IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/20/15

Guests: Ali Soufan, Greg Miller

[21:00:05] RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. A footage of George W. Bush reading from the Koran and those remarks not just in sound bites like we`ve been hearing, but at length, that was stunning. I just stood in front of the TV watching that in disbelief. CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Amazing. MADDOW: That`s amazing. HAYES: Yes. MADDOW: That was real public service to air that again. Thank you, my friend. HAYES: You bet. MADDOW: Thanks to you at home as well for joining us this hour. Tonight, the U.N. Security Counsel has just passed a resolution unanimously in response to the Paris attacks. This U.N. Security Council resolution calls on all nations of the world, quote, "Combat by all means the terrorists` threat posed by ISIS and to do everything possibly to deny ISIS its safe haven in Iraq and Syria." Now Russia, in recent years, they`ve made a habit of going their own way on issues like this, particularly when the word Syria gets mentioned. And, indeed, Russia initially proposed their own resolution on this subject so there had been some question as to whether or not they might block approval of the U.N. Security Council of this measure, or they might insist on getting their own resolution passed instead. But in the end, the Russians let this happen. The Russians let the French resolution go forward. They did not put forward their own competing resolution and again when this happened tonight, it was a unanimous vote. And that is not exactly a best new thing in the world. But that sort of international unanimity, that sort of burying the hatchets between nation, that solidarity against terrorism is heartening. After this hell of a week that we have just been through. On Friday, of course, it was Paris. The death toll in Paris has now risen from 129 to 130. That was Friday. On Tuesday, there was another suicide bombing attack. This was on a crowded market place in the Nigerian City called Yola. That attack on Tuesday in Nigeria killed at least 34 people in that market place. Then the following day on Wednesday, it was another suicide attack. This time it was a pair of suicide bombers who blew themselves up again in Nigeria. This time it was a market for cell phones and other small electronics. That double suicide bombing was in a northern Nigerian City called Kano. And you will know instantly which group is credited with that attack when I tell you that not only were both the two suicide bombers in that attack thought to be female, but one of them is thought to have been 11 years old. So, it will not come as a surprise to you when I tell you that both that double suicide bombing in Kano, Nigeria and the single suicide bombing the previous day, also in Nigeria, which together these two attacks took nearly 50 lives. These attacks are both attributed to the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram. And just as we were getting news of that second Nigerian suicide bombing, the double bombing and the cell phone market involved, in what appears to have been an 11-year-old girl suicide bomber. Just as we were getting news of that, this new annual report was released from the Global Terrorism Index. So it was this interesting moment this week, right? The western world reeling from the attacks on Paris and comparatively speaking, there was roughly zero attention paid to those two suicide bombings which killed all of those dozens of civilians in Nigeria. It was this interesting moment, when the Global Terrorism Index came out this week, of all weeks, when it named as the single deadliest terrorist group in the world, not ISIS, but Boko Haram. Boko Haram this year has killed more civilians than the Taliban, more civilians than al Qaeda, more civilians than ISIS. Boko Haram has more blood on its hand as a terrorist group than any other terrorist group in the world this year. And as long as we`re understanding the various allegiance this year, it should be noted that the leaders of Boko Haram and Nigeria, they did pledge allegiance a few months ago to ISIS. Boko Haram now technically considers itself to be an African province of the Islamic state. But according to the Global Terrorism Index, even if you just take them on their own, even if you just take Boko Haram alone, they`re even more deadly than all the rest of ISIS. They are the deadliest terror groups in the world now. And part of what we`re trying to disentangle and sort of disambiguate and figure out now is whether we should see Boko Haram and maybe, therefore, ISIS, if it`s part of ISIS. Should we see them as also responsible for the new truly terrible, fatal attack that happened today in the capital City of Mali? The attack reportedly started at 7:00 a.m. local time. Attackers drove a car that was reportedly fitted with appear to be diplomatic license plates onto the grounds of the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, which is the capital city of Mali. They were apparently let into the grounds because they had those diplomatic plates, but that started a siege by multiple gunmen that lasted all day long. Again, it started at about 7:00 a.m. Police and security services did not consider the scene to be clear until late afternoon. The death toll has widely fluctuated over the course of today, as how reports about the number of attackers, but as best as we can tell as of right now, again these details may change, but as best as we can tell right now, what happened today in Bamako, in Mali, there were multiple attackers, they were armed with guns and possibly grenades. [21:05:22] At various points in the siege, they held dozens, if not upwards of 100 civilian hostages inside the hotel, from many different countries. Tourist from all over the world, U.N. workers, all sorts of people. In the end, the attackers are all said to have been