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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Unarmed When Hiding on Boat; Syrian Government Has Reportedly Used Chemical Weapons; Tsarnaev Brothers' Mother Will Not Travel to United States; Zubeidat Tsarnaev Claims His Sons Were Set Up; Interview with Sen. Lindsey Graham

Aired April 25, 2013 - 13:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon everyone. I'm Anderson Cooper live in Boston. We are following two breaking news stories today. We are learning new details in the Boston Bombing investigation. A 19-year-old terror suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was not armed when he was found hiding in that boat last Friday.

We are also following another breaking news on Syria. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says U.S. Intelligence Officials believe the Syrian government has used chemical weapons in the battle to sustain power. He did not say who exactly was targeted, but he did detail the type of chemical agent, sarin gas. Take a listen.


CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: This morning the White House delivered a letter to several members of congress on the topic of chemical weapons use in Syria. The letter, which we made available to you here shortly as soon as George gets it, will get to you. States at the U.S. Intelligence Community assesses with some degree of varying confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin.


COOPER: We're joined on the phone by Senator Lindsey Graham -- actually by remote. Senator Graham, thanks for joining us. First of all, your comments on the -- where Chuck Hagel has said that the Syrian regime has used sarin gas.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA REPRESENTATIVE: Yes, I was one of the senators on the letter where Senator McCain AI'd. I think 11 --several of us. Well, it's a red line that has been crossed. It's clearly an indication and admission by the administration that sarin gas was used by the Assad regime and the president said that would be a red line. So, the question is what's next?

COOPER: What do you think should happen next?

GRAHAM: I think the international community should rally around helping the rebels by having a no-fly zone some place they can operate safely. Arm the appropriate groups within the rebel forces and there are some radical jihadists unfortunately, every day this goes it gets worse. But, it really put pressure on the Russians to get Assad out. And, the day after he leaves, the number one goal for me is to secure the chemical weapons. There are enough chemical weapons in Syria to kill thousands if not millions of people. So, I hope the Syrian opposition council to agree -- to work with us, the international community, to secure those chemical weapons sites and destroy them.

COOPER: In your mind does that include or preclude the idea of U.S. Boots on the ground to secure those chemical weapons sites? Because all the experts I've heard from say it's not just something you can do from the air.

GRAHAM: Right. OK. No boots on the ground to provide support for the rebels. It's my belief if you could neutralize the Syrian Air Force and their tanks that this would be over pretty quickly. You ground the planes and you start shooting a few of the tanks, I think this thing ends pretty quickly.

In terms of securing the chemical weapons, this should be a regional effort, international community effort. I don't care if the Russians were involved. But, to secure these sites, the Syrian opposition doesn't have the ability to do it. I wouldn't mind if there's a U.S. component, but it's got to be internationally led.

COOPER: I want to talk about the Boston bombing investigation. You've made headlines today by laying blame for the terror attack on the Obama administration. Will you explain that?

GRAHAM: Yes. I think it's system failure. They asked me, you know, if the system fails who do you blame, well, you blame people in charge of the system. President Obama deserved great credit for the Bin Laden raid. That was a gutsy call, a flawless operation. Bush did some things right. He did some things wrong.

Here's what we know about Boston. The Federal -- excuse me -- The Russian intelligence services contacted the FBI and the CIA saying you've got a radical Islamist in your midst. We put him in some kind of system. When he leaves to go to Russia and Dagestan, the department of homeland security picks up his leaving and returning, but they don't share it with the FBI and the CIA. That's a system failure.

And, after he comes back in 2012, he goes on youtube and the internet declaring his hatred for our country threatening to kill us all and the rest is history. So, yes, I think the system did fail.

COOPER: What do you say -- I mean do you feel you know all there is to know at this point about --


COOPER: -- About any failure?

