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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz; Two Terror Suspects Killed in Belgium Raid; Interview with Valerie Jarrett
Aired January 15, 2015 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: imminent attack stopped by anti-terrorist forces during a deadly shoot-out. We're told the suspects were plotting new strikes with instructions directly from ISIS.
We are also learning about 10 new raids targeting terrorists amid growing fears of another massacre in Europe. Is there a direct link to the Paris attacks?
And there's evidence that members of this new terror cell traveled to Syria to meet with ISIS leaders seeking revenge for U.S. airstrikes. We're investigating the Syria connection.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
The breaking news tonight, a deadly operation to stop terrorists who were about to carry out major attacks in Europe after the slaughter in Paris. That happened in eastern Belgium where forces moved in, shots rang out and two suspects were killed and another was later taken into custody. Officials believe members of this new terror cell got their instructions from ISIS.
Congressman Jason Chaffetz is standing by. He's joining us live. He is a leading voice in Congress on security-related issues. Our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's go to our chief national correspondent, Jim Sciutto, and he's got the very latest from Paris -- Jim.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, new information just now. A Western intelligence source tells CNN it was new leads developed after the attacks here in Paris that helped spark tonight's raids in four cities across Belgium with particular attention focused on an arms dealer detained earlier in the day.
This arms dealer believed to be the man who sold the weapons to Amedy Coulibaly, the man who took hostages at the kosher market here in Paris, leads developed from the arms dealer helped spark raids tonight. They had these groups under surveillance for some time, but got new information that led them to take action tonight, 10 raids in four different cities across Belgium, one of them ending in gunfire.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): Gunfire erupting again on the streets of a European city. This is Verviers in Eastern Belgium tonight, as anti- terror police raid the home of suspected terrorists recently back from Syria.
Inside, sources tell CNN, suspects directed by ISIS armed with Kalashnikovs and planning to attack the local police station.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): At Verviers, the suspects immediately and for long minutes fired using war weapons and hand weapons, before being neutralized. Two of the suspects died and a third was detained on the site.
SCIUTTO: Flashlights visible through the windows as police fight their way up the stairs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This was within the framework of investigation looking into an operational cell made up of people, some of whom were coming back from Syria. The investigation made it possible to determine that the group was about to carry out major terrorist attacks in Belgium imminently.
SCIUTTO: Soon, anti-terror operations are under way in several other Belgian cities. Earlier, police in Belgium detained an arms dealer who is now suspected of selling weapons to Amedy Coulibaly, including the guns he used to storm the kosher market in Eastern Paris last week.
Coulibaly allegedly sold him a car and also took out a loan for 6,000 euros from a nearby bank. With Europe on high alert, Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Paris, the highest-level U.S. official to visit France since violence rocked Paris.
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: My visit to France is basically to share a big hug with Paris and express the affection of the American people have for France and for our friends there who have been through a terrible time.
SCIUTTO: Again, highlighting the latest information, a Western intelligence source telling CNN's Deborah Feyerick these raids taking place tonight and continuing on tonight in Belgium following new leads following the attacks here in Paris, particular attention to the arms dealer who supplied weapons to Amedy Coulibaly.
Belgian police do say they had the suspects in Belgium under surveillance for a number of weeks. But that new information led them to act tonight and, Wolf, I think this is the kind of thing that we will likely see in other countries in Europe as authorities who might have suspects, jihadi suspects, terror suspects taking a look at the information they have to see if they need to act now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: These anti-terror operations under way still right now, I'm told, not only in Belgium but elsewhere in Europe as well. Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.
Sources also tell CNN there are new signs that ISIS has started directing European extremists to launch terrorist attacks back in their home countries in retaliation for U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria and Iraq.
Let's go to our Pentagon to correspondent, Barbara Starr.
Barbara, how concerned is the United States military about ISIS training foreign fighters to attack the United States?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The problem seems to be growing literally every day, Wolf.
Now about 19,000 foreign fighters have traveled to Syria. About 3,000 of them are Westerners. So they are people that might be able to return to Europe and travel on to the United States without a significant visa requirement. That's the issue. That is the problem.
There is concern about what is going on in Europe. There is concern it could come here. So, what you see now is an effort to really get a handle on it, work much more closely with the Europeans, crack down on travel requirements and travel paperwork. The concern is that this problem is only going to grow, Wolf.
