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Missed Warnings or Failed Communication?; Bomb Suspects' Parents Defend Them; Detonator Like a Toy Car Remote Control; Suspects' Mother Talks to CNN

Aired April 25, 2013 - 09:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, CNN continuing live team coverage of the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, continues now with Jake Tapper and Brooke Baldwin, here in Boston.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Half a world away from Boston, the parents -- half a world away from Boston, the parents of the bombing suspects lash out. They say their lives are now in danger and their sons are victims of an elaborate hoax.

Good morning. Welcome to a special edition of NEWSROOM live from Boston. I'm Jake Tapper.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Brooke Baldwin here in Boston. Busy, busy morning of developments here.

Want to begin with this morning here. Investigators are looking into a bizarre and fascinating possibility here that his older brother, a devout Muslim, with fundamental beliefs may have financed attacks by peddling illegal drugs.

Meanwhile, the father of Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev says terrorists are threatening the family in southern Russia. He says both his sons are innocent and that they were somehow framed. Their mother takes it one step farther, she believes this bloody crime scene here in Boston was no more than a lot of hoax. Actors, she says, played the main victims and the blood was nothing more than paint. This from the suspected bombers here.

Much more on that in just a moment. But first this morning, Russian President Vladimir Putin is urging closer cooperation with the United States and this follows concerns by some that U.S. intelligence agencies failed to follow through on warnings from Russia. So not just one, but two separate occasions Russia asked the Americans to investigate this older sibling, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, because he appeared to be sliding into Islamic extremism.

That first warning, as we've been reporting here on CNN, went to the FBI back in 2011. The second, as we've learned, went to the CIA months later.

Republican Senators John McCain and Kelly Ayotte want a congressional hearing to determine if vital clues were missed because the agency did not communicate.

A former CIA operative said the safeguards put in place to protect you and me clearly failed.


ROBERT BAER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's systemic, absolutely. There's no other way to describe it, as a failure. Immigrations didn't tell the FBI that he was leaving, Immigrations didn't tell the FBI that he was coming back. We don't know what the CIA told the FBI. But two warnings from Russian intelligence you don't ignore. The FSB, the SBR, the two main Russian intelligence services, don't like the United States, they don't provide tactical intelligence, and when they do, you'd better listen.


TAPPER: U.S. officials say when the FBI and CIA ended their separate investigations, they concluded the older brother posed no threat. Russia refused requests for more information. So the big question is did the intelligence community have the information that could have prevented these bombings?

Former FBI assistant director and CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes joins us now from Washington.

Tom, simply put, was the ball dropped?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Hi, Jake. I don't think so. There's no evidence to say that it has been dropped at this point. The information that first came to the FBI was investigated and they investigated it very diligently, as near as we can tell, up to and including interviews with Tamerlan himself, checking his electronic communications, who he was in touch with. What friends and neighbors thought of him and all of that.

The -- I should say the lead that comes in later to the CIA, and I don't know if they are identical, but I ran the office of the FBI for five years, that oversaw these requests from the Moscow office back to FBI headquarters and the appropriate field division in this case so it would go to the JTTF in Boston. It would go to the security officials in Washington. That information would be shared. It's not a question of sending it to another agency. They all sit side by side on the JTTF and have access to it.

Everybody has access to everything. As far as -- it's very common for Russians to -- and other countries for that matter to shotgun out their requests. So we don't know if the one that came to the CIA is the exact same one that came to the FBI or not. But it's not uncommon to send it to multiple U.S. agencies, and just see, you know, who decides to take it, who does what when they bring it over.

I'd like to add also, in fairness to the CIA, that they're not authorized to conduct investigations in the U.S. That's the FBI and state and local law enforcement's job, not theirs. So what they would have done is make an inquiry into the database, see that it's been investigated by the FBI. See that -- to the extent appropriate the name was entered into various terrorist watch databases. The one database, the TIDE database, has nearly 500,000 names. It does not qualify or warrant every person in that for 24/7 monitoring or to try to keep -- keep track of them into the future.

BALDWIN: But, Tom -- but, Tom, I read about this TIDE database this morning and, you know, we know that the tips and the inquiries came into the FBI and the CIA before he went over to Dagestan in Chechnya. And just from an unsophisticated view here, I'm wondering also at reports that maybe his name was misspelled or there were different dates for his birthday.

