The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/16/15
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us
this hour. I am Rachel Maddow. I`m here at MSNBC headquarters in New
NBC`s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel is live tonight in
Richard, I`m looking forward to doing this hour with you. Thank you
for being here, my friend.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely.
MADDOW: Richard and I are essentially going to be co-anchoring for
most of this hour, because we basically want to combine the latest from our
newsroom here in New York with Richard`s latest reporting from on the
ground at the site of Friday`s terrorist attacks in Paris. So, we`re going
to be talking with Richard not as a guest, but essentially as a co-anchor
for most of the hour tonight.
But before we do that, there is one specific thread from the
investigation into the Paris attacks that I think is worth pulling here
right at the outset. It`s a sort of through line of the investigation that
you can see now and I think that through line tells what appears to be a
very worrying story about how the people who want to launch these kind of
attacks in the West are getting better at it over time. I mean that in a
specific sense and I mean it over a very short period of time.
In April of this year, on the 19th of April, police in Paris got a
call from a man who was in distress. He called. They`re equivalent of 911
because he had a terrible gunshot wound.
He was shot through the thigh. He was bleeding very heavily, bleeding
everywhere. He was laying on the street in Paris when paramedics showed up
and they saved his life.
And aside from dealing with this gruesome injury that he got, the next
order of business was figuring out what had happened to the guy, because it
turned out the guy couldn`t explain exactly how he got shot.
So they had to investigate the scene where they found him to try to
figure out who shot this guy. It turns out, he shot himself by accident,
in the leg. After getting the guy`s 911 call. They found him bleeding.
He`s lying there in a pool of blood. There is a trail of blood leading
from him. They follow this trail of blood from him on the sidewalk back to
his vehicle, his car.
And in his car they find a loaded AK-47 and a loaded pistol and a
whole bunch of ammunition and three cell phones and a laptop and all sorts
of notes for what looked like a planned terrorist attack on a nearby
church. This idiot was apparently on his way to launch a one-man blood
bath at a church in France, when he shot himself by accident on the way,
called the French equivalent of 911 and just hoped police and paramedics
and firefighters wouldn`t know his weapons and his terrorists stuff when
they turned up to help him.
The police then went to this idiot`s apartment, and they found more
weapons and they found maps of his planned attack. They found lots of
evidence of who else in Europe he was communicating about his plans for
this attack. And they found a trail of communication that appeared to lead
to someone in Syria, who had been apparently encouraging this young man to
carry out this attack and telling him to hit a church, and telling him to
hit that specific day, that day that he did head out with a car full of
weapons and a plan, but he shot himself before he could pull any of it off.
That brilliant 24-year-old was arrested. At least two more people
were eventually arrested in conjunction with that plot in April. But
police also named one suspect in that case who never did get arrested. He
was not thought to be in Europe.
He was a 27-year-old Belgium man, but he was not in Belgium. At the
time of this attempted attack in April, the man was thought to be in Syria.
Still, though, he was a named suspect in that attack. This 27-year-old
Belgian guy thought to be in Syria named in conjunction with that idiot who
shot himself on his way to go shoot up the church. April.
Then in August, it was a high speed train traveling between Amsterdam
and Paris. A young man, 26-years-old, got aboard that train with an
assault rifle, a pistol and several hundreds rounds of ammunition and a
knife. And he reportedly hid in the bathroom on the train and after the
train crossed from Belgium into France, he sprung out to the main part of
the car, and he started shooting.
We remember that train attack acutely in this country because of three
young American men who are among those that rushed the attacker at great
risk to themselves, and they tackled him and they stopped the assault.
Remarkably, nobody was killed in that attack. Three people were injured,
not counting the assailant, himself, who got the snot beaten out of him on
that train and got himself arrested after he failed to kill anyone despite
both the guns and all that ammo and the knife and everything else.
The assailant from the train attack was a 25-year-old Moroccan man.
He`s now in custody in France. But in his case, again, French police named
an additional suspect. Just like the April case, they named somebody who
is not there on that train, not present for the attack, but this other
named suspect was believed to be involved in it somehow.
And in the high speed train attacked from August, that main suspect
was the same named suspect, the same 27-year-old Belgium who had been named
as a suspect in that case from April, where the idiot shot himself in the
leg before he could launch the attack on the French church.
