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Interview With Secretaries Salazar, Napolitano; Interview With Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen; Interview With Senator Schumer

Aired May 2, 2010 - 12:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: The simple truth about the oil threatening the Gulf Coast is no one knows for sure where we are headed, and no one has from the start. The first day was all about search and rescue. Eleven workers died in the explosion on the oil rig 40 miles offshore. By day three, there were reassuring words about what was not happening beneath the water.


REAR ADM. MARY LANDRY, U.S. COAST GUARD: I am saying that. There is no crude oil at this time leaking from the well head. There is no crude oil leaking from the riser.


CROWLEY: Day four.


LANDRY: What we now know we are dealing with, in addition to that, is oil emanating from the well. That is a big change from yesterday.


CROWLEY: Day eight.


LANDRY: NOAA experts believe the output can be as much as 5,000 barrels.


CROWLEY: And yesterday, The Wall Street Journal reported: "Industry experts examining satellite data say they believe oil may be leaking at a rate of 25,000 barrels a day. That's five times the Coast Guard estimate.

What is going on here?


CROWLEY (voice-over): To sort out the story on the Gulf Coast, we are joined by two cabinet secretaries sent to the scene. The secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano.

NAPOLITANO: We will work to make sure that British Petroleum meets its financial obligations.

CROWLEY: And secretary of the interior, Ken Salazar.

SALAZAR: British Petroleum has a massive spill for which they are responsible. CROWLEY: And the commandant of the Coast Guard, Thad Allen.

And then, the outsider who seized Florida's Republican mantle from Governor Charlie Crist, Marco Rubio.

I'm Candy Crowley, and this is STATE OF THE UNION.


CROWLEY: I'm joined here in Washington by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. And joining us from New Orleans is the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, Admiral Thad Allen, whom President Obama named yesterday to lead the clean-up effort.

But before we go to the problems in the Gulf, we want to get an update on the story that everyone woke up to today, what seemed to be an attempt at a car-bombing in New York Times Square.


RAY KELLY, NYC POLICE COMMISSIONER: NYPD bomb technicians have removed and dismantled three propane tanks, consumer grade fireworks, two five-gallon gasoline containers filled, and a -- two clocks, along with batteries in each of the clocks, electrical wire, and other components stored in the rear of the vehicle.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK CITY: It was made up of consumer grade fireworks that you can buy in Pennsylvania and drive into New York. And the wiring was nothing that -- it looked amateurish, I think, is a nice way to phrase it.

RALLIS GIALABOUKIS, WITNESS: I just happened to be looking right at the car when it just went up, when it just exploded. And I saw the fire and -- inside the car, I mean, I didn't know what to think, I -- there is no window shattered, I mean, nothing like that.

It was just what you could feel. You could hear it and you could feel it, you know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So it was a loud explosion, but not powerful enough to do any serious damage to the vehicle?

GIALABOUKIS: Not that one, no. I mean, you don't know if there is another one coming after that. You don't know what to think after that. And that's where all the panic set in and everybody just started scattering.


CROWLEY: So certainly they found a lot of explosive material in this car. Do you have any reason to believe at this point, Secretary Napolitano, that there are international terrorist ties to this?

NAPOLITANO: Well, we're taking this very seriously with the New York City Police Department, with the FBI, the Joint Terrorist Task Force. We are treating it as if it could be a potential terrorist attack. The derivation of that we do not know. And that's what the investigation will tell us.

CROWLEY: And what have you found so far in the investigation that they've told you about? Are you honing in on suspects or is it still you have a lot nothing at this point?

NAPOLITANO: Well, I would say it's more than a lot of nothing but less than particular suspects. There is a lot of forensic information due in part to the placement of the vehicle, where it was. There are a lot of cameras, a lot of other things in that area that you don't have in some other places. So the forensics are all being worked intensely, and have been being worked intensely overnight.

CROWLEY: And by forensic, do we mean, are there fingerprints in the car, that kind of thing that could be really palpable information?

NAPOLITANO: There is all that. There is forensics about the vehicle, about the tanks, the propane inside. There is forensics in terms of video or possible video that might exist. So there is a lot of evidence being tracked down by a lot of people right now.

CROWLEY: And any sense of how big this might have been had this exploded? Do you know anything about what was in that car?

NAPOLITANO: Yes. I don't have a picture of that right now. Suffice it to say, however, that given that area, there is a lot of people back and forth. It's a very crowded area. So we view this very, very seriously.