How come, you know, sirens didn't go off? How come, you know, he was even allowed to go over there in the first place because he was listed in this TIDE database? It just doesn't make sense.

FUENTES: Well, a person being listed in the database doesn't mean they can't leave the country and go back and visit family. You know, it means to try to keep track of them, and you're right. I don't know exactly what stops were put in, passport control for that, but I can tell you the DHS officials that do that sit right on the JTTF and can access and enter information in those databases right there.

So it's not a question of stovepiping, it's -- because everybody would have everything. It's a question of whether he qualified for what level of stops that were put in. So beyond that, you know, we're not sure. And that's still under investigation.

Additionally, you know, the concern over the Russians, let's say for him, being involved with groups in Russia that are terrorist organizations, they were -- they were watching those organizations 24/7. Why don't they notify us when, as people think, he wanders into their surveillance, shows up over there, meeting with Abu Dujana or Abu Dujana's people. Because the Russians are watching him and his people as much as possible and ultimately this past December kill him in a major shoot-out.

So we hear nothing about that. No information was coming back, saying what he was up to over there, and that would have been up to the Russian security service to tell us. What he's doing because if they know or if he shows in their surveillances.

TAPPER: All right. No doubt, some tough questions for the Russians as well.

Tom Fuentes, former FBI assistant director. Thank you very much for your views this morning.

Moments ago, the Tsarnaev parents held a news conference, the father is heading to the United States in just a few hours.

CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson and CNN's Nick Patton Walsh join us from Dagestan.

Nick Paton Walsh, you spoke with their mother. I'll get to that in a second, but, Nic, I want to start -- Nic Robertson, I want to start with you. Let's start with the news conference that the parents held. What did they say?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, it was about a 45-minute press conference. A lot of journalists crowded into a tiny room around them. Questions being fired in English and Russian from all sides, a jumble of questions bouncing from issue to issue.

At times they seemed confused. There's times they seemed emotional. At times they seemed very direct and strident in what they were saying. Tamerlan's mother, in particular saying, that they weren't going to be allowed to see Dzhokhar in hospital and the United States is getting very emotional about that at a point. Also saying that she'd been speaking with Dzhokhar's lawyers and saying that right now he is being fed, only by a feeding tube. He can't take solid food. She also said and this seems contrary to what we all understand, she said that so far he hasn't had any official questioning.

But the emotion, her emotion, coming out saying she might denounce U.S. or renounce a U.S. citizenship. This seems to be parents here who are caught in confusion. They don't really understand what's happened or that -- in a state of denial about what's happened. She was sort of coming up with all sorts of theories that they've never actually done it. And coming up with conspiracy theories.

So these were people here, in this press conference, emotional and at times confusing, at times they're right -- Jake.

BALDWIN: Nick Paton Walsh, to you, you know, we know the father. We will be awaiting the father's arrival here in Boston. We're learning that he is heading to the United States. But not the mother. Is it because of this shoplifting charge she's facing?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She told me in the interview on camera that she didn't care about those charges and has said in the press conference about it isn't actually going to be an issue. But off camera, she did confide saying, I am a little bit worried about that. That may be delaying her arrival there. But above all, during the interview I had with her, it was a case of a woman really trying to reconcile the feeling she has towards her sons, angels and Hermione, devout Islams, with what was being put in front of her by U.S. officials.

Let's hear what she had to say.


WALSH: American officials say your sons murdered three people and injured over 100 and they deliberately planted bombs in a civilian area and detonated them. And then went on the run shooting people. You've seen the pictures?


WALSH: There are people in Boston here who want to know why, and they believe they did this. They believe that.

TSARNAEV: You know, I -- I saw a very, very interesting video last night that they -- the -- it was something like a really big plate, that is like paint instead of blood. Like it's made up something. WALSH: I know it's hard for you to believe that the American officials are saying? Would you believe the whole thing was a show? Why would it be a show?

TSARNAEV: Well, the mesh officials are saying? Do you believe the whole thing was a sham?

I don't -- that's what I want to know. Because everybody is talking about it. That this is a show. That's what I want to know. That's what I want to understand.