killed by police and security services on scene. The majority of the hostages were freed, but not all. The death toll for the civilians in that hotel is thought to be approximately 20 people at this point. Again, I stress those numbers are subject to change as we get more confirmed reports out of the capital City of Mali after this terrible attack today. Mali is a really big country, geographically. It`s in Western Africa. Most of the country is covered by big swath of the Sahara Desert. Mali is known for a lot of things. It`s known as a massive producer of gold, particularly in historical terms, particularly several centuries ago, but also now, it`s still a really big gold producer. In terms of Mali`s cultural reputation, it`s been known forever as an exporter of incredible music and world renowned musicians. Starting in 2001, Mali started hosting an international music festival called "The Festival in the Desert." If you`ve ever been to Burning Man, or you`ve heard of Burning Man, Festival in the Desert puts it to shame. It`s one of the most remote international music festivals anywhere in the world. They started in 2001. It got bigger and bigger and bigger, 2002, 2003, 2004, all the way through to the 2010, 2011, 2012. 2012, that`s when this footage was shot for a documentary called "Last Song Before the War." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: During the day you rest, there are games, it`s very mellow, you read, you take camel rides in the desert and in the evening, it`s like the desert comes to life. All of a sudden 2000, 3000 people come from all over and it is just the most peaceful, happy assembly of people that I have ever experienced in my whole life. The music is incredible. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: And, again, it`s footage from a documentary called "Last Song Before the War." About the festival in the desert. And at that point, it had been happening every year for more than a decade in Mali. And, every year, it was getting bigger and bigger and bigger, and attracting more and more tourist, and getting more and more attention, more and more international acclaim, international music celebrities from around the world. You could get on YouTube and see Bono from U2 performing at this festival. I mean, huge names in music. More and more attention they had. One scheduled as normal for 2013, but it turns out that 2012 one is in a documentary called "Last Song Before the War" because the 2013 one got called off. The 2012 one is the last one they have held. The festival has not happened since 2012. If you go to the material online now for Festival in the Desert, they now call themselves, Festival in Exile, because they can`t hold this huge annual gathering in Mali anymore despite its success because Mali has just become too dangerous. In January 2012, which was the year of the last festival, January, the start of that year, Islamic extremists rebel groups started basically a lightning take over of the whole northern part of Mali. The most famous place in northern Mali is Timbuktu. Timbuktu is so remote and so hard to get to that the word Timbuktu has long been an English language metaphor that just means a very, very far away place. But Timbuktu is a real specific place on the map. It`s a UNESCO world heritage site. And once the Islamic rebels in Mali took over northern Mali, including Timbuktu in 2012, they did what Islamic extremist and terrorist groups like to do now when they get their hands on irreplaceable, priceless global treasures that had been preserved carefully for centuries and millennia to document the beginnings of human civilization. When they took over Timbuktu, of course, they took pick axes to all those historic sites. They just tore them apart. But the Islamic radicals held all of northern Mali, all year long. They took it over in January 2012, held it all of 2012. And then a year into it, January 2013, they got really cocky and decided they were going to take over the whole country. They decided they were going to advance on the rest of Mali and they started marching south, aiming to take over that nation`s capital city of Bamako and the entire government. And at that point, the French government with its long, colonial history in that part of Africa, the French government decided this was their responsibility and that they would intervene to save Mali. They would send thousands of French soldiers, including both ground troops and air power into Mali and they would take direct military action to repel those Islamic radical groups and those terrorist groups and they pushed those groups back into the desert. [19:10:15] And that French military effort really was decisive at the time. They really did reverse what otherwise look like was going to be a complete take over of that country. They push those radical groups and those terrorist groups out. They took back Timbuktu. They took back all the populated territory that these radical groups had been controlling in the north of the country. In purely military terms, in terms of geographic control in that country, that French assault in January 2013, it worked. But it turns out, it`s never that simple. While that successful military campaign was underway, one of these terrorist groups, one of these Islamic militant groups launched a horrific terrorist attack right next door to Mali in Algeria. You probably remember this because of the scale of the attack. This was also January 2013, so the same month that the French military assault is happening. January 2013, what they attacked was a remote, but really big international gas facility, gas processing facility. It was apparently way too lightly protected and it was conveniently full of westerners and other international civilians who these terrorist groups found were easy to take hostage. