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Syria Using Chemical Weapons?; Boston Bombers Targeting New York City? George W. Bush Presidential Library Dedicated

Aired April 25, 2013 - 15:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, you have been listening live to one of these many, many survivors here after the horrendous blast last Monday. That was Heather Abbott, sort of a unique perspective, really one of the first times we have seen one of these survivors speaking live as part of this news conference at one of the amazing hospitals here in the city of Boston, speaking at Brigham and Women's Hospital not too far away from where I am in Boston.

Thanks for being with me. I'm Brooke Baldwin live in Boston, where we are covering her story and we're also covering three major stories unfolding right now.

First, the White House says it has evidence that the Syrian regime has, in fact, used chemical weapons. And keep in mind this is really a potential came changer in Syria's bloody civil war. More on that.

Plus, very soon President Obama and the first lady will be arriving in Waco, Texas, for a memorial service to honor the victims of that horrific fertilizer explosion that happened last week.

But I want to begin this hour here with a major development in the investigation of the Boston terror attack. The surviving suspect told investigators that he and his brother had this plan to detonate their remaining bombs, there were six of them specifically, one pressure cooker, five pipe bombs, according to investigators, in Times Square.

New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly spoke just a short time ago, along with the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, and they basically said this, that had the hijacked car suspect's -- vehicle that they were hijacking not been so low on gas, they could have made it to Manhattan.


RAYMOND KELLY, NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: Subsequent questioning of Dzhokhar revealed that he and his brother decided spontaneously on Times Square as a target.

They would drive to Times Square that same night. They discussed this while driving around in a Mercedes SUV that they had hijacked after they shot and killed an MIT police officer in Cambridge, Dzhokhar said.

That plan, however, fell apart when they realized that the vehicle that they hijacked was low on gas. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Low on gas. That's the key here.

I want to bring in Jason Carroll in New York and also HLN law enforcement analyst Mike Brooks in Atlanta.

Jason, let me begin with you, because I was listening to this news conference, as I know you were, and I was stunned to learn there were six more bombs these guys had at their disposal.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's sobering when you hear about what New York officials learned through the joint terrorism task force they said last night, again, six improvised explosive devices, one was the pressure cooker type of bomb used during the Boston bombing, the other five pipe bombs.

This is what these two brothers had in their possession and even though the commissioner and New York City's Mayor Michael Bloomberg say this was a spontaneous plan that they were devising as they were driving around in this SUV that they had hijacked, it's still pretty sobering to think about the idea that these two brothers, had they not run out of gas and had they not been caught, had this sort of improvised, spontaneous plan to drive down to New York City.

Initially we were told from police officials here that the initial plan was for them to come to New York City to party. I know you remember that report as well, but after they had an opportunity to interrogate Tsarnaev a little bit more in this second interrogation, they learned that, in fact, the brothers had devised this plan to come to New York City and cause more havoc.

BALDWIN: That's right, and we also know that there was a photograph, and, you know, we know that this younger suspect took to Twitter a lot and there was a photograph of him and some other of his friends from Times Square. I believe it was November of last year. Here's the picture. Obviously, everyone's blurred but Dzhokhar. What do you know about that trip?

CARROLL: Well, we know there were two. There was one in November of 2012, another trip to Times Square in New York in April of last year as well.

Commissioner Kelly saying that they have already identified some of the people in those photos, those photos put up on Facebook, but once again, no indication at this point that these previous trips that the younger Tsarnaev had taken to New York was some sort of early plan to look at Times Square for any other reason than just to come here for a visit, but it's clear now, once again, that the brothers did have Times Square on their radar.

BALDWIN: Mike Brooks, I'm sure you listened to the news conference as well here and Commissioner Ray Kelly talking about how this was a spontaneous decision, so we can kind of glean from that possibly that this really wasn't a sophisticated plan, a preplanned idea, and also it sounds like it was just involving these two brothers again. What's your reaction to that?

MIKE BROOKS, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: No, it sounded to me, Brooke, like it was totally spontaneous. They didn't have any money, so this isn't something they had planned out and had said, OK, we're going to do these bombs here on Boylston Street and then we're going to go to New York City. It was spur of the moment, spontaneous. They had no money.

They tried to get money out of an ATM from the guy they hijacked, and the car had no gas. They were not going to make it to New York City. But New York City, it seems like it's always, always there as a possible target, because it is an icon. And, you know, we saw the attempted bombing in Times Square not too long ago, where a guy pulled up there in a van and tried to detonate a bomb, but that didn't go off.