In both of those cases, the one in April in April, and the one in
August onboard that train, yes, there was a perpetrator arrested, but there
was also a suspect named by police but not arrested, because they don`t
think he is in Europe. They think he is in Syria. And in both of those
incidents, the named suspect not arrested is the same guy.
This guy, 27 years old, Belgian born and raised, now believed to be in
Syria. Police did not apparently he was physically present for either of
those attacks. They don`t think he personally carried them out. But they
believe he was linked to both of them, maybe he was sort of running both of
those attacks from abroad.
We know who this guy is. Whether or not you`re going to recognize his
name, you know him in context, because of something that happened after the
“Charlie Hebdo” attacks. It`s hard to believe the “Charlie Hebdo” attacks
were this year. It seemed so long ago him they were in January.
And you might remember that one of the things that was truly terrible
and terrorizing about that attack was that it just went on and on and on,
for several days. I mean, after the initial massacre at the “Charlie
Hebdo” offices, then they killed a policeman in the streets and the next
day, a random man shot who was just and injured in the street. A police
woman was shot and killed in the street.
And then the brothers who carried out the “Charlie Hebdo” office
attack were tracked down outside of Paris when they robbed a gas station,
and then they holed up in an industrial building overnight. But then even
when those two brothers were killed by police, when they went down guns
blazing at that industrial state in France, even then it wasn`t over,
because this other man, this third man kept up the assault, taking hostages
inside that kosher supermarket in Paris, shooting and killing four hostages
before the police went in and shot him.
And then when that was over. It was like, is it over? Would there be
more? Were there going to be more follow-on attacks after it went on for
three or four – I mean, were there is still going to be more people
involved in that plot? Were there other accomplices? Was that still going
Well, it turned out in the investigation in the immediate after math
they figured out some of the weapons from the “Charlie Hebdo” and
supermarket attacks, some could be traced. They were traced very really
quickly to Belgium, and in the wake of the “Charlie Hebdo” attack. There
were police raids in France and there were police raids in Belgium,
searching for anybody who might be connected to those attacks, anybody who
might be about to launch a follow-on attack, and these raids, there are
dozens of them. They were fairly frenetic.
And they went on for days and then all of a sudden, one week after the
assault on the “Charlie Hebdo” officers, one of those police raids,
basically turned into a war. I mean, there were a lot of these raids, now
went down slightly differently. In only one of them was it a war zone, was
it a fuselage of gun fire basically out of nowhere.
ENGEL: This is what it sounded like today, like a war. In the
normally quiet Belgium city of Verviers, a neighbor filmed a
counterterrorism raid that turned into a prolonged gun battle. It began,
authorities say, when the suspects in the house opened fire.
ERIC VAN DER SYPT, BELGIAN FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Two of the suspects
were killed, a third one has been arrested. Luckily, during this
intervention, no policeman was harmed.
ENGEL: Nor were any civilians. The suspects were clearly armed and
REPORTER: In Belgium, the terror threat were killed. Police are
about to launch a major terrorist attack. They sifted through evidence
today and arrested more suspects in a dozen raids.
Police say they found four assault rifles here, explosives, police
uniforms and radios. They have been listening to the man`s phone calls and
say they would have been the prime target of the planned attack.
MADDOW: They, meaning police would have been the planned target.
That raid, which turned into a huge gun battle, that killed two young
men, who had opened fire on police, the semiautomatic assault rifles.
Those two young men who were killed and the third one who was arrested were
apparently a part of a cell that stockpiled not just weapons and
ammunition, they`d also stockpiled police uniforms and police radios, for
what was apparently going to be a fairly large scale, fairly sophisticated
attack that would have targeted police in Belgium. This is the week after
the “Charlie Hebdo” attacks.
And in that raid, two men killed, others arrested as a part of that
cell. But again, in that instance, there was one man who was named as a
suspect as connected to that cell that was busted up in a hell of gunfire.
He was thought to be the ring leader of that terrorist cell, and it was the
same guy, the same 27-year-old Belgian man.
And although he had been a part of that cell in Belgium, he was not
there the night of the raid, in the gun battle, he apparently got away. We
know that, because within a couple of weeks after that raid, all that
gunfire in that Belgium town, within a couple of weeks, the guy who was the
named suspect who wasn`t found that night, the guy the supposed ring leader
of that cell, he turns up in the ISIS magazine. Al Qaeda has a magazine,
ISIS has a magazine.