WALSH: Brooke, really caught in that contradiction, they've also had to say that the FBI had come in 2011 to talked to Tamerlan Tsarnaev, saying that his radical level of Islamic faith meant they were going to keep him under observation. And also confiding that the family as a whole seems to have taken a turn towards a devout strain of Muslim faith. Tamerlan Tsarnaev telling his mother to cover up. Basically because the man known as Misha, a family friend and our median converted to the faith, it began having a strong influence on them.

Let's hear what she had to say.


TSARNAEV: Misha, everybody is talking about Misha now. I don't know -- Misha, yes, Misha, when Misha visited us, kind of -- just opened our eyes. You know, really wide about Islam. And he was really -- he was devoted and he is a very good -- very nice man.


WALSH: But at times, incredibly emotional, saying that this whole experience has left her completely empty inside, feeling almost dead as she moves around -- Jake, Brooke.

TAPPER: All right. Nick Paton Walsh and Nic Robertson, in Dagestan, thanks so much. We'll come back to you throughout the day. We're also learning the suspects may have detonated the bomb using something resembling of the remote control for a toy car.

CNN's national correspondent Deb Feyerick is at Beth Israel Medical Center with more on that.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, Brooke, we are being told by a member of the House Select Intelligence Committee, that, in fact, the brothers did use some sort of remote control device.

You have to remember that we know the younger brother who's here at the hospital, just behind me, that the younger brother had at least 10 seconds, a 10-second window in which to walk away before that second bomb exploded. And so they are looking into the remote control and that's what the member of the House Select Intelligence Committee is telling us right now. Also what's interesting is that police were looking very closely this morning at a bin that was found in Watertown and some of our affiliates are reporting that inside the bin, investigators may have found or someone found what appears to be a bag filled with empty fireworks canisters. You remember that's one of the serious they're looking into that the brothers may have used some sort of fireworks in which to build this sort of explosive impact. And those folks we've been talking to, in terms of how they describe the bomb, it was white smoke. A bright flash, everything that's sort of consistent with fireworks. And that's what investigators have been telling us as well.

Now it's not clear yet whether Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will be moved from this particular hospital. There has been some talks that he should be moved. But he's still under a doctor's care and doctors are going to make that decision whether he is stable enough to be moved and that would be a decision that would be between the doctors, the U.S. attorneys, FBI, and the U.S. Marshalls who will take him -- take him to another secured facility, some place that has the kind of care, especially the kind of emergency care that he's likely to need -- Jake.

BALDWIN: Yes. I know a lot of the victims' families -- I was at Beth Israel earlier this week. Not happy that this man is being cared for under the same roof.

Deb, let me ask you about this here. We're also hearing, you know, bits and pieces after last Monday's marathon bombing anecdotally that there were some sort of plan that these two brothers had, plans to party in Manhattan. What do you know about that?

FEYERICK: Well, given the way this all played out, it's sort of hard to even believe that these two men had a plan to do anything after they set the devices off, given how chaotic it was, but apparently investigators are saying -- we have from a source that when he was questioned by investigators here in the hospital, the 19-year-old suspect apparently said that the brothers -- made some comment about going to New York and going to party. Whatever that means.

Now obviously if you're a conspiracy theorist, you look at the word party, and you said, well, what does that mean? But it may mean just what it says. We know that the younger brother had been in New York within a two-year period, visiting with friends. So we don't want to look at it in terms of putting any meaning into this.

But take a listen to what Police Commissioner Ray Kelly had to say.


RAY KELLY, NYPD COMMISSIONER: They may have been intent on coming to New York, but not to continue what they were doing. We have information that we received said something a party, or having a party.

(END VIDEO CLIP) FEYERICK: And, clearly, Jake and Brooke, New York ratcheted up security after what happened here in Boston. So everybody on alert. But that's pretty much all we know. How they would have gotten down to New York City, again, it ended so chaotically with the killing of the young police officer who set the thing in motion in terms of their capture -- Jake, Brooke.

TAPPER: All right, Deb Feyerick, thanks so much.

Just ahead, investigators are turning their focus to Tamerlan Tsarnaev's wife. We'll you what she is telling them about his past. That's coming up.


BALDWIN: Welcome back here, live in Boston. I'm Brooke Baldwin alongside my colleague, Jake Tapper.

We were just talking to Nick Paton Walsh, who has been in Dagestan, basically digging on this story, trying to understand sort of the ties to this two alleged Boston bombing suspects here in Boston, and he just spoke with the mother of the two young boys, the mother and father actually gave a news conference. Pretty emotional news conference at that.

