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New Information on Slain MIT Officer; Older Suspect Heckled Muslim Speech; More Questions about Bombing Suspects; Diamond's New Song about Boston

Aired April 23, 2013 - 10:30   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to a special edition of NEWSROOM. We're live here in Boston. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting.

We're following several major developments, including some top stories now. Other than what's going on in Boston, let me update you on that first. The controversial ban on small knives on commercial planes won't -- repeat, won't go into effect on Thursday as scheduled. The TSA says it wants to get additional guidance from an advisory group and it adds its decision is not related in any way to the Boston marathon bombings.

In Steubenville, Ohio, the high school's embattled football coach has received a two-year extension on his contract. The school superintendent says the contract is related to his administrative duties and not his coaching. An online petition with 130,000 signatures wants the coach fired after two of his football players were convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl.

Internet sales -- sales tax could be a step closer to reality, the Senate is expected to vote soon on legislation to require state sales tax in online purchases. The White House on Monday signaled it will support the legislation. States are currently prohibited from collecting sales tax from online sellers who are not physically located in that state.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BLITZER: We're getting new information coming in to CNN now on the death of that MIT police officer who was shot and killed allegedly by the Tsarnaev brothers.

Deborah Feyerick has been working her sources on this for us. What are you learning -- Deb?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well we want to give you some perspective on exactly what happened but yes investigators are saying that the MIT officer shot to death by the two alleged bombers apparently officer Sean Collier, he did not radio into dispatch to request a description of the suspects which is usually standard operating procedure, nor did he alert dispatch that he was actually responding to two men fitting the description. He did not even have time to activate the alert on his radio which is what happens when somebody is in trouble so that other police know exactly where to find him.

In fact we are told that he was gunned down between four to five times. It was really what amounts to an execution. He was shot both in the head and the chest. So he was wearing a bullet proof vest, he was sitting alone in his squad car. And it actually took Boston Police almost 13 minutes to actually find the vehicle and realize that he was the one who had been injured. They were responding to 911 calls from other people who were in that vicinity.

So again this officer never even had time to alert his fellow colleagues, his fellow officers where exactly he was. Now Wolf it's unclear why the two brothers ambushed this particular officer. Did they panic? Did they think that they have been seen? Not clear. But they did shoot him multiple times and then according to a source, they -- they headed away, in the direction of I-93 and that's where the carjacking occurred.

Interestingly, according to investigators they believe the Tsarnaev brothers have circled back around in the direction from which they have just come after executing that police officer allegedly they so- called back passing what would have been cars responding to the scene.

So these are some of the details that we're learning on the death of this particular officer. After the carjacking, they went to a gas station. The carjacked victim managed to escape somehow. So both of them were actually at different gas stations at that time and then the two brothers went to Watertown. They were making their way into Watertown. Don't know why -- all that's under investigation. But that was the scene on Friday of a lot of police activity as they were searching for the younger brother 19-year-old Dzhokhar. So that's what we're learning about the police officer. But by all accounts, he never even saw it coming -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And it's interesting Deb that yesterday when the charges were filed against the younger suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, all the federal charges, they did not include murdering this police officer, this MIT police officer. We do expect Massachusetts potentially to file charges in the state, the killing of this police officer.

But federal charges, at least right now, did not include that specific charge. What are you hearing about that?

FEYERICK: Well you know usually what happens is that in the criminal complaint, it's really as I describe it sort of a place holder for what will be a much, much larger indictment. And the one that I can compare it to for example is the U.S. embassy bombing which was back in 2000 -- I'm sorry back in 1998. It was actually tried in 2001 just before they attack on the World Trade Center.

But in that you had for example you had the murder of six Americans. You had injuries of 238 people. So this is going to expand out much more significantly. And right now because it is in federal court, it is federal jurisdiction the chances are all those -- all of those charges will be compiled and put into a single indictment and then there will be a superseding indictment. So this is really just -- we are so much at the beginning but at least this gives investigators a chance to do what they need to do with regards to the suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

BLITZER: Yes the place all of the description. Deb Feyerick thanks for the reporting.

Not since September 11th has America seen a terror attack on its soil like what happened here in Boston. One writer says Americans need to avoid making the same mistake this time that was made after 9/11. What he says that mistake is and how we can avoid it. Our discussion coming up.


BLITZER: The bombings at the Boston marathon are quite different from the terror attacks on September 11th. But mistakes were made after 9/11 that one writer says we need to avoid making this time. That's the focus of a new column by Peter Beinart, a senior political writer for "The Daily Beast".