BLITZER: What steps are you hearing are being taken right now to try to stop these potential terrorists?
STARR: Well, the problem is that when they go into Syria, you really don't know who they are, where they are, what connections they are making. Are they getting orders from ISIS? Are they inspired by the ISIS movement?
In Iraq, there is a little more intelligence, in Syria almost no intelligence on the ground. There has to be a way, officials say, to find out more about these people. But that is very tough. Intercepts, communications monitoring, intelligence gathering, everything they can do. But it's a tough problem.
Again, the Department of Homeland Security trying to work with the Europeans to crack down more, but I think everyone will tell you, ground zero for this problem is the Turkish border. It's porous, it's the major route almost every nation agrees that jihadis are traveling into Syria and then coming out back through that Turkish border.
Many people will tell you, until the problem at that border is solved and there is control, more control by the Turkish government, there will not be a big ability to change this -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.
Let's bring in Congressman Jason Chaffetz. He's a leading voice on terror and security-related issues. He is also the new chairman of the powerful House Oversight Committee.
Congressman, thanks very much for joining us. Let me get to that last point that Barbara just raised, this
porous border. Turkey is a NATO ally. Yet people apparently can just cross from Turkey randomly into Syria, get themselves aligned with ISIS, then come back and eventually go into Europe or even come to the United States. What's going on here?
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: It's a deep concern with the visa waiver program. I can tell you I'm also very concerned about what's happening or not happening in North Africa.
Libya policy is something I think that's going to come back and haunt us. You look at what's happening in Mali and Nigeria, some of those border issues. We know that there are terrorist types of activities, particularly in Libya, that are happening unimpeded and worry about the intelligence that we have coming out of those countries.
The threat is very real. We cannot ignore it. It's very real. And we have got to protect the homeland.
BLITZER: Is the Turkish government doing enough to prevent people from crossing into Syria?
CHAFFETZ: I worry.
I don't understand from the Obama administration what their real tactics and what their game plan and strategy is to deal with Syria. I think they have botched this for a long period of time. The situation is getting worse, not better. We look at friends and allies from Israel, look at what's happening in Jordan and the population that has moved -- nearly half the population of Syria has moved into Jordan and other places. This is a real problem.
And to try to keep track of those individual fighters and those who would do harm and mayhem to the United States of America one at a time is a huge, monumental task.
BLITZER: Well, just quickly, but is Turkey doing enough to help in this process?
CHAFFETZ: Well, look, they have been a good friend of the United States of America. Is there more that we can all do on this front? Absolutely. Absolutely. They need to do more. We could do more to help them. And we need our NATO allies to help as well.
BLITZER: The U.S. is launching airstrikes, as you know, drone strikes. What else do you want the Obama administration to do?
CHAFFETZ: I want there to be a clear policy of how we're going to actually tackle this problem long time.
If you were to go ask the Obama administration or ask, you know, Joe Six-Pack on the street what is our strategy to tackle and defeat ISIS and make sure that they don't come to the United States of America, I don't see a clear and concise strategy out there. We have to defeat them. It starts with first identifying what it
is, this radical view of Islam. These people, they are spreading. It's not just a lone wolf, one or two here. It's actually something that is pervasive. It's global in its nature. And we have to fight it.
BLITZER: Because they say the strategy is clear, to degrade and destroy ISIS. What else specifically would you like to see the U.S. military, the CIA, other agencies of the U.S. government do right now?
CHAFFETZ: Well, today at lunch, we were at this Republican conference here. We actually had Tony Blair come in, one of the great allies of the United States of America, the former British prime minister.
And one of the things he talked about that I think we agree with us we have to have these people around the globe who are fighting with us. We have got to be able to figure out how to fight on the ground and bring these people, particularly with ties in the Islamic community, that will actually fight this fight.
And we have not had American leadership. We have not had a president who has actually led in the Middle East to build that coalition and defeat ISIS. It's not happening, Wolf, not to the degree that it has to in order to win.
BLITZER: Well, let me just be precise. Are you recommending that the U.S. use extensive ground forces to go in there and kill ISIS?
CHAFFETZ: What we're saying is that we have not built a coalition. You do not see those partners, particularly in the Middle East, who are willing to take up arms and fight and defeat this radical view of Islam who are going out, they're destroying mayhem, they're taking up ground, they're creating chaos.
