Return to Transcripts main page


Tsarnaev Lives in 10x10 Foot Cell; Raid May Reveal Bomb Suspect Ties; Searching for Jihadist Ties; Jackson Verus AEG in Court Soon; Flight Furloughs Coming to an End

Aired April 29, 2013 - 12:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hell, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We begin with special coverage of the Boston bombing investigation. Today marks two weeks since the terror attack. Here is the latest information.

Russian special forces have raided a jihadist group with possible ties to the suspected bomber, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Russia says two of the jihadists were killed in the raid in Dagestan. The mother of the bombing suspects just this morning told CNN she will come to the United States if she can see her son, Dzhokhar. The moment she steps on U.S. soil, though, she could be arrested on outstanding shoplifting charges. The mother is increasingly becoming a focus of the investigation after Russian officials gave the U.S. a wiretap of her possibly discussing jihad back in 2011 with one of her sons.

And we're learning more about the so-called mystery man accused of radicalizing the older Tsarnaev brother. A U.S. official telling CNN, the FBI has interviewed someone named Misha about his association with the Tsarnaevs. A writer for "The New York Review of Books" tracked the man to a modest apartment in Rhode Island that he shares with his elderly parents. The man denies brainwashing Tamerlan Tsarnaev and says he has spoken with the FBI and given them his computer and cell phone.

Now to the surviving suspect in the Boston marathon blast. Two weeks ago, he was partying with classmates after the bombings. Now, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is living in a 10 by 10 foot cell in a federal prison in Massachusetts. Our Don Lemon is outside this prison medical facility in Devens. That's about 40 miles west of Boston.

Don, tell us a little bit more about this place and what we're learning about the conditions this 19-year-old suspect is living in.

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You see, Wolf, the sign right behind me. It says Devens Federal Medical Center. Over my right shoulder here, a sprawling facility about 40 miles west of Boston. Extra security added. I went up and talked to those guys. I said, are you guys normally here? And they says, no, we're not normally here. Number one, they're here to keep people out who may be looking (INAUDIBLE) and to keep -- if the media needs any information, they direct them. But also to make sure no one gets in and does any funny business, to try to get in to see this high-value detainee here.

One thousand forty-four people here. He's one of them. But, Wolf, he's in a special part of this facility with 34 people. He's one of 34 in this special secured part of the facility. Just to show you a graphic, it's really a small cell that he's in. A 10 by 10 foot cell. Not much to be made of that cell. There's a food slot in the door, a metal door. And then there's a small window over that food slot so that they can monitor him. They're monitoring him 24 hours a day.

We say 10 by 10. You get an idea of what it is. But just a visual, just a visual, to show you what it's like. It's not very much space to move around in. This is what -- we just happened to have a tent that's 10 by 10. Food slot about this size. A little more than a foot long. Maybe a foot and a half long. And then the window above that. And then there's a small bed, we are told, and then a sink and a toilet. And then not much more room to move around in, especially for someone whose not used to being locked up. Someone who just lived in an apartment and in a dorm room much bigger than this. But the people here say -- and people who are watching are saying, if he is guilty, Wolf, this is probably too big for him because of the horrific crime that he's committed -- he is accused of doing.

Also, we're told he is talking now. You know he had that wound to his neck and he wasn't able to talk for a while. He is talking. He's talking to the medical people here, the medical team, the doctors and the nurses about his condition, telling them how he feels. But we are told he is not speaking with investigators since his Miranda rights were read to him. He's really not giving them very much information.


BLITZER: Usually in these maximum security prisons around the country, there's no window there other than that little window at the door. So he doesn't see the sunshine or anything like that. But normally they do let them out one hour a day, 23 hours cooped up in that 10 by 10 foot cell, one hour a day he's out. Is he healthy enough? Do we know his condition? Is he healthy enough to go outside that cell?

LEMON: We don't know if he's healthy enough to go outside the cell, but the new information that we learned from Ashleigh Banfield is that when he came into Deaconess Medical Center after that almost 24-hour manhunt, that he was in pretty bad shape, but he recovered rather quickly. And as we know last week, before they transferred him to this facility, that he was in really serious condition and some were not sure that he was going to make it. But apparently he is doing a lot better. He is able to talk. He is up and moving around, but they're not sharing with us whether or not he's able to go outside of that cell.


BLITZER: All right, we'll get more information, I know, during the course of the next few days. Don, thank you.

Authorities are digging deeper into how a Muslim jihadist in Russia may have influenced the bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev. An overnight raid is raising more questions about whether he had ties to extremists there. Russian special forces carried out the raid in Dagestan. That's in southern Russia. Our Nic Robertson is on the scene for us, as he has been these past several days.