CROWLEY: In a moment, we're going to go on to the crisis in the Gulf.

CROWLEY: The oil spreading through the Gulf is like nothing else this country has seen. It's often measured against the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989, the worst in American history. But what is happening now is totally different.

The Valdez spilled heavy crude into a cold environment that devastated wildlife and took four years and $2 billion to clean up. All of that happened in a sparsely-populated area. The Exxon Valdez, with a known cargo capacity, spilled 11 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound for three months.

What is pouring out now could reach 11 million gallons in a little less than two months. There is no way to know how long it could continue. The open Gulf of Mexico, a completely different setting from that of the Exxon Valdez. That occurred in the closed environment of Alaska's Prince William Sound. It covered about 1,000 miles of shoreline.

This threatens a far larger area subject to all of the vagaries of the weather, which, for the moment, isn't cooperating. The geographic scale is different, the population is different, the economic impact is different. We'll sort that out with our guests in just a moment.


CROWLEY: We are back with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, Admiral Thad Allen.

Admiral, let me start with you and just ask you for the situation on the ground. Is it any better than it was yesterday?

ALLEN: Well, we seem to have a holding action with the weather, Candy. The slick in southeast Louisiana is about nine miles offshore. We have pre-stage booming in Plaquemines Parish, and working with Saint Bernard Parish and the other local leaders in Louisiana.

We've been hampered quite a bit by the local weather, which has really kicked up offshore, six- to 10-foot seas, and has made deploying booms somewhat problematic. We have a lot of booms staged down there. And British Petroleum, with the incident commanders, are working very hard with the local community, including involving the fisherman and local personnel down there. And we're standing by at this point.

CROWLEY: How happy are you with the performance of BP at this point?

ALLEN: Well, as I told everybody, BP is the responsible party, and they need to be responsible. The Coast Guard are the people that are accountable for oversight, and we need to be accountable. I spent a lot of time last night with the senior executives talking about the things we need to do.

Trying to protect the wetlands and the resources of the United States when the oil is coming ashore is the last place we want to do this. We have to stop this oil where it's emanating on the sea floor. And they need to move at best speed to do that. And we're looking at all available options to do that.

CROWLEY: Secretary Salazar, let me ask you, because this leads me into one of the questions I have. And that is, you know, one of the reasons we have these deep water wells is people don't want to look at them on the shore. And so they move them out. Have you gone to other places? Have you asked other rigs to look at their mechanisms -- their shut-off mechanisms given that the one that -- on the rig that BP had did not work?

SALAZAR: Candy, there have been about 30,000 wells that have been drilled in the Gulf Coast. We have not only British Petroleum, with their best global experts talking a look at this, but also all of the global oil industry coming to the attention of this crisis and seeing what they can do.

There is no doubt at all here that what has happened is a blowout preventer -- prevention mechanism at the bottom of the well has been -- is defective. And that's what we're trying to do is to control the problem at the source.

CROWLEY: The blowout preventer -- just to interrupt this, is what should have stopped the oil from coming up and leaking all over the ocean, which it is doing right now.

SALAZAR: Absolutely. And while there have been blowouts in the past, we have never seen anything that has been quite at this magnitude. So our job is basically to keep the boot on the neck of British Petroleum to carry out the responsibilities that they have, both under the law and contractually to move forward and to stop this spill.

CROWLEY: But given the performance of the blowout preventer, there are others out there who have blowout preventers, have you asked those under U.S. jurisdiction to take a look at theirs?

SALAZAR: We have indeed. President Obama ordered an immediate inspection and so we are conducting an immediate inspection of all of these blowout preventers. And we have a flotilla of people out in the Gulf making sure that these are safe.

CROWLEY: Secretary Napolitano, I want to play you something real quickly, because it leads to the question that I want to ask you about this.


REAR ADM. SALLY BRUCE-O'HARA, U.S. COAST GUARD: We are certainly not at that point now. And I don't imagine, given the professionalism of our partner, BP, and maybe partner with -- let me back up...


(UNKNOWN): They are not our partner. They are not our partner.

BRUCE-O'HARA: In terms of -- bad choice of words.


CROWLEY: So just an objection to BP being a partner with the federal government on this, who is in charge of this?

NAPOLITANO: Well, I think the commandant stated it very accurately. BP is the responsible party. They are--

CROWLEY: That means they pay for it.