You can pick up the paper at any given day and you are reading about people being beheaded and killed. The world is a dangerous place. But we do not have our Arab partners and other people there that are actually helping to take up the arms and defeat ISIS. It's just not happening.
BLITZER: Some of the Arab allies are joining the U.S. in these airstrikes.
But let's say some of the European allies, the NATO allies were in fact ready to use ground forces. Would you support an introduction of major elements of the United States military on the ground to go into Syria and Iraq and try to destroy ISIS?
CHAFFETZ: We have to have a global plan. It's got to be led in large part by the United States of America and the president of the United States.
That strategy has not been laid out. I know what the end looks like. I know what the goal is. We have to unilaterally make sure that we lead the charge and defeat ISIS. That is a threat to our homeland. It's a threat to world peace and safety.
BLITZER: I was going to say, Congressman, everybody agrees that's the goal, to defeat, to destroy ISIS. The question is, how do you do that? And I'm just wondering if you would support what the Bush administration did, introduce tens of thousands of U.S. combat forces to go in there on the ground, to invade and try to destroy the enemy?
CHAFFETZ: I think we have done a terrible job of convincing our partners there in the Middle East to actually join up and take arms and help lead the fight.
I don't think America necessarily has the appetite to pour hundreds of thousands of people back into the Middle East to fight a long and protracted war. But we have to understand that this is happening globally. It's not just isolated in one or other -- another place. But we have totally failed to bring along other countries and allow them in their own best interest in their own backyard in their own countries to actually fight this fight. The president has not led on this.
BLITZER: There may be a change in the aftermath of what has happened in recent days in France and now in Belgium. But we shall see.
Are you confident, Congressman, that if an American citizen goes to Syria, spends some time in Syria and then comes back to the United States, the U.S. government will be aware of this person and potentially could engage in some surveillance to make sure this person doesn't engage in terrorist activities against the U.S.?
CHAFFETZ: No, absolutely not.
This is one of the great fears. A lot of people come over on the airlines. They're much easier to track, their background information that we can track. But if you look at the porous border on both the north and the south, we did have four people on September 10 tied with a terrorist organization, they came across the northern border. They got across successfully. We captured them.
Then what happened? Two of them were released after a court date. And then we had to go back and the Canadians had to catch them. So, terrorists have come across our southern border successfully as recently as September. We're not tracking all these people. It's very difficult. We have got about a million people coming into the country on any given day. Very difficult job.
Love the men and women who are working hard to do this. But we do not have a viable entry/exit system in the United States of America. It has never been implemented.
BLITZER: I'm sure your committee will be investigating this problem as well.
I want you to stand by, Congressman. We have a lot more to discuss.
We're following the breaking news out of Belgium, massive sweeps under way right now to go ahead and round up terror suspects. Stay with us. Much more on the breaking news right after this.
BLITZER: We are back with Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah.
The breaking news, Congressman, officials in Belgium say new raids prevented imminent attacks by terrorists who apparently were getting their instructions from ISIS.
How worried are you about what's going on right now and the implications for the United States, first in France, now in Belgium? But we're hearing there are other sweeps under way in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, maybe Italy, Spain. What's going on?
CHAFFETZ: Hey, look, the French, the Belgians, the Germans, they are very good at counterterrorism.
And I'm glad they are on top of it. It does amplify the need to have the best intelligence, both electronic. You have satellite communication, signals intelligence. Your intelligence agencies have to have the very best intelligence they possibly can. And god bless those men and women who are waking up in the morning and raiding those houses and doing the intelligence work.
It's a very real threat. We saw it play out in France. And I do worry that it could come to the United States of America.
BLITZER: As you know, security has been stepped up in airlines due to these concerns. Terrorists could sneak these hard-to-detect homemade bombs through. Have any plots, as far as you know, Congressman, been thwarted specifically in that respect?
CHAFFETZ: I can't say in the last few days specifically.
I can tell you that on a daily basis they take weapons off of people trying to get on airlines on a regular basis. It's a very difficult job that they have to do. I don't think we're using enough dogs. I wish they would use more dogs. I think that's a great -- the best way to find an improvised explosive device. That's what the military does.
But the other surveillance, the behavioral profiling, I think they need to step that up. But the threat is real. And I think they thwart these things on a much more regular basis than anybody realizes.
BLITZER: As you know, authorities, also, they have known about these ISIS cells in Belgium for a while. But they have decided to go ahead on the sweep today, I think in part inspired by what happened in Paris over the past few days.
