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tv   Way Too Early  MSNBC  March 22, 2016 2:30am-3:01am PDT

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normal. it was a new normal after people got used to the terror threat. >> i'm going to ask you to stay with us. we'll come back, a lot more information. it's 5:30 on the east coast. we are covering breaking news out of belgium where there have been at least two explosions at the brussels airport. according to the federal police, at least one person is dead and several others have been injured. all airport operation have been suspended. we understand that federal police have confirmed one explosion at the maelbeek subway station. smoke is coming from that station. according to officials, all public transportation in the city -- that includes buses and the tram metro system have been shut down until further notice. the european union is asking
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their people to stay at home or inside builds as they continue to monitor the situation. the u.s. embassy in brussels has ordered police not to use public transportation this morning. this happened days after salah abdeslam was arrested in brussels. let's go to alastair jamieson who has been following this as well. we talked about the first explosion at 8:00 a.m. followed by the second one at 8:30. besides the optics of a coordinated attack or coordinated explosions by whoever may have been responsible, have question gotten any indication from the federapolice or the belgium government they're labelling this as a multiple coordinated terrorist attack? >> reporter: nothing yet. the authorities haven't said that, we do expect them to be giving an update on the
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situation in the coming hour. but at the moment, nothing is confirmed about a link between these two. but, you know, very clearly, it follows the hallmarks of other similar coordinated attacks that have taken place, all were being prepared. we know from the intelligence gathered by authorities in brussels at these previous raids that this is -- that, you know, an attack in more than one place is exactly what terror cells have been planning to carry out. but at the moment, no confirmation on that. what we do know is that the airport itself and the main airline operating out of there, brussels airlines, have both said that the facility will be closed until at least tomorrow morning to all flights. both inbound and outbound. so clearly there will be disruption for passengers at a major european transport hub. >> it's important to emphasize, we are reporting that at least
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one person is dead. that is based on official reporting from belgian authorities. we know that there are multiple reports from belgium media that that death toll has actually substantially increased within the past hour, is that correct? >> that's correct. we are hearing from the security sources that i have been in contact with suggested that the death toll will be much higher. that wouldn't be a great surprise given the nature or the extent of the injuries we saw in some of those early pictures that have emerged from the devastated check-in hall. glass had shattered all around the area and part of the ceiling had come down into the open area. it would have been extremely busy with people at the time milling around with bags and so on. unconfirmed other reports there had been gunfire before the explosion, but that could not be confirmed at all by authorities. so clearly, it would not be a great surprise if the death toll
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increased significantly. the same reports we're hearing now also about this attack downtown that the number of people injured in this explosion between two metro stations near the european union headquarters could be quite significant indeed. pictures on social media we're seeing show people walking on the tracks surrounded by smoke, evacuated from trains that have been stopped or trains that have been caught up in what ever has happened on the metro system. and that clearly has focused minds of those who are in brussels at the moment either at work or trying -- still trying to get to work about the advice from authorities to remain in place, find somewhere secure and stay there until authorities can get a clearer idea about what has happened and about whether potentially there could be other attackers still on -- out there on the loose. we don't know. >> yeah, if you ever travelled
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across europe through its euro star rail system, there is a report now at least according to the euro star twitter feed it's cancelled trains running to and from brussels. no trains currently running to or from brussels. this is according to the high speed rail service. obviously one of the busiest rail services, hubs, in all of europe. let's talk a little bit about the implication of what happened on friday with the capture of salah abdeslam. as we're reporting, that following that attack, we heard from both french and belgian officials, particularly the french president who said that he expected there would be further arrests, that there would be more arrests in connection with the capture of salah abdeslam. are you at all surprised that since then, since friday, since his capture, we had not seen any additional arrests in connection with his network?
