tv Andrea Mitchell Reports MSNBC August 17, 2017 9:00am-10:00am PDT
for us and we'll stay on it at msnbc. >> thank you for watching this hour of msnbc live. i'm stephanie ruhle. >> i'm ali velshi. our breaking news coverage continues with "andrea mitchell reports." >> we're following breaking news from barcelona, spain. here's what we know now. a van, a white van driving into a crowd of pedestrians in a city square in a popular tourist district. police are calling it a massive crash. emergency crews are on the scene. spanish media reporting that as many as 20 people may have been injured. as for the driver, he reportedly ran away, that is not confirmed. and nbc's keir simmons is following this from new york. let's talk about what we know, we do not yet know this is a terror incident, it may be a terrible accident, we want to make very cautious about that. that said, this follows what we have seen in nice, in years past, what we have seen almost recently, of course, right here in the united states in charlottesville. >> yeah, absolutely.
this is certainly terrifying for those on the ground there, experiencing what happened. this vehicle plowing into people according to witnesses. there is one witness report of the driver getting out of the vehicle, and then running. that may be some indication of the kind of incident this is. but as you know, and we have been through this before, andrea, as you mentioned, when a story is breaking like this, there are many conflicting pieces of evidence from many people on the ground. that area of barcelona, for anyone who has been there, is a busy tourist area. it is a central attraction in spanish tourism there. likely at this kind of time, you know, sometime in the late afternoon, in spain, have been many, many people from many different countries there on the ground. we are getting this video of the area closed off and the emergency services in spain saying that they have closed down streets, closed down transportation hubs in order to be able to get a grip of this situation. there is one report of armed --
people armed going into a restaurant, some kind of an establishment. we have not confirmed that. and, again, in this kind of situation, we get many reports, many of which turn out not to be true. but, yeah, the emergency services there describing this as a massive crash, and urging people not to go into the area. one spanish newspaper talking about the driver having mowing down dozens of people and then fleeing. as you mentioned, previous incidents that have looked like this, that have turned out to be terrorism, include that terrible attack in nice last july, last year, in which 86 people were killed. so despite the fact that this is an unsophisticated way of carrying out an attack, if that is what it is, and we don't know, again, then despite it being unsophisticated, the casualties can be substantial, andrea. >> and let's talk about as we
know august in europe is vacation month, it is also a big tourist attraction for americans. but this is the time when people throughout europe take that month and are traveling south, many of them to spain, barcelona, of course, such a cultural magnate, such a tourist attraction. >> it really is. it has everything, barcelona is by the sea. the mediterranean sea. it is a cultural center. so for many different people it is a very attractive place to go. what i also know from talking to tourist authorities across europe, after an incident like this happens, actually what they found is the tourism bounces back very quickly, the numbers of people who are relaxed and happy and don't feel frightened to go to the big tourist destinations in europe, you know, resurges again. so it is likely that there will have been people from all around the world in these streets when this happened, it is very likely there would have been americans there. we don't know whether any
americans have been caught up in directly in this incident, but i'm convinced that in an area like this, where there will have been large groups of tourists, some of those will have been u.s. nationals. again, we don't know why this happened, what the -- we know -- we begin to get a picture of what happened, but the crucial question of the motivation, why this happened, we don't know the answer to that yet. >> and stand by, keir, we're joined by michael lighter, the former head of the national counterterrorism center and msnbc and nbc contributor joining us by phone. michael, when incidents like this happen, in the immediate aftermath, at the counterterrorism center, tell me how you spring into action, looking back over intercepts, looking to see if there is any kind of -- any kind of traffic of people talking about an incident or any planning. >> thanks, andrea. it really starts with police response. and as soon as you have an
individual who is a driver, intelligence community will look to identify that person and once you have that identity and even if they don't have driver's license or the like on them, usually it will have a smartphone, like we all do, and that information will immediately be passed to the intelligence community. in this case, obviously, in spain. the national police and the like. that will normally then be quickly shared back with allies, like the united states, though the u.s. spanish intelligence community relationship is not nearly as tight as, say, the u.s., british or the u.s. french relationship, but eventually that information will get back to the u.s. government and we will look at all of the signals intelligence, who did that phone contact, was there an e-mail address that we saw, was someone on a watch list? it will go rather quickly and i think once that person is identified within really a matter of hours, they will have
a decent sense of what a possible motivation might be. of course, we see these sorts of attacks associated with people from across the political spectrum. beginning with isis, as keir mentioned, in places like nice, but, of course, just recently this weekend, the tragedy in charlottesville and we should also remember the attack on the finsbury mosque in london which was anti-muslim attack. so regrettably cars are very deadly weapons and they can be used by almost anyone with a violent ideology. >> and michael, when we talk about barcelona, unlike other parts of europe, barcelona has not been a significant center of these kinds of attacks in the past, or terror attacks. am i correct? >> yes, that's right. and all of the spanish, of course, have not been immune to
