The McLaughlin Group

Issues: Al Qaeda Claims Responsibility for Charlie Hebdo Attack; Obama’s Trip to India Previewed; Encryption Technology

John McLaughlin, Host
Pat Buchanan, Author and Columnist
Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast
Tom Rogan, National Review/Daily Telegraph
Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report

Taped: Friday, January 16, 2015
Broadcast: Weekend of January 16-17-18, 2015

ANNOUNCER: From Washington, THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP, the American original. For over three decades, the sharpest minds, best sources, hardest talk.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, HOST: Issue One: Is Al Qaeda Back?


MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, known as AQAP, has taken responsibility this week for the deadly terrorist rampage last week in Paris. The death toll in that murder spree was 17 -- the 10 journalists of satirical magazine "Charlie Hebdo", the three French police officers, four hostages. Two of the Islamic terrorists, Said and Cherif Kouachi, joined AQAP during previous travels to Yemen.

Also this week, AQAP released instructions on how to make a new, difficult-to-detect explosive, and urged followers to use the bombs aboard U.S. airliners.

Al Qaeda appears to have financed the Kouachi brothers with $20,000 to assassinate the editors and cartoonists of "Charlie Hebdo". French investigators suspect that their spree was not intended to end in a shoot-out at a printing plant near Charles de Gaulle Airport, but with the shoot-down of an airliner using grenade launchers the terrorists possessed but never fired despite several gunfights with police.

Last Sunday, 3.7 million people rallied in cities across France to support freedom of speech and show solidarity. In Paris, more than 40 world leaders, including the U.K.'s David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Palestinian Authority's Mahmoud Abbas attended a march of some 1.6 million Parisians.

Conspicuously absent, any American official higher than the ambassador -- an oversight the White House now says was a mistake.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Some have asked whether or not the United States should have sent someone with a higher profile than the ambassador to France. And I think it's fair to say that we should have sent someone with a higher profile to be there.


MCLAUGHLIN: And the threat continues. Now, Belgium -- SWAT teams in Belgium launched a dozen raids, arresting 15 suspected jihadists. At one location, two suspects were killed after they fired on police. The Belgium government said some of the suspects had recently returned from Syria and were planning to kill police officers. They may have been directed by ISIS.

Question: Is Europe entering a new age of terror?

Pat Buchanan?

PAT BUCHANAN, AUTHOR & COLUMNIST: I’m afraid it is, John. And one of the reasons is the huge success of this success of this purposeful attack on "Charlie Hebdo", where they went in and massacred the target they wanted to kill. They came out, escaped, a dramatic exit, military style, that captured the attention of the whole world for what, two days, and they went out in a blaze of glory, being shot at.

And what this is going to do, it’s going to have two effects. One, is it’s going to have a copycat effect on Islamists in Europe who will say, this is the way I can really reach the whole world's attention. And I think al Qaeda and the other folks in Syria and Iraq are going to tell the Europeans who are coming in -- stay home and carry out attacks that can bring the entire world or 40 world leaders to Paris.

So, it was a dramatic, horrible event, but -- I hate to say it -- it was a military success.


ELEANOR CLIFT, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, Europe right now is ground zero in a war over branding between al Qaeda and ISIS. Each wants to be seen as the leader of the world jihad movement and they're trying to see who can be more outrageous.

It's not at all clear that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is claiming credit for the Paris attack, it’s not at all clear that they really direct it. One of the attackers had been in Yemen five years ago, so, he waited five years? It's a little dubious.

But the point is: they are vying for the honor be being the worst terrorists on the planet and associating themselves with the Paris attacks, which got worldwide notice. It’s a big feather in one of their caps. So, I mean, this is going continue because of the easy access to Syria and people fighting there and coming back with some military skills.

MCLAUGHLIN: Should President Obama or Vice President Biden have been at the Paris event?

TOM ROGAN, NATIONAL REVIEW/DAILY TELEGRAPH: Yes, I absolutely think they should have been, and I think it's quite extraordinary they didn't think of that. Looking at both their schedules, they didn't appear to have anything going on, like a major national security priority under -- that was going on beyond the public eye.

So, it was important and I think the real reason it was important was to show that America stands with our values, our most important value freedom of speech and we weren’t there. And I was visible that we weren’t there. And I think just as the Syria thing in 2013, August 2013, with Assad and the chemical weapons, really took a big hit on American credibility. This is sort of big hit of American value credibility.

And, look, perception in the world is important, very important, because it generates how people interact with us for good or bad.