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>> reporter: maybe. i mean, certainly they have taken in a number of other people at the time. but you recall that there was a previous raid several days before salah abdeslam was taken in in which salah abdeslam was a target of the raid, he had not been detained at this time. clearly, authorities are trying to keep on top of what is emerging as quite a major terror cell, but some of them have managed to remain one step ahead. and it was interesting the language that the belgium minister used at the time of the salah abdeslam raid over the weekend -- friday, rather, that this unit had been planning to restart something. and the odd choice of words did
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rather suggest although they had uncovered details of something in the planning they might not be able to put a lid on it. there's other people have been being smoked out as it were, to go ahead and carry out this attack. it's to the enormous frustration of the united states law enforcement and intelligence services that such is the extent of this problem of these isis operatives in europe that, you know, even five months after the paris attacks they have been unable to bring them to the close. >> stay with us. let's bring in law enforcement analyst jim cavanaugh, formerly in charge of the atf. so many questions in my mind right now. let's start with some of the basics in terms of the daunting task right now for law enforcement officials. obviously they have two scenes, one at the airport, one at the
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subway station and they must be concerned that there's something set in motion, and they may not have a grasp of what's taking place right now in brussels. >> that's exactly right, ayman. the commander's main task right now and all through the day is are there other attacks afoot? and usually what you try to do is gather as much information as you can from the scene of the bombings, for example, at the airport, at the subway station. you know, it used to be you could get their cell phones from people like that and the conspiracy quickly exploit those phones, see what other contacts they have. but this isis cell has been very, very good in the past in paris of using drop phones, new phones, throw phones and they understand how law enforcement tries to exploit that information. they have put it into their operational plans not to allow law enforcement to exploit that. so it makes the job even harder, but they have to identify the people who have been killed. the suicide bombers or attackers and then walk it back and also use the intelligence they have gained from paris, from the
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arrest of salah abdeslam this week and the raid three days prior. all the players they know. they have a lot of information, they got to see who are these guys, how are they connected, who are they connected to and can we disrupt any other plots in the making right now, right today. >> jim, let me ask you, you mentioned the word try to ascertain as much information as possible. you were saying some of that could be based on the crime scene right now. we don't have any evidence yet. we don't have any information or confirmation that this is connected to or directly connected to the capture of salah abdeslam. but do you think right now that there are authorities going to his jail cell to talk to him immediately about what he may have known? >> oh, yeah, i think he was ripped out of that cell as soon as these explosions happened and is being interrogated. he's probably been interrogated pretty quickly after his leg
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wound was patched up pretty quickly the other day. but whether or not he's talking, how dedicated he is, i would think he'd give some information. but how much information, if he knew another plot was afoot, because he was a logistics operative which is important, he might not tell about another operation afoot. and so they have got to exploit everything they've got. the thing here that's so important for european police and intelligence operatives and worldwide us true as well, isis external operation in europe for sure is much better than anybody thought just prior to the attacks in paris. much deeper, much stronger operate with better plans. learn from past failures. past successes. abboud really directed that cell to be successful in the paris attacks. more players out there, more logistics members and probably a
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bomb master sitting out there who's taught other people how to make these suicide vests, how to reliably detonate the explosi explosives. they're not guys fumbling around, they have a way to make the bombs. they have enough suicide bombers so yes, in is -- this is it's very critical for law enforcement to jump on any other plot that might be afoot today. >> all right. jim, i'm going to ask you to stay with us. i have a lot more questions for you. let's bring in washington editor-at-large, msnbc contributor, steve clemons, who was in brussels over the weekend. you caught the last train out of brussels, is that correct? >> ayman? >> okay. sounds good. it seems we may have lost steve
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clemons who is actually on the phone. we'll get back to him. we'll go back to jim cavanaugh. one of the questions i had regarding this investigation, one of the explosions took place in the departure hall. that's not necessarily a secured area in the sense that there are no check points for those going in and out of brussels airport and that it was a public space. are you at all surprised that there was not additional security, layers of check point at brussels airport, given the arrest that took place on friday, the sense of high alertness that brussels and belgium authorities said they were at as a result of that arrest? >> yeah. it is somewhat surprising. you know, you would think that airports certainly there in brussels with what's happened after paris and other european airports and we have all been through some of them would have ramped that up. you know, the israeli model as
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you know, ayman, we have been through the tel aviv airport, has layered security. you know, way out front of the airport, you're looked at, talked to. there's a stop, you're observed. you're talked to outside of the terminals. it's layered on through. and, you know, sometimes that can stop a suicide bomber or a bomber like this. you know, some of these bombers were noticed in paris at the bataclan or at the cafes just prior to the detonations for their activity the way they were looked and walked and so forth. sometimes they can be observed, you know, by their demeanor or what they're doing. so airport security can sometimes pick that up if it's layered so i'm surprised they hadn't laid that on. >> stay with us. we're going to bring in steve clemons, an editor-at-large and also an msnbc contributor. we have been talking to him following the capture of salah abdeslam. give us a sense of where you were when this unfolded. what did you see?