Here is a clip of what this mother had to say.


TSARNAEV: Somebody told that Misha was, and they were close friends, and so they think that Misha made him become more -- more -- somebody told them that Misha was the one who was influenced on him.

WALSH: And you met Misha?

TSARNAEV: Of course I met Misha.

WALSH: Describe Misha to me what kind of guy.

TSARNAEV: Very nice. Nothing wrong. Very intelligent. Very like -- nothing to talk about.

WALSH: So, what else did you ask about his trips, particularly interested in the time he came to Dagestan.

TSARNAEV: About who? Tamerlan? Well, a lot of questions about Tamerlan and his trips.

WALSH: And his trips here?


WALSH: Two trips, one in 2011, and one in 2012?

TSARNAEV: No. Only 2012.

WALSH: Only 2012?


WALSH: And that was six months in which he was with --



TSARNAEV: Yes, yes.

WALSH: And are you going to America?

TSARNAEV: I think so. I think so.

WALSH: You want to?

TSARNAEV: Yes, because I really want to -- I really want to see how it is going to end.

WALSH: You want to bury your son?

TSARNAEV: Of course. Of course. Even though I don't know if they will let us see Dzhokhar, but I want to go. I want to see Tamerlan if it's possible. Yes, I want to.

WALSH: And there is an issue for an arrest warrant for you?

TSARNAEV: That's -- I don't even care. That isn't even something that is difficult. It wasn't a big deal and I don't care about it. What I care is only the death of my oldest son, who I think was killed, and the youngest one who is really -- needs the support.

WALSH: Can you describe to me how you think this situation came about? We said before, now you believe their innocence. How do you think it's come to this stage to the American officials saying that they are guilty?

TSARNAEV: You know, it's really difficult. I -- I really don't know how to explain, but I feel there is something wrong. I don't know. I really feel that there is something wrong. I'm thinking through the day, through the night, I don't see anybody. I don't see anything to pay attention to like -- I mean, about his friends, like whoever was surrounding him. I think that it would really catch my attention.

WALSH: Describe to me the pain.

TSARNAEV: It's -- I don't know how to describe it, you know? You know mother. You have a mother, right?

So, just because are you not a mother, you won't understand it. I am a mother. Loving mother of two kids.

I don't know. This is really crazy. I can't even -- I can't even describe it. I don't know.

I have no strength, I have nothing. I have like -- I have no sleep. I am just dead. A dead person. How can I describe it?

WALSH: What was it like to realize that Tamerlan was dead? Because we've spoken to you, you're unsure. How you know for sure?

TSARNAEV: I saw his body. When he is alive, when he is alive, I saw a link on the computer. I saw this was really a mistake, there was something going on, because I look at the one who was really shown by whoever worked, you know, saying that Tamerlan was killed in a terroristic operation, you know, they're shooting, like whatever.

And then I saw after that, I saw my Tamerlan naked, putting into the police car.


TAPPER: That's Nick Paton Walsh in Dagestan with the mother of the suspects in the Boston marathon terror suspects.

Coming up, we'll check out other stories making news. Two fuel barges explode. Lighting up a river in Alabama. We'll have the latest on the fire and the casualties.


BALDWIN: Welcome back to Boston. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Alongside Jake Tapper.

We're going to get back to our special coverage here. But first, let's get a check of other news on Thursday morning, including a fire that has finally died down after explosions rocked the two fuel barges on Alabama's Mobile River, tremendous flames earlier this morning. This fire apparently ignited after a buildup of natural gas vapors. Three people hospitalized right now, listed in critical condition. At least six explosions heard up to 20 miles away.

TAPPER: The worst of the Midwest floods may be over for some people. Mississippi River levels have peaked above St. Louis. But major flooding on the Illinois River at Peoria, is expected to last through the weekend.

BALDWIN: And investigators are stilling looking for clues into who sent those ricin laced letters to President Obama, Senator Roger Wicker and also a county judge. The latest search was at this former student in Mississippi man's home and martial arts studio has been searched. Prosecutors as you now know, dropped charges against this mother Mississippi man who was initially suspected of sending the letters.

TAPPER: After four years behind bars in an Italian prison. Amanda Knox says she is ready to tell her side of the story.

CNN's Alina Cho has more.