GRAHAM: No, I don't. I know this. I know that when he goes to Russia and that the department of homeland security picks up him leaving and the FBI and CIA are not informed 11 years after 9/11, that's a mistake. That's a big mistake. And, when he comes back from Dagestan and he goes on the internet, youtube and other public outlets and starts talking in a radical fashion and we can't pick that up in light of all the warnings we've had, I know that's failure.

And, I think there's just -- Bin Laden may be dead, Anderson, and I'm glad he is, but radical Islam is not. And in our own backyard the threat is growing. And, I think quite frankly the administration is oversold with the demise of Bin Laden and knockoff jihadist is probably not the right term to use. I think it's quite frankly minimizing the threat we face. So, between Benghazi and Boston to me, we're going backwards, not forward in terms of national security.

COOPER: Your comments, for the first time a public official has laid this at the foot of the Obama administration. No doubt your critics are going to saying you are politicising this, to them you say what?

GRAHAM: Well, when Bush screwed up, I said, "I think you're screwing up about Iraq, Mr. President." And, when your interrogation policy has led to abrogate, I said, "Mr. President, this is not who we are. I am now saying to my fellow citizens 11 years after 9/11, clearly our system is not working. I don't mind giving credit and support to this administration or any republican administration. I sure don't mind appropriate criticism.

The FBI and CIA are very brave people, great organizations. But, how can you say given the facts, 11 years after 9/11 the system is working the way it should and at the end of the day the administration in charge deserves the credit when it works and the blame when it fails. And, the goal is not to blame them exclusively, but to fix it. And, I hope we will. This will be a wakeup call when we fix it.

COOPER: What do you see the best way to fix it? Do you see a role for our congress and the senate to have hearings? --


COOPER: -- Investigations on what went wrong?

GRAHAM: Yes. And, you can put some blame on us. Sequestration putting our agencies under pressure by budget cuts not being able to, you know, solve any big problem in congress. Yes, I'd like to do a joint investigation unlike Benghazi. You've got the FBI needs to be looked at, the CIA and the Department of Homeland Security and maybe more.

But, combine our resources and do a post mortem on this. The actual investigation itself hats off to the Boston police to the FBI. But, here's another question. After the bomb went off, what one question you would ask is there anybody in the Boston area we've interviewed that would be a -- would fit the signature of doing something like this? And, one way to have that is photo for the whole world to see, how did that not ping the system? How did we not match the photo with the prior contacts we had with this individual?

It's hard to be on a watch list if you don't -- if you're not capturing a photo. Surely the guy -- we had a photo of the guy, and I don't know why that didn't register. So, there's a lot to learn from this.

COOPER: No doubt about that a lot to learn. Senator Lindsey Graham, appreciate your time today. Thank you.

GRAHAM: Indeed.

COOPER: Here's what else is going on in the Boston bombing investigation. There is a lot to tell you about.


COOPER (voice-over): Remember the heavy gunfire heard when police zeroed in on the 19-year-old suspect. It appears all the shots may have come from police. Two officials briefed on the terror investigation tell CNN that no firearm was found in the boat where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured last Friday.

We are also hearing today from the parents of the two suspects. They held a news conference, the Russian Republic of Dagestan again denying that their sons launched the attacks that left four people dead and more than 260 wounded. The suspect's father is right now preparing to come to the United States. He could head here as early as today.

There have been reports the mother had intended to come, but she is also facing charges here, shoplifting charges that she skipped out on. So, there have been some thought if she did actually comes to the United States she could very well be arrested on those charges. So, from what we understand out, it is just the father who plans to come here.

He might be bringing important information that could help in the investigation, if he's willing to talk to a law enforcement here. He has apparently the -- the law FBI has apparently attempted to discuss the situation with him in Dagestan already. Meanwhile, we are getting mixed messages from the suspect's mother. She spoke to CNN today one minute claiming the deadly bombings were staged, the victim actors and the blood paint. The next minute choking back tears and expressing sorrow for the victims.