He turned up February of this year doing an interview with is about
being an ISIS fighter, what it was like to run a terror cell in Belgium and
how much he wanted to hit Europe and how jealous he was of his Belgian
terror cell compatriots who died in gun battle in Verviers in Belgium a
week after the “Charlie Hebdo” attack. All the same guy – the alleged
ring leader of the Belgian terrorist cell that planned a follow-on attack
in Belgium a week after the “Charlie Hebdo” attack, he`s the guy who
apparently escaped the hail of gunfire, police raid in January. Then, in
February, he turns up talking about it all in the ISIS magazine.
Then, in April, the same guy is also a named suspect as the brains
behind the operation of the world`s stupidest terrorists who called 911 on
himself after shooting himself accidentally before he ever made it to the
church he wanted to attack in Paris. That was in April. And in August,
the same guy is also the same suspect in the guns and knives high speed
train attack that was thwarted by those three brave American heroes.
January, February, April, August. And now in November, French police
told “The Associated Press” in the “New York Times,” that that same guy,
same guy is believed to be the mastermind of Friday nights terrorist
attacks in Paris that have claimed at last count 129 lives – one guy
linked to all of those incidents, all in the space of less than a year.
If that bears out, if that proves to be true, would that be a good
sign or a bad sign that the person who directed this cell of attackers in
Paris was someone who is that much on the radar of the Western intelligence
agencies? Is that good because western intelligence agencies apparently
have their finger on the pulse and they know who the important bad guys
are? Or is that terrible news because even somebody that high profile is
still this operational?
Somebody whose picture I can show you in part, because I got it in a
magazine, somebody I can show you video of, ISIS uses him in propaganda
videos talking about how excited he is to be dragging bodies around on
ropes behind in his vehicle, which I could show you, but I will not.
There is a lot of really pressing questions right now. Why`s the
bomb-making factory that made all those suicide vests? Who is the bomb
maker? Is there an eighth attacker or even multiple accomplices on the
large or on the run?
Will these raids across France and Belgium and other countries find
any outstanding attackers or accomplices? Will they produce any new
evidence about this attack and who pulled it off and how? How nuts is
politics going to go now in France, specifically, in Europe and here. And
we`re going to get to all of those questions tonight.
But, on this specific point, if these reports are true about the
alleged mastermind of the Paris attacks, then these guys are getting better
at this, because Abdul Hamid Abaaoud has been pinging very brightly on law
enforcement and intelligence agencies radar all year long. This 27-year-
old Belgium guy turns up a lot in the news and in police reports as a named
suspect and in terrorist propaganda.
All year long, he`s been pinging like a sunrise on the radar. All
year long, while he has not been caught, and while his stupid and failed
plots from earlier in the year graduated and escalated to the successful
complicated, assault that unleashed a river of blood and pain in Paris on
Friday night. Same guy all those attacks.
And I get the difficulty of finding and stopping anonymous nobodies
who align themselves with extremism. It is harder to get, the inability to
find and fix and finish someone who makes himself this visible, this
connected, this famous, this known – that I do not get.
MADDOW: So, tonight, I`m going to be basically co-anchoring for the
rest of the hour with NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel
who`s in Paris.
Richard, it`s really good to have you here tonight. I understand that
you have been reporting in detail tonight on who the attackers are and what
we know about them.
ENGEL: Rachel, you were talking about mastermind of this attack, and
this is somebody who`s obviously well-known, goes back to Belgium, Abu Omar
al Bajiki (ph). But the muscle used in this attack. The people that did
the killing were homegrown. Today we followed in their footsteps.
And that led us to Chartres. It`s a quiet town about 50 kilometers
outside of Paris. That is where one of the key suspects, Omar Ismail
Mostefai, that`s where he spent several years. And the mayor of the town
told us that Mostefai who`s been identified by authorities as one of the
rock concert murderers has been associated with Islamic radical at a nearby
And the mayor also told us that Mostefai was radicalized slowly, that
he then suddenly left town in 2012. When we went to the mosque, this place
where he supposedly met people who brought him down this path of
radicalization, the director of the mosque told us he didn`t know anything
about Mostefai. But despite that, Mostefai was quite well-known in town.