Do you have any sense of how imminent these cells could have launched an attack?
CHAFFETZ: Well, they can launch at any time. I mean, these terrorists, the Islamic-inspired terrorists will actually go out and are encouraging people through their magazine, their publications, the Internet.
We have seen that play out here in the United States of America. You can get one person at any given time who will be inspired by these types of things. I tend to think, though, that this was a much more concerted type of effort. And the best thing that I can tell, particularly what happened in Paris, by its very definition, was not a lone wolf attack. There are a lot of other people. We're going to have to be proactive. We can't just sit back and wait and then react. We can't do that.
BLITZER: These clearly were not lone wolf attacks.
Very quickly, what's the first item of priority? You are the new chairman of the Government Oversight Committee. You are taking over for Darrell Issa. What's the first issue you want to examine?
CHAFFETZ: Well, look, I got to make sure that the inspectors general are able to do their job. Right now, they have been thwarted. Worried about the Secret Service. We have IRS concerns. I got a big long list, longer than you have a show, Wolf. And so we are going to get after it.
Week after next will be our first meeting and work with Elijah Cummings and provide the oversight we're supposed to, per the Constitution.
BLITZER: Elijah Cummings is the ranking Democrat on that important committee.
Good luck, Mr. Chairman. Thanks very much for joining us.
CHAFFETZ: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's bring in Koen Soete. He's a correspondent for the Belgian national television network. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM along with our CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen, our CNN counterterrorism analyst Philip Mudd, our CNN global affairs analyst retired Lieutenant Colonel James Reese, and our law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes.
Guys, all of you, thanks for joining us.
Koen, first of all, to you. What's the latest that you are hearing from your counterparts in Belgium on the sweeps that are going on right now, these anti-terror operations?
KOEN SOETE, BELGIAN NATIONAL TELEVISION: They are still searching in towns close to Brussels. No arrests have been made yet. But people are still looking in several houses in towns called Chadwick (ph) and Anderlecht. BLITZER: And so the operations are still under way. We have
heard that there have been 10 separate sweeps, 10 separate operations. Is that what you are hearing?
SOETE: Yes, that's correct. Most part are towns close to Brussels.
BLITZER: This one town where there was the shoot-out, two terrorists were killed. One was arrested. They were pretty well armed, these terrorists over there, weren't they?
SOETE: Yes. They had automatic weapons and they immediately started firing at the police once -- yes, when they arrived at the apartment. So they were very well armed. And they immediately started shooting.
BLITZER: Any exchanges, weapons exchanges in any of these other locations?
SOETE: Not that I have heard of.
BLITZER: This is obviously an ongoing situation right now. It looks like it's going to continue for some time. But you have no doubt it was -- the triggering of this was what happened in Paris last week?
SOETE: Oh, for sure.
BLITZER: Stand by. Koen, I want to get back to you.
We're watching all of these developments unfold.
Philip Mudd, as you take a look and see the ISIS connection -- and it seems to be pretty specific right now. These ISIS are persuading these guys, these Europeans at least, to go out there and do as much damage as they can. They do have a lot autonomy in their decision who they will attack and what's going on. Right?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think that's right. What we saw in the past with the 9/11 attack was a holy-owned obviously attack with 19 hijackers, not only recruited and trained like these guys, but directed tactically to conduct the attacks.
I think what you're seeing in this case is a different model. It's a potential model for the future. That is an organization that brings people in, maybe not even people who are recruited, people who are self-directing to go travel to a place like Turkey and then into Syria, who receive some training and then go home and maybe even, as we saw in Paris years later, conduct an attack that they themselves select.
In other words, I'm not sure the "Hebdo" target would have been selected by ISIS or Yemen. It would have been the local guys picking the target.
BLITZER: Peter Bergen, you are familiar with that terror propaganda video that recently surfaced and featured French-speaking ISIS terrorists out there warning of attacks. They specifically mentioned France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and the United States of America. Those kinds of propaganda videos, they are pretty effective, aren't they?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. But I think it raises an interesting question.
Yes, they were reporting about this 20-year-old in Ohio who basically self-affiliated with ISIS and was alleged to have a plan to attack the Capitol. But it was of course an FBI informant that was sort of basically persuading him to do this in some sense.
