Special: ISIS Recruits Through Social Networking, GOP Contenders Race to 2016 and Hillary Clinton Focuses on Fundraising

May. 08, 2015 AT 9:11 p.m. EDT

This week, the FBI outlined the ways ISIS is using social media to do its recruiting. Pierre Thomas of ABC News reports on the tactics ISIS is using to reach people around the world. Attackers at an anti-Muslim event in Texas attempted to establish ties to ISIS. NBC News’ Pete Williams details the attacker’s motivation. Jeff Zeleny of CNN reports on other Republican potential and official contenders and the strides they’ve made in their campaigns. At this point in her campaign, Hillary Clinton is focused on fundraising. The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Meckler details Clinton’s motivation behind embracing a Super PAC.

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Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

ANNOUNCER: This is the Washington Week Webcast Extra.
MS. IFILL: Hello, I’m Gwen Ifill. Welcome to our Webcast Extra, where we pick up online where we left off on the air. I’m joined by Jeff Zeleny of CNN, Laura Meckler of The Wall Street Journal, Pete Williams of NBC News, and Pierre Thomas of ABC News.
It turns out our government is very worried about the potential for terrorism that lurks within. In Garland, Texas this week, the two men shot dead by police after trying to stage an attack at an anti-Muslim event appear to have attempted to establish ties to ISIS. And at the Justice Department this week, the FBI outlined the ways ISIS is using social media to do its recruiting, using tactics straight out of Madison Avenue.
Pete and Pierre have been all over this story. Pierre, why don’t you start by telling us about some of the tactics which the Justice Department – the FBI has been telling us about?
MR. THOMAS: We’ve actually been doing a deep dive, looking at precisely how ISIS has been using social media. They have developed a system and a strategy where they’re pushing out images, videos and communications on a daily basis. We interviewed an official who said 90,000 times a day they’re posting something. And –
MS. IFILL: Ninety thousand times a day?
MR. THOMAS: A day. And it’s a variety of things, and let me give you three examples.
One, there’s video. Picture high-definition video, beautifully shot of beautiful children running toward a bunch of fighters, and the fighters have ice cream and cotton candy. And they hand out the ice cream and cotton candy, and then the video ends with the ISIS fighter looking at the camera and smiling. And then a sign comes up, Mujatweets.
Another video. They have commandeered – a video similar to “Grand Theft Auto” in which they say, you play the game, but you can come live the game, basically, with them.
Another video to soften their image. They have a very handsome ISIS fighter who goes to a hospital and he’s visiting his wounded comrades.
So they’re operating on all different levels, enticing people to pay attention to them. And the concern is somebody who’s getting those images will identify with ISIS and maybe not go to join them in Iraq or Syria, but actually play out and do something here in the U.S.
MS. IFILL: Well, which brings us to Garland, Texas. I don’t know, does it bring us to Garland, Texas?
MR. WILLIAMS: Yes, very much so.
MS. IFILL: Where we see two individuals who decided – and telegraphed – that they were going to attack this anti-Muslim event, which was showing Prophet Muhammad cartoons, and seemed to have at least – at the very least been inspired by ISIS.
MR. WILLIAMS: Well, clearly one of them was, and that’s Elton Simpson. He was obviously, now we know, in touch with several people who were either ISIS members or ISIS sympathizers who – one of whom had said, hey, what about this event in Texas, somebody ought to do something about that. And as Pierre said, they’re not just saying, you know, hooray for our side; they’re saying, you know – just today the ISIS in – somebody sent out a tweet saying, hey, there’s this Jewish person in Australia and he’s doing things that we don’t like, somebody ought to go kill him. And so that is exactly what they’re doing. They’re not merely sending a propaganda message about how great they are. They’re appealing to people and saying, you know, look, if you can’t get over here, kill somebody right where you live. That’s the big danger.
MS. IFILL: And threats against U.S. military bases we see today.
MR. THOMAS: Right. Essentially, they’re leveraging Western values and marketing to get someone to do something. It’s like, we’ll throw it out there and maybe someone will do something. The FBI director talked about a distinction between ISIS and al-Qaida. He said ISIS would never think of sending one to do an attack without vetting them.
MR. THOMAS: ISIS doesn’t care. They just want you to do it.
MR. WILLIAMS: And the other – excuse me – and the other difference, and what makes it so hard for the government, is, in the olden days of about a year and a half ago – (chuckles) – the way you got a propaganda message was to put up a website, and then the FBI could sort of lurk around the edges and see who was coming. Now it’s being pushed out to – he said there were probably hundreds of people in the U.S. who are consuming these messages, perhaps thousands.
MS. IFILL: OK, let’s move to something more lighthearted, like politics. (Laughter.)
MS. MECKLER: Seriously.
MS. IFILL: We got through a lot of people who are in this crowded race now, Jeff, during the main broadcast, but there are a lot of people who are keeping a much closer eye on. They’re not the longshots. They’re the Marco Rubios and the Jeb Bushes and the Chris Christies.
MR. ZELENY: Right. And Chris Christie suddenly reappeared this week back on the campaign trail. We haven’t seen a lot of him. He was in New Hampshire for a couple days.