He writes, "The big debate post-Boston is whether the United States will treat its Muslim immigrants more like potential terrorists or more like potential Americans. After 9/11, many Americans vowed to help Muslims strengthen democracy in the greater Middle East. Now the key question is whether our treatment of Muslims will strength democracy in the United States."

Peter is joining us. Now Peter thanks very much for coming in. After 9/11, you say Americans tried to remake the Middle East and you don't want the U.S. to do the same thing this time. Would you say would be another mistake. Explain what your thinking is.

PETER BEINART, EDITOR OF THE DAILY BEAST BLOG, "OPENZION": You know immediately after 9/11, the question became basically, where was America going to invade? And there were some -- some would be that was understandable remember al Qaeda was partly in control of Taliban Afghanistan.

But in -- as a result over the next few years, many years -- the United States spent an enormous amount of time. Huge number of American lives and other lives lost in Afghanistan trying to solve the problems by remaking the Middle East. I think the -- what we're learning more and more and I think should know by now is that the key really to American security is here at home.

The Middle East is going to go in the direction it's going to go but the most important thing is that we make our Muslim immigrants, or the Muslims that live here feel that they can be truly integrated in to the United States. And I think that's ultimately the best way to secure ourselves from a threat that probably will be coming internally.

BLITZER: How do we do that?

BEINART: I think we have to be, we have to go much further than we -- than we have it seems to me in terms of stopping the stigmatization that tends to happen so frequently towards Muslims. Even if you see in that family itself the divisions in the family the Tsarnaev family between those who felt that America was really welcoming to them and those who don't.

Look, all immigrants struggle with feelings, with the question of whether they can be truly accepted into the United States. This is a larger drama for all immigrants. But it's especially important because there are militants who seek to exploit the sense of alienation that Muslims immigrant in the United States have that the United States reach out to Muslim immigrants and show that we are a country where you can be fully Muslim and also fully American.

BLITZER: Do you see a different reaction this time after the Boston bombings as opposed to what happened after 9/11?

BEINART: Yes. Well first of all, there's been much less foreign policy discussions. We're not a country in the mood to go invade anyone anymore which I think is a good thing. So the conversation has been more domestic. I also think the fact that these Tsarnaev brothers have been in the United States much longer. That they were really immigrants and the fact that they come from Chechnya which is a country, which has been a place that's been at war with Russia not at war with the United States has in some ways softened the response.

And I think so far at least, although there have been some disturbing things that have happened I think we have not seen as much anti-Muslim kind of vitriol as there was after 9/11.

BLITZER: I think you're absolutely right. And -- and but there's been some. There's been some of that --


BEINART: Yes, yes.

BLITZER: -- almost knee jerk reaction, which obviously is a problem, but nothing like that occurred immediately after 9/11. Isn't that right?

BEINART: Yes. And I also think you know when -- there are a billion Muslims in the world. And Muslims come in every shape and color and look every different way. But I think in the American imagination, there is -- we have almost racialized in our minds in the public conversations what it means to be Muslim. And so I think the fact that these guys are from Chechnya and that they are -- that they are more light-skinned in some ways as strange as it may sound actually undermines the level of kind of xenophobic and racist reactions.

Because I think to some degree part of what the anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States after 9/11 was not only based on religion, but it was based, even though it doesn't make any sense, it was based also on the idea of race and ethnicity.

BLITZER: Peter Beinart of the "Daily Beast". Thanks very much for coming in.

BEINART: Thank you.

BLITZER: The deceased marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev may have revealed a radical view of Islam during a reported disturbance at a local mosque. We have details, coming in.


BLITZER: Lawmakers are asking the Homeland Security Secretary about what's going on up on Capitol Hill? What role, if any, did Islam, for example, play in Tamerlan Tsarnaev's alleged involvement in the Boston Marathon bombings.

We're going to get to what's going up on Capitol Hill. Janet Napolitano, the Homeland Security Secretary, taking questions from Senators right now. Stand by for a moment.

But let's take a closer look at Brian Todd's report on Islam and these two suspected terrorists.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: New information on Tamerlan Tsarnaev's perspective on Islam. January 18, Friday prayers at the Islamic society of Boston's mosque in Cambridge. A mosque leader is giving a service extolling the virtues of the prophet Mohammed and Martin Luther King Jr. According to mosque officials it was too much for Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

ANWAR KAZMI, ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF BOSTON, BOARD MEMBER: Some people said that he said something to the effect you cannot, you know, compare or make a parallel between our prophet and a non-Muslim. Some people said that he referred to the person who was giving the sermon as a hypocrite, the Arabic word is Monaphet (ph).

