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Further Developments in the Boston Bombing Investigation; American Man Sentenced to Hard Labor in North Korea; Stakes High after North Korea's Threats; They Should Not Have Let Him In

Aired May 2, 2013 - 09:30   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Thank you for being with us. I'm Carol Costello, here are the latest developments in the Boston bombing investigation at 30 minutes past the hour. The widow of Tamerlan Tsarnaev faces questions over a phone call she had with him after the feds released his image, but before they were able to identify him. Two sources tell CNN authorities want to know what that conversation was about and why Katherine Russell did not notify police. In the meantime, lawyers for the three new suspects say they are fully cooperating with investigators. All three remain in federal custody this morning accused of taking potential evidence from the dorm room of their pal, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev . Tsarnaev met two of the suspects while they were in college. But the accused bomber's relationship with the third suspect goes all the way back to high school. I say all the way, because he's only 19, so not that far back. Ashleigh Banfield is in Boston with more on this side of the story. Good morning Ashleigh.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Carol, you hit it. It's hard to believer we're talking about the class of 2011. These were high school kids together, Robel Phillipos and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. They went to high school in Cambridge, called Cambridge Ringe and Latin school and actually, if you look at the graduating class photograph, they are seated next to each other just a slight row apart, but effectively next to each other in the graduation class photograph. We also, through the year book, found the class portrait, the graduating class portrait of Robel Phillipos as well. And of course on those same pages, just separated by a couple of pages, the class graduating portrait of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as well.

What does that tell us? All I can tell you is this, we met a classmate that knew both of them, wasn't entirely sure they were close or very friendly. He played basketball with Robel Phillipos, fun guy, easy going guy, talked smack on the basketball court, but didn't know him beyond that. And as far as Dzhokhar, he said I had gym class with him, again, good guy. nice guy, but couldn't go beyond that. What do we know about Phillipos beyond that? That he followed him to UMass, and that they were friends there, and then one of the friends who knew them as well, James Turney, had this to say about the kind of person he believes Phillipos to be and what he could be capable of.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAMES TURNEY, FRIEND OF ROBEL PHILLIPOS: This doesn't make sense, Robel doesn't have anything to do with this or what happened. I don't see why he's been arrested.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think he would lie to cover for the czar evidence brothers?

TURNEY: I don't think so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't think so.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not the kind. What about any political agenda? I mean, this was all about we're here, right. Muslim anti-U.S. thing. What?

TURNEY: No, Robel's Christian. He doesn't have any anti-American thing about him. Neither did Dzhokhar.


BANFIELD: And Robel Phillipos, of course is the one American among the three who were charged yesterday. This is a young guy. We're trying to learn a lot more about, and online he certainly had some activity. There's a web video looks almost like a class project, in which he was answering questions about a famous philanthropist entrepreneur and how he liked to see himself like Earl Perry Charles (ph), one of the founders of Woolworths. Have a look at this Youtube video that has him answering sort of self-proposed questions in what seems like a project.


ROBEL PHILLIPOS, ATTENDED HIGH SCHOOL WITH DZHOKHAR TSARNAEV: I grew up in a very mild-mannered way of living. Wasn't too poor, wasn't too rich. Just average guy. But I have experienced so much, like you know, going to Africa. I have seen, like you know, depths of hell and back. I have seen poor people and I can definitely see myself giving a lot of money, not only money, but trying to make a difference, not just throwing money at a poor guy saying here, do something with it. I want him or her to go, you know, open doors for them.


BANFIELD: So he mentions in this project that he has sort of seen the depths of hell. Let me tell you this. The charge he's facing is more serious than the charge that the other two are facing in terms of sentencing, because lying to federal investigators in a terrorism investigation, can carry with it a maximum of eight years in federal prison. And those sentences in federal prison are almost to the day. You don't get time off for good behavior. They really stick really close to those sentences and carrying them out. Plus a $250,000 fine.

The other two who are facing those charges, the charges of obstruction, obstruction of justice. Those carry penalties of up to five years and the same financial penalty of $250,000. No matter what, extraordinarily serious given the nature of the crimes that were alleged to have proceeded these crimes.

COSTELLO: What's puzzling to me is that Dzhokhar, allegedly reached out to his college buddies and a buddy in high school, and not to some organized terrorism group, as far as we know, to clean up the mess he left behind.

