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Syria Reportedly Has Used Chemical Weapons Against Opposition Forces; Tsarnaevs Apparently Planned to Attack New York City after Boston; Surveillance Cameras Increase Public Safety; Talking with Boston Victims

Aired April 25, 2013 - 15:30   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": It is the red line that could mean boots on the ground in Syria.

Today U.S. officials saying there is evidence the Syrian government has used sarin gas as a chemical weapon on its own people.


SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA (via telephone): I think there was that caveat in the letter, which I think is important, and I'm sorry to say may give them an "out" for not acting in a decisive fashion, because if they all agreed and they concluded it, then the president would have to act, because he has repeatedly described it as a red line that cannot be crossed.


BALDWIN: With me now is Christiane Amanpour, our chief international correspondent, and Fareed Zakaria. Welcome to both of you.

Christiane, I want to begin with you, yesterday you spoke to the leader of the free Syrian army. Tell me what he told you as far as evidence and usage of this deadly chemical gas.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, exactly, I did talk to him yesterday and today and he's in Syria right now looking to bring out more proof.

Basically what he told me is that in April, March, and earlier, about three to four times, he has evidence, he says, and his forces do, of chemical weapons having been used in Aleppo, in Homs, in Damascus and they took blood samples and soil samples and he wants to bring those out, you know, to present them to the world.

Already, as we know, the Israelis have talked about it, the British and the French. Also today, the U.K. put out a statement saying that they have evidence that this is happened and that, of course, it would be a war crime.

So these bits of proof are coming out from the Syrian side, from the opposition side. The administration has, as you know, reported this letter, sent it to Congress talking about varying degrees of confidence that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, but their red line would come into effect, would kick in, when they have full corroborated proof.

BALDWIN: You bring up this letter sent to members of Congress. Let me read part of this intelligence letter.

Quote, "This assessment is based in part on physiological samples. Our analysts must build on this evidence as we seek to establish credible and corroborated facts."

They are being very, very careful, clearly, Fareed, but how do they corroborate this evidence, and would this just be being extra cautious, or is this stalling?

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": No, I think you have to be careful here. This is a very serious charge.

The use of weapons of mass destruction is a very big deal, so, naturally, the administration is trying to figure out whether or not this happened.

The way you corroborate this is eyewitness acts, you have victims you can test, you have physiological evidence. You try to get as many eyewitnesses as you can.

Ideally, of course, you would find some captured soldier from the Syrian army who would tell you what happened, but it's very serious stuff, and the administration is properly proceeding with some degree of caution just to establish exactly what happened.

What this tells us, Brooke, is that the regime may be more desperate than we realize. It also might tell us that they are being more foolish.

They have been able to stave off international involvement, in part by not crossing this red line, and the fact they are crossing it might suggest a degree of chaos, disorganization, and desperation.

BALDWIN: Fareed Zakaria and Christiane Amanpour on this new intelligence, usage of sarin gas, chemical weapons in Syria. Thanks to both of you.

As we told you earlier, officials say the Boston bombing suspects had planned to attack New York City, and the surviving suspect here told investigators that he and his brother had plans to detonate the remaining bombs, all six of them, in Times Square.

Mary Snow, I want to go straight to you in Times Square. What more do officials and investigators know about this plot?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, what New York City officials are saying is they were told about this by the FBI last night and they were told that the plan was to drive to New York City, after the suspect carjacked that car last Thursday night, drive to New York, to Times Square, and detonate explosives.

But the police commissioner made it very clear, this was something that he said, in his words, was a spontaneous plan, that apparently the suspect had talked about in that car and that they had then carrying six improvised explosive devices, one being a pressure cooker similar to the two that were used in Boston, and five pipe bombs.

There were no specifics about the exact target here in New York City and Times Square. It was pretty vague, but they were told this information last night as part of this ongoing investigation.

BALDWIN: Let me back up, Mary, and ask you how this falls in the timeline, because we know according to investigators these two had carjacked someone, right?

And it was the car that was low on gas, thank goodness, but that individual, they were speaking some language foreign to this person who was carjacked.

He just kept hearing the word Manhattan, Ray Kelly mentioning something like they wanted to go up and party in New York, and now we have this news that they had planned to use these explosives.

SNOW: Right. That was the information that the New York City police commissioner was talking about yesterday.

There was some indications that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was talking about something about a party in New York City, and the way the police commissioner described this is that there were two rounds of interrogation.

In terms of the timeline, he said the first interview was between Saturday evening and Sunday morning, and according to the police commissioner, that is when the suspect had talked about partying in New York or something to that effect.

Now, in the second questioning, the commissioner said took place between Sunday evening and Monday morning and he said he was told that the suspect at that time was a lot more lucid during that interrogation and gave more detailed information.

And it was during that second period of questioning, according to the commissioner, is when this information was relayed about coming to Times Square.

