Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
French Airstrikes Unleashed on ISIS in Syria; Stampede Erupts at Site of Restaurant Attacks; Bomber Posed as Refugee to Enter Greece; Vigil for U.S. Student Slain in Paris Attacks. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired November 15, 2015 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[18:00:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUBTITLE: The attack took place during an Eagles of Death Metal concert. Before the show, bassist Matt McJunkins posted this photo.
Caption: "Parisians, see you in a few!"
[18:00:11] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you can tell, we are having a good time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The concert started for half an hour when we heard the noise like firecrackers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd seen two terrorists with Ak-47, Kalashnikovs, entering the concert room, and firing randomly.
SUBTITLE: Gunmen entered the concert hall, opening fire on the crowd and killing at least 89 people.
MICHAEL DORIO, BROTHER OF BAND MEMBER: I don't think they heard the gunshots before they saw anything, stopped playing, hit the deck and kind of went back stage as fast as they could.
DENIS PLAUD, HOSTAGE: I thought it was a bad joke at first but then there was something, I don't know, it's difficult to explain, something not natural.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. I am joining you live from Paris tonight. I want to welcome our viewers in the United States, and around the world, who are joining us.
It is midnight here in Paris. A city rattled by deadly terror attacks. France is striking back with a major bombardment hitting ISIS strongholds today. The destroyed targets including ISIS training camps, and a command center in Raqqa, Syria.
I want to show you some video of the French jet fighters taking off for that operation in the past few hours. We now understand, though, that the actual strikes are over. And at this hour, continuing an international manhunt under way for a
key suspect in the Paris attacks. French police questioned and released this man. This was before they knew he was a suspect. He was driving along the road from France to Belgium, they detained him, they stopped him, they let him go.
He's 26-year-old Abdel Salah Salam. He's a French national born in Belgium. His brothers have also been linked to the Paris attacks. One of them killed as one of the attackers. The other one in custody in Belgium at this time.
I want to go to our senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh in Erbil, Iraq, and our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto here with me in Paris.
We're trying to understand exactly what's happening with this breaking news of the French air strikes in Raqqa.
So, Nick, let me start with you. We were told that there were several targets, just to go through the list that we were given. That they were hitting a training camp, a recruitment center, a command center and some sort of an ammunitions depot. But you're learning more now about where exactly these strikes were targeting.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, I have to give this to you with a caveat, they're getting information out of Raqqa, a town for months now controlled by ISIS, where, frankly, the mere idea of talking to an outsider who's against ISIS can get you beheaded and killed, a very risky enterprise.
We are hearing from an activist from the Raqqa (INAUDIBLE) group who have been pretty reliable so far in delivering information, the targets they say have been hit include stadium, which is, in fact, known as a leadership headquarters, and a jail for ISIS. The stadium has been mentioned earlier on. But also the political security headquarters is also another leadership building for ISIS. And what's known as the museum in previous reporting is, in fact, a secret jail, too.
So, according to these activists, whose word frankly we have to trust because we can't independently corroborate it -- amongst the targets hit by what the French defense ministry now say is 20 bombs dropped by 10 aircraft, of 12 aircraft group, may, in fact, be linked towards or directly targeted towards ISIS leadership buildings, and jails, pretty common, frankly.
And still the question is, Erin, if these targets were readily available for a lengthy period of time, something must have obviously triggered this new series of bombings. That may be a response from Paris or perhaps extra aircraft or surveillance in the sky. But questions, of course, still to be the effectiveness of this military move here, and whether or not anybody else on the ground who wasn't supposed to be there was caught up in it -- Erin.
BURNETT: So, Jim, they have been saying, the French, that there was ISIS involvement outside France. ISIS involvement in Syria, right? But there had not been confirmation of how direct that involvement was.
Do these airstrikes actually answer that question?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: In a word, yes, it does. I mean, clearly they're going to partly, because this is retaliation, but they're going to where they believe the source of these attacks were, at least the direction for these attacks. And they're operating with intelligence that they didn't have before, because we've learned that the U.S. basically showed them all their cards.
There is an intelligence sharing relationship already between the U.S. and France, but the U.S. shared with them all the raw intel they have to a degree that they haven't had before, because the French asked for help. They said that they wanted to step up their involvement in Syria in the wake of these attacks and the U.S., in effect, opened the book, gave them all the best information they have on ISIS targets in Raqqa.