islamic terrorism, the attack against the madrid trains was quite significant. going back to 2005. they have, of course, the spanish have endured significant terrorist attacks, largely associated with basque separatists over the years. the violence from those groups have dropped significantly over the past several years. there are some populations of north africans that have resettled in spain, and there are some radicalization challenges. but spanish have generally been more immune to sunni inspired terrorist groups like isis than have by contrast the french, the british, some northern europeans as well as the germans. >> and when we talk about vans, vehicular attacks, we're talking about a no cost or low cost weapon, which does not involve a great deal of conspiratorial planning. so you don't have necessarily
all of the intercepts and the planning that goes into an attack like this. you're not talking about a difficult bomb -- creation of a bomb or transport of a bomb. >> that's exactly right, andrea. obviously the intelligence community in all of these nations would like to identify the bad people before they become violent. if they're not communicating with anyone, if they're not looking for precursor chemicals to create explosives or in a country like spain, not going to the black market to obtain firearms because firearms are not widely available, it really does drive people to very, very low tech attacks like this. and hence it becomes difficult to identify the individual before the fact, it becomes difficult if not impossible to stop people from having a car or a van. and at that point, you are largely left with the most immediate defensive preparations in areas that do have very high concentrations of tourists. again, in places like madrid and
barcelona, paris, london, such precautions are in place. there are other blockades to keep vehicles from ramming people around places like the eiffel tower, westminster. clearly you can't do that across the entirety of a city with large populations and beautiful summer days and tourist periods. >> thank you so much, michael, leiter. and joining us on the phone is steve garrett, a tourist from the uk. steve, can you tell us what you witnessed? we're trying to sort out was this an accident, was this some sort of medical incident with a driver or is this, in fact, terror? >> well, what we witnessed was -- we were in a market area. and we were about to walk out of la rambla and a large crowd of screaming people, people with
children, run into the market area, huge influx of people, quite clearly a lot of panic going on. we immediately got ourselves up -- run up the staircase, and watched the incident unfold in front of us. large wave of people ran through the market area, and followed by lots of screaming and shouting. and one of the ladies, she said she heard gunshots, so a lot of confusion. there was a second wave of people that ran through and that was followed by a lot of armed police. they came through the marketplace, looked like they were sweeping the market area. quite clearly they were looking for somebody or something. and they went through the market. now on one of the side streets, lots of side streets, an old area, old part of barcelona, easy to hide down the side
streets. we stayed up there for about 45 minutes until we were given the clear by the market security people. we came out. helicopters are flying around. police on every corner. there is a lot of armed police around. and information is very slow. as far as we're aware there was a white van driven on to las ramblas and hit some people. it is what we're told. a picture of three people lying on the ground. i saw that from somebody else. and apparently somebody left the van. that's the information we have where we were. >> steve, are you with family, with friends? do you have any children in your group? >> i'm with my girlfriend. we're in barcelona for a
festival, a folk festival here. we are with other people who had their families with them. the lady who was with us, she got separated from her daughter, she was obviously, very, very distressed initially. her daughter, eldest daughter was able to find out where her youngest daughter was taken to a hotel. it was on the other side of the market. so they didn't know how to get to her or how to get to her. there was a lot of people walk ing around the streets at the moment. a bit lost, a bit confused. the metro has been shut. the public transport is shut. and a lot of people wondering, trying to figure out how to get where they need to go now. and clear the streets really. >> but you don't sound as though there was a widespread panic. it sounds as though people are actually taking this almost in stride. or am i misinterpreting that? >> there was a lot of panic
initially. the large group of people, lots of people ran through the market. knocking tables over and just plowing through the market. the market was already very crowded anyway. a large influx of people. start pulling down shutters. and huge waves of people. second wave came through. i think there was an initial shock. that was the second wave of people. then followed by the security forces. and so there was a lot of panic. we were very well hidden. we took the decision to go up and hide rather than run. because it felt like that was going to be a more secure thing to do. and, you know, we just -- eventually those people had gone through, very, very strange and quiet. it was very -- lots of police working their way through the
streets. lots of shouting. lots of -- an extraordinary scene to watch. like you're in a movie or something. not something i really want to see again if i could help it. now, i'm standing here watching a game, just extraordinary. but normality is returning quickly. there are helicopters flying overhead. >> that is remarkable because the barcelona police have just tweeted that they are looking for the architect of this attack. so they seem to believe that it is an attack. we haven't had official word yet. that seems to indicate they're still looking for a suspect who ran away from that van. and that's probably why you're seeing those helicopters. but the fact that people are back on the streets is remarkable. what did the market security
officials say to you that there was an all clear, how did they phrase it to you? free to come back out? i think we may have lost steve garrett, who was so helpful to us. a tourist from the uk on the streets. keir simmons, this only reinforces your point earlier that europeans have been very quick to respond after these kinds of incidents, if this is a terror incident. and resume their business, whether it is tourism or the normal business of life. >> yeah. i mean, i think, andrea, that we are, again, just, you know, say first, the caveat, that we don't know that there are multiple reports, and as there always is in these situations. but i think that we are moving closer to the suspicion, the fear, that this is a deliberate act because of the multiple reports that we're hearing. now, these reports are coming to us secondhand.