BALDWIN: Mary Snow, thank you.

More here on the Boston bombing, the investigation, and also the parents here.

Coming up next, first, she said they were set up. Now she says, this whole bombing in Boston was a hoax.

The mother of the Boston bombing suspects talked to CNN, and let me tell you, she's not holding back.


BALDWIN: I'm Brooke Baldwin live here in Boston. Welcome back to our special coverage.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York says the Boston bombing suspects also had plans to attack New York City by detonating their leftover explosives after what they are accused of doing here in Boston last Monday, taking them to Times Square.

Mayor Bloomberg said Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told investigators that he and his brother discussed the plan while they were in this SUV they had allegedly hijacked after the Boston bombs.

Meanwhile, the suspects' father is headed for the United States to cooperate in this investigation, but the suspects' mother, she believes what happened here in Boston is fake.

She thinks it's a hoax, the red paint splattered on the sidewalk was just red paint, wasn't blood. I know.

The mother got emotional today and lashed out at America.


ZUBEIDAT TSARNAEV, MOTHER OF BOMBING SUSPECTS: I'm, like, sure that my kids were not involved in anything.

Yes -- not to live in America now. Why did I even go there? Why? I thought America was going to protect us, our kids were going to be safe.

For any reason, it happened. My kids, America took my kids away from me. Only America.


BALDWIN: I want to bring in our correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, who is in Dagestan.

And Nick, we have seen this mother sitting with you. It is a bizarre interview. It's an emotional interview here before she talked at today's news conference.

hat did you make of it?

NICK PATON WALSH , CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, interesting facts she gave away, she said the FBI came to see Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011 because they were worried he was going on a radical Islamic path and the family had their eyes open to a more devout Islam by a family friend who adopted the Islamic faith.

But interestingly we got an impression of a woman trying to reconcile her own almost angelic impression of both of her sons as devout Muslims, great children of hers, with what she's repeatedly hearing from U.S. officials, by the media, that they are behind the Boston bombings. And that confusion and the huge trauma she's going through may explain the statement you're about to hear.


TSARNAEV: I saw a very, very interesting video last night that they might have found something like a really big place, there is like paint instead of blood. Like it is made up something.

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

TSARNAEV: That's what I want to know, because everybody's talking about it, that this is a show.


WALSH: Now this is clearly her major problem here, trying to come to terms with what she's hearing, with all the conspiratorial websites out there offering different versions that are certainly easier to believe.

I remember two nights ago she was confronted with the belief of mistaken identity had caused people to say Tamerlan Tsarnaev was involved.

She thought he hadn't been killed and, later that night, she did see the picture of his corpse and now accepts that he's dead, but now trying to work out how that might have happened.

Deeply traumatized by what's gone on and a degree of defiance in she doesn't think the U.S. Officials have a case here that can hold up.


BALDWIN: Honestly, Nick, she just seems like a mother in shock. Did you get that?

WALSH: Absolutely. I mean, she said, you know, what's happened to her has made her feel like she's died inside, deeply traumatized by all of this and trying to explain in her mind a family that was of pure intent.

Odd in some ways because she recounts how the FBI came to visit her son and considered him to be an Islamic radicalist worthy of observation.

BALDWIN: And we lost him.

Nick Paton Walsh giving a little bit of color and background, talking about a stunned, shocked mother of these two Boston bombing suspects.

Coming up next, one of the victims here from the Boston bombings held a news conference, this really unique look here live from a wonderful hospital here in Boston, Brigham and Women's. We'll play a snippet of that. What she revealed, I tell you, is inspiring. Stick around for this.


BALDWIN: So many stories of survival here in Boston. Boston bombing victim Heather Abbott is speaking out about the day that changed her life forever.

Heather and her friends have a tradition. They go to the Boston Red Sox game on Patriots Day each year, happens late morning, then they go on to a bar where one of their friends works.


HEATHER ABBOTT, BOSTON BOMBING SURVIVOR: When we got there, we were standing in line outside waiting to get in. The bouncer was checking peoples' I.D.s and I was the last of the three of us in line.

And as we were standing there, a loud noise went off and I remember turning around and looking and seeing smoke and seeing people screaming, and I immediately -- it immediately reminded me of 9/11, something I'd seen on TV.

And it just all happened so quickly that when I turned around, the second blast had already happened and it blew a bunch of us into the bar. And I suppose it hit me because I was the last one.

I was on the ground. Everybody was running to the back of the bar, to the exit, and I felt like my foot was on fire.

I knew I couldn't stand up, and I didn't know what to do. I was just screaming, somebody please help me, and I was thinking, who's going to help me? Everybody else is running for their lives.

And to my surprise, from what I'm learning now, kind of just learning how I was sort of rescued out of there, there were two women and two men involved in helping me get out of the bar and into an ambulance.