MCLAUGHLIN: The president was on television on Friday. Did he allude to any of this? Were you satisfied with what he said?

ROGAN: Well, the president's remarks with David Cameron on Friday, he was focusing more on cybersecurity, but I think the White House recognizes that he made a pretty significant mistake. And, look, John Kerry has been in Paris I think today with a little concert going on, which was slightly odd. But it's a mistake.

But, you know, look, people pay attention to this. It does not reflect solidarity either with values or an important ally to be absent.

MCLAUGHLIN: The White House staff did not even suggest sending anybody except the ambassador there. You know, can you contribute anything about her and whether or not she was some kind of an effective substitute?

MORT ZUCKERMAN, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT: There's no way she could have been or any ambassador could have been an effective substitute for the leadership of this country not to have appeared there. It really is extraordinary how they could have missed the importance of all this, certainly for all of Europe.

And I think the astonishing thing, I don't even know if they thought it was important or believed it was important, or believed they were important in this context. And it was a huge blow and once again reflects, it seems to me, some lack of understanding of what the role of the United States is in the world where we are faced with a hugely dangerous --

CLIFT: Well, they underestimated the power of that millions of people turning out in Paris and the White House said they made a mistake.

I think not having the president there is understandable. The security level is totally different for a U.S. president. Maybe Biden should have been there or Kerry. It was a mistake.

But it's much more divisive here among the pundit class than it is in France. The Parisians certainly know the U.S. is standing side by side. You don't hear any of this kind of grumbling that you just heard on this set. You don’t hear that if you listen to any of the report of Europe.

MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, well, in the event, Eleanor, let's try this. OK, an American plot.


MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Foiled -- a terror plot against the U.S. capitol. Federal authorities on Wednesday arrested 20-year-old Christopher Lee Cornell outside a gun range in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cornell allegedly had just purchased two semiautomatic weapons and 600 rounds of ammunition to, quote-unquote, kill employees and officers working in and around the U.S. Capitol.

Cornell also had studied how to build pipe bombs. He's been on the FBI's radar since last summer when he began posting messages and videos on the Internet that expressed support for ISIS, the Islamic state.

Cornell used the Twitter name Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah. He sent a message to an FBI informant in August that stated, quote, "We should just wage jihad under our own orders and plan attacks", unquote.

Investigators do not believe Cornell had any formal ties with ISIS or with other overseas radical Islamic groups. In other words, Cornell was acting alone.


MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Cornell proposed to carry out attacks on Congress as early as next week. Was it his plan to disrupt the State of the Union Address?


BUCHANAN: No. John I think there is a real possibility here of a measure of entrapment.

CLIFT: Right.

BUCHANAN: The FBI captured some character, turned him, and they got some emails or something from this guy and he went there and they worked for six months until they can get him to think of something, and then they arrest him.

CLIFT: Right.

BUCHANAN: But, John, there is a very serious point here about this "Charlie Hebdo" thing that people haven’t mentioned here.

Look, I think we have been euchred and brought into a battle defending that magazine which is deeply anti-Islamic. You know, it slurs the prophet repeatedly. And instead of -- you know, you mentioned the First Amendment, fine, but I think we are behind defending that. We’re going to alienate every decent and moderate Muslim in the world who we want on our side in this war on terror.

ROGAN: But, Pat, don’t you think there’s a rut in political Islam, that there is this idea that we should not be equivocating on free speech. I’m with you, some of the stuff they do is despicable. And it has to be across the board, but --

BUCHANAN: We got the right to free speech, but the question is, do you use it to insult the prophet?

ROGAN: That’s up to the individual, I think. It has to be up to the individual.

CLIFT: Well, finding that line between incitement and free speech is difficult. In the case of this young man, he was a social misfit, kind of a loser. He’s ranting and raving on Twitter. I’m glad the FBI is monitoring these sites because lots of dangerous things can come out of them. But then the FBI informant, you know, suggests all this stuff, basically leads him to where he can find weapons and then they swoop down and track them. I agree. This is a major entrapment. I don't Mr. Cornell poses a major threat.

BUCHANAN: His father called him a mama's boy. He’s a mama’s boy, 20 years old.

And Eleanor's point is well-taken. There is now a rivalry between ISIS, which took command when it captured Mosul and a huge area of Syria and Iraq. Now, al Qaeda has carried off or claims to have carried off the major terrorist incident since 9/11. The two are going to be competing for world attention in the Islamic world and they’re going to compete by who can kill more in a more dramatic way?