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>> i had just arrived at the brussels airport this morning. i was catching a flight back to washington. and the train is in the basement of the airport, it had come up and it was in -- it was going in the main hall, the bombing had already happened. i saw the smoke. people were rushing back. i had tried to sort whatever, but the police and the authorities -- they raided in and the people were pushing down. i was there literally minutes after the bomb blast had occur and saw the smoke, but more importantly just saw how tense everyone was and that situation. and while people were scared and they sent us back down to the plane, we went back to the brussels train station, we -- and everybody tried to sort out what was happening at this moment. i was in on the action, but i wasn't able to get in and of course many people seemed to have been killed.
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as we got back to the brussels station a short while after the bombing had happened we began to hear about the bombs in the subways that had gone off within the station. so things became very, very tense and miss and military units began to swarm around where i was. i just caught -- i think one of the last trains out of brussels to amsterdam. >> so let me ask you this. if we can go back a little bit to the airport scene when you came out of the train below the airport, you're describing a scene of chaos. give us a sense of the first responders that arrived on the scene. did you get a sense if there was multiple explosions? was it one explosion? i know it was a very fluid situation, but what were you -- >> i didn't have a sense of whether there was one or more. i only had seen the reports -- all i know is that i know smoke in the departure hall of that massive airport hall.
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i saw smoke in one area so i don't know if there were multiple bomb blasts. and i don't have any sense of that. >> were they trying to move people outside of the airport or just trying to keep them secure away from the site of the explosion? how difficult was it for you to leave the airport i guess is what i'm trying to ask. >> well, i was on the way up. they basically began pushing us all the way back down again. i mean, it was one of these things we came up and the authorities immediately began to send us out. it was an immediate evacuation. it happened. there were quite a number of police and what looked to me like military units. they were acting right away. i mean, this is no -- at 8:15 this morning, it was impressive to me the number of -- you know, the order, while there was fear and chaos, there was a lot of order and they got us out of that airport very rapidly.