first, often through spanish newspapers, but there are -- there is the report that the person in this white van leapt from the van, and ran away. the associated press is quoted a spanish newspaper, spanish newspapers, i'm sorry, themselves quoting spanish security sources suggesting that there are armed attackers holed up in a bar, somewhere in the barcelona area. again, we don't know if that is true. but that is being reported by official news organizations in -- in spain. so this does look increasingly as if it is a -- a deliberate act. again, we don't know the motivation. and you're looking at some of the pictures, andrea. i've been looking at some that we aren't able to show because they are so graphic.
appearing online. they appear to show multiple people lying on the ground, and in a very difficult state. not being -- not receiving medical care at the stage at which the videos i've seen have been taken and looking as if they aren't moving. so there are multiple people injured. we know if it is worse than that, then perhaps it wouldn't be -- well, it wouldn't be surprising, sadly, because as i mentioned earlier, we have seen, for example, an attack in nice last year that killed 86 people. we do know that a vehicle plowing into large numbers of people like this does have -- can have a really devastating effect. so the -- again, it is a chaotic situation. and often as you heard from that witness, you can be just a few streets away and life can seem to be returning to normal. but in terms of those who are -- the witnesses that are being quoted by news organizations in
spain and official sources quoted by news organizations in spain, it looks as if from what we're able to piece together this looks more like a terrible -- another terrible act, another terrible deliberate act and not something that has happened accidentally. >> and, keir, joining us now, jim cavanaugh, msnbc law enforcement analyst. jim, this has all the earmarks of something very, very terrible. with this low tech weapon of a van. >> well, right, andrea. this vehicle attack has become the crime du jour of terrorists worldwide. stockholm, nice, london, berlin, barcelona, charlottesville. and they learn through the vicarious experience of others and they have seen the carnage it can wreak. and also what we're seeing here, like keir reported, we don't have the absolute facts. we know spanish police are calling it an attack. but you have a rental van.
that's been very common in attacks in europe. the rental car. they can get a bigger truck. and they can cause more death. it is stronger, like in nice. and then, of course, the -- there is various reports, nothing has been confirmed, but one or two people exiting the vehicle. what we have seen in past attacks is one or two people who exit the vehicle, andrea, with knives or guns. and continue the attack, like london bridge, we saw that kind of the nice killer had a firearm as well. so in a normal vehicle accident, you know, most vehicle accidents, the driver stays there. there are hit and runs, of course. but in most vehicle accidents the driver stays. so that's an indicator that it might be something else. the rental van, it might be something else. plowing into pedestrians on sidewalk cafes, so it more and more from keir's report and the facts on the ground looks like an attack. it is not absolute right now.
but it sure does. where are the assailants? law enforcement's key thing right now is where are the assailants to stop further bloodshed. either from another vehicle or knives, guns, explosives. >> and in fact, as you make that point, let me bring in michael leiter again, the former head of the national counterterrorism center, the police tweeting ongoing search for the person who carried out the massive ramming, don't go near the affected area. that certainly gives you a signal as to what they think this is -- what this is. >> i think as jim very appropriately said, although you of course have hit and run accidents in a situation like this, for the individual to flee or potentially as some reports say pursue another sort of attack with weapons, it starts to look less and less like a tragic accident and i think jim's point also is critical. terrorists learn from each other. and although people write books
about outlandish terrorist plots with complex, many, many attackers, in fact, most terrorists want something simple, and they want something that they know works. and regrettably we have seen that these types of attacks work very, very effectively. both at killing individuals, injuring them, and garnering the attention of western governments. and that's the goal. >> and absolutely the attention of western governments, michael nance, in your role, as a former counterterror official and military expert, you can see right away that this is the definition of terror. this is the way to strike terror into the heart of a major european city. >> well, you're absolutely right. this is aparentally an act of terrorism. the initial assessments right off the bat show that it was a vehicle that left the curb. and further to what jim and michael leiter had to say, these
terrorist groups do harbor lessons learned. they watch and see what is effective. what we have seen over the last year is these simple vehicle as weapons attacks where they just take a rental vehicle, or the stolen van as we -- the tractor trailer, like we saw in nice, and they just drive it into a crowd of pedestrians. i have done some analysis on the photographs of the vehicle itself. and i know that area that it went to. i've been to barcelona many times. i've lived in spain for eight years. it is interesting that he chose this particular spot to have this incident. if it is an accident. now we're going to call it an incident. but it is a very well known spot on las ramblas, the vehicle stopped right in the middle of this iconic mural that is on the ground, virtually every tourist in that area goes to that spot, and he drove right down the middle of the pedestrian mall, down the center. and you can tell from the damage of the vehicle, he struck many