He was believed to be armed and dangerous. He certainly was dangerous. Now, as we said, it turns out the Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was not armed when he was found hiding in the boat after that intense manhunt. Deborah Feyerick joins us now with those details. Deb, the criminal complaint referred to a standoff and gunfire between the police and the suspect when he was captured. What have you learned today?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the criminal complaint does indeed reference gunfire, gunshots, but it doesn't say between police and the suspect. It just says that he was taken down after basically gunfire erupted. So, they sort of hedge how they worded that. We do know that the two bomb suspects had guns on them.

One, was identified as used against the carjacking victim. Other guns were used during a shootout in Watertown, a shootout that lasted really just a little over a minute. Guns were recovered from that scene as well. But, it does not appear that when Dzhokhar Tsarnaev raced to find shelter in the boat that he was armed, at least certainly not with guns. That's what we're also learning.

We're also learning, Anderson, that federal law enforcement officials telling CNN's Susan Candiotti that now they do believe that at least one of the two devices was detonated using a remote control. And, that really goes -- that is substantiated by what we knew yesterday from the member of the house select intelligence committee that they do believe that a remote control used for toy cars, a similar device, was used to detonate the bombs.

The one that we're talking about is a bomb that was set by the man in this hospital, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. We are being told by sources -- by a source, Anderson, that he is now breathing on his own, specifically he is no longer intubated and he remains in fair condition. Anderson.

COOPER: Obviously, Deb, investigators are searching a number of sites trying to find out anymore material or places where they may have tested any devices. I understand in Watertown, there may have been a bin found. What are you hearing about that?

FEYERICK: Yes. And, what's so interesting about this, you know, I keep pressing the folks that I'm talking to about where did they build the bomb? Where did they build the bomb? But, what they have found in Watertown is a bag. A bag that was put in one of the donation bins that you see on street corners where you put clothing.

And, apparently investigators and police found a bag. They were called by someone who was collecting the donations in those bins. There were -- Police were called and police found a bag that contained remnants of fireworks -- remnants of fireworks. And, this is important because a number of folks I'm speaking to say, they believe that the firework powder may have been extracted and used to build these particular bombs.

Remember, a pyrotechnic firework was found in the dorm room of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. So, also when they look at the blast pattern and the white smoke, the bright light, it's consistent with the kind of blast that a firework might make. So, all of that right now, but it could be a big -- it could be a big find actually. They have to confirm that that's exactly what it is right now. Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Deborah Feyerick, I appreciate it. As we said, the Tsarnaev brothers' father is making plans to come to the United States. Unclear exactly when he may. Tsarnaev brothers' mother, who also lives in Russia, as I say, will not travel to the U.S. with her husband.

She is wanted, as I mentioned on shoplifting charges from last year when the family lived in Boston. She skipped out on those charges. She told reporters in Russia, there's only one explanation for her sons' involvement. She is still claiming they were setup. Listen.


ZUBEIDAT TSARVAEV, BOSTON BOMBERS' MOTHER: I am like -- sure that my kids were not involved in this.


COOPER: Of course she has not seen her children in the past year at least. So, she doesn't have much knowledge of what they have been up to this past year. That was her news conference with many reporters. She obviously became emotional. She spoke at length and more calmly one-on-one with our Nick Paton Walsh.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: American official are saying your sons murdered three people and injured over a hundred, 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, who want to know why and they believe they did this. They believe that.

ZURBEIDAT TSARNAEV: You know, I saw very, very interesting video last night that the marathon was something like a really big play. There is like paint instead of blood, like it is made up something.

WALSH: Do you really believe that?


WALSH: Well, I know it's hard for you to believe what the American officials are saying, but do you believe that whole thing is a show? Why would it be?

ZURBEIDAT TSARNAEV: 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.