So, again, New York City, New York City police, New York City fire, they are constantly, every single day, responding to reports of suspicious packages. I see them every single day, at least one somewhere in the city, in one of the boroughs, so this is something they live with constantly.

BALDWIN: Yes, and thank goodness for that astute hot dog vendor. I remember being on CNN when that whole thing was unfolding, and Faisal Shahzad's plot was thwarted.

But Mayor Bloomberg in talking today alongside Commissioner Kelly, he stressed the need for more resources in places, as you point out, high-risk areas and targets like New York City. Take a listen.


MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: The fact is, New York City remains a prime target for those who hate America and want to kill Americans. The attacks in Boston and the news that New York City was next on the terrorists' list shows just how critical it is for the federal government to devote resources to high-risk areas.


BALDWIN: I mean, in terms of resources, Mike Brooks, New York has tremendous, you know, agencies, counterterrorism, police force, but people always flock to places like Times Square, so as a law enforcement analyst, what do you do, what's the takeaway?

BROOKS: I tell you, New York is very, very proactive, as is Washington, D.C., and some other major cities, when it comes to the use of video surveillance.

You can walk down to Times Square right now and I know you have seen them, Brooke, the signs that are up there, basically, you are under surveillance. Just in Midtown Manhattan in, like, a four- or five- square-block area in Midtown, there are over 300 cameras, both run by the city and also private. You know, every single building in Midtown Manhattan, in Lower Manhattan, they all have video surveillance. So, if you think you're not being watched and you're walking around the streets, the bottom line is, when you're on the streets of New York City, you have no expectation of privacy, period. You know what, I don't have a problem with that.

BALDWIN: Yes, I know some people say Big Brother, but, you know, it certainly helps when you have nut jobs out there trying to blow up places like Times Square.

BROOKS: You got that right.

BALDWIN: Mike Brooks, thank you.

BROOKS: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Jason Carroll, my thanks to you as well here.

I want to switch gears and get to our next big story here, major developments when it comes to Syria. A civil war that has now claimed the lives of some 70,000 people just got a whole lot more dangerous. This is what the world has long been fearing. The U.S. says it now has evidence that the Syrian government has, in fact, used chemical weapons against its own people.


CHUCK HAGEL, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: 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.


BALDWIN: Sarin gas, it's a deadly nerve agent now apparently being used to fight a rebellion uprising.

This video here purporting to show the aftermath of one of those attacks. President Obama has said in the past the use of chemical weapons or even the transit of chemical weapons would be crossing a so-called red line.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think it's pretty obvious that red line has been crossed. Now I hope the administration will consider what we have been recommending now for over two years of this bloodletting and massacre, and that is to provide a safe area for the opposition to operate, to establish a no-fly zone, and provide weapons to the people in the resistance who we trust.


BALDWIN: I want to broaden out this conversation here on this reporting on chemical weaponry being used with Hala Gorani of CNN International and also former CIA operative Bob Baer.

Welcome to both of you.

Hala, let me just begin with you. You're incredibly familiar with the region. I want to begin though with what we're learning. What are you learning as far as what these chemical weapons were, also using the phrase here based upon physiological samples? Do we even know what that means?

HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that, essentially, the intelligence community in the United States is saying that they believe with a reasonable degree of confidence that chemical weapons were used on the small scale. It's important to note that this is a small scale situation that the intelligence community is saying that they have been able to gather evidence about.

What does this mean politically for the United States, because remember, why is this significant? This is the first time the U.S. is coming out and saying this, and it's significant because President Obama has said in the past that the use of chemical weapons, the transfer of chemical weapons, would be "a game changer" as far as the U.S.' approach to the Syrian civil war, but what does this mean? Because we don't know in what way the game will change.

Does this mean intervention? Not many people are saying this right now. Does this mean more support for the rebels? Does this mean more of a U.S. military presence in countries such as Jordan in order to secure the stockpiles if, for instance, the Assad regime falls? Those are all open questions, and right now we need to wait for the administration to make it clearer what exactly the different approach might be or might become now that they have come out with this assessment. It's not proof, it's an assessment that the regime has used these weapons, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Bob Baer, it's understandable though given the history with Iraq that the administration is being very, very cautious.

BOB BAER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Hala -- it's -- you know, Hala was absolutely right.

