JD Hayworth: Overseas tonight several arrests in Belgium in connection with the attacks in Brussels. Among those apprehended this man, Mohamed Abrini, suspected of driving those involved in the Paris terror attacks, also rumored to be the so-called man in the hat, and accomplice to those two bombers killed at the airport in Brussels. For more on this, let's welcome via Skype from Bonita Springs, Florida, the former Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Pete Hoekstra. Pete's also a Shillman Senior Fellow at the Investigative Project on Terrorism, and author of 'Architects of Disaster: The Destruction of Libya.' Also joining us via Skype from New Jersey, National Security Analyst for the Clarion Project, Ryan Mauro. Gents, we appreciate your time here on Newsmax Prime. Pete, there's been speculation, you heard me mention that Mohamed Abrini may have been the man in the hat in Brussels. What are you hearing?
Pete Hoekstra: Well I'm hearing the same thing, J.D., not a whole lot different. I think this is going to be a very interesting next 48 hours. You know what the intelligence folks are going to be looking for here are, yeah, number one – was he the guy, but I think what we're really, what I'm really interested in, how did we finally nab this guy? Did we develop some kind of new insight? Did we break into the operational security of this network? Did someone locally tip us off as to where this individual was? It's going to be interesting to see exactly what information we gain here when we captured him, what else did he have in possession, and then will he tell us anything more. Some will say – hey great, this is all about law enforcement; that's not what this is about. This is about what, understanding better what capabilities does ISIS have in Europe and what are their plans and intentions.
Hayworth: And Ryan, circumstantially at least, what we're hearing about Mohamed Abrini, could it be that the same cell carried out the attacks in Paris and then again in Brussels?
Mauro: At the very least it's part of the same network, because that's what you're seeing here, is not just a bunch of individuals who are radicalized and then are acting simply independently. In Europe it's different than what you're seeing in the United States – you're seeing safe houses, a network of contacts – that's what's really frightening. And Abrini was arrested right next to Molenbeek, which we've been hearing a lot about. It's the area near Brussels that's about 40 percent Muslim, and there's just so many extremists that are linked back there. And it's not a coincidence that this guy was arrested right next to that place. So you're going to hear that in the news for the forthcoming future. And there's going to be future terrorist attacks coming out of that place if they don't figure out a way to get a handle on it.
Hayworth: Gentlemen, here in this nation, growing concerns about our own airport security following the bombing in Brussels. As it turns out, the head of the TSA, Peter Neffenger, was in the Brussels airport at the time of the attack. Let's watch and listen to his firsthand account.
[From video of hearing on C-SPAN]:
Peter Neffenger (TSA Administrator): We arrived right as the bombs detonated. And I will tell you, being there on that day, seeing the devastation, seeing the chaos of the airport environment and the evil behind it was a stark reminder of the importance of the work that we do at TSA every day to protect travelers.
Hayworth: And to protect those travelers, it's interesting, because in that same testimony, there's Peter Neffenger, head of the TSA, telling us that only three airports in this country regularly require employees to pass through security screenings prior to entering secured areas of the airport. In 2015, Homeland Security identified over 70 employees and nearly 40 airports across the U.S. with links to terrorism. Why on earth hasn't something been done about this, Pete?
Hoekstra: Well who knows, J.D.? I mean you saw the same thing here in Europe. Through the work that we do at the Investigative Project on Terrorism, we've gotten information that there are a number of people who are involved in airport facilities in that in Europe who have ties to ISIS. There's reports that one of these individuals actually worked in the parliament as an employee. You know the West in Europe and in the United States, we've got to get much better than this. But remember, it's not about protecting specific sites; it's getting into these networks and breaking them down before they ever figure out whether they're going to go to an airport, whether they're going to go to a restaurant, whether they're going to go to a football stadium, or whatever, we need to be much more aggressive at getting into these networks and into these cycles, so that we stop them before they ever get that far.
Hayworth: And Ryan, we hear the chairman talk about it, but you think about so-called soft targets – malls, athletic events – what do we do to protect those venues in a free society? We've got about 30 seconds.
Mauro: It's exactly what Pete described, which is that you have to go to the starting point, which is Molenbeek, which is essentially acting right now as the Raqqa for ISIS in Europe, where there's 22 mosques, some of which have been connected to extremists. You can't have a defensive approach for each site, but there's common sense things you can do, like screen the airport workers before they come in. That's just a disaster waiting to happen.
Hayworth: And well that is something at the very least that needs to be done – screen everybody heading into secured areas. Ryan Mauro and Pete Hoekstra, gentlemen we appreciate your time. You heard what they had to say. Do you have some comments? Send them to me at newsmaxtv.com/comments, or check us out on Twitter at Newsmax Prime. Coming back with cruise ships discriminating against Cubans.