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Bombing Suspect Now In Fair Condition; Lawmakers Eye Suspect's Travels; Retracing Bomb Suspects Steps

Aired April 23, 2013 - 13:00   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, everyone, I'm Chris Cuomo here live in Boston part of CNN's continuing coverage of the Boston marathon terrorism that happened up here.

Now, big breaking news for you on the condition of the Boston marathon bombing suspect. The younger brother listed as fair, his condition. We get that from the official Twitter account for the U.S. attorney's office of the Massachusetts district. That information, again, the suspect right now in custody is fair. Major issue for prosecutors because his ability to communicate, his ability to understand the charges against him critical in moving any prosecution forward.

To understand this from the medical perspective on the phone is CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, thank you for joining us. What do you understand from this?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Yes, you're talking about conditions and it seems like we've talked about this quite a bit lately, Chris. But critical is obviously the most concerning then serious. We hear he is fair which from a medical perspective means in many ways that the most concerning part of the -- his medical condition are not as concerning anymore. The vital signs have stabilized at the point where usually patients can be taken out of an intensive care unit, for example. And so, it's obviously going in the direction that you want from a medical perspective.

We know, Chris, I'll tell you that in the operation, to put this tube into his trachea, in the neck, was done over the weekend.


GUPTA: And now we're, you know, post day -- post operative day either two or three and this is sort of exactly what you expect. It's a typical course for him to be listed as fair condition now, Chris.

CUOMO: OK. Now, Sanjay, help me, just put on your legal hat for just one second here. The concern is whether or not he's able to understand, what we would say in the law, compos mentis, he understands what's going on, whether he can speak or not. Being in fair condition in the kinds of details you've heard about what's gone on in these initial hearings with law enforcement, with magistrate, does it seem as though he's moving in a direct of being able to assist in his own defense? GUPTA: Yes, you know, look, you know, when we talk about speech, and this is putting on sort of a medical legal hat, Chris, speech is a -- is a general term in the medical sense, meaning that it refers obviously to the spoken word. But also the written word, even gestures, even being able to respond to questions, yes or no. But it also refers to the ability to process and understand any kind of speech. So, it's -- it appears that he's able to do both, you know. He's able to understand from, again, I'm hearing the same things that you are but also able to execute some sort of communication as well. And you know, you -- we heard some of the things that he was able to convey yesterday.

So, what we want, you know, from a medical standpoint, know that someone is actually hearing, understanding and then being able to execute something. In a primitive way, you'd ask them to do something initially like hold up two fingers. And when someone is able to do that, it sounds like a simple thing, Chris, but it shows they've heard you, they've understood you, and they were able to executive a command. Here they just want to make sure they can do the same thing and execute some form of communication.

Let me point out something else that I think is very important. This tube that we're talking about that goes into the trachea, which again is the windpipe in the neck, ultimately what can happen is that can essentially be covered. And when you cover that, someone can basically talk. In fact, it's called a talking trache at that point. So, at that point, you can actually get spoken language as well, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Sanjay, thank you very much. We appreciate it. We'll be back with you later on.

This is, of course, critical because we're going to discuss today these issues of what type of interrogation was right to be done in this situation, the controversy that's going on in the nation's capital over this. A lot is dependent on whether or not this suspect can speak, can participate in interrogation. That's why monitoring the medical condition is so important.

Now, of course, the events of the past eight days still consume the city where I'm standing. But we're going to start this hour in a city some distance away, again Washington, D.C., because the ideas of looking backward to see whether we knew everything we could about these suspects and looking forward in terms of how we can stay safe are critically important and under discussion right now.

In the nation's capital, senators discussing today whether or not this immigrant, who allegedly led his younger brother into a bombing here at the Boston marathon, whether that plot that ultimately claimed four lives and the lives of one -- the life of one of the bomber, could have been avoided. Members of Congress want to know what the U.S. government knew or did not know about this now deceased suspect's trip back home in 2012.

Tracking that for us in some really heated testimony today CNN's Jim Acosta. Jim, lay out the information for us. What's being said? What is the controversy?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, you're absolutely right, lawmakers up here on Capitol Hill are trying to get to the bottom of what was known about this older suspect who is now dead, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and this trip that he took to Russia last year. Law makers want to know why is it that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was able to make this trip in the first place. Should he have been stopped before he went overseas? And when overseas, what did he do and what was he up to when he was over there?

Some of the -- some of this is stemming from some of the conflicting stories, quite frankly, Chris, from federal officials over Tamerlan Tsarnaev's status. Senator Lindsey Graham, the Republican from South Carolina, told reporters yesterday that Tamerlan was on a no-fly list, that he was on some sort of terror watch list. A federal law enforcement official has told CNN that is not the case. And Senator Charles Grassley, Graham's Republican colleague in the Senate, asked secretary Janet Napolitano from the Department of Homeland Security, about this discrepancy at a judiciary committee that was supposed to be on immigration reform earlier this morning. And here's bit of that exchange.


SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), CHUCK GRASSLEY, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Was your department aware of his travels to Russia? And if you weren't, the reason?



NAPOLITANO: -- 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.

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

NAPOLITANO: There was mismatch there. By the way, the bill will help with this because it requires that passports be electronically readable as opposed to have being been manually input. It really does a good job of getting human error.


ACOSTA: And so, there you hear secretary Napolitano answering that question from Senator Charles Grassley. All of this is also important, Chris, because Senator Graham said yesterday that Tamerlan's trip to Russia last year was undetected by the FBI. He says he was told that by a senior FBI official. Obviously, it sounds as if secretary Napolitano was saying that his travel was known inside the Department of Homeland Security which is leading senator Grassley and other senators up here on Capitol Hill to ask the question, what was the right -- did the right hand know what the left hand was doing? If Department of Homeland Security system pinged when he went overseas to Russia, why is it that the FBI was not paid aware of this? And why is it that the FBI system did not ping when he made that trip over to Russia?

So, there's still lots of questions. There's a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing coming up at 2:30 this afternoon and then the full House of Representatives is expected to get a briefing from FBI officials on all of this later on this afternoon. We'll be covering all of it for you -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Jim, thank you very much. We'll be back to you as you develop more on that. A ping, of course, just means an alert to the system. And a spelling error, in some ways, would have been the best explanation of this. It could get much more troubling than that.

Let's bring in Law Enforcement Analyst, former FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes. Tom, let's just start off with what isn't important. When we hear this and we hear that they're fighting in Washington, fair point, this is not left about versus right, this is about safety. This is a legitimate issue.

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I would ask them that question, Chris.

CUOMO: Say it again. You didn't understand my question?

FUENTES: I said I -- no, I would ask the senators and the members of the House of Representatives what the -- what's the purpose and what they're trying to do. Obviously, it appears that they're trying to find out if the FBI missed something or if the Department of Homeland Security missed something.

CUOMO: Right.

FUENTES: How that could have happened or should there have been some kind of stops in place? The term ping, that the system was pinged, I don't know of that or how that worked. That would be something within the passport control under DHS.

But I would note that the Russians sent a message to the FBI to investigate him in 2011. Now -- and nothing comes of that. There's nothing derogatory found near as we can tell. Everything was done that could have been done and the information was sent back to Russia. Now, after that investigation, after they have alerted the U.S. about that, he goes to Russia. So, you would think, at that point, the Russian authorities would be keeping an eye on him there, not necessarily notifying anybody in the FBI or intelligence community of the U.S. But they were aware that he traveled to Russia, and that he's in the area that they're concerned about. So, in that sense, you would think that they would also note when he departs that he's in route back to the United States to keep -- that now he's met with people that are suspicious over there, now keep an elevated eye on him. None of that occurs. There's no further communication, as far as I've heard, that the trip to Russia was noted by the Russians or monitored by the Russians or relayed back --

CUOMO: Right.

FUENTES: -- to the U.S. after he came back.

CUOMO: All right. But, Tom, some fair points here. Obviously, the United States can't be dependent upon Russia for its own safety, right? You have to do your own leg work. And Russia did give them the heads --


CUOMO: -- over two years ago.

FUENTES: Wait a second. There is no U.S. --


FUENTES: No, sir. There's no U.S. Leg work by the FBI on the ground in Russia, none.

CUOMO: Right. But you understood from Russia that this was someone to look at. You took it seriously. You did it. You then find out --

FUENTES: Correct.

CUOMO: -- whether it's a clerical error or whatever but you wind having -- this suspect goes back to Russia. He is there for an extended period. When he comes back, he puts a video online from a known terrorist radicalize, Obu Dujon (ph), and it happens right after his trip. Smoke equals fire or no? Is that not of interest to you?

FUENTES: I didn't say it's not of interest. I'm saying that by the time he comes back, the FBI case is closed and, again, no additional information comes back from the Russians to keep an eye on him or that he's on his way back to your country. Once the FBI case is closed, there is no further monitoring by the FBI of his activity or whether he's going to these Jihadi Web sites or becoming increasingly radicalized. That has -- he has to come back up on the radar at that point. So, I'm just saying though that the six months that he spends in Russia, obviously we're very concerned about that. And the U.S. would love to know -- and if he was here, we would try to reconstruct every day that he was -- you know, what the activity was. But that can only come from the Russians. And we don't even know, at this point, if they were monitoring him during this time. So, you would ask them, if not, why not? You're the ones that raised the suspicion in the first place. Now, he's back on your soil where you're responsible to monitor him, where the U.S. has no authority to conduct investigation, no authority to even be in Chechnya. It would take their permission to do it. So, at that point, this is a matter for the Russians to explain what was he doing there and were you aware of it?

