Jacobs, also to Yolanda Pierce.
Up next, after a hard week, we have a little bit of good news, and we`re
going to lighten it up when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: We know that the news of the last few weeks has been
especially tough. Every week for nearly a month, violence and brutality
has dominated the headlines, and in Nerdland, if those of you who consume
the news is anything like those of us who report on it, it might be feeling
like the most.
So, we thought we would take this space for a reminder off a few things.
One, self-care is also an important part of the work, check in with your
emotional well-being. If you need a break for yourself, take it.
Two, there is actually other news going on rather than everything that has
been breaking everyday. It is not all bad.
So, here, for starters, a political miracle occurred in Washington this
week. Thursday night, Congress reached a – check it out – bipartisan
agreement on the $305 billion bill to fix our nation`s crumbling
infrastructure. The five-year bill is the longest period in a decade that
Congress has reauthorized federal transportation programs to fund roads,
bridges, and rail lines.
And then there was this, a response that you may not have heard of the
Syrian refugee crisis in Minnesota where refugee agencies have been so
flooded with donations and offers to help that the director of one of the
agencies told the “Minnesota Star Tribune” we have four to five times the
number of volunteers inquiries and interests. It`s a wonderful problem to
And in Oklahoma this week, Montrel Adams, a student at a school for deaf
children tackled a problem of his own. He was the target of bullying and
he wanted to teach younger students about nonviolent conflict resolution.
So he and the four people built this, a buddy bench.
The idea is that students sit on the bench when they are sad or lonely,
which signals a classmates to join them on the bench to offer a word of
encouragement or an invitation to play and hang out.
And lastly, just for the sheer joy of it, we leave you with this – First
Lady Michelle Obama making herself a new buddy at the national Christmas
tree lighting and reading “Twas The Night Before Christmas” to a group of
children with the help of Miss Piggy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a
whistle. And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
MISS PIGGY: But I heard him exclaim as he flew out of sight “Merry
Christmas to all, and to all, a good night.”
OBAMA: High five, Miss Piggy. Low five.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Yep, if you need to feel better, watch the FLOTUS video.
That is our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`ll see
you tomorrow morning, 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
Right now, it`s time for a preview of “WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITH”.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>