NAPOLITANO: They are going to pay for it. But they are also responsible for getting this well and getting it shut off with oversight by the Coast Guard and by other federal agencies, but primarily the Coast Guard. As this situation has developed, however, and as we've seen the oil spread and move towards shore, the plain fact of the matter is, is that the United States government, in the face of the Coast Guard, has taken on a lot of the operational actual doing of the -- getting the preparations done.

And in fact, the plain fact of the matter is, is that from day one the Coast Guard has been treating this as an incident, a spill that could ultimately reach shore. And that's why you had 70 vessels already pre-deployed. That's why you had a million feet of boom, et cetera, ready to go.

CROWLEY: Did you rely too much on BP's assessment early on? We first heard, well, everything is fine. And then we're told, well, there's a little leak. Next thing we know it's 1,000 or 5,000 gallons. Do you feel as though the government took too much -- put too much credence in what BP was saying? Did you all try to check somehow how much of a leak was going on?

NAPOLITANO: Oh, yes. That's not the way it happened. What happened first is that there was an explosion. There was immediate deployment of the Coast Guard for search and rescue. And that was really the focus for the first several days.

The rig itself did not sink for two days. And so there wasn't a spill. And even when there was--

CROWLEY: But didn't someone think, wow, there might be a spill too? I mean, I understand they were looking for men and that's the tragedy of this, is that 11 men died in this. But somebody somewhere should have been saying--

NAPOLITANO: Indeed, indeed. And if I might add, that's exactly why from day one they were already pre-deploying vessels and booms and getting ready in case the scenario continued to worsen. That's why you're not waiting for vessels to arrive. They were already there, pre-positioned. That's why you weren't waiting for boom to be sent in from other coasts, you had a million feet ready to go.

That thinking was already under way. But in terms of over- reliance on estimates by BP, no. There was independent modeling being done by NOAA and the Coast Guard, based on what they were seeing coming to the surface of the ocean.

That kept changing, of course, as you know, during the week. And as that changed, of course, preparations began to change to match the situation. But everything was pre-positioned and ready to go.

CROWLEY: Secretary Salazar, do you want to add something there?

SALAZAR: From day one, there has been the assumption here on the worst-case scenario. And so the--

CROWLEY: What is the worst-case scenario, while we're on that?

SALAZAR: The worst-case scenario is we could have 100,000 barrels or more of oil flowing out. And the requirements BP has is to have the capability to respond to that kind of a spill. And it means doing everything that's going on, including containing the well down at the bottom, mitigating the impacts on the sea, mitigating impacts as things happen on shore.

You're talking about a multi-billion dollar company here who is, I believe, the fourth-largest company in the world. And we will not spare any effort on the part of the United States of America to make sure that all of their resources are brought effectively to address the problem.

CROWLEY: Admiral Allen, just while we have that 100,000 figure, that being sort of disaster, is that something you fear the most? Do you think that could happen?

ALLEN: Well, if we lost the total wellhead, it could be 100,000 barrels or more a day. I think -- just to follow up on what Secretary Napolitano said, this whole thing has been kind of a process of discovery. It wasn't until they remotely-operated vehicles down, were able to survey the entire length of the 5,000-foot pipe-riser that was crumpled on the ocean floor, that we finally found three sequential leaks over a period of about 72 hours.

And as I told some folks, you know, the difference between 1,000 and 5,000 barrels a day, when you look at the potential discharge of 100,000, leads me to believe that there are a lot of inaccuracies associated with trying to estimate flow from a broken pipe at 5,000 feet. That's the reason it's so very, very important we focus on stopping this leak right away.

CROWLEY: Something else that Secretary Salazar brought up, saying, look, BP is a very wealthy company, we expect them to bring everything to the barricades on this. And I want to read you a quote, Admiral. This is from BP's chief operating officer in The New York Times. And he said, quote: "There are not much additional available resources in the world to fight this thing offshore. We've basically thrown everything we have at it."

Given that, it seems to me that right now you're sort of dependent on somebody trying to figure out how to stop this leak. And otherwise you're just going to be standing on the shore, trying to keep this from coming in.

ALLEN: Well, the term "fighting this thing offshore" can mean a lot of things, Candy. I break this down into four discrete segments. The first one is stopping the leak at the source. Absent that, then fighting this thing as far offshore as we can in terms of mechanical removal, in situ (ph) burn, in dispersants to remove the -- to disperse the oil in the water column.

The third thing, when you fall back, is to protect the shoreline. The fourth thing, once it's impacted, you have to recover and to mitigate. And these are things we need to be doing all at once. And when we say fight this thing offshore, the first place we have to fight it is 5,000 feet down.