He wasn`t hiding. He had a criminal record and he was not always this
You see him here in this YouTube rap video. Investigators who had
been looking at this very closely over the last several days, obviously,
know a great deal more about Mostefai, more than the other attackers, in
fact. In 2007, Mostefai started spending more time with Islamic radicals,
then in 2013 NBC News learned he traveled to Turkey but he never legally
left Turkey, which strongly suggests he slipped then into Syria and then
somehow managed to get back into France to carry out this attack.
As for the others connected to Friday`s attack, there is Sami Amimour,
who`s believed to be another of the alleged rock concert shooters. He has
been wanted for terrorism since 2013. Bilal Hafdi, a 20-year-old French
national who lived in Belgium.
Ibrahim Abdeslam, 31 years old. He exploded his suicide vest outside
a cafe and he is connected to the man who may be the most wanted man in
Europe tonight, his brother Salah. He is the one everyone is looking for.
He rented a car the killers used to drive into Paris and he drove back to
But he was stopped at the border by French police. They checked him.
Police looked at him but they let him go. He moved on into Belgium and
He is – a big manhunt is under way for the man what happens you are
looking at right now. Police are hunting for Salah. But they told people
not to approach him, describing him as dangerous.
Another bomber, another of the attackers, Mohammed, was questioned,
released. He was the brother of that man. He was questioned by
authorities but then they decided after raiding his home, he was – not
material collected and he was let go and he gave a brief statement to the
And while all of this information is coming in, one of the things that
is causing most concern here in Paris tonight and that is also creating a
lot of political turmoil in the United States, is that we now know that at
least one of the attackers did, in fact, hide among the refugees who are
still flooding into Europe by the thousands every day. It is believed
someone carrying a passport with the name Ahmed al-Mohammed entered through
the Greek island of Leros in early October, and he after that came here –
MADDOW: Richard, on that last point, do we know that passport was a
genuine passport? Do we know that this guy is Syrian? I understand they
used his fingerprints to track him as a person through that transit point
of Greece. But do we have confidence that he is a Syrian and that is his
ENGEL: It`s really important to drill down on this, because this has
become such an explosive issue in this country and around the world.
ENGEL: Are the Syrians, are the terrorists using the migrant trail,
are they going to destroy the world under the name of humanitarian relief?
What we do know, however, is that a fingerprint found here, a
fingerprint found from an attacker was the same fingerprint that Greek
authorities registered on the migrant trail, and it was the fingerprint
that we assume is associated with this passport.
So, even without the passport, we know from the fingerprint that the
person was in Greece and the person was here. And it is assumed he used
So, we don`t know if he`s Syrian. We assume the passport is fake
because the number the sequence of the numbers has been described as
inconsistent with real passports.
But, unfortunately, yes, because of that fingerprint match on the
attacker and the fingerprint match registered in Greece, one of these
militants, at least, did hide among the migrant trail. And that has very
serious consequences, serious repercussions.
MADDOW: We`re going to be talking about – yes, we`re going to be
talking about those consequences, those political consequences in Europe,
those political consequences in the United States ahead, right after this.
Richard, stay with us.
Our coverage continues. We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: They are, in fact, psychopathic
monsters. There is nothing, nothing civilized among them. This is not one
civilization pitted against another. This is a battle between
civilization, itself, and barbarism between civilization and medieval and
modern fascism both at the same time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Over the weekend, conservative politicians were trying to
outdo each other in saying the U.S. should not allow Syrian refugees into
this country. This may turn out to be a dubious prize.
But tonight, Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas appears to be
winning that race. Senator Cruz now says he will introduce a bill to the
U.S. Senate that would not just ban Syrian refugees from coming to the
United States, he would specifically ban Syrian Muslim refugees from coming
to the United States. Presumably, Ted Cruz has invented a magic litmus
paper that derives a person`s religion on their forehead with it.
Ted Cruz is not known for passing tons of legislation. Lately, he
seems for more interested in trying to get himself elected president. But
he is doing his best to catch this new anti-immigrant, anti-Syrian, anti-
Muslim wave on the right.
Hold that thought.
MADDOW: Welcome back as we continue our coverage of the Paris terror
attacks. I`m Rachel Maddow in New York. NBC chief foreign correspondent
Richard Engel is in Paris.