[18:05:00] BURNETT: And do we have any sense as to whether they successfully struck anyone who was involved in these attacks here in Paris?
SCIUTTO: You won't know yet. You wouldn't know from a bomb damage assessment this quickly. You wouldn't know. And we also don't know if they were striking ISIS targets in general, or ISIS targets specifically to this attack. Individuals as opposed to --
BURNETT: That's the key question. Right.
SCIUTTO: Now, based on what we know from the target list, we're looking more at fixed targets as opposed to people. For instance a stadium which was used as a jail and headquarters for ISIS. Now it may be that this U.S. intelligence that was shared with them had some indication that there were particular ISIS leaders present there. We don't know that. We do know there's precedent for that because only on Friday morning before these attacks happen, the U.S. was able to kill Jihadi John, an ISIS operative and very familiar voice from so many of those beheading videos.
So, we don't know if these were individual targets, as in people, or individual targets as in fixed targets related to ISIS.
BURNETT: We do know, Nick, that they had the veneer of being very significant when you talk about a command center, a headquarters, a training camp, a recruitment center. Some of that no doubt though is propaganda. Because it's hard to imagine after all the strikes which have struck Raqqa that the United States and the coalition forces would have let all of those significant sorts of places not be bombed as to this point.
WALSH: You know, it's very hard to divine, as it must be surely for the coalition, using their airborne surveillance, what's really happening on the ground for us here, to divine exactly what's been going on in their minds, when choosing these targets. It may be, for example, in the last 24 hours suddenly an influx of aerial surveillance made these targets available when previously they weren't.
But yes, there, of course, will be a budding suspicion that this has been a predominantly political move to say, look, we are now in the game in terms of the French air force and we're willing to take the fight to ISIS. We won't know and it's highly unlikely, frankly, whether anybody hit today was involved in the planning of these attacks. I'm sure whatever intercepts they have may be unspecific.
It's going to be extraordinarily difficult to work out which parts of an already very opaque ISIS leadership structure may have been involved in telling anybody in Paris to act at the times they did. If that even was the case, because Jim himself has been reporting that some of those suspects, in fact, went dark. One of the major giveaways being for cells like this, in the West, when they actually communicate back with their HQ in whatever place they were originally trained to activate the plots they had, that's often the giveaway that give the plot away in the first place.
But the question now remains -- this is clearly France saying, we will respond militarily. That could be it. Remember back in the '90s where al Qaeda would be hit, perhaps in the wrong place or the right place, by the Clinton administration, and that would be considered to be it, sort of the anger would be vented through a series of airstrikes.
We could be seeing this tonight with the publicized pictures of French jets taking off. That sense of satisfying, the understandable anger in the French public, that something is being done, or we could be now, after the G20 in Turkey meeting with Russia now, the United States, France, the U.K., deeply concerned, some broader consensus emerging, what do you do next? What can you possibly do with NATO, the most sophisticated resource military power in history, facing frankly a group of probably about 10,000, 20,000 fighters inside Iraq in Syria. What can they do to shut that down?
Not enormously complex task if they harness their resources but one given the massive political mess that surrounds the Syrian conflict, one very hard to get a consensus around. Maybe we're going to see something more cohesive in the months ahead, but, Erin, you and I both know looking at the Syrian war as you have been doing for years, it's very hard to get a consensus, frankly, on what should happen after Bashar al Assad, more complicated. How do you harness military forces in the three or four different countries you need to get them on the ground working effectively together to actually shut ISIS down?
It's a very difficult task. It's one the French are certainly in on now, but it's one that needs an awful lot more cohesion to make happen as Jim knows himself -- Erin.
BURNETT: Nick Paton Walsh, thank you very much.
Jim Sciutto staying with me.
I want to bring Bob Baer, former CIA operative, back into the conversation. Bob, of course, this also involving the reporting on one of the
suspects who is now at large international manhunt for him. He had been detained by French police and released on the night of the attacks.
This goes to the big question, Bob, which is that the web that they are pursuing now not only were they not aware it was there, that these people were communicating in what everyone is calling the, quote/unquote, "dark" but that they don't yet know how deep it is -- how many people are involved, how many more cells there may be whether there's communications between cells whether there was even formal coordination or command and control from Syria.