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC HOST: Now to another big and still developing story tonight, American citizens among perhaps dozens of people taken hostage by Islamic militants in Algeria and northern Africa. It`s right next door to Mali, where not coincidentally, French war planes have been pounding militants there for days. Tonight, the U.S. State Department strongly condemned this hostage taking calling it a terrorist attack. NBC`s Rohit Kachroo was the only American network correspondent on the ground tonight near the heart of this new war in Mali. Rohit, good evening. ROHIT KACHROO, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Brian, Algerian officials say that the hostages were taken by heavily-armed Islamic militants linked to al-Qaeda, and they were responding to the military operation by the French here in Mali, supported by American cargo aircraft, spy planes and drones. The attack took place at dawn at a natural gas facility jointly operated by BP, the Norwegian company Statoil and the Algerian government, is located in the remote Sahara Desert in eastern Algeria, near the Libyan border. Militants reportedly approached the facility in three unmarked vehicles. Their attack left at least two dead including a British national. They took at least 20 and perhaps more than 40 people hostage; at least, three Americans, 13 Norwegians, and others from Britain, Ireland, Canada, Japan, and France. Reportedly leading the attack -- former al-Qaeda commander, Mokhtar Belmokhtar who just hours before had promised retaliation for France`s military action in neighboring Mali. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: It`s remarkable to look back at that footage there knowing that that was not the only report that was going to happen on that siege. That was just the start. And it was going to get way bigger. That was just the first night`s report of what ended up being a multi-day assault on that gas facility out in the middle of the desert in Algeria. In the end, those attackers would terrorize and kill 40 of their hostages, including 39 foreigners and one Algerian. They used guns and mortars and heavy weapons and bombs, including bomb belts that they strapped to some of their hostages, which is part of what I mean when I say they terrorized and killed their hostages. And that assault, multi-day assault, that happened in January 2013. But that actually brings us right up-to-date with today`s attack, because you saw in that initial news package, from the first night of the assault, that the person who was believed to be leading that assault was this guy, Mokhtar Belmokhtar. One of the more memorable names and famous international terrorist circles, right? Mokhtar Belmokhtar. He`s also got a face that`s pretty hard to forget. You can tell from looking at him, talking to some of these footage, that he`s got one eye. He was wounded while fighting in Algeria in the 1990s. He is one of the most notorious international Jihadists in the world. He`s always been based in North Africa. He was credited/blamed with that massive attack on that Algerian gas plant in January as the French were mounting this massive military campaign just over the boarder in Mali. That was January 2013 and then two months later, in March 2013, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, he was reported to have been killed. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Moving overseas now, still no confirmation of reports that a top al Qaeda commander has been killed in Chad. The army there says they had killed Mokhtar Belmokhtar in an attack on a terrorist base. Belmokhtar claimed responsibility for a deadly attack last month on an Algerian oil refinery. (END VIDEO CLIP) [19:20:06] MADDOW: So the attack on the oil refinery, gas plant then, January 2013. In March 2013, the leader of that attack, the one-eyed guy, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, he is reported to be dead. They said they killed him in Chad. He was not dead. They did not kill him in Chad because you fast forward, two years, and this summer, this past June, he was reported to be dead again. This time thanks to a pair of U.S. F-15 fighter jets targeting him in Libya. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Libya`s interim government says Belmokhtar was killed in the attack along with other militants, but the Pentagon said it is assessing results of the operation and cannot confirm his death. The Pentagon says he is responsible for a series of attacks in Algeria in 2013 that killed at least 38 people including three Americans. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, this one-eyed guy, right, reported dead in March of 2013, he was not dead. He was reported dead again this summer, June 2015. Later reports indicated that it wasn`t a Libyan strike against him, it was in an American drone strike against him. It was two American F-15 fighter jets who targeted him specifically in that June airstrike inside Libya, and they thought they got him. But, apparently, he may not have died then either. Because today, in the wake of the hotel attack in Bamako, in Mali, the French defense minister proclaimed that the person who they believe to have led this attack today is the same old guy, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the one-eyed guy who keeps not dying despite lots of military pronouncement in lots of different countries to the contrary. A group called Al-Mourabitoun gave a statement to Al Jazeera today claiming responsibility for today`s attack. Mokhtar Belmokhtar is believed to be the leader of that group. The claim of responsibility reportedly said that his group and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb jointly carried off today`s operation. They want a joint credit. Now in terms of what this means for us, there are reports today that suggest that Mokhtar Belmokhtar, his group, should be seen as linked to Boko Haram. And since Boko Haram calls itself part of ISIS, that means he should be linked to ISIS