Here`s the question for next discussion, is there a bomb-making
factory that is still in operation somewhere within driving distance of
All seven of the terrorists who attacked Paris on Friday were wearing
suicide vests, which makes Friday the first suicide bombings in France`s
history, it makes it one of the largest coordinated suicide bombings
According to the Paris prosecutor, all the vests were basically the
same. They had batteries. They had push button detonators. For ready
made shrapnel, they were laced with bolts that could turn into deadly
projectiles upon detonation. As for the explosive, they apparently used
triacetone triperoxide, which usually gets called TATP. TATP is made with
essentially odd combinations of odd concentrations of regular household
And it`s a known killer. TATP has been used in fatal terrorist
attacks before, including the 777 London transit bombings in 2005 which
killed 52 people. But while TATP isn`t the most difficult explosive to get
your hands on, you do have to know what you`re doing. It is easy to blow
yourself up accidentally while making TATP.
As a compound, TATP is volatile, too much heat, or friction or an
election shock can use an accidental detonation.
But the other thing that can go wrong with TATP is that it can be a
dud. Just two weeks after the 7/7 bombings in London, several TATP bombs
placed on London buses failed to detonate. The shoe bomber, Richard Reid,
in 2001 and the so-called underwear bomber in 2009 both tried and failed to
bring down airliners with TATP bombs. They did what they were supposed to
do. But the bombs didn`t work. So, it`s not easy to make a bomb out of
this stuff. And it is very easy for something to go wrong.
And knowing that – well, in Paris on Friday, the attackers had seven
vests all seemed to have worked as they were supposed to. One of the
terrorist attackers did not detonate his vest. But as far as we know,
that`s because he was shot and killed before he could do so. We know of no
one being accidentally blown up in the lead up to Friday`s events because
of the way they built the vests or handle the explosive.
And again, as far as we can tell, none of them were duds. Seven
suicide vests identical and they worked.
So doesn`t this mean that there is an active quality bomb-making
factory somewhere with access to Belgium and France? How do you find
something like that if you know it exists? And is that a development that
law enforcement intelligence agencies did not expect?
Richard Engel live tonight in Paris.
Here live with us in New York is Malcolm Nance, executive director of
the Terror Asymmetrics Project and a former U.S. counterterrorism and
intelligence officer. I literally keep his book, the terrorist recognition
handbook next to my desk at work. Mr. Nance`s forthcoming book is called
Malcolm, thanks very much for being here tonight. I appreciate it.
MALCOLM NANCE, TERROR ASYMMETRICS PROJECT: Always my pleasure.
MADDOW: You know these things, and I do not. Did what I explain
there about TATP bomb-making, did that seem right to you basically?
NANCE: Yes, it was absolutely correct. It was almost textbook. I`m
sorry that you put it out textbook like that.
MADDOW: Well, it`s not impossible to make. If you can make seven
suicide vests with it and they all work and you don`t get blown up in the
process, it does mean you`re good at it, right?
NANCE: Yes, it`s utterly amazing. As a matter of fact, the very
instant that I heard the general counsel in Paris described this actual
components of this vest, immediately, my mind went back to a vest that I
had seen that was built in Iraq in 2004.
These vests are not easy to manufacture. If you have ready-made
plastic explosives, yes, then they`re very easy to manufacture. But if you
have to create batches of your own homemade explosive, as you said, they`re
highly volatile. They can explode in an instant.
So, somebody had to create it. Someone who`s very skilled at this
actually went out and tested it, maybe blew up a tree stump or took it out
a field, blew up a can and managed to create such consistency and use such
high quality detonators that they worked precisely as planned.
MADDOW: Richard, do you want to jump in here?
ENGEL: I do. Although, I`m not sure if I`m qualified, I don`t carry
his book with me all the time.
But if he will ask – if you can answer one question – how long would
it take to organize an attack like this? To get those vests ready, to get
the weapons, to stage it? Because there is some, it`s a question of timing
here. Are we talking weeks, months?
NANCE: This is a matter of months. Now, it depends on the group`s
priorities. If the group wants to dedicate a lot of resources, they wanted
to dedicate a lot of manpower, they want to shake up their logistics
trained, they can do that. Every time you do that, you push the network,
what you find is you actually tip yourself off to intelligence.