Look, Syria is a mess. There is no obvious solution to this. The cities are being held by al Qaeda-connected groups, many of them in large parts of these cities. The stocks of chemical weapons, I know that we have identified 12 places, but, in fact, they could have been dispersed. How do you get to these, how do you secure them? You can't destroy them by the air if they have been mixed, because they will just spread.

The chances of American troops getting involved in Syria are zero to none. It's too complicated. The administration is truly in a bind and this is why Hala is absolutely right. What do you do next? And I think we're all hoping that this wouldn't have happened, they would have used these weapons. And I think what's going on is the Bashar al-Assad is testing the will of the international community by using small, you know, not much of the chemicals.

If we don't react now, the chances are he would go ahead with a full- fledged attack. BALDWIN: That sort of jives with what Christiane Amanpour was telling Wolf Blitzer earlier today, that maybe this is sort of in a smaller, smaller attacks maybe gauging international community reaction.

But let me just back up a step, Bob, because tell me just what exactly is sarin gas. If you're exposed, what does it do to the body?

BAER: It's a binary agent. Within a very large radius, like a small tactical nuclear weapon, it's lethal, absolutely lethal. There are no anecdotes to it. It's a horrible death.

It's unmistakable. You know, chemists will tell you it's an interrupter and you can't survive it. So, in other words, if he dropped one of these, Bashar al-Assad, on a part of Damascus or Aleppo, it would kill tens of thousands of people, if he dropped let's say a .122-millimeter shell.

BALDWIN: That is incredibly frightening. Bob Baer, thank you so much for your perspective. Hala Gorani, thank you to you as well.

Coming up next, police said there was a shoot-out when the Boston bombing suspect was hiding in a boat in this guy's backyard in Watertown. Well, today we learned something completely different. That new detail coming up.

Plus, history in the making today when presidents and first ladies stand together and shed a couple of tears for a former commander in chief. Stay with me.


BALDWIN: We are coming out to some live pictures here. This is Waco, Texas.

There will be a memorial. The president will be speaking a little later this afternoon. You see the coffins, the 14 victims of the fertilizer plant explosion last Wednesday night. Not too far away in West, Texas, of those 14 victims, 10 of them were first-responders. We're going to get you to a little bit more on that memorial service there in Waco, Texas, in just a moment.

But, first, more news on two shocking revelations today. As we told you earlier, Boston bombing suspects reportedly had plans to attack New York City. Sources tell CNN that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev indicated to investigators that he intended to detonate their leftover explosives in New York's Times Square.

Earlier, he told investigators he was going to New York to party. Plus, this, that final shoot-out may not have been a shoot-out at all. I want to replay just this final moments just before the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev inside that boat, holed up in that person's yard when the lockdown had just finished. This was in Watertown last week. Listen with me. The following day, we heard more on the gunfire from Watertown's chief of police.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ED DEVEAU, WATERTOWN POLICE CHIEF: There was early gunfire when we first went in the area. He exchanged gunfire with some of the officers and then we secured the scene and then there was no more gunfire after that.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: What kind of weapon did he have?

DEVEAU: We're not sure.


BALDWIN: Now CNN has learned Dzhokhar Tsarnaev apparently was unarmed in that final stand.

Two investigators now telling us no weapons were found inside this boat. The criminal complaint itself uses the term standoff involving gunfire. And finally this, a Republican senator is pointing fingers at President Obama's administration for what happened here in Boston.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Boston is becoming to me a case study in system failure. Between Benghazi and Boston, our systems are failing and we're going backwards. We need to understand that bin Laden may be dead, but the war against radical Islam is very much alive. Radical Islam is on the march, and we need to up our game.


BALDWIN: Senator Lindsey Graham there speaking alongside Senator McCain.

Also this, the suspect's parents held an emotional news conference today. We're getting some new information on that. We're going to get that for you in about 15 minutes from now, so stay right here with me in Boston.

But that brings one of the rare occasions when all of the surviving members of the most exclusive club in America gathered to honor one of their own. Let me take you back to Texas for this one.

And take a look at this picture with me, you see all of them. You have Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter all gathered this morning in Dallas, all five living U.S. presidents in one place for the first time in more than four years.

Also together today, the women who stood by their sides as they led the nation, the five, there they are, first ladies, the occasion, the dedication of George W. Bush's presidential library there at SMU, Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

Outside, the presidents and their wives. Inside, pieces of history from some of the most important and memorable events of this young century from the disputed 2000 presidential election, to Hurricane Katrina, to the 2007 financial crisis.