people. doesn't appear to have hit any of the objects, such as the newsstands or metro, so that has to lend to the belief that this is an act of terrorism, and we have yet another vehicle as weapon attack, which is now starting to displace arson as one of the simplest forms of mass terrorism. >> and malcolm, we now have reportable from the officials there that there are multiple fatalities, that people are dead. we don't have the number. but as you point out, he did not go for the structures, he went for the people in that iconic square. stand by. i want to bring in janet napolitano, the former head of homeland security, and now out in california as the head of the university of california system. this vehicular attack mode, we're seeing pictures from there now, the globalization of europe and the united states, we see the starbucks right there, this is a corner which would have many american tourists and most
times of year, especially in august as well as europeans from all over europe going to barcelona, and the fact of using a van if this is indeed terror, talk ing about fatalities, and a driver or drivers who ran off. they're looking for several people. >> yes. and one of the things that that is significant about this kind of attack is how difficult it is to prevent. it is very low tech. you rent a van. you identify a spot where there are a lot of people and you ram your van into it. from a pure prevention standpoint, it is difficult to see how such a thing can be prevented in free and open societies. when you as homeland security and other counterterror officials would game out how to prevent -- pointing out it is very difficult to prevent, we
have changed the structures around official monuments and most notable places and congress and the like. the entire landscape of washington and other major capitals are changed. there in barcelona and some beautiful tourist spots you wouldn't have those kinds of cement blockades. >> no, nor would you necessarily want one because in a way that the terrorists win in that connection. if they prevent people from being able to get to and to enjoy iconic places. and so from a pure prevention standpoint, very difficult, unless we're going to turn all of our major cities into sort of armed camps. >> and, keir simmons, in new york, and someone who traveled there so often, and has seen the way the uk in particular has responded to vehicular attacks,
and berlin, this is a new challenge. by the way, we do not have any confirmation, no confirmation of a shootout. so people may have heard noises, but we don't think that we're hearing actual shots. >> yeah. it does sound now as if that reporting suggesting that there was -- there are armed attackers, if you like, perhaps in a bar that may not be the case. always in these situations, reports emerge that we cannot confirm and that don't turn out to be true. others turn out to be true. just in terms of our reporting that barcelona police now say there have been fatalities, i have seen some video from the -- from the aftermath of the incident that we couldn't show on television because it is so graphic. and i'm not surprised by that
news because a number of the people lying on the ground did look in at very, very bad state, that they were not moving. and one person lying on the ground looked quite young, i have to say. possibly under 20, i thought , just difficult to see but you're just looking at a piece of -- a piece of witness video, but it is a busy, busy area. it is a pedestrianized area, it is a place where the entire street could be thronging with tourists. and so the -- if this vehicle -- if the driver of this vehicle's intention was to injure and kill as many as possible, then this is -- that is exactly the area where that would be an intent that would be the most achievable if you like. we have seen this happen again and again. one of the issues that this raises and it is a really chilling issue is that wherever
there is the threat of terrorism, and let's be honest now, that is everywhere, anywhere in the world, crucial places that we know might be a target become protected even from a vehicle attack like this, by using concrete and street signage to prevent vehicles from getting to spaces. but what we see in london, for example, was that an attacker simply carried out the attack outside of that security perimeter. er in the britinear the british parliament. in nice, we saw the attack carried out by a truck, along an open space and the target were tourists. and it is frankly it is impossible to prevent something like this from happening if the perpetrators of an attack like this are prepared to simply target innocent people, people who are enjoying the summer
weather in a picturesque european tourist destination. if they are prepared to stoop that low, if you like, then it is incredibly difficult for the authorities anywhere to be able to prevent this, and, of course, one of the preventative strategies they rely on is to be able to identify people who might be preparing to carry out an attack like this. but, again, that is incredibly difficult because you have to make judgments if you are the security services and intelligence services, you have to make judgments all the time about who you monitor, who you put your resources into to try to establish what they are doing, and, again, it is -- we have seen this time and again over many decades, it is possible for a cell to communicate with each other. that is another question, if this does turn out, andrea, to be an attack, an intensalinteti