And you don`t want to tip yourself off to intelligence. So, what you
do a slow, methodical systematic approach to where you bring in your
logistics training, you have your bomb maker, your bomb master as we call
them come in. He will work separately. And he will marry up with the team
leader and then the individual team members instruct him how to wear the
vests. Use the vests and then they will practice over time a series of dry
runs, do their intelligence collection and watch out for
If all goes well according to plan, they make their mission.
ENGEL: And what about mental preparation? I – as Rachel mentioned,
I can`t remember the last time you had seven people go in with vests on,
prepared to blow themselves up. Nobody backed out. Nobody chickened out.
What kind of psychological preparation do you need for that kind of
NANCE: Well, for this group, you don`t need any psychological
preparation. The fact that are you are involved in ISIS or an al Qaeda-
backed group tells me that you are already indoctrinated into the ideology
of death – a martyrdom death in suicide attacks.
In ISIS, almost exclusively now, in ground combat in Iraq and Syria,
they all wear suicide vests. This is – this is a badge of honor amongst
them. Those who don`t die in those attacks are derided.
So, we`ve seen this before. You have seen it in London. You saw it
in the Madrid subway bombings. You saw it on 9/11, 19 men committed and
happy to die. But they`re happy to die because that ideology is such a
twisted corruption they believe they`re going to heaven, when, in fact,
every tenet in Islam says they are going somewhere else.
MADDOW: Malcolm, what we know about these – the technical aspects of
what they did, what the bomb masters say put together here, is there anyway
that that is a good forensic lead. I mean, are these generic enough that
knowing what we know about these vests doesn`t necessarily tell us where
they came from? Or can this be a good forensic start to finding them?
NANCE: Oh, it`s going to be a brilliant forensic start to finding
them. This isn`t like you see in the movies. There is a twisted wire,
it`s yellow, the bomb guy always does it that way.
No, they`re going to take that bomb apart. They`re actually to
recreate the bomb. The FBI does this with great regularity. They will
rebuild that to the exact formula. They analyze it right down to the level
of consistency as it exists at the time of the attack.
Then they will cross reference that with every piece of material that
has ever been taken from any terrorist safe house anywhere. We are very,
very good at that. And this is going to either bring us to the bomb master
or it`s going to bring us to the training camp where this was found.
You know, every time there is a suicide attack anywhere in the world,
in Iraq, Afghanistan, against our allies. We analyze those bombs. We have
an entire counter IED directorate whose sole function it is, is to analyze
We will isolate this down to the training facility so we can properly
bomb it ourselves.
MADDOW: Malcolm Nance, executive director of the Terror Assymetrics
Project, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
When – if and when they find this bomb-making factory, we know it has
to be within driving distance of at least Brussels if not Paris, we will be
calling you back to explain to us what they have found means. Malcolm,
NANCE: My pleasure.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more tonight from here in New York
and in Paris. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: This is a fingerprint record. This is not the finger record
of somebody who`s been arrested and booked. This is an immigration
fingerprint record. These are, in fact, the fingerprints of a 25-year-old
man who transited through Greece last month, through an island off of
Greece. And then those exact fingerprints this past weekend turned up
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: At the State de France, French soccer stadium that was bombed
during Friday`s terrorist attack in Paris, French officials found the body
of one of the suicide attackers outside the stadium after he had blown
himself up with a suicide vest. They found parts of him, also found a
passport identifying the man as having come from Syria from the parts of
his body that they found, they took his fingerprints. They found they
matched the prints taken from a migrant who transited through Greece last
month as Richard Engel is reporting earlier this hour.
But that development, that one of the Paris attackers had entered
Europe as a migrant that today has essentially consumed all the political
oxygen here in the United States in terms of what we should respond to the
country to what happened in Paris.
Today, 19 U.S. governors and counting came out to say that their
states will not accept any refugees fleeing with civil war in Syria.
They say because of what happened in Paris, their doors are now closed
to any refugees. It`s not clear they have the legal authority to do that.
But they`re doing it anyway. You notice all the states highlighted here
are in red, that`s because it was uniformly Republican governors who came
out today to shut the door on refugees.
The exception there is Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan of New
Hampshire who said the federal government should stop letting Syrian
refugees in. She had her own spin on the matter.