CROWLEY: And real quickly, has BP thrown everything they've got at this?

ALLEN: They've got remotely-operated vehicles. I think one thing that's not well-understood when you're operating in that environment, which I would actually term "inner space," that's no place where human beings can operate. So everything has been done remotely with ROVs, including the inspection of the pipeline, the survey, and the repair of the hydraulic systems associated with the blowout preventer.

And this is all being done remotely. And that's where ultimately this is going to have to be fixed, or at least held in abeyance until a relief well can be drilled. That's the reason it's so very important to throw all of those assets at it. And the highest technology in the world is being applied at the point discharge.

CROWLEY: Much more with secretaries Napolitano, Salazar, and Admiral Allen when we come back.


CROWLEY: We are back with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, Admiral Thad Allen.

Secretary Salazar, at this point, does anything say to you, we ought to stop deep-water drilling?

SALAZAR: Thirty percent of our oil comes from the Gulf, that we produce here domestically. And right now our economy is very dependent on having that oil come to our country. I do think that one of the things that this does is it sends out the clarion call that we need to diversify our energy resources. That's why the president has been pushing so hard for renewable energy.

But at the same time we need to go through a transition period. Our economy is very dependent on oil and gas resources, and deep-water oil and gas really has been done safely in the past many thousands of wells that have been drilled without incident.

And so our intention is to move forward thoughtfully, looking at how we can protect the resources of the United States and making thoughtful decisions.

CROWLEY: Secretary Napolitano, can the Navy be of use in this?


CROWLEY: Is there something the Navy could do?

NAPOLITANO: Indeed. Well, the Navy has been on-site since day one. There is kind of a myth out there that somehow the Department of Defense is now coming in. They actually have been there since day one. CROWLEY: In what form?

NAPOLITANO: They've been there in the form of ship -- and I think perhaps of air. Thad could probably answer that more completely than I right now.

But as we move forward, the Department of Defense, Secretary Gates and I have spoken, has put any resource that could be useful at the behest of the commandant.

CROWLEY: Admiral, let me ask you this. You were there on the ground and -- I imagine that you run over a lot of nightmare scenarios while you are trying to figure out what you will need to do in the future and what you need to do now.

On a scale of 1 to 10, if 9 were the Exxon Valdez, what are we looking at here?

ALLEN: Well, Candy, I think it's important to compare and contrast. The Exxon Valdez spill was 11 million gallons. The difference between the Exxon Valdez and this event is that we had a vessel and once the oil was spilled, we could measure what was left on the vessel and the volume that was left. We knew exactly what we were dealing with in terms of the quantity of the spill.

This spill at this point, in my view, is indeterminate. That makes it asymmetrical, anomalous, and one of the most complex things we've ever dealt with. On a level of complexity, I'd certainly give it a 9.

CROWLEY: And it does make it worse.

Secretary Salazar, I want to ask you in our closing minutes, I mean, when you look at this, is this catastrophic?

SALAZAR: It potentially is very catastrophic. And I think we have to prepare for the worst, as we have from day one. I think Commandant Allen said it correctly, which is if this thing continues to spew out, the ultimate relief here is going to be a relief well that may be 90 days out. And so we have to be prepared to make sure that we're protecting the American public, the American environment, our treasured coastlines on the Gulf Coast. So we are ready to do everything humanly possible to get that done.

CROWLEY: And catastrophic, you are talking wetlands, you're talking wildlife, you're talking shrimp and oysters and fish, all of that. We can see that being disastrous, not to mention birds which are migrating at this point.

SALAZAR: Yes. It is, indeed, a massive oil spill. And our job is to make sure that we do everything we can to try to protect both human life, but also very precious and fragile environment of the Gulf Coast.

CROWLEY: Secretary Napolitano, I want to turn your attention, because you were from Arizona, you were governor of Arizona. And I have to tell you that over the weekend in Los Angeles, a crowd estimated at 50,000, including Catholic Cardinal Roger Mahony and singer Gloria Estefan protesting the new law in Arizona. In Washington, Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Democrat of Illinois, a leading advocate of reform, was one of about three dozen who were arrested. He had a t-shirt on that said, "Arrest me, not my friends."

Governor Brewer, who signed the new Arizona law dealing with undocumented workers, last week had this to say about you. "She obviously is turning a blind eye to Arizona. She understands what the situation is. She wrote numerous letters when she was governor to the administration looking for help and some relief."

Do you understand why in Arizona there was so much support for this law and it was signed into law?

