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Boston Bombing Suspect Communicating; Canadian Train Plot: "No Imminent Threat"; TSA Delays Small Knife Policy; NBA Playoff Game Down to the Wire

Aired April 23, 2013 - 06:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning. A breakthrough for investigators here in the Boston marathon bombing. CNN learning what the surviving suspect has revealed about his older brother, and what drove both of them, perhaps, to this attack.

Plus, a CNN exclusive from a woman who stood just five feet from one of the blasts -- and survived.


ADRIANNE HASLET-DAVIS, INJURED IN BOSTON MARATHON BOMBINGS: A lot of debris falling, and I remember telling Adam, oh, my gosh, I'm alive.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone, I'm John Berman live in Boston this morning. It is Tuesday, April 23rd, about half past the hour right now.

And for more than a week we've been wondering, what drove these two brothers to allegedly set off two bombs right at the finish line of the Boston marathon?

Now, new this morning, it appears we are starting to get some answers. CNN's Jake Tapper has learned from a government official that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is communicating with law enforcement, telling investigators that he and his brother executed last week's attacks to defend Islam.

Jake is with us here this morning with his terrific reporting. Good morning, Jake. What have you heard?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER": Well, a U.S. government official tells me, and that we should caution this is just a preliminary report from preliminary investigation, and interviews with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, but what he is telling investigators is first of all, that there were no foreign groups involved with the terrorist attacks, that this was just the brothers.

Second of all, that they were radicalized online, that there was an online component, watching videos, downloading information, not e- mailing back and forth with anybody abroad. But there was a big online component to their self-radicalization.

Also, as you might expect Dzhokhar to say, and as we've heard when others in the family have described the family dynamic, the older brother, according to Dzhokhar, was the driving force behind the attacks.

Now, according to investigators from these initial preliminary interviews with Dzhokhar, these brothers seem to be self-starter, self-radicalized jihadists, motivated by traditional jihadist thought, as we see in these types of incidents -- with a religious and political component to it, the idea that they believe Islam to be under attack and they needed to strike back.

But again, all caveats still remain in place. This is just from initial interview with Dzhokhar. Investigators have a lot of work to do to find out that this is all accurate. To make sure that it's true what Dzhokhar is telling him..

BERMAN: Any sign of how they're actually communicating with him? Whether or not he's saying a lot of this out loud or written or other kind of communication?

TAPPER: It does not appear to be spoken out loud. It appears to be through nodding, through writing, through those interviews that -- in those interviews, through that communication. He's still obviously has a bullet wound in his neck, and has difficulty talking.

BERMAN: And, finally, Jake, again just to reiterate, they're saying that these had no -- the brothers had no direct communication with any outside terrorist group?

TAPPER: That's what he's saying.

BERMAN: Somehow they were radicalized by watching videos.

TAPPER: That's right. According to this interview here at home by the investigators in the hospital, they were radicalized here at home, not abroad, and that a lot of it was done online, through watching videos online. And we've seen this before in other incidents where individuals here at home, watch these jihadist videos, this is the reason they put these videos online, to radicalize individuals, and in this instance it appears to have worked.

Now, there's still a lot more work to be done. Obviously, we know that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older brother who's now dead, spent six months abroad in Dagestan and Chechnya where there's a big jihadist movement. There's a lot more investigations to be done.

But according to Dzhokhar, the younger brother, no foreign group was involved.

BERMAN: Terrific reporting. Jake Tapper, as you indicate, again, though, this is just the information we're getting from initial communications with Dzhokhar from the hospital.

TAPPER: Yes, and we should also underline, that's not to say the investigators necessarily believe what he's tell being them. But this is what he's telling them.

BERMAN: All right. Jake Tapper, thanks so much.

TAPPER: Thank you.

BERMAN: We have an exclusive look this morning inside the precise tactic a SWAT team used to arrest Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Even in a tense final moment as the highly trained team slowly approach the boat, they did not know if Tsarnaev would pull out a weapon or explosive device. They described to Anderson Cooper how they subdued him.