and that means today his attack should may be seen as an ISIS-affiliated attack. There are also reports including this claim of responsibility to Al Jazeera today that his group is linked directly to al-Qaeda. So maybe we should see this as an al-Qaeda linked group. Well, there are multiple arm chair quarterbacking reports today particularly in the American media saying that al Qaeda and ISIS are actually desperately at odds, particularly in this part of the world and they would never work together and they would never have any overlapping allegiances in that part of the world. So, pick which one it is. Either he is affiliated with ISIS or he is affiliated with al Qaeda, but it certainly couldn`t be both. None of that seems at all clear to me. In terms of who is responsible and who is cooperating and who is competing. But that is why we turn to experts in these matters because ignorance isn`t bliss about things like this. The reason we turn to experts in moments like this, to tell us what we should believe about this various affiliations, what we should be skeptical of about this various affiliations. The reason we turn to experts to tell us how important it is for us to get it, in terms of understanding the international threat posed by these groups is because without understanding how they are linked, without understanding who`s against who and who`s with who, how can we reasonably expect that they could ever be effectively targeted and defeated. You can`t divide and conquer unless you know who needs to be divided. Luckily, I`ve got just the guy here -- next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) [21:20:37] MADDOW: We have some breaking news tonight, actually, out of Belgium. Belgium, the country where several of the Paris attackers apparently planned their attack and what may have been a base for some of the attackers, Belgium, tonight, as a nation is raising its terror alert to its highest level ever as a country. Belgian officials are warning of what they call a, quote, imminent threat of an attack in the Brussels region. So that is news tonight out of Belgium tonight just hours after another terrorist attack was mounted against a hotel, in this case, in the African nation of Mali. At least 20 people were killed there. There has been reportedly one claim of responsibility for that attack, but it`s even with that claim of responsibility, it`s still unclear tonight just exactly who is responsible for it and whether we should see this latest attack as links to ISIS, or linked to al Qaeda, or linked to both, or linked to neither. Joining us now to talk about that question and its importance is Ali Soufan, former FBI special agent and an expert in counterterrorism. Mr. Soufan, thank you for being here. ALI SOUFAN, FMR. FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: Is it important to know about international affiliations of local, West African terrorist groups that are claiming responsibility for this kind of attack. Does it matter in a counterterrorism sense? SOUFAN: Well, absolutely. You have to know who`s behind that attack and if ISIS, you know, this situation is very different than al Qaeda. MADDOW: OK. SOUFAN: In this situation, it`s Al-Mourabitoun Brigade. Al-Mourabitoun Brigade is an organization that we`ve known along for a long time. It`s headed or established by Mokhtar Belmokhtar. Mokhtar Belmokhtar had a big ego, like all of these characters over there. And he won`t worked very closely with the head of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb so he decided to separate from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. MADDOW: He used to be an Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. SOUFAN: Yes. MADDOW: And then he`d like schism out of it. SOUFAN: Yes. MADDOW: He formed his own group. SOUFAN: He decided, he`s like, you know what, I`m not getting along with the leaders of the group and he established his own group. And his own group actually have Zawahiri (ph), have Berber and have Arabs. Usually, the different terrorists groups over there each one has its own kind of like ethnic mixing or makeup. So, basically, he established his own thing and he wanted to be clear that he`s still a member of al Qaeda. So, he pledged to Ayman Zawahiri and he said I will always operate under al Qaeda`s banner, but we`re going to operate under al Qaeda`s banner under this Mourabitoun Brigade. MADDOW: Let me stop, let me stop you there so I can make sure that I`m following closely with what you`re saying. SOUFAN: Sure. MADDOW: There have been reports today that we should see his group as being associated with Boko Haram. Boko Haram has called itself an affiliate of ISIS. Are those reports just not true or is it possible -- SOUFAN: No, that`s not true. MADDOW: OK. SOUFAN: At one point, at the beginning of the civil war in Mali, at the beginning of al Qaeda attack in 2013, I believe, after the situation in Libya, you know, after Libya became a disaster, a lot of fighters went from Libya to Mali and this is when the war started in Mali. During that time period, Boko Haram appeared to have some working relationships with some of the extremists who are operating in Mali. Now Boko Haram, you know, I think last March, I believe if I`m not mistaken, they became members of the Islamic State, the so-called Islamic State. However, Al-Mourabitoun and AQIM and other groups over (INAUDIBLE), those organizations are still operating under al Qaeda. MADDOW: So, we should see this as an al-Qaeda affiliated attack? Not an ISIS affiliate attack. SOUFAN: This is absolutely al Qaeda attack. As for Mokhtar Belmokhtar and what the French minister said, I think it`s interesting that Al-Mourabitoun did it. Definitely Al-Mourabitoun is Mokhtar Belmokhtar. Interestingly enough, last month, al Qaeda said that Mokhtar Belmokhtar was dead and they didn`t say how he was killed. Maybe he was hit in Libya, but it took him a while