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and there were a lot of people. >> by the time you left the airport and got the train station to catch that train out to amsterdam, did you notice a -- an increase in security at the train station when you arrived? could you sense that there was a change in the overall -- >> so when i got to the -- yeah, that's important. when i got the airport, there was a guy i knew that had been much closer to the bomb than i was. and so i asked if i could interview him on my iphone. i tweeted out bits of that interview on my twitter account. and he felt very lucky not to have been caught in this because he had been going over some papers with one of the airline clerks or something. but otherwise would have been right in the middle of the departure hall, so he was very close to what had happened. so as i was interviewing him, you saw the police and the military interviews in the
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brussels station begin to build rap rapidly. when we first arrived there it was sort of normal and i saw one or two police. by the time i had done the interview you saw 10, 12 police, both taking questions but also their posture was very -- you know, it was clearly -- a strong posture really. >> steve, i know -- i know that you were in brussels earlier as well or i should say late last week for the security conference. >> right, on friday. >> did you sense a change in brussels after the capture of salah abdeslam? >> no, when i was after the brussels forum, we had quite a number of top level americans there. senator sessions, shaheen and nato and intelligence officials there. we had the president of the european commission, and that -- during that time, that was when the action with salah abdeslam was going on. i had actually heard one of the guards guarding us at the hotel
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mention his name before the -- salah's name had popped in the news that day. after that happened, there was sort of like -- there were two different strains. there was one in brussels where it was just a fragility and attention of some people, and then on others it's that it was an anomaly. that life still goes on, it's an anomaly, it's a weird thing in molenbeek. a lot of us went over to molenbeek and we began to sort of see -- is there something going on in this community we don't know? some people it's ordinary. some people say this terrorism thing is fragmenting and upsetting people's lives. i have to say that today with the people that i was on in the train and in the station and i
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went out of my way to talk to a great number of people both from brussels and visitor, the tension level is high. we were at the airport, at the bomb attack, then you hear the subways are bombed, then you felt that our station was within minutes of closes itself and my train was supposed to arrive in four minutes, the tension is very high. everyone is sort of looking around who's in the station very suspiciously. it's palpable. it's hard to explain. i know you have been in these situations yourself, but it was palpable this morning. people are suspicious of everyone. >> steve, it's obviously very premature right now to draw any conclusion between the arrest of salah abdeslam between what we are seeing today, but from your time there in brussels, from your attendance at that security conference, we obviously had heard as well from the french president francois hollande they were expecting further arrests. did anyone get a sense that the scale of what we are seeing
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today was something that was in the works, given the fact over the past four months, brussels was pretty quiet. now we are seeing what appears to be a coordinated attack across the major european capital. >> what i would say is again not jumping to all the conclusions, we shouldn't, but i met the foreign minister of belgium on sunday morning and he spoke to our group and he conveyed to the group some things we didn't know which was that salah abdeslam's operation, the network that -- it was much larger than they had thought. upwards of 30 or more people. that they were planning and in process of doing -- taking more actions. it made you think we're
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overfocusing on salah, but there's a larger network and operation than they had been anticipating. i think he used the word astounded by what seems to be unfolding. this was on sunday that he said to this, at the german conference. >> interesting. >> then as we see the news come out and everything from the very systematic and routine way that they have looked at everything from cell phones, communications, to various bomb making activity, on and on, its gives a sense that we have only seen part of the puzzle or part of the action that they have -- that these folks had been engaged in. but again, i think folks that are above the scene here probably have a lot more, but had a conversation with the foreign ministers here who's privy to the intelligence. that was there. when you kind of live through the bombing fears that are here, that are happening in major transportation units, you know,
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in europe's capital city, that is a -- that adds up to a very toxic situation. >> steve, stay with us for situation. i want to update us on a few pieces of information that are coming here into the newsroom. we'll start off with here in new york city. the nypd is saying that it is obviously fully aware of what the situation is that is taking place in brussels. as a result of that, the nypd tells nbc news they're in the process of ramping up security for mass transit, including the bridges and tunnels as well as city landmarks. those plans according to the nypd will be detailed in an official statement that is expected to come out later today. that is according to the nypd spokesperson. also, information that's kind of trickling in right now from the belgian crisis center. they are confirming that two explosions that took place at the airport. this is again to the crisis center that's just been posted. the federal crisis center of