NAPOLITANO: Well, I'll tell you a couple of things. First of all, in terms of the actual numbers, there have been more resources deployed in Arizona in the last 15 months than ever in history, more boots on the ground, more technology, there has been more seizures of drugs.

CROWLEY: It hasn't worked, has it? They are still overrun?

NAPOLITANO: It is working. It is working, that the numbers of apprehensions are down significantly, which means the number of people trying to immigrate illegally is down. The border has been under more control than ever before. And I have worked that border for a number of years. I have ridden it, I have walked it. I know that border intimately.

What has happened now is that she has signed a law of a type that I used to veto when I was governor, because it's bad for law enforcement, among other things. It takes law enforcement off of the streets and really looking at the crimes they need to prioritize in their own communities and puts everybody at risk.

And so, there was no surprise to me that experienced individuals like the Pima County sheriff, who is the longest standing sheriff in Arizona, he is in Tucson, 100 miles from the border, has said he doesn't want this new law, he doesn't need it, and he is not going to enforce it. It's a shame.

CROWLEY: Secretary Napolitano, Secretary Salazar, and down there in Louisiana, Admiral Allen, good luck down there. It sounds like you've got a real job ahead of you, but I thank all three of you very much.

And when we come back, the latest on the New York car bomb scare.


CROWLEY: Turning now to another breaking story, that car bomb scare in New York City's Times Square. I want to bring in our national correspondent Susan Candiotti in New York.

You know, Susan, everything we hear now is that they are going to go through this, this is just painstaking, this detail, that detail, and that's very much how our reporting goes at this point. What new details can you tell us about what is now an investigation?

CANDIOTTI: Well, in regard to the car that was used as well as the components that they pulled out of that SUV, one thing is clear. They still haven't opened up, curiously, that metal box that was found inside the car along with the gas cans, along with the propane cylinders, along with the fireworks that they have been looking at as well, looking for hair and fiber evidence. But there was also that metal gun box, ammo box, whatever you want to call it.

Now, we don't know exactly what is taking so long for them to open it up, but we do know from experience that in cases like this, they are very meticulous about the methods that they use. So, for example, you could blow this thing up right away and get right to the heart of it or you can use a more methodical method in order to maintain the integrity of the evidence in as pristine a condition as is possible. So we know that they already would have normally X-rayed what's inside, but now it's very possible, I am told, that the discussion involves how to open up that box. And then, of course, to find out exactly what was inside that. So we know that's going on.

And we also know and have confirmed that federal agents are now at the site of a junkyard, an auto parts store, actually, in Connecticut, trying to see what information they can get from there because that is the place where the license plate came from and where a man brought and dumped off his Ford pickup truck that the license plate, the Connecticut plate was originally attached to. And that plate was the one that was found on this SUV, a Pathfinder, a different car altogether. So again, trying to put all the pieces together. Candy.

CROWLEY: Susan Candiotti, watching all of us -- for all of us down in New York City's Times Square. It looks like a beautiful day and a crowd that doesn't have a care in the world. Thanks so much, Susan.

When we come back, we're going to listen to an eyewitness to last night's square.


CROWLEY: When the car bomb scare unfolded in Times Square, there was a hot dog vendor standing by. He tells us now what he saw.


ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tell me, what exactly did you see? Let's run through it again.

RALLIS GIALABOUKIS, HOT DOG VENDOR: A beautiful day, people everywhere, music playing, people dancing, having a great time. You know, just, you know. All of a sudden, you just spot a car there, abandoned, hazards on. And people started talking, you know, amongst us, you know, and you see the smoke coming out of the car, you know, like seeping through the windows. And you could see it -- you couldn't see what's in the car. You know, nobody could see. And then as they were trying to evacuate, you know, move everybody away from it, it just went off inside the car. An explosion went off inside the car.

CHERNOFF: So there actually was an explosion.

GIALABOUKIS: There was an explosion, but it didn't shatter any of the windows or anything like that. But it did move the car and you could see like sparks. And you know, like, you could see it. I mean, visibly clear, I mean.

CHERNOFF: White smoke in the vehicle?

GIALABOUKIS: White smoke in the vehicle before the explosion.

CHERNOFF: Before the explosion, and then the explosion occurred. You mean smoke prior to the explosion?

GIALABOUKIS: Definitely, yes.

CHERNOFF: Did you hear an explosion?

GIALABOUKIS: Did we hear it? Yes, of course we heard it.

CHERNOFF: A big boom or what?