OFFICER JEFF CAMPBELL, MBTA TRANSIT POLICE SWAT: We got close enough that at one point where both of his hands were up because of the rocking back and forth, both of his hands were up, we could see that there were no weapons in them, no ignition devices. We broke away from the shield protective cover, and we just rushed him. Put hands on him, grabbed him and pulled him off the boat down onto the grounds.


BERMAN: All right the reason the SWAT team immediately pulled off his shirt was to check if he was wearing explosives inside a suicide vest, perhaps.

Let's bring in Jim Walsh. He's CNN's international security analyst.

And, Jim, just a short time ago, we heard from Jake Tapper. His reporting indicated that investigators are now communicating with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old suspect in the Boston marathon bombing attack and they are learning from him, at least initially, he says that they were radicalized by watching videos online. No direct communication with any outside terrorist groups, but they learned their Islamic, deeply held religious beliefs, radicalized by watching videos.

JIM WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it both raises some interesting puzzles and it sort of makes sense at another level. There seemed to be an attack that combined levels of confidence with gross incompetence. The fact that they have found the younger brothers' coat and hat that he wore on the day of the bombing back in his college dorm room, that he went back to his college with the clothes he wore to the attack. That seems pretty incompetent.

On the other hand, you know, these bombs went off. So there's some level of competence here.

You know, there are thousands of videos out there watched by millions of people and the number of them who simply because of watching a video suddenly turn into a terrorist who carries out an act. That's a really small percentage. So I think there's some facts left to be filled in here.

BERMAN: So, that makes you raise your eyebrow. Another thing that might make you raise your eyebrow is the quality of these explosive devices. Three bombs made in pressure cookers. We've heard them called crude. Nevertheless, they did go off.

WALSH: And they went off.

BERMAN: They were put together successfully. Is that the type of thing that two brothers could do on their own or would it require or does it indicate to you that there may have been some training?

WALSH: Well, it wasn't just that. You know, three pressure cooker bombs. There were other pipe bombs which the police were calling grenades at one point, you know, and a fair amount of explosives.

You know, I want to see more. I think there's some distance between reading a blueprint, or reading something online and constructing something that's going to work that you have confidence is going to work, not going to blow up before, and not going to blow up too late. I would have thought they would have had to have gotten some real experience constructing, practicing, either here or elsewhere, so that's one of the things that remains a mystery.

BERMAN: I want to shift gears right now to this alleged attack that was broken up in Canada. Two suspects now in custody, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police say they have the suspects in custody who, with the help of al Qaeda from Iran, had planned to blow up a train or at least derail a train from Canada potentially headed to the United States.

WALSH: I mean, in some ways, this, you know, for the viewer who is waking up who is not aware of this to hear terrorist attack, al Qaeda and Iran all in the same sentence is a pretty scary thing. But I think we should take a deep breath here, the police said that there is no evidence of state involvement -- in other words, Iran or any other country being involved.

It's not clear whether these folks were aspirational in nature. In other words, didn't really know much, didn't have much confidence but sort of followed this along, and the police were keeping an eye on them. Or whether they actually knew what they were doing. They said they got, quote, "guidance from al Qaeda."

And that remains to be defined. What does guidance mean? Does it mean active direction by phone, e-mail, whatever, or is it more they were reading things again online, and sort of following taking guidance in that way?

The press conference yesterday, or last night with Canadian Mounted Police was brief and there weren't a lot of details. So, if there's one thing we've learned this week and from previous experiences, we shouldn't rush to judgment when there are so few details.

BERMAN: And we do know we have been told in these preliminary stages, no connection to what's happening in Canada and the attacks here in Boston.


BERMAN: That much we've been told so far.

Jim Walsh, thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it.

WALSH: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: Moving on to other news. Now to another CNN exclusive, we're hearing for the first time in a dance instructor who lost a foot, and part of her leg here in the attacks at the Boston marathon. 32-year- old Adrianne Haslet-Davis was watching the marathon with her husband Adam Davis, Air Force captain, when they were hit by the second explosion.

Now, despite her injuries, Haslet-Davis is vowing to dance again, and to run in the Boston marathon. Here's what she had to say to CNN's Anderson Cooper.