So, Bob Baer, where do they start now? A country that was under the highest of all possible alerts, had been attacked 10 months ago, this has now happened again to this country.
[18:10:03] Where does intelligence in France even start?
BOB BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Well, Erin, I think we've talked about this. The French are very, very good. I've worked with them. They are competent. They have smart people on this. They monitor the net, they know who all these people are, they have a very good national identification system, they know about the cells in Belgium, and where do they start?
The problem is so vast. But more than that is these people have learned if you really want to carry out an operation and get away with it, you give instructions and orders face to face. They use couriers.
If you have a courier in Raqqa, he comes across as a refugee. Or even Turkey, they come in to the country, say all right we're going to hit these targets on this day. And coordinate these people and get money to them.
And so, they're avoiding the banking system. They're avoiding the Internet. And they're certainly not seeking day-to-day orders back in Raqqa, which makes this extraordinarily difficult to get at these people.
You know, I just sympathize with the French and the Europeans in general, and for that matter, the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They know what they're up against. And it's more than lone wolves. It's really worrisome.
And the fact that these people were so good -- you know, I've watched these videos on the trigger. I mean, they clearly have been in combat. They know what they're doing.
And making six vests go off with TATP is extraordinary. You ask any explosives person and to make that work is not easy to do. It's something you don't learn on the Internet.
SCIUTTO: Just to echo what Bob was saying I spoke to a senior U.S. law enforcement official earlier today and he said the two big issues here. One is going dark. You know the difficulty of tracking and surveilling these communications.
The other is simply volume. It's the volume of the refugees coming across the border. But it's also the volume of jihadi suspects you have in this country -- 5,000 impossible to monitor all of them. And that's the difficulty.
BURNETT: You also, Bob Baer, have a situation that seems to have morphed a bit. Within the past two weeks you've had attacks in Beirut, you had attacks her in Paris, you had a commercial jet downed by ISIS, something no terror group has done since 9/11, you've had over 400 people killed by ISIS inspired ISIS affiliates ISIS within 14 days. That's an incredible number.
And in the metro jet crash, at least from the understanding we have now, the belief is an insider from the airport planted that bomb on a jet. They believe it was a bomb that brought that plane down.
What happened here in Paris was different. And Bob just said it. Bob, you had some people with suicide vests, people who were willing to die, and if people are willing to die to carry out these attacks, how close to impossible is it to stop them?
BAER: Erin, in a large city, like I'm in Los Angeles now, there's no way to stop it. The vulnerable targets are everywhere, any sort of concerts, museums, restaurants. The CNN bureau, it just does not matter. They can hit any of them at will.
And you're absolutely right, these people are ready to die. This TATP is very, very dangerous, it goes off for no reason at all, but they clearly don't care.
And then, we also have the question of our own airports. I was talking to somebody who knows. And they're worried about the airports in L.A., the baggage handling staff. We know about the case in Minneapolis about the young man that went to Syria and died, but he'd been working for a Delta affiliate in Minneapolis.
We simply don't know the depth of the support of this group, and that's what worries everybody, and that's what worries the FBI, is the guys, as you said, the ones that go dark are the ones that that disturbed people the most, worry the most about them.
BURNETT: Bob Baer, thank you. Jim Sciutto still with me.
Earlier I spoke with a man who was in the Bataclan concert hall when the terrorists struck.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MASSIMILIANO MATELUCCI, SURVIVED BATACLAN CONCERT HALL ATTACK: Once I was on the floor, I wasn't moving, and tried to crawl only when the terrorists were shooting a different direction. Because when they were shooting in my direction, I was pretending to be dead.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: He had to climb and crawl over dead bodies to survive. And you will hear his full story, what he had to do, next.
BURNETT: The attacks in Paris took at least 129 lives. And the survivors' lives have been changed forever. What they experienced, what they had to live through, what they had to do to survive, will live with them for the rest of their lives. That's what one survivor of the Bataclan concert attack -- concert hall attack told me.
I talked to Massimiliano Matelucci the Georges-Pompidou Hospital. He was there today visiting his friend, who was injured.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Your friend was right next to you?
MATELUCCI: Yes, yes, yes. Was --
BURNETT: You must have been terrified. What went through your head?