He is not out of this yet. He has a few problems, a few challenges –
MS. IFILL: A few problems.
MR. ZELENY: – at home back in New Jersey. I mean, fiscal problems for one, but also the Bridgegate –
MR. THOMAS: A few bridges to cross? (Laughter.)
MR. ZELENY: Exactly. A situation that’s still going on. But he is still eyeing probably a June time frame of jumping in. His advisers are insisting he’s still running. We’ll see. I mean, I think it’s a little early to rule him out entirely, but his moment may have passed a bit.
But Marco Rubio I would say, if you’re judging all the rollouts so far, I think he’s had the best one and has had the biggest rise. He is in poll after poll after poll – which we have to take with a grain of salt at this point – but one consistency: he is viewed more positively, more favorably as second choice or as, you know – Republicans don’t dislike him, I guess, as much as some of the others.
MS. MECKLER: An acceptable choice, sort of.
MR. ZELENY: Acceptable choice, right. Thank you. Thank you for translating that.
MS. MECKLER: He is like an acceptable choice to a larger number of people.
MS. IFILL: People don’t know him very well yet, though.
MR. ZELENY: Because Jeb Bush, though –
MS. IFILL: This is what happens.
MR. ZELENY: It’s a possibility, but Jeb Bush, though, he has high negatives and high numbers. But Jeb Bush, I think, is still out there. He is raising so much money, and doing something that we never seen before. He’s filling up the coffers of his super PAC, and then he’s going to jump in and run for president later. And this is the – you know, it’s an unusual dynamic. But the super PACs in 2016, in this cycle, are going to be much different and much more robust than ever before. So –
MS. IFILL: I wouldn’t pooh-pooh the polls completely, except that they do – they do measure at this stage how well do you know somebody. And that’s why, if your name is Bush, they know you pretty well. They’ve formed an opinion, no matter who you are. If your name is Rubio, it’s like, what’s the story? So maybe that may be a little bit of what we’re seeing.
MR. ZELENY: And the story is what people are latching onto. He goes around and he tells the story of his upbringing, and people like inspirational stories. People – you know, and so he is – he’s getting attention because of his persona and who he is, so he’s not running away from his family –
MS. IFILL: Laura, I want to ask you about Hillary because we – speaking of well-known, speaking of very – resonating in polls one way or the other, she is also raising money hand over fist now as well.
MS. MECKLER: Yeah. I mean, we don’t know if –
MS. IFILL: Well, we don’t know if it’s hand over fist.
MS. MECKLER: Probably has a way – has a way to go to catch up with Jeb. But yes, she is out there. I mean, in fact, we’re only seeing a very little bit of her sort of in public. You know, once a week she’ll do a day’s worth of events. In Nevada this last week we saw her once, I mean, for less than an hour, I would say, in public. But she did do a lot of fundraising on the West Coast.
So she is fundraising for her own campaign. And that is, by today’s standards, you know, relatively small dollars. We’re talking $2,700 per person. That might not seem like small dollars to everybody who – out there, but that is small in a –
MS. IFILL: In a billion-dollar campaign it is.
MS. MECKLER: – in a billion-dollar campaign, exactly. It is – she also this week started having her first meetings to support her own super PAC.
Now, she – there are some lines that she won’t be able to cross. She can’t, you know, coordinate with her super PAC, and she cannot directly ask for large sums of money. But she can have conversations with people about what they’re up to and what she – hoping that – essentially getting to know her and therefore hoping that they will support the – support Priorities USA.
It is pretty amazing when you contrast that with what’s happening with Jeb. He is not a candidate as far as the law is concerned today, so he can go and ask for anything he wants and coordinate all he wants. So I’m not really sure, as a practical matter, there’s all that much difference of what he’s doing and what Hillary’s doing, but she cannot – at least she can’t make the ask. But she is – she is out there having the meetings.
MS. IFILL: I have to say the rules are so confusing to me still: who can meet, who can’t meet, where they’re supposed to –
MS. MECKLER: Well, I think the bottom line is people can pretty much do whatever they want these days. I mean, there are some technical lines, but they are – I mean, I even heard this week – you would know this better than I would – that there’s some talk of Jeb having his super PAC run his TV ads, his main TV ads.
MR. ZELENY: Yeah, that’s exactly what they’re – what they’re doing, they’re outsourcing them. And the whole problem it goes to –
MS. MECKLER: Which is – how do they do that without anyone coordinating?
MR. ZELENY: If anyone at home is interested in commissions, the Federal Election Commission, which polices all this, has basically thrown its hands up and said we –
MR. WILLIAMS: We give up?
MR. ZELENY: We give up, we are hopelessly deadlocked. So that – as John McCain always says, all this money is going to create a scandal problem. He might be right about this.
MS. IFILL: Yeah, well, they’re hoping that the problem doesn’t get caught up until after the election is over.
MR. ZELENY: Right, of course.
MS. IFILL: Thank you all very much, and thank you all for watching online. While you’re here, check out my take this week on what’s right and wrong about being politically correct. And we’ll see you next time on the Washington Week Webcast Extra.


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