CLIFT: And what’s so fascinating is it's very personal. Zarqawi, who was Osama bin Laden’s successor, is now in a very personal political fight, a political price with Baghdadi -- I hope I’m pronouncing that correctly -- ISIS, who has proclaimed himself the emir of the believers. So, they're fighting for supremacy.

MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think about the Belgium development?

ZUCKERMAN: Well, let me just say this. First, I want to go back to France for a second, OK, because that was really an extraordinary statement on the part of the French and part of the people of that country that freedom of speech and the freedom of the press was important. I mean, this wasn't the most important magazine in the country, and the fact that huge numbers, two million people showed up in Paris, another million in the countryside, to recognize it.

BUCHANAN: Mort, the next day, they arrested 54 people for hate speech.

MCLAUGHLIN: You know who didn’t show up?


ROGAN: That is an issue.

BUCHANAN: They’re hypocrites. They arrested this comedian, this Cameroonian comedian who is famous over there for hate speech after 4 million marched for free speech.

CLIFT: Yes, that's totally, totally mistaken.

MCLAUGHLIN: What’s your point?

CLIFT: But it shows the effort to find the line between what hate speech and free speech. And we have cases in this country and Europe has much tougher laws against speech than we have.

MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, who didn't show up in Paris?

CLIFT: The White House didn't have a high enough representative. I think --

MCLAUGHLIN: The president? The vice president?

CLIFT: I think you have beaten that issue into the ground, John. The White House apologized. The French are happy. We're in a unified war against a very serious foe here.

BUCHANAN: If you are in a unified war, that's why you don't use your free speech to insult the prophet and the God of 1.6 --

ROGAN: I think that’s why you do use it.

BUCHANAN: You insult the prophet of Islam?

ROGAN: You engage, you show that we stand up for our values.

BUCHANAN: Well, they're rioting in Pakistan today. They won't let the magazine --

ROGAN: They riot there all the time. That's the rub with political Islam, not about us.

BUCHANAN: OK, if you say the whole Islamic world is rotten, how are you going to win their hearts and minds?

ROGAN: No, I’m not saying the political Islam is rotten. The politicians use this as a whipping horse instead of engaging with issues like poverty, economic, social mobility.


MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, please? Hold on. Let's get an alternate --

CLIFT: Needless provocation is really not --


MCLAUGHLIN: Let’s go back to the question of no-show of the president or the vice president in Paris. Yes?

BUCHANAN: They should have sent -- I think the secretary of state is very powerful and Bill Clinton.

MCLAUGHLIN: And Bill Clinton? They should have.

BUCHANAN: Yes, sure.

ZUCKERMAN: They should have had some senior representative of this country at that particularly ceremony, OK? Like it or not. You can justify it any way you want. The whole world recognizes that this was a huge mistake. This country also recognized it and they find --


CLIFT: So, is the White House. They've already apologized. What more do you want them to do

ZUCKERMAN: I want them to be able to think about this in advance.

MCLAUGHLIN: Of why didn't they go.


CLIFT: Because, one, security concerns for the president are tally valid.


CLIFT: I wouldn't make that case with the vice president. I think they underestimated the symbolism and power of that moment. It was a moment. They're now trying capture it. They're having a White House summit on combating violent extremism and are going to continue this conversation.

MCLAUGHLIN: Sure. That's known as change the subject.

CLIFT: It's also known as trying find solutions to all the online recruiting that is luring young people in cities and rural communities all over the world from Detroit and Minnesota to Paris and everywhere else.

BUCHANAN: And "Charlie Hebdo" is recruiting them as well. That magazine is.


CLIFT: Pat's made some legitimate comments about "Charlie Hebdo".


MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me.

Issue Two: Barack's India Adventure.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Annual trade in goods and services between the United States and India has grown nearly fivefold since 2000 alone. Bilateral foreign direct investment now stands at nearly $30 billion. And our trade and investment supports thousands of jobs in both of our countries.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Secretary of State John Kerry last week addressed a conference in India, a democracy the size of Western Europe with a population of over 1,250,000,000 people.

India's main exports are petroleum products, precious minerals, machinery, iron and steel. India's estimated per capita GDP, gross domestic product, is $4,000. In contrast, American per capita is $52,800. These statistics matter because President Obama will visit India later this month. And it's a big deal.

For the first time ever, India has invited an American president to be the prestigious guest of honor at its annual Republic Day parade. The U.S. Secret Service is gearing up. The press is reporting that President Obama will travel in the parade in his heavily armored limousine as is the custom, side by side with the Indian president.