The U.S. government has only agreed to take in a total of 10,000
Syrian refugees. That is a fraction of the millions who are leaving that
country and is a significantly smaller proportion than many of our closest
allies, including those in Western Europe.
But even with that, all of these states have said, no, no, you are not
Richard Engel live tonight in Paris.
You covered the refugee tide closer than anybody. How do you
understand this? I mean, in terms of what`s going on in this discussion in
the U.S., compared with all these countries that are already taking in way
more refugees than the U.S. is anyway.
ENGEL: Rachel, you mentioned that the U.S. government has agreed to
take in a total of 10,000 Syrian refugees. That`s only a tiny fraction of
what many other countries around the world are taking. But there is also a
huge difference between how the refugees are being processed in Europe and
compared to the United States.
When we were in Greece just last week, watching thousands and
thousands of Syrian and other refugees come ashore, most of those refugees
were arriving in Europe were effectively going unscreened. They were just
arriving in those rubber rafts, crashing on the shores and climbing into
The ones who are going to the United States, the refugees who are
going to be accepted, they will go through a much more elaborate screening
process. They will be filtered. There is an inter-agency review that
involves security checks from the Department of Homeland Security. They`re
screened by the National Counterterrorism Center as well as the FBI
terrorist screening center. Their names are cross-checked with a massive
database that`s maintained by the U.S. intelligence community and the
Department of Defense.
The process that have to handle these refugees in the United States is
completely different from the disorganized chaotic and completely organic
process that is happening in Greece where feel are just showing up,
climbing on to shore and trying to get to safety.
MADDOW: So, Richard, with this political storm now in the United
States, the allegation is being made that the screening process that Syrian
refugees have to go through in order to get into this country, it isn`t
reassuring that there is no screening process on earth that would be tight
enough that would justify letting people in, that`s the sort of arguments
that you are hearing from Republican presidential candidates and these
What`s your take on how good the screening process is, for those who
need to get into the U.S., it sounds rigorous to the point of being
ENGEL: I have spoken to counterterrorism officials here and they
think it is very unlikely that a known militant would be able to get into
the screening process, would land in an American airport, would come in
through a on a cruise ship.
They think more likely if ISIS is going to reach out and touch someone
in the United States, it would be someone who self-recruited, recruited
online or perhaps a militant who came across the land border with Canada.
It`s a very long border, very hard to control. They think those are more
likely scenarios than the 10,000 refugees screened and rescreened and
rescreened and coming through a formal process.
MADDOW: Exactly. Fascinating.
Thank you, Richard.
I should note that on the other side of those Republican governors who
slammed the door on Syrian refugees today, at least six Democratic
governors came out to say that refugees for the violence in Syria are
welcome if their state. So, that`s six against 19. That`s the totally
symbolic politics on this matter today in the United States.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Republican presidential candidates spent the day proposing
varieties of American ground war in Syria as the appropriate U.S. response
to ISIS attacking Paris. The leading lights of the Democratic Party in
foreign policy are proposing something quite different from that. But
that`s ahead – a truly useful partisan divide for once.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MODERATOR: Seventy-two percent of Americans think it`s going badly.
Won`t the legacy of this administration, which you are a part of, won`t
that legacy be that it underestimated the threat from is?
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, John, I think that
we have to look at ISIS as the leading threat of an international terror
network. It cannot be contained. It must be defeated. But it cannot be
an American fight. And I think what the president has consistently said,
which I agree with, is that we will support those who take the fight to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: ISIS and foreign policy pushed to the forefront of Saturday`s
Democratic debate in Iowa.
NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel is in Paris.
And joining us now from D.C. is Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut.
He`s a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator, really appreciate you being with us tonight. You get both me
tonight and Richard Engel in Paris.
ENGEL: Well, Senator, let me just come out and ask you very directly.
There has just been a horrific attack where I am in Paris. What should the
United States do?
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, I think there are two paths
forward for the United States.
One is to enlist our partners in Europe who now may as a consequence
of this attack take the ISIS threat more seriously in a sustained, now
multilateral, effort to keep is on its heels militarily. Now, primarily
means U.S. air assets now possibly along with greater assets from Europe
attacking ISIS from the air while we seek to stand up units on the ground
that can as we did last week in Sinjar, start to push back this feeling of
inevitability that surrounded this supposed caliphate. Remember, the
amount of territory that ISIS holds decreased by about 25 percent since
But the second thing we need to do is to avoid making mistakes that
would actually swell the ranks of those that are signing up to fight the
West, signing up to join ISIS. And that`s why shutting down our borders
and essentially creating this impression of a war of civilizations or
putting U.S. troops on the ground as targets for ISIS would, in fact, just
feed this narrative of a caliphate expanding to fight the West.