attack, if that's what this turns out to be, another question for the police will be whether or not this is one person that we have come to know, described as the lone wolf, whether this is one person or one or two people acting independently, inspired by one or other political viewpoints or fanaticism or whether, in fact, this is organized. that's another way that the security intelligence services are able to operate and working as hard as possible to try to establish that because of what they can do in that circumstance is find out if there are other connections, others who might be prepared to act in a same kind of way. that's getting ahead of ourselves because, again, we still don't know for sure what this attack is, we really now strongly suspect that it is an intentional attack, a terrorist
attack. we don't know who is behind it, what the motivation is. but, again, what a devastating day again in europe. and a sense, i have to tell you, andrea, will be -- there will be a sense again of just this happening. this repeating itself, this happening again. and a sense of helplessness that it is almost impossible to prevent this kind of bloody and terrible incident from playing out if the people behind it are determined enough. >> and just wanted to point out, to your point of how people are monitoring and reacting, the state department is closely monitoring the events. they have put out a notice to heather, the spokeswoman. we urge americans to stay away from the area and update their family and friends with whereabouts. and that is a caution to all americans traveling anywhere in
the world these days, should not only leave word with families as to where they are, but also as they noted, they call it a warden notice, check in with a consulate or a u.s. embassy wherever you happen to be so you can then be on their watch list as well. there is a consulate in barcelo barcelona, not the capital of spain, the capital or the embassy, rather, would be in the capital in madrid, but there is a consulate there. and the state department is monitoring. shawn henry is the former fbi executive director. shawn, the fbi presence throughout europe, throughout the world, you would have in certain locations an fbi presence in an embassy and a key place, but not necessarily in a consulate or anywhere close to this location. correct? >> that's right. the fbi has got offices internationally in 70 different
places in madrid, but they work across that nation. they work with police agencies, certainly the federal agencies and the intelligence services and spain. but also police, local police agencies in barcelona and elsewhere. i want to go back to something that jim cavanaugh said, which i absolutely agree with. we see the terrorists that are learning from each other. and that they're adapting their techniques and their tactics, they're seeing what is impactful and what is having, what is advancing their cause and they look to replicate that. but law enforcement also is learning as well, and when i think about the fbi, and their work internationally, working in collaboration, hand and hand with the spanish national police, and the intelligence services there, they're sharing intelligence, they're sharing defensive techniques, they're sharing capabilities, they're sharing equipment in many cases, they're training jointly. and so when they see and take
away lessons learned from nice, and from some of the other tragic events around the world, i think that there has been some of these attacks that have been thwarted because of the collaboration with these law enforcement agencies. certainly not very comforting for the folks in barcelona today. because this is clearly a tragedy. but law enforcement is learning as well, andrea, i think that the fbi's contribution from an intelligence perspective, what the fbi's taking back to the united states to help prevent these types of attacks here, domestically, those are important lessons learned. >> and as we have been talk ing, shawn, the barcelona police are confirming that they're looking for at least one suspect from what they're calling the attack that occurred in las ramblas. they cannot confirm the motive behind the attack, but this time, but they believe the incident to be intentional. so that is near confirmation that we're talking about terror
here. and malcolm nance, that's what we have been suspecting looking at the pictures we have seen, the pictures that keir has seen that we're not putting on the air, where there has been an announcement there are multiple fatalities. and a number of injured. and, keir was describing people immobil immobile, on the street, on the square. >> he's absolutely right. this is starting to unfold as an act of terrorism. catalunya, the emergency sources are calling it a terrorist attack. though we haven't confirmed that independently. i mentioned before, it took place at an iconic place. and right next to that is up with of the largest markets in europe. la bocaria. whoever said this, we have a saying, the target is the tactic. wherever you are going to go and you're going to carry out an act of terrorism, you focus it on the geolocation of the target that you're going to hit. by taking this small van, he went to a very, very crowded
place. and specifically attacked an iconic location. and that in itself lends to the way that we determine whether it is an act of terrorism. but, again, he went right down the middle of a pedestrian walkway, did not hit any buildings and really coming up as a vehicle as weapons -- >> they do not know whether it is one, whether it was just the driver, somebody else involved. they were searching. we talk ed to an eyewitness, tourist from the uk, who said that he was hearing helicopters overhead. they were clearly looking for someone. jim cavanaugh, msnbc law enforcement analyst, at this stage, how do they track someone down in one of the oldest cities in europe? the streets, some of them narrow. and hard to find any -- i guess they would be checking the van to see whether someone dropped a phone or any other kind of evidence. >> right.