India is the world's largest democracy and it is now led by passionate economic reformer, Prime Minister Narendra Modi. President Obama wants to be on the good side of what may become the world's next superpower.

Secretary of State Kerry is a big believer in the future of Indian-American relations.

KERRY: The fruits of this kind of partnership are extraordinary, and the supply chain for goods and services now stretches not just one country to another, but between many different countries.

Here's the truth and this is what is important at a meeting like this -- we can do more together and we must do more together and we have to do it faster.


MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Should Americans be excited that President Obama is attending India's Republic Day parade? Is this a sign of a new special relationship?

Mort Zuckerman?

ZUCKERMAN: Actually, it is. We've had deteriorated relations with India for quite a while. And this is a very important day for them and that he is attending is an important event.

CLIFT: I agree with that.

ZUCKERMAN: The other thing is that there say rapport between President Obama and the leader of India and that also is going to be very helpful.

They're a huge factor. They’re a very important country for us. They’re a huge manufacturer of all kinds of good things. They're an important ally. So, I think it's important that we have a healthy relationship.

CLIFT: It's a key part of the president's pivot to Asia as well. The president really didn't pay enough attention to Asia during most of his presidency and he's making up for lost time. It also doesn't hurt that there is a growing Indian American population in this country, they're wealthy, and they're politically engaged, and they’re kind of up for grabs between the two parties.

So, there’s some domestic political pay for this, in addition to the economic fruits that John Kerry --

MCLAUGHLIN: Do you favor Americans being the home of wealthy people from other parts of the world? You like to have a lot of wealthy --

CLIFT: I like having lots of wealthy Americans and I like to see the wealth gap narrowed. I’m just pointing out there are a lot of Indian-Americans in this country and they're doing very well and they're a political prize.

MCLAUGHLIN: Do you have something to say on this?

ROGAN: Yes, I think it's important for the economic relations for a lot of reasons mentioned, in terms of economic relations. I hope we need to get India more wealthy, which -- Pat is going to be concerned about the globalization angle.

But, look, as India gets more wealthy, they will buy more American goods, where we have a comparative economic advantage. The relationship is important reason. It’s important because India is a major, major democracy. Has issues in terms of class culture but if we can resolve some of these, it's a huge strategic relationship both in the Indian Ocean and again, you know, with concerns about China and Russia --


MCLAUGHLIN: Sorry to cut you off. But I’m not going to let him.

What’s the story on India's economy?

ROGAN: I think it's growing. Narendra Modi is trying to reform -- essentially I think a governor and his economic reforms in terms of cutting the bureaucracy, opening up for foreign investment, reducing subsidies, is very important. We'll see what happens to that.

MCLAUGHLIN: Yes. Well, the World Bank has new projections, forecasting Europe to be near-recession, Russia in a steep recession, Brazil dropping to 1 percent growth, China dropping to about 7.1 percent growth, and India growing a respectable 6.4 percent.

What do you think of that?

BUCHANAN: India is not in the league with China or Japan or Europe, John. What India wants is the United States -- basically, they're looking up north at China which controls some of their territory. Chinese submarines are appearing in the Indian Ocean. They want the Americans brought in as a counterweight. We’re used to be aligned with Pakistan in the Cold War.

Now, I agree we ought to move close to India, sort of economically good relationships but the idea of any kind of military alliance is out of the question, unwise, and foolish.

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, for one of your next columns is, if the economic trends in India and China continue to grow at their present rate, India will outrank China?

BUCHANAN: Yes, it's going to be a long, long time. China is still growing by about 7.5 percent. And by some standards, World Bank, they’re equal to the United States --

MCLAUGHLIN: Chinese growth is dropping and may fall below 7 percent.


MCLAUGHLIN: In just a moment, India's growth has risen to 6.4 percent, and if it accelerates again next year, it may soon be growing faster than China. What do you think?

ROGAN: I think they're exaggerating about their economic growth. They have major wealth inequalities between the rural and urban areas, and huge political pressure under the surface because of the absence of freedom and the power central state.

MCLAUGHLIN: I have one final question on this, Eleanor -- which car will these two -- will these two presidents ride in?

CLIFT: The president never travels in any car other than the one that comes from the White House.

ROGAN: Secret Service.

BUCHANAN: And if Modi doesn't travel in that one, he's going to travel in another car. It's going to be the president's car.

MCLAUGHLIN: Do you know anything about the president’s car?

BUCHANAN: I’ve been in it.

MCLAUGHLIN: What it’s weight?