to die. We don`t know, but al-Qaeda put a statement. We cannot verify that statement. We know it`s al-Qaeda statement saying that Mokhtar Belmokhtar was dead. So that`s interesting now. We have to look back and dig into this statement and see, was it something that Mokhtar Belmokhtar put out in order to release pressure on him or was he actually killed? MADDOW: Was this group so -- did it hinge so much on him as a personality and a leader that you would expect his group to fall apart, if he was dead? Would you expect them not to be able to pull off a big attack like this in Mali if they had just been -- if they had lost their leader? [21:25:14] SOUFAN: Well, I think we have to put that attack in context. I mean, this is not the first time Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb or even Al-Mourabitoun conduct. They did something actually very similar attack in the capital of Mali at a luxury hotel and they killed a lot of people before. But now a lot of the attention is because of what happened in France. MADDOW: Yes. SOUFAN: And the very first -- (CROSSTALK) MADDOW: People are wondering if it`s connected -- SOUFAN: Especially because of the French intervention in Mali. You know, is it considered an international attack against the French after the ISIS attack, series of attacks in the street of Paris. I think this situation, al Qaeda and its affiliates did not want to be upstaged by ISIS and what ISIS is doing in Paris, so they decided to do some sort of an attack and focusing on local issues. Saying, look, we went to this hotel, we ask if people were Muslims or not Muslims before, we didn`t want to kill Muslims and then we hid them in areas of where we believe that they are occupying Muslim lands, which is a totally different in what ISIS is doing in the streets of Paris. And this is part of what the difference is now between how ISIS is approaching things versus how al-Qaeda is approaching things. MADDOW: Former FBI special agent, counterterrorism expert Ali Soufan. Ali, that is the most clarifying thing I`ve heard on this all day. SOUFAN: Thank you. MADDOW: I`ve been reading on it all day trying to make sense of it for our audience and you just -- you are more clear on this than anybody writing about this subject in English. Thank you. I really appreciate it. SOUFAN: Thank you. MADDOW: All right, we`ll be right back. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Trump, why would Muslim databases not be the same thing as requiring Jews to register in Nazi Germany? What would be the difference? Is there a difference between the two? DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Who? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there a difference -- TRUMP: Who are you with? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m with NBC News. Is there a difference between requiring Muslims to register and Jews in Nazi Germany? TRUMP: You tell me. You tell me. Why don`t you tell me? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You believe there is? Should Muslims be, I mean, fearful? Will there be consequences if they don`t register? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: To be clear, we`re not setting that to a mournful "Rolling Stone" sound track in order to give it more gravitas. That, unfortunately, was just playing in the background of all that very strange conversation that`s happening. And that conversation was breaking last night, this time on our show. Well, today, this story about Mr. Trump and this policy proposal didn`t go away and in some ways it got weirder. And we`ve got that next. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, the jaw dropping news in American politics yesterday started with a print interview between Yahoo News reporter Hunter Walker and the leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. It was an interview in which Mr. Trump appeared to accept an extraordinary idea put to him by the reporter. To clear up any potential misunderstandings, Hunter Walker, the reporter, he let us hear the audio. He let us have the audio so we could hear his question and Mr. Trump`s answer. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) HUNTER WALKER, YAHOO NEWS: France declared this state of emergency where they closed the borders and they established some degree of warrantless searches. I know how you feel about the borders. But do you think there`s some kind of state of emergency here and do we need warrantless searches of Muslims? DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, we`re going to have to do things that we never did before. And some people are going to be upset about it. But I think that now, everybody is feeling that security is going to rule and certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of -- in terms of information and learning about the enemy. And so we`re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago when you look at what`s happening. WALKER: And in terms of doing this, to pull off the kind of tracking we need, do you think we might need to register Muslims in some type of database or note their religion on their ID? TRUMP: Well, we`re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely. We`re going to have to look at the mosques. We`re going to have to look very, very carefully. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: So, in that interview, Mr. Trump did not take the opportunity to rule out but sounds like an alarming and very specific proposal to keep a list of people in this country who belong to a particular region. He`s asked specifically, "Do you think we might need to register Muslims in some sort of type of database, some type of database or note their religion on their ID?" "Well, we`re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely." So, he doesn`t rule out this proposal. That seemed like a big deal and when a reporter from NBC News followed up with Mr. Trump later that day, the story got bigger. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) VAUGHN HILLYARD, NBC NEWS REPORTER: Should there be a database system to track Muslims of this country? TRUMP: There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases. We should have a lot of systems. And today, you can do it. But right now we have to have a border, we have to have strength, we have to have a wall and we cannot let what`s happening to this country happening -- HILLYARD: But that`s something your White House would like to implement? TRUMP: Oh, I would certainly implement that. Absolutely. HILLYARD: What do you think the effect of that would be? How would that work? TRUMP: It would stop people from coming in illegally. We have to stop people from coming into our country illegally. HILLYARD: But Muslims specifically -- how do you actually get them registered into a database? TRUMP: It would be just good management. What you have to do is good management procedures. And we can do that. It`s nice. HILLYARD: Do you go to mosques and sign these people up? TRUMP: To different places. You sign them up at different -- but it`s all about management. Our country has no management. HILLYARD: Would they have to legally be in this database? Would it be their obligation to sign up TRUMP: They have to be -- they have to be -- let me just tell you, the key is people can come to the country but they have to come in legally. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Should there be a database system to track Muslims? There should be a lot of systems beyond databases. Well, how would you do it? Good management. Where would you sign people up. Different places. This is not Donald Trump saying, no, I wouldn`t support keeping a list of all the Muslims in America, so we can keep an eye on them, right? Or not? Today, Donald Trump addressed the continuing questions about this matter on Twitter. He posted this on Twitter, I quote directly. "I didn`t suggest a database, a reporter did. We must defeat Islamic terrorism and have surveillance, including a watch list to protect America." So, wait, which is it? Look at that again. Look, I didn`t suggest a database, sounds like he could be against the idea. But then says we must have surveillance including a watch list, that kind of says he likes the idea, right? We reached out to Mr. Trump`s campaign last night to find out exactly what Mr. Trump`s position is on registering Muslims in a data base. We don`t try to clarify every one of his positions. We know he likes to be a little wooly about a lot of things. But this seems like such a provocative possibility, particularly from the Republican presidential frontrunner that we really wanted to be specific about his view. We did not hear from the campaign last night when we put this question to them. We tried again. We emailed his campaign today just seeking crystal clarity. That`s all we want. Quote, "What is Mr. Trump`s specific position on the idea of putting Muslims in America into a database? If he is considering that option, would he register all Muslims or only some? If some, which ones? Would Mr. Trump support the idea of having Muslims in America carry identification that specifies their religion?" Let`s just be clear, we have not heard back from the Trump campaign and answer those questions yet. We hold that hope. But Mr. Trump did call into our friends at the FOX News Channel tonight ostensibly to try to shut the door on this story. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP (via telephone): I was really responding to a totally different reporter. He was responding to that reporter where basically the suggestion was made and certainly something we should start thinking about, but I want is a watch list, I want surveillance programs. Obviously, there are a lot of problems, I want a database for the Syrian refugees that Obama is going to let in. If we don`t stop them -- as Republicans, if we don`t stop them, but certainly, I want to have a database for the refugees -- for the Syrian refugees that are coming in, because nobody knows where they`re coming from. I hear some are messing, at least one is missing already, gone and you look at what happened in Paris, you look at what`s happened all over the place, look at the tragic event of today and last night in the hotel, and you say to yourself, why shouldn`t we have good surveillance? So I want watch lists, I want to have surveillance programs. I mean, we`re not a bunch of babies. We need protection and we need it now. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Just to be specific. Did you hear that one specific part? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I was really responding to a totally different reporter, he was responding to that reporter where basically the suggestion was made and certainly something we should start thinking about. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: What exactly is the thing we should start thinking about? Could you please be clear of that? In the immortal words of Justin Bieber, "What do you mean?" Until the Donald Trump for president campaign explains what he means, I think that on a matter this provocative, they`re going to continue getting responses like this one today from the Anti-Defamation League. Quote, "Donald Trump`s suggestion that we use a database to track Muslims is deeply troubling and reminiscent of darker days in American history when others were singled out for scapegoating." Or this one from the American Jewish Council, quote, "What Mr. Trump proposes, in this case targeting all Muslims, it`s a horror movie that we Jews are quite familiar with." Donald Trump is deep now into blaming the media for this whole scandal, right, blaming the media for us reporting that he`s campaigning the idea of watch lists and databases to register American Muslims. And I know it`s fashionable and politically smart to blame the media but this is important and somebody`s got to do report this out. Somebody`s got to do something other than standing there, agog, disbelieving that this really is the top tier of the Republican contest to try to be the next president of the United States of America. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, we`re continuing to follow this breaking news out of Belgium tonight. The nation of Belgium has raised its terror alert to its highest possible level and what we believe is the highest level they have ever raised their terror alert to as a nation and they`ve raised that terror alert specifically for the nation`s capital city of Brussels. Brussels, of course, is also an important international site, an international capital. Brussels is home to the headquarters of both the European Union and the headquarters of NATO. But Brussels is the Belgian capital. And in Brussels tonight, authorities there have raised the terror alert for that city and surrounding areas to its highest level ever and what they`re warning of is what they`re calling an imminent threat in the Brussels area. And they`re making specific recommendations. They`re urging people to avoid crowded areas including concert halls and major transportation hubs. Of course, the warning on concert halls particularly unnerving after what happened in Paris one week ago tonight. But again, Belgium`s terror threat level is now at its highest level for its capital, with officials in that country warning of an imminent attack. We will be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, this is a very strange story. One of the thing that has become well known about the man who is reportedly the orchestrator of the Paris attacks and who apparently died in that Wednesday morning raid in Saint-Denis outside Paris, one of the things that`s become about him widely is that he also recruited his own brother, his own 13-year-old brother to leave Belgium and travel to Syria and become an ISIS fighter himself at the age of 13. There`s no news on the whereabouts of the younger brother, since he would now be 15 years old if he`s still alive. Abdelhamid Abaaoud`s father has said the only reason he`s not happy his son died in the rain in Saint-Denis is because he hoped he would be taken alive so he could be interrogated so his parents could may be find out what happened to his younger brother. But Abaaoud also has another brother who is in prison in Morocco on terrorism charges. And Moroccan police say, whether or not this is true, Moroccan police claim that part of the reason the French ultimately found out that Mr. Abaaoud, the alleged ring leader of the attack was not in Syria, and was in fact in France himself is because his brother from that Moroccan prison cell told authorities, as soon as the attacks happened in Paris, that his brother who is being called the mastermind of those attacks, he wasn`t in Syria like everyone was saying. He was in France. The story the Moroccan police are saying is that the brother basically narced him out from that jail cell and that`s how they found Abdelhamid Abaaoud and that`s fascinating. And whether or not it`s true, it turns out the stories of Moroccan prisoners are turning out to be a gold mine in terms of what we know not only about the Paris attacks but also about ISIS as a whole. And "The Washington Post" has a new absolutely remarkable story just out, just an incredible piece of reporting about how ISIS propaganda operation works and really nuts and bolts, how do they do it, day to day kind of terms. In the primary way, the "Washington Post" reporters got this knowledge was through interviews with ISIS defectors who are now in prison in Morocco. The reporters went to this prison in Morocco, they sat down with men who until recently were members of ISIS in Syria and what they learned from them about ISIS propaganda operation is very unexpected. It`s weird and it`s disturbing. Quoting from the report, "What they describe resembles a medieval reality show. Camera crews fan out across the caliphate every day. Their ubiquitous presence distorting the events. They purportedly document battle scenes and public beheadings are so scripted and staged that fighters and executioners often perform multiples takes and read their lines from cue cards." Quote, "Senior media operatives are treated as emirs of equal rank to their military counterparts. They`re directly involved in decisions on strategy and territory. They preside over hundreds of videographers, producers and editors who form a privileged professional class with status, salaries and living arrangements that are the envy of ordinary fighters." So, in the West, we`re familiar with the threatening material that ISIS puts out, right? The videos that are meant to highlight the cruelty and brutality of the group. But there`s also propaganda of a different kind that`s aimed at potential recruits, including some internal propaganda that`s targeted to the Syrians and Iraqis who are living now in ISIS controlled territory. And those videos paint a totally different picture of life under the Islamic State with bustling markets and happy children. And so, they are producing two varieties of propaganda. The horrific stuff and the idyllic stuff, and both types play, reportedly, on giant viewing screens set up in ISIS controlled neighborhoods for residents to watch. And we have long known that optics and media and social media are central to how ISIS recruits members across the globe, but we have never had such an inside look at how central all that is to how ISIS operate as an organization and as a quasi-government, and that tells us a lot about how ISIS sees itself and what it sees as its most important components. And that is all brand new to us and it`s thanks to this incredible reporting in "The Washington Post" today. Joining us now is Greg Miller, national security correspondent for "The Washington Post". He coauthored this