GIALABOUKIS: A big boom. A big boom, and everybody started scattering. It was like panic.

CHERNOFF: Were you thinking car bomb?

GIALABOUKIS: Absolutely at that point, yes. Yes.

CHERNOFF: And how close were you to the vehicle?

GIALABOUKIS: The vehicle was probably 15, 18 feet from me when it went off.


GIALABOUKIS: Yes. I mean, you know, of course.



CHERNOFF: And so you were next to a t-shirt vendor.

GIALABOUKIS: I was across the street.

CHERNOFF: OK. So he contacted -- right away -- I mean the police right away saw what happened?

GIALABOUKIS: Well, there was police officers right there on the block. He just alerted them and told them the situation. They radioed in, because they were on the -- there were mounted police officers first, he alerted them first, and then they went on the radio and then other police officers there on the block came.

CHERNOFF: Did you notice when that vehicle pulled up? Did you see anybody get out? GIALABOUKIS: No. But a friend of mine did, and it was probably there for a good 10 minutes maybe, just sitting around over there. And 10 minutes is an eternity out there.

CHERNOFF: You mean somebody was in the vehicle, sitting there for 10 minutes?

GIALABOUKIS: Absolutely not, no. The vehicle was just standing there on its own. Someone saw somebody get out of that car and just leave it there and never came back.

CHERNOFF: OK. But you didn't see -- you didn't see that person.

GIALABOUKIS: I didn't see that person.

CHERNOFF: Your friend might.

GIALABOUKIS: He might have, yes.

CHERNOFF: And the police, the police spoke to you about this?

GIALABOUKIS: Absolutely not yet, no.

CHERNOFF: The police have not spoken to you.

GIALABOUKIS: No, no. You know, the main thing for them is just -- safety. And then, you know.

CHERNOFF: It's 4:12 in the morning, right?

GIALABOUKIS: 4:12 in the morning, that's right.

CHERNOFF: You were out there all day long.

GIALABOUKIS: We've been out there all day long. And it's been since 7:00 p.m., it's just been sit -- staying at that spot and we've just been sitting here and just waiting to get--

CHERNOFF: And you were just staying right at the same spot or they moved you away, didn't they?

GIALABOUKIS: They moved us away, but the cart was there. Nobody -- I mean, they closed everything off. You couldn't get anywhere near.

CHERNOFF: You've just come to retrieve your cart.

GIALABOUKIS: Just now, I just retrieved it just now.

CHERNOFF: How do you make sense of all of this?

GIALABOUKIS: I mean, you know, I don't know. I don't know what to think. It's scary. You know, and this is -- you know, just -- it opens your eyes. Now is the time you've got to focus on, you know, stuff that can happen over here like this, you know. You've got to be alert now. Everybody has to. CHERNOFF: You'll be back tomorrow?

GIALABOUKIS: Well, I don't know if my wife will let me come out tomorrow. My boys let me. Probably take the day off, man, you know.


CROWLEY: That was, doing the interviewing, CNN's Allan Chernoff, hard at work in the wee hours of this morning talking to people on the street in Times Square.

When we come back, we're going to hear from New York's senior senator, Charles Schumer.


CROWLEY: Welcome back to "State of the Union." We are covering now for you the car bomb scare in New York's Times Square last night. Just a few moments ago, I had a chance to talk to one of New York's biggest fans, its senior senator, Charles Schumer.


CROWLEY: We want to bring in now the senior senator from New York, Senator Charles Schumer.

Senator, thank you, too, for being here with us.

It looks pretty calm behind you, but last night, very tense. All in all, when you look at what happened, are you fairly certain that once it was known that there was a car bomb, that things went as they should have?

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Well, yes. I think that it's amazing. It's a good testimony for New York.

First, a typical New Yorker, a Vietnam vet who was a T-shirt salesman, noticed the smoke from in the car, immediately knew just what to do. A police officer, 19 years training, Officer Radigan (ph), again, reported it in immediately. And so the car was gotten too quickly. Times Square was evacuated quickly and without incident. It's a testament to New Yorkers and the New York City Police Department, which is, as Peter King said, the greatest police department in the world.

CROWLEY: Well, listen, you know, the fact of the matter is -- I was thinking about this last night as this started to unfold -- is that New York is a big city, it is a free city. And if someone wants to drive a carful of explosives into that town, there's not much you can do about it.

This was luck, wasn't it?