well, what happens is there is an investigative side, which is the detectives, for example, they go right to the van registration, vin number, that's how we determine the van and the first world trade center bombing that was blown up, nypd bomb squad went down into the bottom of the world trade center and got the blown up vin number off the truck. here they have an in tact vehicle, the tag, the vin number, they'll go back to the rental agency, look at surveillance cameras. that's the detective work that is going on. the patrol division, the uniformed city police, they're-liking for eyewitnesses to show where the attacker might have ran, or where he might have gone. so there are going to be a lot of uniform police and, you know, when you're on street as uniformed officer, you start picking up the information real fast in these things. passersby will come up to you, telling you stuff, of course now with our smartphones, stuff is being sent into the police and they're taking that information
with police intelligence and sharing that with their patrol officers. and they're trying to find these guys. the commanders job is to locate them. one or more. where are they? what are they doing? are they just trying to escape or like malcolm, i talked, and shawn and michael, are they still in attack mode? people say, andrea, we're going to get back to normal. this is the wrong time to go back to normal. where you want to go to is smart. not back to normal. don't go strolling down the next block, this attack may not be over. there may not only be one. i like to say take cover, there could be another. so get out of the area. get cover. normal can be tomorrow. it doesn't need to be in the five, ten minutes, four hours right after the attack. >> and people traveling in the area, american tourists, should be touching base with home and with the u.s. consulate as soon as possible. joining me now is kristen welker
in new jersey at the new jersey white house encampment. the president obviously is being kept apprised of all of this. >> that's right. a senior administration official confirms that president trump was briefed on this situation. and john kelly, his chief of staff, is also keeping him abreast of the latest developments. the president continues on his working vacation here in new jersey. and, of course, the white house travels with the president so he has top administration officials here who will keep him apprised of the developments in spain. he doesn't have any public events on his schedule today. we know he'll be having lunch with the governor of florida. also meeting with the administrator of the small business administration. at this point, no sense of whether we will hear from him, but that, of course, could change as developments warrant. fighting terrorism, protecting
the united states has been a key issue for this president. so these are the types of events that he spent a lot of time talking about as a candidate. making sure that they don't happen here, trying to stomp them out internationally. so obviously if he does speak out, we anticipate he has some strong rhetoric in the wake of what we're seeing unfold in barcelona. but, again, andrea, at this point in time, no reaction from the president, but we do know he's been briefed. >> and let me just to get a fix on the schedule, kristen, he's interrupting his working trip there to go to camp david for a key meeting tomorrow with his national security team, which was to be on the afghan review, the delayed afghan review decisions to be made on whether or not to follow pentagon guidance from general nicholson in the field, wanting more troops in afghanistan, the president resisting. this has been a key division and the president also isolated because of the interviews, steve
bannon, chief strategist has given out, so a lot of controversy surrounding the national security team that is now dealing with the another terror attack in europe. >> an important backdrop that you just laid out, andrea. to your first point, about tomorrow's meetings at camp david, we know the vice president is actually cutting in international trip that he had short so that he can attend that meeting. it is going to be a critical meeting with the vice president as well as the defense secretary and members of the president's national security team. as you say, they are going to be looking into the strategy in afghanistan, whether or not to put more troops in afghanistan, but undoubtedly once this is in fact confirmed to be a terror attack, this will likely be a key topic as well. now, to the controversy that you just talked about, andrea, obviously we have been tracking this for the past several days, the fact that a number of people, including those within the president's own administration have been critical of his handling of the
violent clashes in charlottesville over the weekend. white supremacists at the root of that one person was killed at the hand of a white supremacist. it is being called a terror attack here as well on the u.s. soil. so this is something that the president has been grappling with. he's increasingly isolated members of the business community, fellow republicans. really denounce the way he's handled that crisis. we'll have to see what if anything he has to say if he speaks out today about what is happening in barcelona. >> thanks so much, kristen welker, on watch there in new jersey. and over the at state department, by wait, right now, meetings with the secretary of state, secretary of defense, and the japanese foreign minister, they are meeting separately, but, of course, we'll be discussing north korea with key decisions to be made, and deadline this weekend if they proceed with a joint u.s./south korean military exercise, annual
exercise with kim jong-un indicated could be the trigger for some kind of north korean response, this is described as a defensive annual military exercise. mostly a computer game in fact by the u.s. and south korea. a lot on their plate. joining me on the phone, msnbc national security analyst and former fbi special agent clint watts. clint, the fbi clearly spread out as jim cavanaugh was telling us and shawn enry earlier, there are 70 locations around the world that have fbi agents, barcelona most likely not one of them. but the fbi working very closely at this point, presumably with barcelona, with police on trying to figure out what the motive is for this attack, which clearly is a terror attack. >> i think the key thing we got to remember is these attacks tend to lead to what is known as contagion or tipper. what you want to look for in the