MATELUCCI: Well, I know, when you are there, you don't think. You don't think, you are how, you know -- you know, of course, I was seeing people next to me got shot, people dead next to me. But what can you do? There's nothing you can do, no? And that's the circumstance you try to save your life.
And I try, I was trying to do the best to get away of that place. So, it took me 15, 20 minutes to reach the door, that was leading the stairs to go up to the first floor, no? The problem was that the terrorists, they be shooting for 15, 20 minutes nonstop, you know? So, it was even difficult to crawl on the floor, to move. So, slowly --
BURNETT: Because there were so many bodies?
MATELUCCI: Yes, so many bodies. I was crawling on the bodies, yes, yes. There were bodies everywhere. A lot of people. I had people dead next to me. Everywhere there were dead people.
But, you know, it was difficult to move even because of dead.
BURNETT: How -- can you describe what -- what that felt like?
MATELUCCI: Difficult to describe. Something not real. You know, I couldn't believe that it was happening to me. You know. I can't believe that, you know, it was something real.
I thought there was some noise coming from outside. I thought it was something was about part of the show, no? I realize that it was real when I saw the three guys with the guns. You know, until then, I thought there was something part of the show, no? You know. And the problem was that for the first 15, 20 minutes, they didn't stop shooting.
[18:20:06] So, was -- I thought I was not going to survive.
BURNETT: You thought you were going to die?
MATELUCCI: A few times, yes.
BURNETT: When you looked at the terrorists, and saw the guys --
MATELUCCI: Yes, yes.
BURNETT: What was the emotion in his eyes?
MATELUCCI: Oh, it was -- I was so angry, I was so angry, no. You know, I'm no words to explain what I was -- what I'm feeling. What I think about this guy.
You know, very, very, very bad, very not -- very not the eyes, very bad, I don't know how to explain. No nice face, no. Was a face make me feel angry when I was looking at him, no? You know, and as I said, you know, I remember one of them very well, still in my mind.
Probably will not forget, because, you know, I look at him a few times and he was looking at me, as well. You know, when he was shooting, he look at me a few times. I was just lucky that I'm not -- didn't get shot, you know? But, you know, so I need to consider myself very lucky because, a lot of people died, so --
BURNETT: And when -- as people next to you were dying, they were shooting people, did you -- was there any reaction on the terrorist's face, any --
MATELUCCI: No, not at all, no. They were shooting on any body was moving. You know, they were shooting everywhere in any direction. So as I said, for the first 15, 20 minutes no stop. No stop. Something unbelievable. Difficult even for explaining. As you can imagine.
BURNETT: I can't imagine that -- I know you're still in shock. So it may be hard to even think about this, but, your life has changed forever. How?
MATELUCCI: Well, for sure, it is going to be difficult to go back to my normal life. It will take time, but I need to be patient. You know, I haven't slept for two days you know. But obviously, sooner or later, I need to sleep. I need to get some sleep, no. I can't sleep at the moment, no?
I'm lying on the bed, I was still thinking about the dead people on the floor. All the faces when I was there, the terrorist face.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Max says he refuses to let the terrorists change his life. He says he is going to go back to a rock concert, he is going to do it soon, and he will not let this change his life forever.
We'll be right back.
[18:27:14] BURNETT: At almost half past midnight here in Paris, people still gathering at this memorial at the Place de la Republique where we are tonight. They're gathering to pay their respects to those who lost their lives. There are memorials like this around the city, little clumps of candles that you will see, and incense, people praying, paying their respects around this city.
At Notre Dame earlier this evening, on a gorgeous evening, there were thousands in complete silence. We stood there for 12 minutes the bells of mourning rang. Listening, it was a very sombering and spiritual moment.
Thousands of people, so peacefully gathered right there outside Notre Dame. And that is what is happening. The French are fighting back. They are paying their respects.
But there is also a feeling here of people being on edge, and a palpable feeling of fear for many. And that is something Clarissa Ward experienced earlier tonight.
And, Clarissa, what did you see?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, that's it exactly. People were gathering here. It was a beautiful moment. It was somber, it was quiet. There were candles. People saying prayers. Paying their respects and remembering their dead.
And then suddenly, in a flash, there was chaos. Women started screaming, the crowd just started pushing down the street, running, abject panic and horror on their faces. We saw women clutching their children, crying. Another woman pushing a stroller with a baby desperately running for what she thought was their life.