Here, we have a Belgian -- a heavily armed group of people with serious weapons who really have -- seemed to have been tasked by ISIS. I think it shows the threat in the United States is really much, much, much smaller than it is in Europe.
BLITZER: But there is still a considerable threat?
BERGEN: We have had 150 Americans go, only 12 of whom have joined jihadi terrorist organizations. Some of them have died in Syria. We had an American suicide attacker. We have had Douglas McAuthur McCain, you may recall, that was killed fighting for ISIS.
The scale of the threat here is just so much...
BLITZER: But Europeans can come here without visas. They potentially could represent a threat, especially given how easy it is to get weapons in the United States.
BERGEN: Sure. But the Kouachi brothers were on the no-fly list. It's too large a group. We don't have 3,000 ISIS-trained foreign fighters.
BLITZER: You are saying the threat is bigger in Europe than it is the United States?
BERGEN: Yes, significantly.
BLITZER: All right, I want to bring Colonel Reese into the conversation.
Colonel Reese, as you know, cell phone pings, we are told they showed Hayat Boumeddiene, she's the girlfriend of the killer at that kosher supermarket, right near the Syrian border. According to U.S. officials, that's what they say. What about the other suspects now being hunted, an accomplice of the Kouachi brothers, an accomplice of Amedy Coulibaly? Could they already be in Syria right now fully protected by ISIS?
JAMES REESE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes, Wolf, I believe they are. I think that they had some street craft, some tradecraft that
they were establishing when they got -- go into Madrid and then to Istanbul, played some of the tourist activities. Then that gentleman who is with her became her escort as per the traditional Arab way of moving with a lady.
She becomes a drop-off and she moves across the border. Now she's in the black hole.
BLITZER: Well, Tom Fuentes, I want to pick up on that point. But getting back to Peter's point, it's easier in Europe to move across borders than it is necessarily to come to the United States. You don't need anything to go from France into Belgium.
TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, it's much closer, Wolf. The proximity of Europe to Syria and Iraq makes it much easier.
Secondly, they can travel among the countries just like we cross state lines here with no checking whatsoever. And then third, to come to the U.S. still is somewhat of going through an airport or through a shipping line, acts like somewhat a portal funnel that they have to go through where they can be watched as they board aircraft, watched as they board ships if they come that way.
But in Europe, they don't have that problem. They can just get around very easily.
BLITZER: Very quickly, Koen, do we know what the targets were in Belgium of these sleeper cells, these terror cells? We know last May, a terrorist went after the Jewish Museum in Brussels, killing four people. Do we know what their targets were this time?
SOETE: Not yet.
But probably it's going to be also again in Brussels. You can see a lot of government buildings over there. You have the police who is there, so probably Brussels. But where or what, we don't know yet.
BLITZER: Presumably, we will hear soon enough.
BLITZER: All right, thanks very much. I want everybody to stand by.
We are following the breaking news, more on the terrorism, the national security threats out there. We are getting new information from Belgium about the thwarted terror attacks. We are also getting reaction from the Obama administration. Stay with us.
BLITZER: We are following breaking news. Terror attacks stopped. Authorities in Belgium launching new raids against a terror cell that apparently was ready to carry out the orders of ISIS. Joining us now is Valerie Jarrett. She's a senior adviser to
President Obama. She's joining us from the White House. Valerie, thanks very much for joining us.
VALERIE JARRETT, SENIOR ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: My pleasure.
BLITZER: I assume the president has been informed about these sweeps, these terror -- anti-terror operations under way in Belgium right now, right?
JARRETT: Yes. He is fully aware of what's going on. Obviously, very concerned. And every single day, the first thing on his mind is how do we keep America safe, how do we work with countries all around the world to make sure that we're cooperating and keeping them safe, too? They're leading the investigation. Anything he we can do to help, obviously, we stand ready to help.
BLITZER: So does he immediately get on the phone? I know he was on the phone with leaders in France last week. But does he immediately get on the phone and speak to someone in Belgium, for example, want to reassure them that the United States is ready to do what it can to help?
JARRETT: We do that on a regular basis. I don't know whether he's made that phone call this evening, Wolf. But certainly, we stay in very close contact with colleagues all around the world to make sure that there's full cooperation and support for their efforts. A great deal of reciprocity, sharing of information. And we stand ready to help.
BLITZER: You've been one of his closest advisors over these many years. What keeps him up at night right now?