BANFIELD: If you read the complaint, and I really encourage people to read the complaint. It's public information. There is a lot missing, and I have to be honest with you. Perhaps one of the most important things missing out of the complaint, in the affidavit, they don't say what happened to the laptop. These three kids were alleged to have gone to Dzhokhar's dorm room and retrieve not only the backpack with the emptied out fireworks, but the laptop. That could be an absolute trove of information.

And we're not being told in the complaint whatever became of the laptop. They found the backpack at the landfill. What about the laptop? There is a lot more to come as well. There are some dots that aren't connected in terms of when the feds got certain information, when they talked to these kids and what the outcome could have been.

But let me do one thing, and that is to correct something that was said on the air by a guest on CNN. And that was the alleged lie by Robel Phillipos, had he not allegedly told the lie, perhaps the life of an MIT Officer could be compared. We have read that through the complaint again and again on the timeline and I don't believe that to possibly true. Because the first series of alleged lies are after the death of the officers. I think that's very important as we look at the severity and potential sentencing of that lying to investigators in a terrorism charge.

COSTELLO: All right, Ashleigh Banfield. Thanks so much reporting live from Boston today.


COSTELLO: More Boston coverage ahead.

Coming up, an American is sentenced to 15 years in prison in North Korea. He's sentenced to hard. We'll take you there, next.


COSTELLO: Good morning. I'm Carol Costello, more Boston coverage in a moment. First, a check of other top stories this morning at 40 minutes past.

Police in Michigan are looking for a man who looks like the guy in this sketch. They say a man between 30 and 40 years of age may have abducted 25-year-old Jessica Heeringa last Friday. Police are also looking for this minivan. They believe the suspect was driving it. Heeringa was working alone at a gas station in Norton Shores when she simply disappeared. The store had no surveillance cameras. Eleven years after disappearing, a mother of two from Pennsylvania has been found alive in Key Largo, Florida. Brenda Heist was last seen in Pennsylvania in February 2002. Police say Heist was worried about financial issues and an impending divorce when she left her family behind.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was pretty much at the end of her rope down there. Living on the streets. I mean, I think she just has had it. Her health wasn't good. And she was tired of running.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What a shock. What a shock. I'm glad she's alive.


COSTELLO: Detectives say Heist spent years sleeping under bridges in tents and eating food out of fast food restaurants before she finally turned herself in last Friday in Florida.

Federal authorities are in investigating a potential case of human trafficking at the Virginia home of a Saudi diplomat. Officials tell CNN the probe involves two women from the Philippines who claim they were mistreated. They women were removed from the home by federal agents. The Saudi Arabian embassy has not responded to request for comment.

An American man has been sentenced to 15 years hard labor in North Korea. Kenneth Bae is accused of committing unspecified hostile acts against the state. He was in North Korea on a tourist visa, and the United States says he should be leased now on humanitarian grounds. But now he's been sentenced to prison and hard labor. I'm joined by CNN's Dan Rivers he's in Seoul, South Korea. Before you begin what exactly do we mean by hard labor?

DAN RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hard labor is really hard in these North Korean prison camps. We're talking breaking rocks, quarrying stone for months and months on end. This is a country where temperatures get subzero, seriously subzero, for many, many long months. It's a brutally harsh regime.

In terms of Kenneth Bae's case, it has taken them six months to put this American citizen on trial, but the trial itself only lasted two days. He was sentenced the very same day by the same court, the Supreme Court, to 15 months (sic) of that hard labor without any right of appeal. It appears Kenneth Bae may be a bargaining chip for North Korea in its ever higher games stakes of brinksmanship.


RIVERS: There is curiously little information about Kenneth Bae online. Just this Facebook page started by friends to campaign for his release from the secretive regime. He's been jailed for 15 years hard labor for, quote, "his crimes aimed to topple North Korea." The official news agency claiming, quote, "His crimes were proved by evidence," a possible reference to material reportedly found on a hard drive, one of Bae's friends suggesting it may have been as innocuous as photos of orphans begging. Whatever he's done or hasn't done, experts say he's now a bargaining chip for new leader Kim Jong-un.

JASPER KIM, ASIA-PACIFIC GLOBAL RESEARCH: I think North Korea looks at any U.S. citizen in and around North Korea as a mere asset. A commodity that can be traded in the open market, and so Kenneth Bae, at the wrong place at the wrong time.