There is also a twisted metal beam from the 83rd floor of the World Trade Center tower. This is the spot where one of those planes slammed into the tower on September 11. That's the twisted metal. I want to show you now the bullhorn. Remember this, the bullhorn President Bush used to rally workers on September 14, just a couple of days after that Tuesday?

And then the gun, the gun Saddam Hussein had with him when he was pulled from a spider hole in Iraq back in 2003. If you watch with us here on CNN, there were -- definitely some tears, some touching moments at today's ceremony when an obviously frail elder President Bush stood as the crowd gave him a standing ovation.





BALDWIN: The hugs between George W. Bush and Bill Clinton and Bush and President Obama, and I mentioned tears, President Bush wiping away a tear after an emotional ending to his speech this morning.

But right now, I want to focus on the words of the five men who have led this nation in good times and in bad. Watch this.


JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. President, let me say that I'm filled with admiration for you and deep gratitude for you about the great contributions you have made to the most needy people on Earth.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a great pleasure to be here to honor our son, our oldest son, and this is very special for Barbara and me.

CLINTON: Starting with my work with President George H.W. Bush on the tsunami and the aftermath of Katrina, people began to joke that I was getting so close to the Bush family, I had become the black sheep son.


CLINTON: My mother told me not to talk too long today, and, Barbara, I will not let you down.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What President Clinton said is absolutely true. To know the man is to like the man, because he's comfortable in his own skin. He knows who he is. He doesn't put on any pretenses. He takes his job seriously, but he doesn't take himself too seriously. He is a good man.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The political winds blow left and right. Polls rise and fall. Supporters come and go. But in the end, leaders are defined by the convictions they hold.

And my deepest conviction, the guiding principle of the administration, is that the United States of America must strive to expand the reach of freedom.


BALDWIN: And there you have it, the honoree this morning.

Quickly here, I want to take you to Waco. Here, you have the president and the first lady here on the stage as part of this memorial to honor those 14 lives lost and so many injuries in that fertilizer explosion last week in West, Texas.

So, we saw President Obama this morning in Dallas, as we showed you, in Dallas. He is now there in Waco, Texas, for that memorial. We will take you back there in a moment.

But let me take you back to Dallas here. You can't help but wonder, as a lot of people talking about another Bush today, Jeb Bush, might we see a third Bush presidential library eventually, the Jeb Bush library, because -- I bring this up because last night George W. Bush told CNN his brother would be a great candidate, a great president and said Jeb Bush should run.

Here's the caveat. His mom, Barbara Bush, she has another take. I want you to listen to what she said this morning on "The Today Show."


BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: He's by far the best qualified man, but no. I really don't. I think it's a great country, there are a lot of great families, and it's not just four families or whatever. There are just -- there are other people out there that are very qualified. And we have had enough Bushes.

QUESTION: Have you expressed that to him?


BALDWIN: Enough Bushes, she says.

"Washington Post" columnist and author Sally Quinn has been in the nation's capital a long time.

Sally, welcome, and nice to have you on.

In watching today, we saw a lot of the dynamics of how these men relate behind the scenes, all these presidents, doesn't always match up with the rhetoric, though, as we see playing out on the campaign season, does it?

SALLY QUINN, "THE WASHINGTON POST": No, but you know, I think that people genuinely like George W. Bush.

I think Barack Obama said it very well when he said he's comfortable in his own skin. He always was. He's a regular guy, and he has no spin, no agenda. And he does have his convictions, and he sticks to his convictions.

And I think, you know, some of the great moments in his presidency were 9/11 with the bullhorn standing out there and sort of rallying people. I think that was hugely important for the country, for the morale. I think his work on AIDS has been extraordinary. He did a lot of good things, you know, and I think balance that out with some of the more controversial things like the war in Iraq and we all remember Colin Powell saying if you own it -- if you break it, you own it.

And I think that a lot of Bush watchers would say that he may have relied too heavily on the advice of Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld, who were not his father's favorites, and didn't take the advice from his father that he should have. And I think if you want to criticize him, that's the one area that, you know, I think people really wish that he had listened more to his father, particularly when it came to Iraq, foreign policy, his father's advisers, Brent Scowcroft, and Afghanistan as well.

BALDWIN: Yes. And all those moments you go through, it sounds like there's bits and pieces, fragments of history that are all there in Dallas for the public to go and see. Sally Quinn, thank you so much for joining me.

Coming up next, the Boston bombing suspects had another city on their list, as we have learned just in the last hour officially, New York and specifically Times Square. Much more on that, new details we're learning today next.