fbi is are there any other, you know, leads you have that might be open? is this coordinated with other attacks? if you remember back to last year, with the islamic state, we saw a wave of attacks, one each day, basically, that kicked off around the ramadan period, but essentially this technique and many others were used in different cities around europe and around the world. they're going to want to run down and make sure this isn't part of a coordinated effort. any investigations under way, maybe somebody on the edge, this can create what i call cascading terrorism, where one successful attack like this that gets a lot of media coverage might be the push, others thinking about a terrorist attack need to push them to move forward. i think those are are the two things on an international approach, whether it is the u.s. and its partners or even at the state and local level is to go down on every one of those cases that is open and make sure you don't see others trying to get in on this action that we see
going in, barcelona today. >> and rick stengel, msnbc analyst, is joining me now. rick, the state department leaps into action when anything like this happens. talk to me about this area, and what would be happening in the consulate in the embassy, and coordinating with the military and intelligence officials in the region. >> they would be coordinating as you say with the intelligence officials with military, consulate people would be working overtime and full time and trying to contact americans, trying to talk to american families back here. if i could pull back for a second, andrea, i did work in the kind of counterisis space in terms of messaging and other areas, what this has the hallmarks of, something that mohammad did two years ago before ramadan, where they -- isis saw they were losing the caliphate in iraq and syria. it was going away. what he said in his broadcast
and that was reiterated in the isis magazine was to say, attack the infidels wherever you are. use trucks, use cars, use knives, use any means and then we started seeing these kind of so-called lone wolf attacks after that admonition by niane. this is similar to the nice attack with the tunisian isis affiliate member who mowed down people. this is very reminiscent of that. and i think that's something that certainly law enforcement is looking to deal with, because it is a much, much harder problem than defeating isis on the ground and iraq and syria and trying to interrupt these so-called lone wolves around the world who are taking it into their own hands. >> and keir simmons, also, in new york, let's talk about how -- how americans should react in this kind of situation. and other tourists from around the world.
>> yeah. well, there are different parts to that, aren't there? one is americans who are there in barcelona, need to contact their loved ones and let them know they're safe. they need to stay where they are, follow the guidance that is being issued by barcelona police and the barcelona security services that as this -- others have been saying it, as this incident unfolds, the smart thing to do is stay where you are, stay in your hotel, it keep safe until we know that the incident is over because, for example, there are still reporting still suggesting that the driver of this vehicle has not been apprehended. so there is that aspect. and then there is the other aspect, which is for americans more widely who are thinking to go -- of going to europe, thinking to travel to barcelona even or parts of spain, what we know from talk ing to european tourist authorities is that an
incident like this is terrifying because of its barbarity and because of its kind of suddenness, if you like. and that it does have a real affect on people's intentions and people thinking of traveling to europe because that's the kind of time of year we're in, particularly now, in the summer, people will be thinking of traveling there, and wondering whether they should go. the reality is that your chances of finding yourself in an incident like this are extremely low. there are many other risks in life that are much more likely, if you like, than the terrible situation that some now are now facing there in barcelona, and we know that people actually, including americans, are aware of that and kind of understand that intu tiitively, people go
about their daily lives. people will say this to you all across europe, in a sense, isn't that the best answer if this does turn out to be a terrorist attack, isn't us all going about our lives and not allowing it to change our lives and prevent us from going and experiencing the world, interacting with others around the world, isn't that the best answer to the people who would -- who carry out these kinds of attacks if that's what this is, and would like to see us cowering and terrified and hiding in other kun kown countr and like to see americans not going beyond the shores of this country and seeing the world around them. that's the intent. and in a sense, american tourists are simply by going and enjoying the world and seeing these incredible european cities like barcelona, they are answering the -- those people
with -- those people with dark hearts who go about trying to carry out attacks like this. they're answering with their actions. >> indeed they with there's actions. >> indeed they are. you lived there on assignment for eight years in spain. talk about spain and its security, its police and counterterrorism operations. >> spain had a long history of terrorism but for the most part it was con traded in the northwestern part of the country and because of that, because they had this long insurgency up there, the spanish counterterrorism authorities are very proficient and they're most proficient in urban counterterrorism surveillance and in intelligence collection operations. but moving into the 1980s, we saw the -- and in the 2000s, we
saw the attack in 2004 by al qaeda which killed almost 190 people and the spanish counterterrorism forces then evolved. they have been very successful in breaking up al qaeda and islamic state operations in that country. particularly, recruiters. barcelona was a hub for people running small shops who were changing money into phone cards and distributing this to so that people who were joining isis could get their equipment and then fly to syria. that being said, even though spanish forces may have had good intelligence about what we call known wolves and lone wolves and unknown wolves, that doesn't mean you can stop an attack like this. it requires someone to have the will and the vehicle and pick a location and do it.