So, it`s continuing to put pressure on is, primarily through air
asset, and it`s avoiding trying to create recruitment for the folks are
trying to sign people up against us.
MADDOW: Senator, when you talk about the –
ENGEL: It sounds like –
MADDOW: Go ahead, Richard. I`m sorry.
ENGEL: Go ahead, Rachel. Go ahead.
MADDOW: We`ll sort this out with a coin toss later.
Senator, let me say when you mention the amount of territory under
ISIS control shrinking in recent months, is that something that you
attribute to the U.S.-led air campaign? I mean, a lot of people 7,000
airstrikes and they think, well, what has that gotten us. As best as we
can tell, ISIS is just expanding their international aspirations and their
propaganda game and their recruiting. Do you feel like the airstrikes have
actually done some good?
MURPHY: So, I think the airstrikes have kept them on their heels. I
think what has helped particularly inside Iraq is that the Iraqi military
and Kurdish Peshmerga are picking up capacity. So, that has led to some
progress internally. But again, it`s important that this impression that
the caliphate is just inexorably expanding is ended and I think we are
making progress along those – along that road.
My fear is that we are going to take steps over the course of the next
several weeks or months that is simply going to feed into the storyline
that will allow them to build their ranks internally in the region and
externally. If you certainly listen to a lot of Republican candidates and
Republicans in Congress, it would lead you to believe that that`s the road
that we`re headed now.
ENGEL: Senator, I was struck by one thing, by the president`s tone
when he addressed that conference in Ankara today. He seemed testy. He
seemed like he was trying to fight off a war that maybe he feels is being
imposed upon him, being forced upon him. Is that the way you saw it?
MURPHY: Well, I think there`s this sense of American hubris that
still remains from the Iraq war. This idea that the American military can
solve the problem of ISIS.
Now, what the American military can do is keep ISIS on its heels. But
ultimately, as Secretary Clinton said in the debate this weekend, this is a
decision that has to be made by Sunni and Shia on the ground in the region
as to whether they are going to reconcile. We can`t end ISIS in Iraq so
long as the Iraqi military is 95 percent Shia, so long as those in Ramadi
are uncomfortable living under a Shia regime because they don`t think that
their rights are going to be respected.
So, I think the president is rightly frustrated at people who believe
that America and America alone can effectively solve this problem. And we
let our partners off the hook in the region when we create that impression.
So, there is an American component. There is a military component.
But ultimately, ISIS has grown in the region, not because of a
military vacuum but because of a political vacuum, because of the
marginalization of Sunnis, because of the actions of Bashar al-Assad and
the states have to play a role here but it is limited.
I think the president rightly is frustrated that a lot of people who
just crow about the lack of American leadership don`t actually present any
credible alternatives to what he`s doing. Republicans actually haven`t put
on the table any real substantive comprehensive alternative because in the
end, they really don`t have one. Ultimately, this is a decision that has
to be made by the populations on the ground as to whether they are going to
reject this radical version of Islam.
MADDOW: Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, thank you very much for
your time, sir. It`s good to have you here.
MADDOW: Senator Murphy one of the leading lights in Democratic
foreign policy now and for the foreseeable future.
I`ll be right back with Richard Engel in Paris. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Richard Engel, we are hours away from dawn in Paris. What do
you expect in the day ahead in terms of the investigation and reaction to
ENGEL: Well, I think the investigation is on going. There`s going to
be more raids.
But already here in France, there is a sense of what happened. The
French president described it as an attack that was thought up in Syria.
It was organized in Belgium. It was executed here in France.
And this horrific combination of extremists who are homegrown,
reaching out across into a war zone and getting combat training there, that
is a terrible combination. I don`t think we`ve seen the last of it.
MADDOW: Richard Engel, it`s been a privilege to join with you
tonight. Thank you for being here for this hour. It`s been great to have
you here, my friend.
ENGEL: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: Thank you.
Our ongoing coverage of the attacks in Paris continues now with
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