What happened, Nic? How is this possibly linked to Tamerlan Tsarnaev?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: One of the things that Tamerlan Tsarnaev did when he left Russia was post video of a rebel commander, Abu Dujan (ph). Now, it is one of Abu Dujan's lieutenants, if you will, who was killed in that overnight raid by Russian special forces here. There is no concrete proof that Tamerlan met Abu Dujan or met this sub commander who was killed in the operation, but it is an indication of the ongoing battle that the Russian security forces here are having with the rebels in the mountains. Only the day before, three more rebels were killed in another special forces operation. So it's all part of a background of what's happening here.

But does this have a specific link to Tamerlan? We don't know that at this stage. But it does show that the people that he was idolizing and posting on his social networking sites, the people he was idolizing, are the people in the crosshairs were Russian special forces right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic, as you know, the Russian authorities recently turned over to the U.S. a transcript of what they say was a wiretapped conversation involving Tsarnaev's mother discussing jihad with someone on this end of the conversation here in the United States. What do we know about this?

ROBERTSON: We know that it had what have been termed a sort of vague or loose references to jihad and an indication that there was a conversation between Tamerlan and his mother while she was here and he was still in the United States that related to criminal potential terrorist activities. This is sort of one of a tiny piece of information that the Russians have provided. This didn't come, this transcript didn't come when the FBI was first informed by the Russian security services, FSB, about Tamerlan and about their concerns about him. So this is something that's come only in recent days, Wolf.

BLITZER: And as far as they're coming over here to the United States, they keep saying they're going to come. The father says he's ill now, he can't come. But the mother keeps saying she'll come if she can see her son. But if she comes, she potentially could be arrested on shoplifting charges because she skipped out, never went to court on those charges that were awaiting her.

ROBERTSON: Wolf, it's been very difficult to kind of nail down with her what the real facts are in regards of her real intentions to come to the United States. She has said that her lawyers have told her that if she comes, then she wouldn't face any criminal prosecution on those shoplifting charges. She does appear now to be a person of interest. Would she be questioned in relation to the specifically further questions in relation to the Boston bombing, in relation to Tamerlan, in relation to this phone conversation that we're now aware of. But she has said she will come. But, again, that big caveat, only if she can see her son in that medical facility, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, we'll see what happens on that front. Nic on the scene for us in southern Russia.

Trying to find out whether Tamerlan Tsarnaev had ties to Muslim jihadists in Russia, certainly a major part of this criminal investigation. Let's bring in the former FBI assistant director, our CNN analyst, Tom Fuentes.

Tom, you've got this raid overnight. Russia targeting this jihadist group. Tamerlan Tsarnaev posting a video by the group's former leader on a social media site. Walk us through how this part of the investigation is unfolding. If you will, take us behind the scenes.

TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Wolf, I think the behind the scenes is that the Russians have never stopped looking at the cell that Abu Dujan used to be in charge of until they killed him in December. So this is a group probably going back several years that they're doing surveillance on, they're doing wiretap coverage on, they probably have extensive coverage to even include the mosque where they go, other safehouses if they can identify them. They're intercepting Tamerlan's mother and we don't exactly still know why or for how long or how many other conversations she had. Is she making calls internally within Russia to other members of this organization? We still don't know that.

So this is a terror cell that the Russians are looking at for a long time leading to the raid in December where they actually kill Abu Dujan and other key people in that safehouse. They still keep looking at the remnants of the cell to include a subordinate of Abu Dujan, possibly the successor, who they kill this weekend in another raid. So the activities were ongoing long before Tamerlan himself comes into the picture and long after he's out of the picture. So I don't think, you know, we know for sure exactly the participation that he may have had or the people that he may have met with yet, but you would think the Russians may know that.

BLITZER: As you know, the Russians did formally notify the FBI and the CIA before Tamerlan Tsarnaev last year went back to Russia for six months, notified them that he's a man of concern because of alleged ties to terrorists over there.


BLITZER: The U.S. asked the Russians for more information. They never received more information. But in the past couple days now, we're told they did give over the transcript of a wiretap conversation between the suspect's mother discussing jihad with someone here in the U.S. and the suspicion is it was Tamerlan. What does this part of the investigation say to you?

FUENTES: Well, the first part of that, Wolf, that we don't know that - I don't know for sure that they turned over the full transcript of the conversation, but maybe turned over a summary where the word jihad is spoken. And they're still not sure of the context. Is he telling his mother, I don't believe in jihad or I want to join jihad or what do you think of people that do jihad? We don't -- if you don't know the whole conversation verbatim or the context of the series of the conversation, it's a little bit hard to pluck a word out of that and say, OK, this is what they were going to do.