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belgium internal affairs announced the shutdown of all public transportation in brussels. everyone in brussels should stay at his or her present location unless strictly necessary avoid making telephone calls. use text messages and social media for information and communication. the information that they are as well confirming that this morning at around 8:00 a.m., two explosions took place at the zavantem. they're continuing to assess this situation. jim cavanaugh, are you still with us? >> yes, ayman. >> let's talk a little bit about the few hours that are ahead for the law enforcement officials, both in brussels. we'll talk about what that means for folks here in new york and across the united states as they're watching this unfold. but where does the task now
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begin for investigator -- for the counterterrorism officials across europe for that matter? >> well, it's happening in all those places, all the headquarters of police and other places have spun up and it's happening at the epicenter of the bombings. you have to start at the scene of the blast, you have to determine if these suicide attackers or placed devices? we know they have used the suicide vests in the past, isis had, but we also had attacks with placed bombs by al qaeda and other groups. are they bombs left there or are they suicide attackers? if they're suicide attackers who are they and start working their identity back as fast as you can. now they have a lot of intelligence, ayman, we talked about that earlier. brussels, paris, german police, everyone has a lot of information on the cell that supported the paris attacks and they have to walk that back. we'll probably see more searches and warrants later like they
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have been doing this week. they have also got to do the same at the subway. you know, they may not get as much information from the phones as they used to. this group is pretty slick on not leaving that track, using encryption and so forth. but still old gum shoe methods of missing, you know, contacts, friends, family, you see all this interconnected. past behavior. close circuit tv. the police have a lot of ways to go and round these up and some of that pressure might have been exactly what caused the cell to act now. you know, like you have been talking. you know, after salah's arrest, did that have anything to do with it, sometimes the pressure moves things ahead. interesting they attacked in brussels. before they were attacking in france. they seemed involved in syria with their mill their supporting the -- military supporting that and now the attacks are right
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there. that's given up because the brussels authorities had put so much pressure on them. so if it is isis, and it likely is, you know that's the major lead category you'd follow, it's the very active cell, thin -- then they have gone away this is our retreat, safe haven, we can attack another country over the border and come back here for safety, now that's all gone. that's evaporated after all the arrests in the past and now attacking in their neighborhood, basically at the airports and the subways that's close to where the cell is most active. >> when i look at the context of the past four months since paris and what we saw in brussels, do you feel that european counterterrorism officials, anti-counterterrorism officials have this under control or on
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their back footing here? here's a situation over the past four months we have not seen any major terrorist incidents in brussels, and yet, in the past 72 hours almost at will with capture of salah abdeslam, this cell or those behind today's attack were able to go out into the airport, into the subway station and detonate these explosives. what does that tell you about the network thatcities? >> right, ayman up, you're thinking just right. they're behind it. steve clemons' discussion with you where he said the minister said they were surprised at how large this cell was. whenever you're surprised you're behind the curve. you know, if you're ahead of it you're not surprised, you kind of can get and outmaneuver them. they were surprised by paris, surprised by the number of attackers, the planning, the way they were able to keep their communications quiet.
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that's all just in paris. they were totally surprised by that and now, still, four months later they're surprised how big the cell is. so they're very much behind the curve in brussels and in the whole region there. >> jim cavanaugh, i'm going to ask you to stay with us. we're going to switch gears and bring in our colleague, caddie kay joining us live from london. >> good morning. surprised and behind the curve is how it feels in london this morning. i'm in for joe, mika and william. i'm reporting live from london and we're following that major breaking news out of europe. in belgium there have been at least two explosions at the brussels airport. at least 13 people are dead, many others have been injured. a senior european counterterrorism official says that isis is suspected in the
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attacks. all airport operations have been suspended. the interjior minister has raisd the security to the highest level. and there's a posted on social showing smoke coming from that station. all public transportation in the city, including the buses, the trams, and the metro subway system, have been shut down. the euro star train line is also closed there. the european union is asking their personnel to stay home or inside buildings. the u.s. embassy in brussels ordered staff to shelter in place and avoid public transport. the nypd tells nbc news that they're in the process right now of ramping up security for mass transit, the bridges and tunnels as well as city landmarks. this morning's explosions come days after paris attack suspect salah abdeslam was arrested in brussels. msnbc's ayman mohyeldin has been covering the story all night for us.