COOPER: Should point out obviously there's absolutely no evidence. No factual basis for her comments the idea that it was painted and not blood. It was all a show. That's the mother of the two Boston bombing suspects, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. She spoke to CNN's Nick Paton Walsh in Dagestan. Stay with us. You'll see a much longer version of that interview when I talk to Nick live coming up.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back. We're following a number of breaking new developments, both here in Boston but also regarding the crisis in Syria.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the U.S. has evidence the chemical weapon sarin gas has been used in Syria on a small scale by the regime.

I want to bring in our Christiane Amanpour, who's in New York.

Christiane, you've spoken with leaders in the region. What are they telling you about chemical weapons in Syria?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Well, the leader of the Free Syrian Army, which is the U.S.-backed coalition of forces there, told me exclusively yesterday that, yes, he absolutely believes -- and he says his doctors and various troops there have found evidence of chemical weapons being used.

Let me just step back a little bit and say that this all started to bubble up again in terms of why the U.S. is now coming out with its statement on this, because a very senior Israeli brigadier general, the head of Israeli military intelligence, which has incredibly good intelligence, not just surveillance and electronic, but human intelligence, told a conference in Israel this week that he believed sarin gas had been used. Listen to what he said.


BRIGADIER GENERAL ITAI BRUN, ISRAELI INTELLIGENCE DIRECTORATE (through translator): According to our professional assessment, the regime has used deadly chemical weapons against armed rebels on a number of occasions in the past few months.

For instance, on March 19th, 2013, victims suffered from shrunken pupils, foaming from the mouth and other symptoms, which indicate the use of deadly chemical weapons. The type of chemical weapons was likely sarin, as well as neutralizing and non-lethal chemical weapons.


AMANPOUR: Well, to try to get more detail on this -- as I said, I spoke exclusively yesterday to General Salim Idriss, the head of the FSA, who was heading right back into Syria from the positions in Turkey to get more evidence on this.

And he told me that there had been attacks, chemical attacks, in March and even earlier. He told me in three locations. And he also said that his doctors had the evidence for it. He said they had taken soil samples, they had taken blood samples as well as giving physical checkups to victims who had come to these hospitals inside Syrian opposition-controlled territory.

And this is what he told me about where they took place.


AMANPOUR: I want to know whether you can confirm whether the Syrian government forces have used chemical weapons, sarin particularly, as Israel says?

GEN. SALIM IDRISS, CHIEF OF STAFF OF THE FREE SYRIAN ARMY: Yes. I can confirm that the tubes of meridim (ph) used in the chemical weapons many, many times. They used the chemical weapons against the Old City in Homs. And they used it repeatedly in Aleppo, again, the -- in Aleppo, in many places, they used it in Khan Asal and in -- and in Sheikh Maqsoud and another time they used chemical weapons in -- at Otaiba, near Damascus.

AMANPOUR: All right.

IDRISS: And the kind -- and the kinds of the chemical weapons that were used is some gases, some poisonous gases.


AMANPOUR: So, Anderson, you can hear he's saying it clearly.

Now, the Syrian government yesterday said that they had not used chemical weapons, but of course other U.S. allies, France and Britain, have been telling the U.N. and talking about evidence that has come out of chemical weapons. And General Idriss told me that he's in there right now, trying to get more evidence, more samples to bolster what they claim is the use of chemical weapons.

So really the question is we're all trying to figure out is, does this reach a red line? Does this mean the red line is crossed?

Obviously Senator McCain believes that, Senator Lindsey Graham believes that. Perhaps there is some wiggle room in that the U.S. is saying they only know this from -- with varying degrees of confidence, that they need more corroborative evidence and also they're talking about being on a small scale.

But it clearly is a dramatic shift in what's been going on in Syria. And so many officials have told us that, if this is the case, which they believe it is, then action needs to be taken, because that will otherwise further embolden the Assad regime to use this on even a wider scale, Anderson.

COOPER: It's interesting, Christiane, because prior to Israel making this statement just the other day, I recall -- I believe it was a month or two ago -- these allegations had made headlines and there had been talk about the U.S., even European forces investigating this.