Somebody said that they had heard gunshots and police suddenly fanned out across the area. They were heavily armed. They were shouting at people to take cover and get inside.
And it was very clear from watching this whole thing play out that they were also incredibly nervous, that they didn't know exactly what the situation was. That they are fully experiencing the sense of panic and fear much in the same way as all Parisians are, Erin.
It was such a juxtaposition as well from earlier conversations that I had with Parisians who were telling me, you know what, Friday was a night of shock, Saturday was a day of mourning, but on Sunday we felt determined today, to come out, to take our lives back, to take our culture back, to go to cafes, to enjoy a concert, to go to the theater.
But very quickly you see just how fragile that spirit of defiance is, because it is tinged with a really serious sense, a deeply palpable sense, of fear. Attackers possibly still on the loose, and there's a very real impression amongst people that you talk to that as much as they want to get on with their ordinary lives, people understand that life here in Paris has changed. And it's not clear yet when and how it will return to normal -- Erin.
[18:30:02] BURNETT: Clarissa Ward, thank you very much. And we're going to take a brief break. We'll be back.
BURNETT: Welcome back to our ongoing breaking news coverage live from Paris. Some developments coming in on the scale of this plot, this coming from Iraqi intelligence. The Iraqi Foreign minister now saying -- this is again coming from the Iraqi intelligence, that there were 24 people involved in this operation and that they had trained in Raqqa.
So, Jim, this is the latest that we're learning from the Iraqi intelligence. 24 training in Raqqa.
SCIUTTO: That's right. The Iraqi Foreign minister, Ibrahim al- Jaafari, rather, quoting Iraqi intelligence and adding that the leader of is, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was threatening a number of countries involved in the coalition against ISIS, including France, but other countries in Europe, and the U.S. and Iran, interestingly enough, which, of course, it's a Shiite organization fighting a Sunni organization ISIS.
SCIUTTO: So it's very broad there, basically Baghdadi saying that he's going to carry out attacks at everyone, virtually everyone involved in this coalition but the foreign minister adding that he shared that with the French before these attacks took place.
Now you do speak to French intelligence, you speak to U.S. intelligence, and what they will say is that they will get warnings like this frequently.
BURNETT: I'm sure they do. Yes.
SCIUTTO: So the difficulty becomes, as you're gauging which are the most serious, which are the most, you know, substantiated, that's a difficult thing to do.
BURNETT: Very difficult thing to do.
I will say, though, that the reason we wanted to make a point of sharing this with all of you is this is the first time we've seen any sort of a number. Right? We understand that there were seven, maybe there were eight attackers.
BURNETT: Who is at large, how many people were involved in that network.
SCIUTTO: And he says 24.
[18:35:03] BURNETT: Now this may not answer the full question there in terms of the network. But it is a number, 24. And that they did train in Raqqa specifically, which is --
SCIUTTO: That's right. Which is where the French --
BURNETT: -- really be a very significant detail that you would have 24 training --
SCIUTTO: That's right.
BURNETT: -- that are now here in Europe. That would, of course, mean that you have many at large.
SCIUTTO: You've only sort of found a third of the network.
SCIUTTO: And you have heard from French officials right up to the president that they believe the network supporting this group would have to be larger, that seven or possibly eight attackers, we have this international arrest warrant out right now, that they would need support. They would need people to drive them. People to help get them their weapons, get them the materials to manufacture they're explosives, this kind of thing. So the French and U.S. officials have said as well they expect the web to be broader. This is the first time we have a number. This again coming from Iraqi intelligence.
BURNETT: And it also raises the question, again, if true that they all trained in Raqqa, which would mean that you would have 24 trained fighters.
BURNETT: Perhaps the question before might have been, maybe the ones who actually went and did the attacks themselves were the trained fighters. And the others were supporting.
SCIUTTO: Yes. And you've heard from the eyewitnesses, one that you just spoke to, they're describing the methodical and skilled way that these attackers carried out murder. Right? Shooting calmly, coldly, reloading, shooting again. We've heard that from the very first --
BURNETT: He said -- look, he met one of the terrorist's eyes, he told me, three separate times. Three separate times. And never once did he see emotion cross that man's face.
SCIUTTO: Well, it's chilling.
BURNETT: As he shot anybody who moved.