HASLET-DAVIS: I landed, and sort of closed my eyes and was underneath Adam and kind of covering my head, and my face, it was very gray and quiet. Gray smoke and ashes, and a lot of debris falling, and I remember telling Adam, oh, my gosh, I'm alive. And then he said I'm OK. I'm OK. Oh, my gosh, are you OK? And I said I think we're OK.

And I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe that we survived and that we weren't hurt at all. And I didn't feel any pain. I had no idea what was -- what had happened. And then I sat up, and I try -- he said we've got to get out of here or something like that.

And I sat up and tried to move and I said oh, my gosh, my foot, there's something wrong with my foot and he lifted up my leg and we just lost it.

I don't want this to be the end. I'm only 32. I don't want this to be the end. So whether it's, you know, running the marathon or walking the marathon or crawling the marathon and being the last one across, I'm OK with that. I didn't say I'd win it. But I am defiant, and I want -- I want to come out stronger.


BERMAN: So great to see her smile and see her laugh. Haslet-Davis has never run a marathon before. But she says at one point in her life, she wasn't a ball room dancer either. Can't wait to see her in this marathon soon.

To find out how you can help those affected by the Boston bombings, go to our impact your world page online at

And still ahead, he can barely spoke but Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is said to be telling investigators that it was his older brother who was the driving force behind the attacks here. We're going to take a closer look at this brotherly influence, next.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Ahead on "STARTING POINT", John Berman and I continue special coverage of the Boston bombings with new information this morning. The surviving suspect is communicating from his hospital bed that his brother was the mastermind behind that attack, and that they worked alone. This as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is charged with using a weapon of mass destruction.

Then, deadly floodwaters are rising in the Midwest, swallowing up homes. Is there any relief in sight?

Plus, a six-year-old survives a horrifying alligator attack. We're going to talk to Joey Welch about the very moment an eight foot alligator chomped down on his arm and how he just walked away with a few scratches.

John, this six-year-old little guy, I mean, he said I told my dad, are we going to see an alligator? Maybe we shouldn't do this.


ROMANS: He's a very cute kid. You know, I can't wait for you to see him.

BERMAN: Cute and lucky and brave kid. All right. Christine Romans, thanks so much.

Back here in Boston, as Christine -- we are getting new details into the investigation into the alleged Boston bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. We're learning more about signs that his older brother, Tamerlan, may have become radicalized and when Dzhokhar possibly began to follow his brother's lead.

Here's CNN's Brian Todd.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New information on Tamerlan Tsarnaev's prospective on Islam. January 18th, 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 Muhammad 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 that you cannot, you know, compare or make a parallel between a prophet and a non-Muslim. Some people said that he referred to the person who was giving the sermon as a hypocrite. The adamant word is monofit (ph).

TODD: 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, ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF BOSTON SPOKESWOMAN: Unfortunately, there were no indications and if trained specialist from the FBI were not able to see anything. You know, I'm sure you can understand how people who are merely acquainted with these individuals seeing them sporadically at prayers would not see, you know, 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 follower in this situation." John Pinto co-owns a Brazilian restaurant in the Tsarnaev's neighborhood.

In recent months, he saw the brothers come 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: (INAUDIBLE). I think the big brother is the one in the command. He's like, let's go, we do this, we do this, we do this, whatever. And the other one just behind him.

TODD: 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.

VOICE OF ROSE SCHUTZBERG, DZHOKHAR TSARNAEV: You know, there was an effort to sort of create some distance between his older brother (ph) just because they didn't see the world quite in the same way.

TODD: Neighbors gave us new information on the broader family dynamic.

(on-camera): This is the top floor apartment here on Norfolk Street (ph) 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 live together.

(voice-over): 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 quotes Tamerlan Tsarnaev is saying, "yes, I slap her." Neighbors tell us they thought the tension in the family dissipated after the parents and sisters moved out a couple of years ago.

Brian Todd, CNN, Boston.


BERMAN: Our thanks to Brian Todd. Now, I should tell you, I'm standing here in Boston just a block away from Boylston Street. That's where the finish line was to the Boston Marathon. And for the last eight days, that area behind me has been completely closed to the public even if you lived or worked there. Today, we do have some good news.