JARRETT: Well, he has a lot on his plate, as you know. He's preparing for the State of the Union next week. His first priority is always to keep America safe. But we also are seeing the economy growing. Fifty-eight straight months of private sector job growth. And but yet we know that there are still people who haven't seen their wages go up.
I traveled today with the president to Baltimore. He had lunch with a group of three women, one an owner of a small business where we dined and two other women talking about the importance of paid leave, paid sick leave. Wolf, over 40 million Americans don't have a single day of paid sick leave in our country. And now that so many Americans are working, when you have two parents in a household, 60 percent of them are working. And that's a big change from, say, 1965 when it will be 40 percent of both parents in the household were working.
So we have to change the way we're orienting our workplace to reflect the needs and priorities of the work force. And so as you know, he traveled around the country the last week making announcements leading up to the State of the Union. All designed to talk about how we grow our economy, make sure that people can afford education, make sure that opportunity is available for all. And provide affordable housing, celebrate the great success of our automobile industry right outside of Detroit, where the president had confidence in the workers and our businesses, all leading up to the State of the Union next week.
BLITZER: All right. I want to get back to that sick leave decision, the action he took today in a moment. But very quickly, do you think the president -- you know the president better than almost anyone. Does he regret not going to Paris for that march last Sunday?
JARRETT: But I think as we've said throughout this week, Wolf, that we wish that someone had been there. I know that Attorney General Holder was there for a meeting that he had been invited to that day, a very important meeting to talk about how his counterparts, if not just in Europe but around the world, could work cooperatively together. Secretary Kerry intends to be there, as well.
BLITZER: But with hindsight, does he wish he would have gone?
JARRETT: Well, I think we certainly wish that we had been represented. It would have been a very important, I think, symbol. But I think when you listen to the leaders in France, what they're concerned about is what's happening on the ground and have given us a great deal of credit for our full cooperation and support on the international stage as we try to fight terrorism.
BLITZER: Let's talk about what the president did today. Very important action that the president took. He signed a memorandum on paid sick leave today. This is an executive action, the president signing it into law, in effect.
Why doesn't the president take something like this and go to Congress and seek legislation, get bipartisan support for it, and then get it passed so it's not just simply an executive order?
JARRETT: Well, Wolf, what he did today is announce both. He said he was going to sign an executive action through his presidential memorandum that would afford federal employees to have advance up to six weeks of sick time and use that for paid family leave.
And he also called on Congress to pass legislation to provide administrative leave for the federal work force.
We want to be able to attract the very best and the brightest at the federal government and use taxpayer dollars wisely. And so he did what he could. But he also called on Congress.
In addition to that, Wolf, he announced today his full support for the family -- Healthy Families Act, which has been pending in Congress, which would make sure that every employee around the country would be eligible for seven days of paid sick time.
Right now, as I said earlier, over 40 million Americans don't have a single day of sick time. Nearly 60 percent aren't eligible for any kind of paid leave or sick time. And that needs to change. We need to make sure that, as we're balancing our work life priorities, that we're making sure that what's good for the worker is also good for the employer. It makes work force more reliable, more productive. Just imagine what happens in your office when people show up not
feeling well or you have to send a sick child to school. You contaminate everybody else, infect everybody else. And you're also not productive.
BLITZER: All right.
JARRETT: So these are really important policies for working families, and it's something the president is absolutely committed to following through on.
BLITZER: So what do you say, Valerie, to for example, the National Association of Independent Businesses, which represents small businesses? They make the point, yes large corporations, they can deal with this paid sick leave. But a small business that maybe employs 25 or 40 or 50 people, they simply can't afford that. What do you say to them?
JARRETT: Well, you know what I would say to the Washington lobbyists? I would say come with us to Baltimore and meet the small business owner with whom we dined today and listen to her explain how she believes it makes her business more profitable to provide sick leave to her employees, to provide paid leave to her employees, to provide workplace flexibility to her employees.
When we had the Working Family Summit earlier this summer, we had a meeting in the Roosevelt Room right here with about 14 different small businesses, all who say that they pride themselves on recognizing the importance of having those kinds of programs in place in order to attract and retain their employees and to build a culture where people are loyal again to their employers.
And so I dispute the fact that this is not good for small business. We believe, and there are many, many studies that show, Wolf, that it actually leads to a more productive work force, a more efficient work force, a more loyal work force and time and time again, more profitable companies.