Do we know, did anything ever come of that? I mean, did any European countries or the United States actually send in any personnel to try to gather evidence months ago?

AMANPOUR: Well, here's the thing. This is obviously coming from this reported attack back in the middle of March, March 18th and 19th. You heard the Israeli brigadier general say that. And that is what the consensus is, that the biggest attack, the most recent was in March. And that would have been Aleppo and outside Damascus, in which there were some 26 people killed and more than 100 wounded.

Now, the general tells me it happened in Homs, in the Old City several months ago as well. In terms of investigating, the U.N. is trying to send in an investigative team, but the Assad regime has so far denied them access. And in terms of other special forces or allied forces, intelligence or otherwise on the ground in Syria, there must be some, but, of course, there is a U.S. unit, an important special forces and headquarters unit being sent to and in Jordan. We don't know whether those have gone into Syria. And we don't know the results of that.

But clearly that is what people are waiting to see, what are the results of those investigations, should they be able to conduct them.

But again, really important to know, that most people who are observing this internationally say that if this has happened -- and they believe it has -- it's probably a tactic by Assad to try this on a small scale to see whether the international community reacts, and then to decide whether or not to use this on a bigger scale.

And of course, the U.S. and others have to weigh, not just the Assad regime, who may already be using this, but whether these chemical weapons then fall into the hands of others if the regime falls.

So can they go in and secure these chemical weapons stocks on the ground?

COOPER: Yes. And that is a difficult task indeed. Christiane Amanpour, appreciate the reporting.

I want to talk about exactly what sarin is. It is a manmade chemical warfare agent. It acts on the nervous system. It's toxic, it's colorless, it's tasteless. It was used in two terror attacks in Japan, you may remember, in the 1990s.

Sarin gas causes eye pain, blurred vision, confusion, weakness, also convulsions and paralysis, you know, respiratory failure possibly leading to death. Very serious stuff. We're going to have much more coverage on that. Also more coverage from here in Boston. Stay with us.


COOPER: We're just getting some new information in on the Boston bombings. For that I want to go to Gloria Borger in Washington.

Gloria, what are you hearing?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, what we're hearing, Anderson, is that the suspect in a second interrogation told authorities that he indicated he intended to use the remaining explosives that he had and detonate them in Times Square.

You'll recall that under a first interrogation he said he was going to Times Square to, quote, "party;" that is what we saw Ray Kelly, the police commissioner, say yesterday.

Apparently there was subsequent questioning. And under subsequent questioning the suspect indicated that he did intend to use the remaining explosives in that Times Square vicinity. Now, we do not know whether New York authorities believe there -- that there -- that they were worried, that they have any reason to continue to worry about this.

I mean, we're going to hear from them, I presume, at a press conference later, but it seems to me that this suspect changed his story from a first interrogation to a second interrogation.

Now, as you know, people treat with suspicion anything that is said in a hospital interrogation. But it seems that his story did shift dramatically.

COOPER: We are anticipating hearing comments from Commissioner Kelly, also Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York shortly. We'll obviously bring those to you live.

So, again, the headline -- this is now apparently from a second interrogation in that the suspect indicating that they both had intended to go to New York to detonate whatever devices they had in Times Square, correct?

BORGER: Right, whatever devices they had left over. And, again, it's a story, he's changed his mind. So Ray Kelly, the other day, said he told them he intended to party there.

COOPER: Right.

We also are learning today, based on another two sources, that the suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, when he was found in that boat, had no weapons on him.

So a lot of questions obviously remain as we try to piece together the -- this -- well, the pieces of all of this.

Gloria, appreciate it. We'll talk to you throughout this hour. We have much more here on Boston ahead.

Up next, more on the breaking news that the U.S. has evidence that the chemical weapon sarin gas has been used in Syria -- or at least comments made by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to that effect -- used sarin gas in Syria on a small scale. We'll be right back.