As far as his relationship to other terrorist groups, you know, we still have not had that confirmed that he absolutely met people and was trained by them by members of a group that they were watching, you know I might add. I think what this shows, for many investigators, is the theory that the Russians weren't concerned about him attacking in the U.S. They thought, they've picked this jihad up and they're wondering, is he fund raising in the U.S., is he recruiting other members of background either Dagestan or Chechnya background to go with him and fight against the Russians? So it looks like that they may have been just concerned that he's radicalizing and they don't tell us how at the time or how they know it, but he's becoming more radical. And they're fear is, he's going to come to Russia and attack Russians, not really thinking it. So when the FBI concludes the investigation, cannot find any suspicious ties to anybody else in the U.S., he's not fund raising in the U.S. he's not advocating support, specifically financial or other at the time, for another terrorist organization. And the only bad phone calls -- now we know they may be bad -- but at the time he's calling his mother. He's calling his father. So that wouldn't rise to the suspicion unless you know that the mother is the subject of their investigation that they have concerns about her.

So the letter that goes to the CIA is the identical one that went to the FBI. So that's just a separate communication. And the CIA wouldn't be authorized to do investigation in the United States anyway. That would have been turned over to the FBI and they see that the FBI had already done the investigation.

But when the FBI closes a case, it's clear to the Russians that we can find no evidence that he's supporting the group there to possibly attack them. So that's a possible explanation for them not even responding to (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: And I know the Russians are always concerned about terrorism in Russia as well. And they have some legitimate concerns given the history of terrorist attacks in Russia.

FUENTES: Exactly. Exactly.

BLITZER: All right, Tom, thanks very much.

Here's more of what we're working on this hour. We're also getting some new details on this mysterious Misha, the shadowy figure accused of supposedly radicalizing Tamerlan Tsarnaev. We're going to hear from a reporter who tracked him down and spoke with him.

Also, we're following other news here in the CNN NEWSROOM including Michael Jackson's life and death. It will be back in the spotlight. Today, his family and the promoter of this concert get ready to battle it out in a courtroom.


BLITZER: Get back to the Boston investigation shortly. New developments coming in. But there's other news we're following as well, including Michael Jackson. In just about an hour Jackson's family's is expected back in court. Lawyers for his mother and children are hoping to convince a jury that the pop star died because of the negligence of his concert promoter. They want billions -- yes, billions -- of dollars for money Jackson might have earned.

Casey Wian sets the stage for us from Los Angeles.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Michael Jackson was in the last weeks of rehearsal for what was to be his grand comeback.

The exhausted 50-year-old insomniac died in 2009 from an overdose of sedatives and surgical anesthetic, Propofol.

Dr. Conrad Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for giving Jackson the fatal dose in an effort to help him sleep. He's in prison.

Now, the company that promoted the comeback tour, AEG Live, is fighting legal claims by Jackson's mother and children that it shares responsibility for the singer's death because it hired and supervised Murray.

PIERS MORGAN, HOST, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": What do you think, as his mother, caused his death?

KATHERINE JACKSON, MICHAEL JACKSON'S MOTHER: I don't know. All I know is they used Propofol. And they shouldn't have used it. And they used it in the wrong setting. That's all I know and that's what caused his death.

PROFESSOR JODY ARMOUR, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA LAW SCHOOL: The gist of the plaintiff's claim against AEG is that you've controlled Dr. Murray and you used your control over Dr. Murray to pressure him into taking unnecessary and excessive risks with his patient, Michael Jackson, leading to Michael Jackson's death.

WIAN: AEG Lives' attorney says there was never a signed contract with Murray and that Jackson was the only one who controlled him.

MARVIN PUTNAM, AEG ATTORNEY: He was chosen by Michael Jackson to be there at Michael Jackson's behalf. He'd be Michael Jackson's doctor alone.

This was only being done alone because Michael Jackson asked for it. Michael Jackson was the only person who could get rid of him at will.

WIAN: Potential witnesses include Jackson's three children.

Quincy Jones could testify about the billions Michael Jackson would have earned if he lived, money his heirs now want from AEG.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: Casey's joining us now live. We know, Casey, the courtroom is rather small. This trial is not being televised. So what time are they expected to get underway? What will take place when the jury is actually seated?

WIAN: Wolf, it's expected to get underway in about 45 minutes, and each side will have two and a half hours to present their opening arguments.

Michael Jackson's family will go first then attorneys for AEG live will follow. They'll both lay out their versions of who is to blame for Michael Jackson's death and their perspectives on the very central question here, was Conrad Murray an employee of AEG Live?