RIVERS: And Bae is not the first. Scenes like this are becoming all too familiar. Cue emotional captives reunited with their families, accompanied by a high-profile politician this was 2009. Journalist Laura Ling and Euna Lee celebrate freedom. Former President Bill Clinton takes the credit. A year later, it's a different former president, Jimmy Carter with another relieved American.

Kenneth Bae is the sixth American at the wrong place at the wrong time and the North Koreans may once again be holding out for a high-profile visitor before they give him up.

What North Korea wants above all else is to enter one-on-one talks with the United States to gain concessions and get an end to punitive sanctions. They may see Kenneth Bae as the perfect way to achieve that aim.

With the announcement of their third successful nuclear test in February, the stakes couldn't be higher. North Korea even threatened a preemptive nuclear strike during South Korean/U.S. war games last month. Those maneuvers are over, but it seems the brinksmanship is not.


RIVERS: Well, the U.S. hasn't got any diplomatic presence inside North Korea, of course. Swedish diplomats act on their behalf and they have, we understand, visited Kenneth Bae last Friday.

But unlike the other cases -- high-profile cases in recent years, he was in Korea with a valid visa. He's a tour guide. He goes in all the time so that makes this case all the more questionable.

COSTELLO: Unbelievable. Dan Rivers you keeps us up to date. Thanks so much, Dan Rivers is reporting live from Seoul, South Korea this morning.

In the wake of that deadly factory collapse in Bangladesh, shoppers here in America have a special message to retailers, shame on you. Christine Romans is in New York with the story. What are they saying on line?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well they are saying "shame on you" to the retailers who are sourcing so many of their products from countries like Bangladesh. Bangladesh is a fast-growing supplier for many major retail brands, Carol. 4,500 different factories -- garment factories in Bangladesh is set to surpass China as the biggest garment producer in the world. And guess what? I mean, the conditions aren't great. The pay is very, very low. Look, 98 percent of our clothes are made overseas only two percent here and the kinds of brands that we're seeing there everywhere, everything from -- from Wal-Mart to the Children's Place to H & M. I mean, you name it. If you look in your -- you look in your closet, you will see a label, a label that has sourced products from Bangladesh -- China, Vietnam, Bangladesh the top three there.

The very factory where 400 people were killed, that very factory over at one time or another has made clothes for Benetton, has made clothes for Joe Fresh, has made clothes for the Children's Place. And so online what you're hearing, you're hearing shoppers saying "shame on you" to those companies for sourcing there.

And look just -- just -- just in February we had two other factory fires where people were killed as well. A lot of household name brands but what we haven't seen, Carol -- what we haven't seen Carol is American consumers put their -- put their hands back in their pocket, their wallets back in their pocket. We continue to buy this stuff -- Carol.

COSTELLO: That's right because that's the only way you're going to change your retailers and where they -- they buy their clothes is if shoppers don't buy the clothes right here in America.

ROMANS: And we have -- you are right. And we have seen again and again that shoppers -- shoppers in America choose cheap over everything else. When you look at a pair -- I mean this is why companies run to these places. They make -- they can make them very cheaply, they can sell them very cheaply here. And I think that there is this -- there is this disconnect -- Carol between what people see the pictures of what's happening in Bangladesh. Those people being pulled -- pulled out of the rubble. They don't think there is a connection between that rubble and the hangers in their own closet.

I just think that American consumers rarely make that connection, some online though are starting to do that. You've got hundreds of people online who are starting to blog and tweet about that connection and saying hey maybe we need to take a very good hard look at ourselves too and our consumer behavior here -- Carol.

COSTELLO: We'll see. Christine Romans reporting live from New York.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

COSTELLO: Still ahead on the NEWSROOM, the Boston bombing investigation is raising a lot of questions about the nation's student visa process. Why one U.S. official says bells should have gone off when a friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev tried to get in the country earlier this year.


COSTELLO: They should not have let him in. That's what a government official told CNN about a friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev who was allowed to re-enter the United States earlier this year on a previously approved student visa. There's just one problem. That friend was no longer a student.

Karen Greenburg is a terrorism analyst and the director of the Center on National Security at Fordham University. Welcome Karen.