SCHUMER: Well, you know, there isn't that much you can do about it, but again, New York City is doing everything it can. Commissioner Kelly has something called the Ring of Steel, which would put detectors right now for radiation and chemical devices at all the major entrances to the city. But technology is getting better and better, and they could eventually detect a large amount of explosives as well.

So, there are things we can do. But you're right, we're a big, open, free-wheeling city, where millions of people come in each day. And it takes a lot of effort and maybe a little luck so far to avoid any major incident. But again, this guy did drive the car in, but it was detected rather quickly because of the keen eyes of two New Yorkers.

CROWLEY: As the senior senator, are there things about this investigation that you can tell us that have gone on, how close they may be, how long this may take?

SCHUMER: Right. Well, first, as was mentioned, there are a ton of cameras all over Times Square. And while they couldn't see into the car itself -- they do have pictures of the car, but it had tinted windows -- there's a decent chance that the perpetrator will be caught on camera one way or another.

Second, we are very good -- this is federal, but the federal government, NSA and others are very good at monitoring the electronic airwaves. And so, when there's a worldwide terrorism alert, when terrorists in Pakistan or Somalia, al Qaeda or anybody else, try to do something, we're pretty much on top of that. It can't be 100 percent, but it's darn good.

And they had no prior knowledge of anything happening. So, the odds -- not a certainty, because the investigation isn't concluded -- but the odds are quite high that this was a lone wolf.

Could it have been a lone wolf connected to some terrorist organization? Possibly. Probably not.

Could it have been a lone wolf who had that ideology and was doing it on his own? Possibly.

Could it have been someone else who didn't have terrorist ideology at heart but might have been just mentally ill or whatever? That's possible as well.

But given the nature of the explosive, and given the fact that there was no chatter on the lines, signs point to -- and again, it's preliminary -- that this was not part of any terrorist plot by al Qaeda or another known terrorist organization.

CROWLEY: And so --

SCHUMER: The previous terrorist -- the previous terrorist who was arrested here, Zazi, when he came over the George Washington Bridge, they had lots of knowledge of what he was doing because he was connected to al Qaeda.

CROWLEY: So when you look at the mix of federal investigators and New York police investigators, who's running this at this point and how does that work?

SCHUMER: Well, there's something called the Joint Terrorism Task Force. It's composed of the FBI and Homeland Security at the federal level, and NYPD, the New York Police Department, at the local level. They have had amazingly good cooperation.

You know, you always hear the stories of law enforcement, of rivalries and turf, and this and that. That hasn't happened in this task force, and it's been very, very effective, as both the feds -- the federal officials, as well as Commissioner Kelly and the NYPD, will attest to. And they'll be in charge of this because you have to integrate things.

You have to know what happened outside New York City, which is generally a federal responsibility, and what happened inside New York City, which is a NYPD responsibility. And the fact that we've had this Terrorism Task Force, Joint Terrorism Task Force, and it's worked so well, is another good -- it's something that's very good and leads you to believe that every effort will be made to find who did it, apprehend them, and to try and take corrective measures so this kind of thing doesn't happen again.

CROWLEY: Senator, if I'm sitting in the Midwest, in Missouri or Ohio, or someplace, and I was planning on a summer trip to New York with my kids, this might give me pause.

SCHUMER: Well, you know, we New Yorkers are a tough breed. And you can see that Times Square is as crowded as ever. And I don't think you can let the terrorists win.

Praise God, there hasn't been a successful terrorist incident since the awful day of 9/11 here. The police and the authorities are on high alert. And I would urge people who are planning to come to New York, come. My daughters are coming home from law school and college, and they'll be allowed to go to Times Square or anywhere else in New York City.


CROWLEY: The senior senator from New York, Senator Charles Schumer. New York open for business.

Next up, another eyewitness who was on the streets of Times Square when the car bomb scare started.


CROWLEY: If you have ever been to New York City and in particular Times Square, you know that the streets are lined with vendors. You heard our Allan Chernoff, who talked earlier with a hot dog vendor. So many of them along these streets made such great eyewitnesses. Now hear another interview from Chernoff, this time with a t-shirt vendor.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHERNOFF: I have someone with me who can describe precisely what happened. He is Hamid Boubain, and he is a vendor who was actually right near the vehicle. He saw it all. So Hamid, let's run through this. You were selling your hot dogs, your pretzels--


CHERNOFF: -- your sodas right by the Marriott Marquee, 45th Street and 7th Avenue in Times Square, the heart of New York City.

BOUBAIN: Yes, sir.

CHERNOFF: What did you see?