BUCHANAN: It's heavy as it can be. I’ve been on a plane when they flew it.


MCLAUGHLIN: It's indestructible. You think Modi will in the car?

BUCHANAN: He will be in the president’s car.

ROGAN: The president of India, he’s the prime minster.

MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: The Cyberwars.


MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): When THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP first aired, there was no Internet. We, the public, were still over a decade away from Internet access. Today, the Internet offers information that is almost infinite, likewise, business and social opportunities on the net.

But there's another side to the coin. In recent months, terms like cyber crime and cyber terrorism have gained ubiquitous media coverage. Whether the hacking of major corporations like Sony Pictures or the effort by jihadists to recruit terrorists towards violence or the schemes by organized criminals to steal personal information stored online, or to share illegal material beyond police investigators, humankind is learning that there's a dark side to the Internet. So, late to the game, world leaders are trying to catch up with the Internet.

This week, British Prime Minister David Cameron met with President Obama to discuss Internet crime. Prime Minister Cameron is particularly concerned that terrorists are using encrypted communications to evade intelligence monitoring.

Here's what he said earlier this week.

DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: In our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people which even in extremis with a signed warrant from the home secretary personally that we cannot read?

Now, up until now, governments of this country have said, no, we must not have such a means of communication. That is why, in extremis, it’s been possible to listen to someone's phone conversations. That is why, in extremis, it’s been possible to listen to someone’s telephone call. That is why the same applies with mobile communications.

But let me stress again: this cannot happen unless the home secretary personally signs a warrant. We have a better system for safeguarding this very intrusive power than probably any other country I can think of.

But the question remains: are we going to allow a means of communications where it simply isn't possible to do that? And my answer to that question is: no, we must not. The first duty of any government is to keep our country and our people safe.

MCLAUGHLIN: Following their White House meeting on Friday, President Obama seemed to agree with the prime minister's sentiment.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Given the urgent and growing danger of cyber threats, we decided to expand our cooperation on cyber security to protect our critical infrastructure, our business and the privacy of our people.


MCLAUGHLIN: Question: what concretely is President Obama doing to tighten cybersecurity?

Tom Rogan?

ROGAN: Well, the first thing he was doing was speaking with Prime Minister Cameron on Friday.

MCLAUGHLIN: What did you think of what Cameron had to say?

ROGAN: I think it's interesting because as much as they both agree about the threat, David Cameron, because of the nature of more authoritarian government system in the U.K., is willing to and wants to have much tougher powers for the government to be able to go intercept things.

MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think they exaggerated the threat?

ROGAN: No. I don’t think they did. I disagree somewhat with Prime Minister Cameron because I think the tradition there in the U.K. of politicians being able to sign warrants is not a good one for the United States to copy.

I also have some concerns about some of the things the British government is doing in terms of restricting access to different platforms.

But, look, technology has to be compatible with intelligence-gathering activities in a legal way. I think there's a middle line between what the president would be willing to accept and the prime minister.


MCLAUGHLIN: That’s very good. That’s much better than some of his explanation.

BUCHANAN: John, let me say that, look, Cameron made a very powerful, persuasive case that we ought to have a right to, in extremis, listen to phone calls, intercept emails, or the rest of it, he's right.

But we live a libertarian age and I can tell you, the desire of people to have their communications confidential is enormously powerful, and the ability to encrypt them, people are going to take advantage of it and use it. And I don't think he's going to be able to change that legally.

CLIFT: Well, we can tap phones, and that’s done legally. And the Internet is the new form of communication, there should be what they call a back door into monitoring some of these communications. And I think people get more upset when they think government is looking at what they’re doing.

But corporations and -- you know, Facebook, and Google, companies, every time you go online, they know where you’ve been and they're popping up ads that might attract. So, we’re being watched. There’s no such thing as if your privacy --


CLIFT: With appropriate -- with appropriate safeguards and oversight, the government should be allowed to monitor some of these sites that want to be encrypted and don't want to let anybody in and might be up to some wrongdoing. So --

MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Mort?

ZUCKERMAN: Look, I think it's a not unusual balance between personal liberties and the concern of the community. You know, there are going to be times where the government says, in order to protect the community, we have to have access abandon people -- and people say, well, we don't want you to have it.

BUCHANAN: What do you do if they encrypt it? Put them in jail?

ZUCKERMAN: No, no --

CLIFT: No, this is what he’s looking for. But, yes, that he's proposing a way to get in, to get past the encryption.

MCLAUGHLIN: Out of time.