article, taking us inside the ISIS propaganda effort. Mr. Miller, congratulations on this reporting. It was really eye opening. Thanks for being here tonight. GREG MILLER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Thanks for having me, Rachel. MADDOW: What struck me as most surprising was the degree to which ISIS privileges the actual people who do the video production, who do the propaganda for them within their own organization, giving them power, status, money. What struck you as most surprising based on sort of how you went into this versus what you learn? MILLER: Yes, I think the extent to how pervasive it is and also, as you say, how sort of choreographed, even public events are inside the caliphate. And so, I mean the description that we include of the story is a public beheading that`s a punishment, an internal punishment in which these camera crews literally show up with cue cards that they hold up for this public official to read while he`s rendering this sentence for this condemned man. And then, they are doing multiple takes asking the executioner to raise and lower his sword over and over again so that they can get the right angle. MADDOW: Wow. MILLER: And just so, the depth and extent to which things are designed specifically for propaganda purposes is why we kind of describe it as this resembling a medieval reality show in some ways. MADDOW: You had access to these ISIS -- I guess you call them defectors, these men who you spoke to in this Moroccan prison. How did they end up in this Moroccan prison? Do you have any questions about the veracity of what they told you given the circumstances under which you did these interviews? MILLER: Yes. I mean, we acknowledge that in the story that, certainly, the arrangement in which we were able to interview these people would lead to you suspect, at least, that they were likely to downplay their role in the Islamic State. But we found -- we didn`t find much to indicate that they were -- they were altering their stories and when we were asking questions about the media and how it functions and we try to corroborate a lot what they told us by getting a lot of detail from them and getting and checking with other sources and against the accounts from other defectors that we talked to. MADDOW: One of the things that you mentioned and that`s highlighted in the story is sort of an area of particular concern is that some of these defectors, some of these former ISIS fighters describe what sounds like an American or North American or maybe more than one American or North American involved in ISIS media efforts. MILLER: That`s right. It sounds like there could be two or three. So, we`ve known for some time there was one that appears in this prominent video that they released a year and a half ago called "Flames of War." He appears at the end. There`s a -- the FBI has a photo of him on their Web site asking the public for information. But the defectors we talked to also spoke of at least two others, including one who is behind-the-scenes working in the production facilities and responsible for doing a lot of the editing. And then, more recently, the Islamic State has started to do daily radio broadcast in multiple languages. One of those is in English, and that the voice of that broadcast is distinctly American or at least North American. MADDOW: Greg Miller, national security correspondent for "The Washington Post" -- again, just remarkable reporting. I know something of what it took to get this reporting and I`m really glad "The Post" sprung for it. It`s a really amazing window. Thank you. MILLER: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: Thanks. We`ve got much more ahead on this busy news night. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, this has been a week in which political news has been largely overshadowed for good reason. But there`s one political story worth watching tonight heading in to tomorrow and it`s Louisiana governor`s race. The runoff election between Republican Senator David Vitter and Democratic nominee John Bel Edwards to succeed Bobby Jindal as Governor of Louisiana. That election is tomorrow. Yes, they do it on Saturday. I don`t know why. And Louisiana is historically a very red state. But John Bel Edwards, the Democrat, has been leading the recent polling in this race. This is already a tight and fairly nasty campaign. That was before David Vitter decided to make the scary Syrian refugees the sole focus of the end of his campaign. But this election is tomorrow in Louisiana. Despite whatever you have seen in the polling, honestly, if you get anybody to talk to you about it honestly, nobody knows how it`s going to turn out. Watch this face for real. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Look at these images just a few hours ago right in front of the White House. Look -- about hundred people gathered for a candlelight vigil in Lafayette, just across from the White House. The banner you see there reads "American Muslims against ISIS". That event tonight was organized by a number of D.C. area Muslim groups, although people from a bunch of different religious faiths joined in the march to the park that preceded the vigil. That was again tonight in Lafayette Square right across the street from the White House. Earlier today also in D.C., Muslim leaders held a smaller gathering on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. That was an interfaith gathering, again meant to condemn the attacks by ISIS in Paris. This was also Philadelphia tonight. People marching through the streets of Philly for what organizers describe as a unity rally against Islamophobia. These images have dominated the news over the last 24 hours, let alone the last week. But this is happening across the country tonight as well. That does it for us tonight. Our live coverage continues now with Lawrence O`Donnell. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END