The first woman, I believe, was someone from the Joe Andruzzi Foundation. She had initially seen me and got me -- dragged me -- and then a gentleman who I later learned was Matt Chatham helped me, and helped me outside. They wouldn't leave my side until, you know, they knew I was safe in the ambulance.


BALDWIN: So many people here in Boston on Boylston Street helped by total strangers.

Some of those in the hospital like Heather got a surprise visit from the first lady, Michelle Obama.


ABBOTT: When I met Michelle Obama, it was relatively brief. I was under the influence of a lot of medication. I wish I remembered it better.

However, she came in. She was very nice. She told me, you know, she was sorry about the injury, you know, talked to me, my family, and friends for a little bit who kind of gathered around the bed to hear her as well.


BALDWIN: Heather says she thought she might be absolutely devastated about losing a leg at the age of 38. The support she has received has uplifted her instead.

Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, I know you were here all last week in Boston at so many of the hospitals and listening to the doctors talking about, you know, some of these victims were rushed into these hospitals and said, do what you need to do.

If that means minus a leg, minus an arm, I just want to live. What was Heather's story?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Heather's story is she was actually given a choice. She was given a choice.

Hey, do you want your leg amputated below the knee or do you want to keep that lower leg and your foot?

And it seems like a difficult decision in many ways, but doctors tell us that really it isn't.

The reason why is that doctors kind of steer patients toward amputation, that keeping the foot, yes, you're keeping your foot, but it's mangled.

You aren't going to walk very well. You'll cause hip problems, have a lot of pain.

So after talking to doctors, she decided to amputate because she didn't just talk to doctors. She told us in the press conference she spoke to other people, accident victims, for example, who did keep the leg and who regretted it, said they were in pain.

BALDWIN: Incredible. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much.

And we're here in Boston getting new information, including new information on how exactly these two suspects detonated the bomb a week ago Monday just a block away from me on Boylston Street.

Deborah Feyerick has that information and will share it on the other side of the quick break.


BALDWIN: Lots of questions here in this investigation. The biggest question, obviously, why? Why did the two suspects do this to the people here in Boston? Getting new information on specifically this device they used and how they detonated this device, let me go to Deborah Feyerick standing by at one of the hospitals in Boston.

And, Deborah, what are you learning?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we're learning is that, according to federal law enforcement officials, that apparently they did detonate at least one of the devices by remote control.

And this really syncs up with what we were told by a member of the House intelligence committee and that is is that a device similar to almost a toy car remote control was used to detonate the second device.

That is the device set off by the man in the white hat. He is here. He is still here at the hospital. We are told his condition has been updated and he is now breathing on his own. That is, he is no longer intubated.

So everything is making progress in terms of how the device was detonated and also his condition.

BALDWIN: Deb Feyerick, thank you.

Security cameras helped identify these Boston bombing suspects, as you know, and they are becoming increasingly effective as a tool for police.

Zain Asher reports.


ZAIN ASHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hard to believe these eyes-in-the-sky play such a vital role in protecting us from harm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are releasing photos of these two suspects.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The industry felt that our work was worthwhile after those photographs were released, identifying the suspects.

ASHER: A victory, yes, but one that comes with a price tag.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A camera such as this with a decent megapixel count today is probably about a $3,000 investment.

ASHER: So this particular camera you're watching me through costs about $1,500. It's installed about 150 feet away from where I'm standing. But if you zoom in, you really can't see that much detail.

This camera on the other hand same distance, but a lot clearer. It is also double the cost. It costs about $3,000 to be installed on just one street corner.

Video surveillance in the U.S. is a $10 billion business. That number soared in the years after 9/11 which saw 30 million new cameras added to the streets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tragedies have an impact on our industry. We are very concerned. We don't want to be perceived as opportunistic.

ASHER: From real ones to dummies to the inconspicuous to those monitored by humans, millions of cameras watch over the U.S. as part of the roughly $60 billion spent annually on domestic security.

But can we afford it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is definitely a time of fiscal austerity.

ASHER: And how much should cost be a factor in public safety?

In London the suspects behind the subway bombings in 2005 were identified by name in just a few days. That's because the city has roughly one camera for every 14 people, a total of half a million.

In New York City, there are only 3,000 to 6,000.

The Urban Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, says that, for every dollar invested in surveillance cameras in Chicago, it saves the city about $4 in other possible costs.

NANCY LA VIGNE, URBAN INSTITUTE: Those are costs associated with crimes that didn't happen, costs to the court, costs to incarcerate people.

ASHER: But the costs of installing surveillance cameras doesn't fall on government alone.

The Boston bombing suspects were caught using footage from private stores like Lord & Taylor and images from ordinary citizens, evidence we all share responsibility to keep our streets safe.

Zain Asher, CNN, New York.