COSTELLO: So as you look at this case and you hear about these student visas and, you know, one of the students had already flunked out of college but he was still in the United States.

What does this tell you about our student visa system and what remains wrong with it?

GREENBURG: Well, one thing you can say about the student visa programs and the analysis of it is that since 9/11 there has been increased scrutiny on who comes into the country on a student visa and what happens with them. The problem with a case like this that there are so many moving pieces and how do you know which ones are responsible and tied to what happened and which ones weren't.

And so I think in this case, the focus really has to remain on the people who committed the crime itself and the individual who's being charged with the bombing. Yes, you can say that there should have been somebody kept out. In a perfect world that would have been the case. But we don't live in a perfect world and we are still an open society. And so it is hard to condemn this without knowing all of the facts.

COSTELLO: But for one of these -- one of these suspects, Azamat Tazhayakov, his status with UMass Dartmouth had been terminated. Isn't somebody supposed to notify border protection about that?

GREENBURG: Well, you know, there's a period between which when your status is terminated and when you need to leave the country. And that's determined on a case by case basis and probably that's the case. But that doesn't necessarily mean that this crime would have been prevented. That's what I mean about being distracted by that kind of detail.

COSTELLO: But you would think after 9/11, like these problems, these holes, would be filled so to speak and we wouldn't continue to have these problems, at least that was the hope.

GREENBURG: Right. What you're going to find out in a case like this is that as you get to more and more detailed scrutiny of the facts, there will be apparently more and more holes. The question is, are they little holes or are they big holes? And yes, they're there but again I say this case is about an act of terrorism that was succeeded on U.S. soil and that's where we could keep the focus. And while there may be improvements in the system as a result -- including in a student visa program, it is a bunch of moving parts and a very complex narrative.

COSTELLO: All right. Karen Greenburg with Fordham University Center on National Security. Thanks so much.

GREENBURG: Thank you.

COSTELLO: We're also hearing this morning from the father of one of those students accused of lying to police about the younger Boston bomber. Phil Black joins us with that side of the story from Moscow.

What's the father saying Phil?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Carol, this is the father of Dias Kadyrbayev. He spoke to a local TV network in the Kazhakh city of Al Matsi (ph). He gave this interview after his son has been questioned by U.S. authorities, but before he had been arrested and charged. His describes his son as caring, intelligent, hard-working; someone who was accomplished academically and someone who through his own initiative chose to attend college in the United States. He also had something to say about that BMW with the provocative license plate "Terrorista number 1." Take a look.

MURAT KADRYBAYEV (through translator): In connection with the arrest of Tsarnaev, since my son was friends with Tsarnaev on their student campus; I mean there are halls of residence, they also initially came under suspicion. But Within 12 hours they released them since they weren't implicated in these events.

But the next day that immigration police detained them for violating their visas. The violation was related to the fact that hew missed a couple or maybe several classes. I can say about my son that he finished school with excellent grades. He was good at math, he helped need. When he saw that the helpless needed, he always accommodated.

He had taken exams in the summer. It is true he went twice to take the exams and passed the second time. And the invitation came from the university and we're all very pleased. On the car I can say that a few months few months ago, they bought a car with a friend in the center. So there is no basis to these suspicions that it was stolen or robbed.

In America they don't put front license plates on. You could put whatever you want on the front license plats. This was a gift from their Spanish friends, it turns out. It is an unusual gag, a joke, which is at the moment being turned into something dramatic. I understand that there are two options right now, either they'll be deported or they'll be proved innocent. These are two options but an American court will make the decision.


BLACK: Carol, at the time he made those statements the father of Dias Kadyrbayev also sent his condolences to all the victims of the Boston attack. And said that he was very willing, happy to help and cooperate with the U.S. Investigation in any way he could -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Ok. So I'm wondering why is terrorism number one a funny license plate? Why is that funny?

BLACK: The father himself didn't give any indication into that except to say that it was a gift from some friends and it was, as he said, supposed to be a gag. And he says that it is only under the circumstances it has gone public, if you like. The gag has not hit the punch line mark there at all.

COSTELLO: Yes. Phil Black. Thanks so much. We appreciate it.

The next hour of "CNN NEWSROOM" after a break.


COSTELLO: Happening now in the NEWSROOM, a laptop, fireworks and Vaseline, a new arrest in Boston. Police say Tsarnaev's friends hid evidence.