SCIUTTO: It speaks to the nature of these attackers. It also speaks to the training that it seems they had. Again, to hearken back to "Charlie Hebdo," you remember that video, as you saw them leaving the "Charlie Hebdo" offices, the skill that they handled their weapons, and here you see this again. And this is, again, the idea that they trained in Syria, that is something that other officials have mentioned, as well. French officials have talked about not just direction from there, but
some sort of support. So you're beginning to see hard, substantiated ties to ISIS home base in Syria.
BURNETT: All right. Jim Sciutto, thank you very much. We're going to take a brief break. We'll be right back.
[18:41:00] BURNETT: We're learning much more about how the attackers got into France. One of them, posing as a Syrian refugee, crossing into the Greek island of Leros on October 3rd. He used a fake or doctored Syrian passport and hid amongst those refugees making his way through Europe here to France. That man then strapped an explosive vest on Friday, detonating himself at the soccer stadium.
Our senior international correspondent Arwa Damon is in Leros, Greece, has been reporting on the refugees, and knows a lot more about him.
And investigators are trying to piece this together Arwa, how he hid amongst the refugees, how he got through the process all the way here to France. What do you know?
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, here's the tricky part in all of this. He was pretty much hiding in plain sight. There were no red flags that were raised. Arguably there was no way that any red flag could have been raised this early on in the process. As a refugee or migrant landing at any of these entry points into Greece, having made that very dangerous journey from Turkey, the process is pretty much the same. These individuals are registered, if they have a passport or some sort of identification, that process is a little bit faster.
But even if they don't, even without any sort of identification, whatsoever, an individual can land here, and say that they are Syrian, and what the authorities then do is they question them, they interrogate them, they have people who are Syrian who are helping them out in this process, and they try to, to the best of their abilities, determine that this person is who they claim to be. And the reason why they're so relaxed about having actual documentation is because a lot of Syrians do flee with absolutely nothing.
So this person came here on October 3rd with about 200 other people, or just under 200 other people, was registered, was fingerprinted, no flags were raised. There is no sort of central database that this person was a part of that would have perhaps warned people of his true intentions in finally reaching France. He then was also registered again in Serbia. This is part of the normal process. At this stage. But in speaking to other refugees who were here, they're absolutely appalled by what happened in Paris.
They say that this is exactly the kind of violence that drove them from their homes, and what they're very concerned about right now is the fact that this violence, which they do not, absolutely do not condone, is going to somehow cause greater mistrust to exist amongst them and the population in these various different European countries, and this growing rift could then potentially dangerously play straight back into ISIS' hands, Erin.
BURNETT: Arwa Damon, thank you very much.
And I want to bring our national security analyst Juliette Kayyem in, of course formerly with the Department of Homeland Security.
Juliette, let me ask you about what Arwa's reporting. I mean you have a humanitarian crisis in Syria. You have so many people who are desperate for a better life, and that is what the refugee story is about. But if you have people who are hiding amongst them, as seems certainly we have now seen in this case, someone who came and murdered innocent civilians in Europe, does that change the situation? How can Europe continue to let people in who have no documentation, who have nothing, now that this has happened?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, that is -- that's the question, is whether Europe will continue to do so. Then you just have to ask yourself, what is the alternative option? Because they are going to come. I mean, that is what Europe discovered. They can try to close off as much as possible but they're going to come through Greece, they're going to come by land, by train, any way they can come.
We all know the long-term solution is going to be, of course, some resolution in Syria. So the formalization of the process was actually a way to minimize the risk. Right? Because you now maybe have some sense of who is coming in. But you're never going to get that risk to zero because so many people are undocumented.
[18:45:01] What you're going to see the Europeans do, certainly what the United States has done in the past is try to get familial verification. Is there anyone else in Europe that can vouch for these Syrians, any family members? There's large Middle Eastern populations throughout Europe. We certainly do that here in the United States. But it is never -- you're never going to make that risk zero and as Jim was pointing out and Arwa just now, the pace by which this radicalization process is occurring, right, just a small subset of these refugees, is that not only the sort of shocking thing, but is what's making it so hard to disrupt this.
You know, if you go back 15 years to al Qaeda, you know, these are guys that spent 10, 12 years with bin Laden, you know, decades of fighting and radicalization, and then planning these attacks. If you look at the calendar of what's happening to some of these men, you're talking about less than a year and that means that they can be underground, they'll never be found out. And that's going to be the challenge.