BLITZER: Valerie Jarrett, the senior adviser to the president, thanks very much for joining us.
JARRETT: You're welcome.
BLITZER: Coming up, we're getting new information about the terror raids that officials say have foiled what they call an imminent attack. More on the breaking news coming up.
BLITZER: We are following breaking news, major news. Authorities in Belgium say they prevented what they call an imminent terror attack believed to be ordered directly by is. A Western intelligence source tells CNN that leads developed after the Paris attacks last week triggering these new raids across Belgium. The sweeps are ongoing right now. We're following all the breaking news with our terrorism and security experts. Let's bring back Peter Bergen.
First, how closely do the European countries, let's say France and Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, how closely do they work amongst themselves?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Very closely. I mean, they share a common view of this threat. And they have been on the Syrian foreign fighter case for years just as we have in this country.
So, I don't see any daylight between these countries. I mean, I think where you are seeing a disconnect is Turkey, which is a NATO country. But NATO in the view of many European officials and U.S. officials has been somewhat derelict in allowing people to transfer in its territory. And we continue to see what this woman Hayat, that she was able to transfer easily.
BLITZER: Koen Soete, you're with Belgium national television. You're based here in Washington. You are in close contact with your colleagues back in Belgium. Are they giving you any indication of how they tracked these specific terrorists who killed or arrested and the operations are still ongoing right now? I assume it's people who were in Syria, they came back to Belgium and they have been under surveillance all this time.
KOEN SOETE, CORRESPONDENT, BELGIAN NATIONAL TELEVISION: That's true, wolf. As soon as those people left the country, Belgium intelligence was waiting for them to come back. And then they closely followed them to see what they were up to. So, they knew that something was going to happen and they acted really quickly, like you have seen tonight.
BLITZER: Belgium has a unique role. You spent a lot of time in Europe, Tom Fuentes, over the years, when you were the assistant director of the FBI. We have heard that a Belgium arms dealer may have provided the weapon to Amedy Coulibaly who went into the kosher supermarket and killed those four people there. Is that right?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Right. Unfortunately, Wolf, you know, the bad guys work closely together across country lines, but so do the good guys. Europe, the countries in Europe work very closely not only with bilateral one on one relationships but they also work through Interpol, through Europol, through, you know, other multinational organizations to make sure all of the information, criminal organizations, terrorist organizations, drug cartels get spread to all the other nations belonging to the E.U.
BLITZER: I think, Philip Mudd, we should be bracing for a lot more of what we are seeing in Belgium right now. We have been seeing it in France in recent days. Operations to go ahead and preemptively deal with what they see as the sleeper cells, right?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think that's right. I think one of the things that we see in Belgium is an opportunity to put France in perspective. The Belgian population, 11 million people, some estimates have as many as 300 returnees from the battlefield in Syria and Iraq. You can multiply that if you go to France.
If you look at that magnitude of threat and assume that at least some of those people coming back are going to be engaged in the things you saw in Belgium today, you've got to believe security services after Paris aren't going to wait too much longer. If they see a cell like that, they're going to take it down.
BLITZER: Colonel Reese, 19,000 -- let me repeat that -- 19,000 French civilian Web sites have been attacked in an unprecedented hack in recent days. They have been defacing all of these Web sites with what are being called pro-Islamic images and messages.
What do you sense is going on here?
LT. COL. JAMES REESE (RET), CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Wolf, you know, there is -- this is the next phase of transnational terrorism. That's the whole cyber piece that literally has taken a back seat because we see all these kinetic strikes around. But this is going to continue. This is a way, whether it's a denial of service or complete hack of service like you see where they can take down a site or put pictures up there. This is just another type of attack that we're going to see and have to deal with in the near future.
BLITZER: Tom Fuentes, you used to work at the FBI. Give us some perspective what happened yesterday, the arrest of this individual monitored by the FBI for supposedly plotting an ISIS-inspired attack on the United States capitol.
FUENTES: Well, Wolf, what would have happened is that they get information from social media, somebody sees that, they report that this individual is trying to recruit people. He's announcing he wants to become a jihadist. And, you know, fight, whether he's ordered or not, he wants to wage a jihad.
The problem is that once the FBI gets into the investigation and starts into it, they're looking he's just as a big mouth. Does he really mean it? Is he going to carry it out or is this just bragging? And unfortunately, the longer it goes and the more concerned they get it, they own it. They can't let it go. And they really regard these type of case as plain nuisance.