CUOMO: So, I just -- and you understand where I'm coming from though, Tom, right? It's just concerning when you hear this, that he's living in your country. You've been alerted to him. It's somewhat confusing whether or not you knew when he left, what pinged, what didn't ping. He comes back. The word that is coming out of the investigation early on is, well, we don't think he was connected to anybody else. We don't know. And now, it's taking some people in Washington to start asking these questions. It seems like there was a lacking of urgency or something's not working in the system. You're saying it was on Russia is what I'm hearing.

FUENTES: I'm not saying it's all on Russia. I'm saying while he's in the U.S. in 2011 when the FBI investigates that case, yes, it's on the FBI. And if they exhaust all investigative techniques and come up negative, that at that time, he's not yet radicalized that they know of. No one's making derogatory remarks. None of his electronic communications have come back suspicious, that he's tied to some other group, either here or overseas. So, at that point, they're so far that they can go with it realistically. They do it that. They send a message back to rush saying give us more which the Russians don't do. What I'm saying is that the six --


FUENTES: -- months in question in Russia, there is nothing that the U.S. can do to know what occurred there unless the Russians tell us.

CUOMO: OK. Tom, I appreciate the perspective. Thank you very much. This is your field. Always appreciate the understanding. Thanks for it.

FUENTES: You're welcome.

CUOMO: Obviously, the coin on the other side of it is, when he came back from the trip, posted a video with a known radicalizer, that was in the same region where he was vacationing, obviously very concerning to people. One of the pieces of what we don't understand in the situation that we need to know better so that things in the future go better in terms of safety and security. That's the obvious interest for everyone involved.

New information to bring you up to date on, just this afternoon, about where the suspects may have learned how to make the pressure cooker bombs. That is going to be what we want to take a look into when we come back after the break.


CUOMO: Welcome back to Boston. Serious questions being raised about what went into the planning of the attack here at Boston marathon. Now, the suspect in custody says it was just him and his brother. But we are learning and now suspecting that may not be altogether true. CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins us now. Barbara, what have you learned about possible links to al Qaeda or others?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, what we are hearing from U.S. officials we have spoken to is they are taking the claims that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has made and taking a look at whether the two brothers may have learned their expertise online. One of the things they are looking at is an online publication called "Inspire."

This is a publication essentially, online site, sponsored by al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula essentially al Qaeda in Yemen. Amongst the extremist jihadi movement. Well known, in existence for many years. They published some time back essentially a recipe for making a pressure cooker bomb in an article that they basically entitled how to make a bomb in your mother's kitchen the belief is there may be similarities between this online recipe and what was used in Boston. Investigators are looking at this very closely. Chris?

CUOMO: Barbara, thank you very much. Another piece in the puzzle. As people understand this information, and you hear it, it's important to tell everybody it's not about building this up or dramatizing, it's about understanding exactly how this could have happened and why. Barbara, thank you very much. We'll be back to you.

Not far from here in the Boston suburb of Snowden (ph), Massachusetts, a private funeral took place for the MIT police officer gunned down in his own squad car allegedly by the suspects of the bombing here. That happened last Thursday night more than three days after the bombings and just before the shoot-out that killed the older suspect and apparently wounded his younger brother. A public service is set for tomorrow in honor of the 26-year-old Sean Collier. And Vice President Biden is due to attend that to show respect.

CNN has learned some new and chilling details of Collier's ambush. CNN's Deb Feyerick will join me now from New York with those. What have we learned?

DEB FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Chris, one of the big questions is why. Why did they kill the police officer? Did he spot him, for example? That was one of the theories that investigators were working on, but now we're being told by a source that the MIT officer allegedly shot to death by the two brothers never alerted dispatch, that he -- that he had seen them, he never had time to trigger his emergency system which is what they have on radios in event they can't actually get to their radio.

What we're being told is that one of the brothers allegedly one of the brothers walked up to the car and simply executed this man as he sat alone in his patrol car on the MIT campus. Police responded not because they had gotten a call from the police officer, they responded because there were multiple 911 calls that came in saying that shots had been fired on the campus.

One thing investigators are look at is why did they do this, because it didn't appear that he had spotted them first. But this is what really triggered an entire timeline of events that ultimately led to the death of one and the capture of another. So all of that right now is under the investigation.

Chris, I can tell you investigators are trying to piece together the timeline because it's so important. There are so many open questions, things that simply do not make sense about the brothers' movements, where they were, how they got to certain points. We do know the police officer was shot, that was the trigger that got all police out and surrounding a particular area. We know that the car was hijacked, the carjack, a driver carjacked. They went to the gas station, the carjacking victim escapes and they went to the ATM and the shoot-out with police occurred.