BURNETT: And, Juliette, what about in the United States today? You have the National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes speaking, for the White House today saying that they know that ISIS has the ambition to strike the United States but they don't think that it yet has the capability. Many people feel that that statement is, at the least, assuming way too much.
KAYYEM: I think what we have to assume is that there are people in the United States who are going to try to do something that is sort of this lone wolf terrorism that we've both gotten used to, but has minimal impact. It's not Paris. And you know, maybe a few people die and that's a tragedy but it doesn't have the sort of consequence of what we saw in Paris.
But the capability of people to plan something in the United States, and for -- is limited because of the massive amounts of surveillance going on in the United States. And the ability of a large terrorist organization to come here, all of them simultaneously, without any of them getting caught, is also much lower than it is in Europe. So I do have some confidence. I'm never going to say it's perfectly safe. Not in the world we live in.
That you're always going to have that sort of lone wolf threat and that's why the FBI came out today, really strong, saying don't mess with these guys. Don't flirt with them on social media, we are going to start disrupting the stuff early. And then also through immigration controls, and -- and border controls, stop the capability of a number of men coming over simultaneously with the capacity to do something that they did in Paris. That's just hard -- that is more difficult to do in the United States just because of our geographic isolation.
BURNETT: Yes, indeed. But you know, Bob Baer was talking about how on the border they've been instructed to take refugee stories at face value and not ask questions. You would think that they would know not to come in, in groups. I mean, do you feel that these things have been thought through and are prepared for, or perhaps not?
KAYYEM: Well, I think -- so I know that the department is ratcheting -- the Department of Homeland Security obviously with the State Department is ratcheting up refugee surveillance essentially because we won't take what people say for granted. As I said earlier, we have much more focus on a family unification standard for refugees. In other words, there's a lot of Syrian Americans, can people vouch for others. And as I'm willing to say, none of this is perfect. But you have to think of what is the alternative?
Without a refugee program in the United States, this will say to Europe, and especially very right-wing elements in Europe, that not even the United States is taking them in. And then everyone begins to close their borders. And then the alternative is what? I mean, the alternative is going to -- these people are still going to come. So better to have a formalized process than not.
BURNETT: All right. Juliette Kayyem, thank you very much.
We'll be right back.
[18:53:51] BURNETT: Just into CNN at this moment, an image of the French president, Francois Hollande, just moments after the first two bombs were detonated outside the Stade de France on Friday night. Just moments before the third attack. You see him on the phone. Inside a security room inside the stadium. Now this picture was taken at 9:36 according to a clock in this room.
That was just six minutes after an explosion rocked one of the stadium entrances.
Friends, family, and classmates of the American college student killed in the Paris attacks are right now gathering on the campus of the California State University in Long Beach. They're gathering for a vigil to honor a young woman that so many loved and admired. Nohemi Gonzalez was studying in France for the semester. Her semester abroad. She was among the victims gunned down in one of the targeted restaurants.
Our correspondent Paul Vercammen is in Long Beach where her vigil will be starting any moment -- Paul.
PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erin. As you can see, some people are filing in behind me and then they're going to an upstairs ballroom, where they will remember Nohemi. And some people have grabbed these little pins right now. This is the Long Beach State colors, black and gold. They're putting them on their lapels.
[18:55:11] We learned a little bit more about her and what she was studying in Paris from lecturer Michael LaForte. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL LAFORTE, LECTURER, CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY: She was in Paris. She was focused on studying retail design in particular at the moment.
VERCAMMEN: And you've illustrated that she had quite a light sense of humor. Even giving a little bit of a guidance on how to pronounce her name. Tell us about that.
LAFORTE: She used to like to say, the H is silent, and I'm a terrible actress, and I have no EMI. And that would be the way to memorize her name so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VERCAMMEN: Also on this campus there are 80 students who are French foreign exchange students. Some of them expected to be here as well as a member of the French consulate.
Back to you now, Erin.
BURNETT: Paul Vercammen, thank you very much. That vigil will begin at any moment. We'll be covering that live of course here on CNN.
Our special coverage of the terrorist attacks in Paris continues. John Berman and Poppy Harlow will be with you after a short break.