They can't ignore it because the guy might go bad and shot a bunch of people right here on Capitol, or he might not. But they just can't take the chance. Now they're stuck with it until they see it through.
BLITZER: Koen Soete, you're with Belgium television, they arrest one terror suspect in Belgium today. What happens to that suspect? Can that suspect remain silent under Belgium law, or will he have to talk and provide information?
SOETE: He can remain silenced. He will get a lawyer. They'll get him to talk very quickly actually.
BLITZER: All right. I want all of you to stand by. We have a lot more to discuss. The breaking news out of Belgium now, it's still ongoing.
Getting new details of the terror raids taking place in multiple cities as officials try to prevent what they call imminent attacks.
BLITZER: We're back with breaking news.
A massive sweep under way right now throughout Belgium. They are going after what are suspected to be sleeper cells. One operation killed two suspected terrorists. One has been arrested. The ramification is enormous for all of Europe and also for the United States.
Colonel Reese, what's the most important lesson the United States needs to learn right now from what's been going on in France and now in Belgium, and presumably, we're bracing for this spreading to Italy, to Spain, to Germany, to other countries as well.
REESE: Well, Wolf, if I was the guy in charge of homeland security, what I'd be doing right now is number one, doing a complete after action review of Paris and what happened in Belgium. I would make sure they're checking their standard operating procedure, making sure the operations and intel fusion are working together and whoever needs help, I'd be trying to help them from the federal side down. That there's budgets, equipment or technology.
BLITZER: Good advice.
Tom Fuentes, what does the U.S. need to do right now?
FUENTES: Yes, just to amplify what Colonel Reese just said, yesterday the FBI held the largest secure tele-video conference ever held in its history and it included and it was hosted by the director of the FBI, James Comey, along with senior executives from Homeland Security and the people at the other end of the lines over a thousand included every FBI office in the country, every joint terrorism task force in the country, every fusion center in the country.
So, the FBI was giving a synopsis of what's been learned already in the Paris attack and what was being looked at domestically, at least, you know, in a general sense, not specific cases over that line.
BLITZER: I've heard that that teleconference was almost unprecedented.
FUENTES: It was unprecedented. They'd never had one that large, including that many attendees from that many different agencies, federal, state and local. And the director highlighted that currently the FBI has over 1,000 counterterrorism investigations active.
BLITZER: So, Philip Mudd, is the U.S. at a appropriate level of security now or does it need to ramp it up?
MUDD: I don't think it needs to ramp it up, but we've got some ground to cover in the coming pee weeks. In my world, this is an opportunity but Paris and Belgium. Beyond the tragedy, there's a goldmine of intelligence, email phone, whatever the interviews tell you. That intelligence could identify things like travel routes, people who provided weapons. It could lead to North America.
Regardless of whether that's a 1 in a 100 shot, there's going to be opportunities to help us protect the homeland.
BLITZER: Peter Bergen, the president of the United States right now is about to have dinner with the David Cameron, the prime minister of Britain. He'd just arrived at the West Wing of the White House. I assume this is issue number one for these two leaders.
BERGEN: Yes. And in particular, I mean, you may recall the people that are killing American journalists and aid workers are British citizens. I mean, you can recall the Jihadi John. This is a huge problem. You've got a cell of Brits who are the most violent people in ISIS.
BLITZER: David Cameron just moments ago arriving at the West Wing, by the chief of protocol over there, going inside. This is a business meeting. This isn't some sort of a social event.
BERGEN: Yes. And yes, ISIS is obviously number one topic.
BLITZER: Do the people of Belgium, Koen, have confidence in the United States right now, because the United States is the leader in this war on terror?
SOETE: Yes, they have confidence because the United States has been an ally, sorry, for so long. So, they're really confident in what the U.S. is doing and will do in the future.
BLITZER: And you believe this has been a game changer for Europe what's happening in Paris and now in Belgium?
SOETE: I'm sure. Tomorrow morning the press conference where new details will be coming up. So, hopefully, we'll know more about what happened.
BLITZER: We're going to learn a lot more. We're going to stay on top of this story.
Guys, thanks very much for joining us.
That's it for me. Remember you can always follow me on Twitter @wolfblitzer or follow the show @CNNSitroom.
Thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.