That's a little context in terms of this poor officer and his death, which really was the key in that focused everybody in on the area where the two men were located. Chris?

CUOMO: All right. Thank you very much. The only certainty of the timeline of the portion to so far is the young officer lost his life for absolutely no reason and our heart goes out to his family. Thank you very much.

Big step in the recovery that's going on right now as we speak. Calling "Boston Strong." The latest step is that authorities are letting business owners, residents back on to Boylston street, near the bomb sites, on a staggered basis. They're taking it slowly here.

Joined by my colleague and friend John Berman. You've been watching this. This is your home. It's coming back strong, like predicted.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, Chris, we've been watching it right behind us, because it is that area right back there that is Boylston street, that was the area where the Boston Marathon finish line was and it's been a crime scene for the last week. Some 400 businesses, not to mention all of the people who live in that area, six blocks, have not been allowed back until today.

Today they're going block by block, letting business owners as well as people who live there get back into their homes, get back to their businesses to check them out. I just saw a note from one building manager, and what they're doing is walking through these buildings with city inspectors. First thing they want to make sure of is that all of the buildings are safe. Once they get the sense it's safe, that's when they will let the general public back in. Some 400 business owners there, and I've talked to a number, not one complained about the fact they weren't allowed in. There is concern because they did lose a great deal of business.

CUOMO: That's a good step in the right direction.

BERMAN: That is a good step. Also getting news today of a solemn step. This from the parents of young Martin Richards, the 8-year-old who died that the finish line right behind us. There was a private funeral for Martin Richards today and the parents, they put out this statement. Let me read it in full, because it's touching.

"The outpouring of love and support over the last week has been tremendous. This has been the most difficult week of our lives and we appreciate that our friends and family have given us space to grieve and heal. A private funeral mass was celebrated this morning with immediate family. We laid our son Martin to rest, and he is now at peace. We plan to have a public memorial service in the coming weeks to allow friends and loves ones from our community to join us for a celebration of Martin's life."

CUOMO: Going to be so tough for that familiarly. That kid's face means so much to so many. What a beautiful kid he was.

BERMAN: I think the memorial will be a chance for everyone to come together who wants to share their feelings with this family and celebrate that young boy's life.

CUOMO: You've been seeing it here on the most serious and lighter ones. Sport is a part of the recovery. Tough for J.B. and I. I'm a life long Knicks fan. He's a Boston guy. The Celtics playing the Knicks.

BERMAN: It is game two tonight in New York. Now, game one, the Celtics and the Knicks came together, they all wore special patches, special uniforms. The people of New York, in a wonderful way, really came together in support of the Celtics. The only thing they did not do is let the Celtics win game one. We would not have that. Game two, I'm told, will be entirely different. That's what I'm hearing from my sources on the Celtics.

CUOMO: I respect you wearing Knicks blue underneath your signature suede coat.

BERMAN: All I want is warm.

CUOMO: I will put on something green. We're brothers even though at this time of the year, usually we've got problems with each other.

BERMAN: Thanks.

CUOMO: Thank you very much. We'll take a quick break. When we come back, more on the investigation from here and what may be the next steps going forward.


CUOMO: Thanks for joining us. Trying to keep you up to date with the latest going on with the Boston Marathon investigation. The latest that we have here, suspect's condition has been upgraded. Okay, it was serious, now fair. That's probably good news for investigators because they've been going into the suspect's hospital room every few hours to ask questions. Obviously his ability to communicate key.

Here, take a look, in the white cap with his brother right now, a picture of him, besides investigators he's had at least one visit at his bedside from a judge yesterday. He had his first court appearance. You can say the U.S. magistrate, that's what it would have been, the first appearance was with Judge Marianne Boulder (ph) and she was there to review his Miranda rights with him, among other things.

You've been hearing a lot about Miranda rights. There's issue at play here that need to be clarified. We're going to read a couple of the things said from the hearing. We have the transcript. The judge said, quoting here, "you have been charged with one use of a weapon often mass destruction and malicious destruction of property resulting in death." The case is being prosecuted in part by Asssistant U.S. Attorney William Weinreb (ph). He said this, quote, "the maximum penalty on each count is death or imprisonment for any terms of years, or life." And there was this finding from the judge, and this one is important. Quote, "I find that the defendant is alert, mentally competent, and lucid. He is aware of the nature of the proceedings."

Okay? So that is the basis for the discussion. I'm pleased to be joined by retired superior court judge Isaac Borenstein in Boston. He's done hospital visits over his 22 years as a judge. Thank you for joining us, Your Honor, appreciate it.

Let us begin with the idea, confusion and frustration about Miranda rights. Give them right away, if you don't give them, then this prosecution is astray.