People who live and work on Boylston Street, that area that has been a crime scene, they will be allowed back into their homes and offices today. They'll check to see if they're safe. They'll probably fix the broken windows that may be there. They'll get their things in order. This is before it opens to the general public.

That will happen, hopefully, within the next 24 to 48 hours. But the news today, if you live or work in the crime scene area behind me on Boylston Street, you will be allowed to head back in -- Zoraida.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: That is quite a bit of good news. Thank you, John.

So, the TSA was just days away from loosening some of its rules, but hold everything, it turn out the agency's not quite ready for you to bring a knife on board.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. Fifty-two minutes past the hour. The TSA's plan to let passengers bring small knives on planes is now officially on hold. The new policy was supposed to go into effect Thursday, but the agency says that they want more input. Critics, including flight attendants, say letting knives back in the cabin is a dangerous idea, but supporters say it will speed up lines and let agents focus on bigger threats. That will go back and forth for awhile.

So, big time NBA playoff action in full effect in Los Angeles last night. It did not involve the Lakers. The Clippers, I can't even say it, and Grizzlies had one go down to the wire, I understand. Jared Greenberg is here with this morning's "Bleacher Report."

JARED GREENBERG, BLEACHER REPORT: Now, Zoraida, it still feels weird to say it -- dramatic finish, the second buzzer beating win in the first three days, the NBA playoffs while you were sleeping, the L.A. Clippers took a commanding advantage in their best of seven series. Trailing by as many as 12 points in the fourth quarter, insert Chris Paul, arguably, basketball's best point guard. Tied game, final seconds, Paul drives for the win. You betcha!

A two-point Clipper victory. A franchise known best for its inability to win. The Clippers have taken the first two games of the playoff series for just the second time ever. Needing just two more wins to advance to the second round the series now moves to Memphis for the next two.

Boston continues to remember and honor. Watertown police officers that were involved in Thursday's gun fight took center stage on the top of the Fenway dugout. An inning later, The Red Sox down a run, bases loaded for Nike Napoli and he got all of it, some spring yard work. That's a grand slam. The first place Red Sox -- hope John could hear me -- the first place Red Sox beat the A's 9-6.

Earlier in the day, more than 100 New England Patriot employees spelled out "one Boston" on the football field.

Best retirement strategy in history. From the Andes mountains in Peru, Scott Fujita signed a one-day contract then announced that his football career is done. Not sure the best decisions are made 10,000 feet above sea level overlooking Machu Picchu, but, then again, maybe those are the best decisions in life.

Fujita played 11 seasons in the NFL, including four in New Orleans where he helped the Saints win a Super Bowl. Unfortunately, Fujita may be best remembered for his role in the Saints bounty gate program.

Another reason to be envious of a professional athlete, Shane Battier won at NBA title last year with the Miami Heat, and he's a key reason why the Heat are favored to repeat this year. Bud Light found out Battier has a pregame ritual, get this, to indulge in a beer prior to each game. So, naturally, the beer company donated a truck load of beer to a man who has already earned more than $50 million during his playing career.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's up, man? How are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good man. Mr. Shane Battier?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got a special delivery for you, man, from Bud Light.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Got a whole truck full.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll take it all. I'll take it all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me know where you want --




GREENBERG: Can't say that I have the same preshow ritual, but Zoraida, how about getting sports casters involved here?

SAMBOLIN: Hey, what's the shelf life of beer? That's a whole lot of beer. GREENBERG: It is. More than 1,100 cases. So, good thing he's a pretty popular guy and he knows a few people and I'm sure he'll have no trouble getting rid of that.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. If he wasn't popular before, he is now. Jared Greenberg, thank you very much.

GREENBERG: You got it.

SAMBOLIN: And "STARTING POINT" on deck. We'll be right back.


SAMBOLIN: And that is it for EARLY START. Thanks for being with us today. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

CNN's continuing live coverage of the aftermath of the Boston bombings continues on "STARTING POINT" with John Berman live in Boston.