That company says, no, he was not. He was operating at Michael Jackson's discretion.

The Jackson family says it was AEG Live's responsibility and they're the ones who hired and were going to pay Dr. Murray.

That's what's going to unfold over the next two-to-four months, Wolf.

BLITZER: Casey Wian on the scene for us. All right, thanks very much, Casey.

Other news we're following including a killer who is on the loose in northern California. Eight-year-old Lela Fowler is dead. Police say her 12-year-old brother found her stabbed and wounded in the family's home outside Sacramento on Saturday. She later died. The brother told police he'd seen an intruder leaving the house. The sheriff's department says it has a lot of evidence, including fingerprints and possibly DNA.

Flight delays are coming to an end, but President Obama still hasn't signed the bill to stop those air traffic control furloughs. The reason? A simple typo. We'll explain. That and much more coming up.


BLITZER: Hopefully things should be back to normal in the skies today. Lawmakers last week passed an emergency measure to end the furloughs of air traffic controllers that resulted from those forced federal spending cuts. Those furloughs were blamed for thousands of flight delays.

Rene Marsh is joining us now. Rene, at one point over the weekend, one small little typo threatened to delay this fix. It still hasn't been quite worked out. Explain what happened.

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Well, Wolf, this is the delay. The Senate version of the bill has a typo. Lawmakers worked really fast to get this done, but the problem is someone overlooked a small little detail.

The word "accounts" is missing an "s," so now there's a delay in the president signing into law this bill that suspends furloughs of air traffic controllers. But there is some good news for travelers, air traffic controllers have been called back to work.

Today, the FAA told CNN things have been back on track at airports since Saturday. Most of the delays that they saw this weekend, they say, were weather-related and equipment failures.

We should let you know, Wolf, that the Senate plans on fixing their version of the bill tomorrow.

BLITZER: As you know, the airlines were putting a lot of pressure on Congress, Rene, to end these furloughs. So will this change keep the industry happy?

MARSH: Well, look, bottom line is this. When fliers are happy, the industry's happy. This really caused a big disruption in the system, the flow of things. Airports couldn't land as many planes. Not as many airlines could make sure that their planes were taking off on time.

Fliers, they were missing flights. Some planes even had to be idle in the air space longer than usual before they were cleared for landing.

So ultimately that was a lot of wasted time, a lot of wasted money. So when all of that goes away and the fliers are happy, then you've got to believe that the industry will be happy as well.

BLITZER: The forced spending cuts, also, Rene, threatening to close, what, about 150 small-, medium-sized air traffic control towers around the country. Does this emergency measure affect this part of the story?

MARSH: Well, we spoke with one representative representing those air traffic control towers and they say that they're happy to hear about this bill, but they also say it remains unclear what this really means for the towers that are slated to close or lose funding.

In their words, they say that the bill does not explicitly address this particular issue.

So what they're doing right now is they're actively lobbying lawmakers to make sure that the money being freed up is not only used to pay for the controllers, but also to keep those towers open, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Rene, thanks very much. Rene Marsh reporting.

Let's go to New York right now. CNN's Mary Snow is on the scene for us. Mary, you've been taking a closer look at that wreckage from one of those Boeing jetliners that crashed into the Twin Towers back on 9/11, and a piece of the wreckage all of a sudden now, all these years later, has been found wedged in between two buildings. What are you learning?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. It was a bizarre finding, Wolf, late last week, and it was found in a very tight alley space just blocks from Ground Zero.

We have some new information and some new video you're seeing on the other side of the screen there, video just released by the New York City police department.

This plane wreckage is believed to be from the September 11th terror attack. And what the NYPD is saying is they've been given information from Boeing that this wreckage is part of a wing structure, not the landing gear, that was first believed.

There are a lot of questions that still remain about how it remained there. And also there was questions about why a piece of rope was still attached to it. That remains unclear.

The police department saying, though, that it has no doubt that the wreckage is part of one of two planes that hit the World Trade Center. What's unknown is if it's from United Flight 175 or American Airlines Flight 11.

Now, the space where it was found is a little bit wider, if you can imagine this, than one-and-a-half feet.

The police have treated this as a crime scene, and the next step, Wolf, is that the city's medical examiner's office is going to be going into this area tomorrow morning and sift for possible human remains that are still there.


BLITZER: All right. You let us know what's going on. I know you're going to get much more later in the day as well as this story develops.

Mary, thank you.

He's a friend of the Tsarnaev family and he's simply known as Misha. But did the shadowy figure actually radicalize the older brother

We're going to hear from the reporter who actually spoke with Misha. And that's next.