and if you don't have ballards and things which can stop a vehicle, especially in a tight tourist area like las ramblas, for the most part, all you can do is wait for the incident to occur and hope that it's not as horrific as it could be. >> malcolm, the local police have now confirmed this is terror. this is a terror attack. we've been talking around it. it's been obvious for the last 15 minutes or so that this is a terror attack in barcelona, an historic city with a number of tourist attractions and cultural attractions. obviously the proximity to north africa and other terror locations, there's going to be a wide net thrown. jim cavanaugh, you and shawn
henry are with me now. first, they've got to find the perp, the attacker or attackers. you've been fanning out across these narrow streets of the ancient city. >> well, exactly right. and there's detectives now at the rental truck place and they're interviewing the witnesses when that truck was rented, you can count on that. they are already there. they're trying to get the video from there and trying to pull video from near the restaurants where the attacks occurred and they are interviewing witnesses. patrol is out trying to locate the attacker. where did he go? did he get in another vehicle with another conspirator? is this attack over as far as that instant attack occurred. these are veriquestions that th
police command are dealing with right now. once they tamp down the issues, then they layer on the heavy intelligence, you know, who he is, who are his confederates, like michael and malcolm were talking about. they put the intel guys into overdrive and see what the connections are. like we find in so many of these, the attackers are known to the police. they come up in the police databases before, sometimes they've been interviewed before and sometimes they have criminal arrest records. i wouldn't be surprised to see that here either. this is terrorism in the near term. we keep seeing these vehicle attacks in europe and of course we saw this one in charlottesville. so they've learned it. they've learned it through the media and through the web and through talking to other people in their circles and know they can do it without any great training. you pointed it out, andrea.
you don't have to make a bomb or even learn how to make a bomb. all they have to do is get a vehicle and drive it into innocent civilians. you can't stop it all because people have to live in cities. but some of these places can do better. the terrorists learn and we have to learn, too. sidewalk cafes where pedestrians sit for hours at tables and con g in the sidewalk, they can stop a large truck or are you completely open to anyone who wants to mow down anyone sitting at the tables. so there are places that can be magnets for these people and we have to think about that. we can't change our life
completely or eliminate the terror. we have to be smarter and learn from their attacks as well. they can mow down people sitting at cafes and tables at the sidewalk. >> sean henry, as a former fbi official, is there any comfort to be taken in the fact that they now find it more difficult or less productive to try to get a bomb? this could have been such a mass casualty event. we don't know how many were killed or wounded. we know there were fatalities. this is not a truck blowing up in the major city. >> no, it's not. but to jim's point, it's easy to execute and inexpensive and it's terrifying. here we are talking about it just as if we would be talking about it as if it was a truck bomb or somebody with high-powered weapons walking
down the streets shooting people. it has the same impact. and these terrorist organizations are all about spreading their word, getting the attention they want, using it as a weapon and there have been statements put out clearly to fight where you are, use any means necessary including vehicles and they promoted this heavily. we've seen a tactic employed regularly and we don't need to come to us and where you might get caught up in a law enforcement or intelligence agency and fight where you are and you can have the same impact and spread the word and serving the cause. so we're likely to see this to continue. a number of commentators here today have talked about the
difficulty in stopping these types of actions. when we move the perimeter back, the target gets moved back because the target is at the base of the perimeter. we can't have vehicle guards on every street. this is incredible challenging from a law enforcement or intelligence service perspective. what we have to do long term is we have to disrupt these organizations in advance and we talk a lot about intelligence and identifying those who might be involved in disrupting them but there's going to be more that happens i think even more forward deploying from an offensive perspective to disrupt these groups. that's a conversation for later. it's a much longer conversation. as it relates specifically to this incident, i think that we've all seen the challenges in
defending against this and tactics from a law enforcement perspective are going to have to slip and change here, andrea. >> and clint watts is still with us. very briefly, at this point, this is now a hunt for the attack or attackers. trying to deal with the victims and also trying to keep people out of that area. >> yeah. i think that's right. and you'll see this manhunt unfold like in brussels and paris last year. you had people that were actually not lone wolves but part of a network. maybe they are just facilitators or family members and friends that are helping them or harboring them and the investigation will have to break out into that direction and it will be interesting to see what happens over the next 24 hours if they don't locate the perpetrators very quickly. >> our thanks to you and michael and malcolm nance and jim
cavanaugh and my colleague and friend keir simmons. we want to turn it over to craig melvin in new york for continuing coverage. terror attack in barcelona on this august day. >> andrea, thank you. craig melvin here at the msnbc headquarters in new york city. for those of you just joining us, just after 1:00 on the east coast, we continue to follow the breaking news out of barcelona. a van has crashed into a popular tourist area in the spanish city. a lot of unconfirmed reports crossing the desk right now. what we do know is that a press conference has just been announced there in barcelona. we expect that to happen any moment. we now spanish authorities have just confirmed to nbc news that this is in fact a terror