Anwar Kazmi says the disruption was a clear violation of mosque etiquette. He says people in attendance explained that to Tamerlan Tsarnaev, told him to back off. Mosque officials say It was the second time he had objected to something said at a sermon.

We pressed them. Were there any red flags? That Tamerlan Tsarnaev had been radicalized.

NICHOLE MOSSALAM, SPOKESPERSON, ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF BOSTON: Unfortunately, there were no indications. And as trained specialists from the FBI, we're not able to see anything. I'm sure you can understand how people who are merely acquainted with these individuals, seeing them sporadically at prayers, would not see anything of this nature as well.

TODD: Mosque officials say Dzhokhar Tsarnaev never came to the mosque without his older brother. Friends and acquaintances tell CNN Tamerlan Tsarnaev was the leader between the two brothers. One friend saying, Dzhokhar was quote, "definitely the power in this situation."

John Pinto co-owns a Brazilian restaurant in the Tsarnaev's neighborhood. In recent months, he saw the brothers in, sometimes sitting down; sometimes getting chicken and lamb for take out. Pinto says Tamerlan Tsarnaev, always walked in front of his younger brother, swaggering looking serious and tough. JOHN PINTO, CO-OWNER, MIDWESTERN GRILL RESTAURANT: The way I understand it, the way I believe I think the big brother is the one in command. Like he's wanting -- he said ok, let's go. We do this, we do this whatever. He was always go on the front seat. And another is to stand behind him.

TODDA: It may not have always been that way. Rose Schutzberg, a lifeguard with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at Harvard in the spring and summer of 2011. She says this about the younger brother.

ROSE SCHUTZBERG, DZHOKHAR TSARNAEV'S FRIEND: There was an effort to sort of create some distance between himself and his older brother just because they didn't see the world quite in the same way.

TODD: Neighbors gave us new information on the brother dynamic.

This is the top floor apartment here on Norfolk Street in Cambridge where the Tsarnaev family lived. Neighbors say the entire family parents, brothers and sisters, lived here together at one point. One neighbor told us he observed tension in the family when they all lived together.

It was at this address where Tamerlan Tsarnaev was arrested in July 2009, for assaulting his girlfriend. The complaint doesn't show her name but Tamerlan Tsarnaev is saying, "Yes, I slapped her."

Neighbors tell us they thought the tension in the family dissipated after the parents and sisters move out a couple of years ago.

Brian Todd, CNN, Boston.


BLITZER: Coming up, Neil Diamond is following up his appearance at Fenway park, there's a tribute to the Boston victims. He is also remembering other recent tragedies.


BLITZER: Lawmakers are asking the homeland security secretary about the bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev's movements over the past two years.

Only moments ago, we heard an exchange between the senate judiciary committee, ranking Republican Chuck Grassley and the Homeland Security secretary, Janet Napolitano.


JANET NAPOLITANO, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: The travel in 2012 that you're referring to, yes. The system pinged when he was leaving the United States. By the time he returned, all investigations had been -- the matter had been closed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it true that his identity document did not match his airline ticket? And if so, why did the TSA miss the discrepancy?

There was a mismatch there. By the way, the bill will help with this because it requires that passports be electronically readable as opposed to having to be manually input. It really does a good job of getting human error to the extent that it exists out of the process. Even with the misspelling under our current system there are redundancies and so the system did ping when he was leaving the United States.

He was not on a watch list. What happened is this student -- he was in the -- really when you (inaudible) in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was never a subject. He was never even really a person of interest. Because he was being interviewed, he was at that point put on a watch list. Then when it was quickly determined he had nothing to do with the bombing, the watch listing status was removed.


BLITZER: Senator Grassley also added that the terror attack in Boston is a reminder that the U.S. Immigration system is directly tied to national security and needs to be reformed -- that from Senator Chuck Grassley.

Finally this morning Boston area residents are still thanking first responders for their efforts after the bombing. Fans at last night's Red Sox game gave a standing ovation to the Watertown police officers involved in capturing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

The officers stood at the top of the Red Sox dugout after the fourth inning. Neil Diamond is working on a song about the Boston bombings. Neil Diamond surprised Red Sox fans when he showed up Saturday to sing "Sweet Caroline", the traditional eighth inning song at Fenway Park. Diamond tells Rolling Stone magazine, the new song will also deal with other recent tragedies such as the Newtown school massacre in Connecticut, no date on the release of that new song.

Thanks very much for joining us. I'll be back 5:00 Eastern, special two-hour edition of "THE SITUATION ROOM". We'll be live here in Boston.

The CNN NEWSROOM with Anderson Cooper begins right after the break.