BOUBAIN: Actually, it was my break time. My partner came and he take over, so I sit down like nothing happened. So I was eating my food like this, and I told my partner, because I was facing the car.

CHERNOFF: The SUV, Nissan Pathfinder.

BOUBAIN: Yes, sir. And I told my friend, look, yo, yo, look at this, I mean, it looks like a fireworks inside.

CHERNOFF: Inside of the vehicle? What did you see inside of the vehicle?

BOUBAIN: It looks like a fireworks. I don't know how to explain, but after that, like 15 minutes later, you see the smoke came out. And one of the officers came and he start kicking everybody from the corner for safety, like for the human, you guys got to get out of here. I said, sir, no, I've got my truck here. Give me one second, I move it. He said no. No. You have to get out of here.

CHERNOFF: When you say fireworks, right, did you see smoke in the vehicle?

BOUBAIN: No. The smoke came out. Actually, you know, the glass in the vehicle is so dark, we cannot see nothing. But when it start like, you know, exploding a little bit, you see like a fire inside. That thing, it scares me.

CHERNOFF: So there was an explosion that you heard.

BOUBAIN: Yes, sir, yes.

CHERNOFF: How loud?

BOUBAIN: In the beginning, it was not that loud. But a little bit later, like a couple minutes later, it start. I heard it louder, sir.

CHERNOFF: So this was an explosion that occurred over the course of several minutes.

BOUBAIN: Yes. In the beginning, it start only a little bit, like it was only kind of a mistake or something happened inside. But 15 minutes later, when all the cops came, we start hearing it. It looks like a war (ph).

CHERNOFF: So it sounds to me like you're describing fireworks going on inside of the vehicle.

BOUBAIN: Yes, sir. I saw it with my eyes like this. And the cops came and take it over, and start kicking everybody from the corner. And, you know, I left my car there and everything until almost like eight hours.

CHERNOFF: Well, when you saw these explosions, what did you think? Did you think this was a terrorist attack? Did you think it was just a bunch of fireworks left in a vehicle?

BOUBAIN: No, but -- I don't know. I was telling my friend, how come like fireworks is going up inside the car. Fireworks is only on Fourth of July. So it's outside the car. So if you celebrate, why are you celebrating inside the car? I don't know. That thing scare me. So when cops came and they kicked me out and my cart is still there, I know it's something big. If it's not that big, cops, they're not going to kick you out from there.

CHERNOFF: Did you see at any point any person either go in or out of the vehicle prior to the police arriving?

BOUBAIN: No. To be honest, sir, no. I didn't see the car. I didn't pay attention if the car parked behind me. So in my break time, when I sit down, I look at the car because I face it. It was there for a little while. Then the thing gets started.

CHERNOFF: And how far away were you exactly?

BOUBAIN: Not even 15 feet, sir. Like nothing. I can't (ph) stay too close. That's why the officer came and he says, move your chair. And I hold up my food like this and hold my chair and then walk away. He says, I don't want you being here. I say, sir, my truck is there. He says no. Leave the car and go. You go.

CHERNOFF: Scary experience?

BOUBAIN: Yes, sir. I was scared. I turn off the fire here because I have the fire for the hot dog in case I don't know how long it takes to come back or somehow.

But anyway, I ask the other officer and he says, no, you guys, whenever I let you in now, and it's 1:00 a.m. or I don't know, 2:00 a.m. in the morning from 7:00 a.m. And I wake up like 6:00, so for me, like, I still like this is (inaudible).

CHERNOFF: A long day, but fortunately you're OK.

BOUBAIN: Yes, sir. I am -- I am finally, thank God, sir. Finally thank God, healthy, thank the NYPD, they kick me out. It's the reason, but it's safe, you know, for safety. I'm happy.

CHERNOFF: OK. Hamid, thank you very much for sharing your story. BOUBAIN: You're very welcome, sir. Thank you very much.



CROWLEY: CNN's Allan Chernoff. Up next, a political ad that's signaling immigration reform could be the lightning rod of this year's midterm elections.


CROWLEY: In our "American Dispatch" this week, Arizona isn't the only state where anti-immigration legislation is raising hackles. Tim James, who is running in the Republican primary for Alabama governor, released this ad, and it certainly got a lot of attention.


GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE TIM JAMES, R-ALA.: I'm Tim James. Why do our politicians make us give driver's license exams in 12 languages? This is Alabama. We speak English. If you want to live here, learn it. We're only giving that test in English if I'm governor.


CROWLEY: The video caught on like wildfire, now with over half a million views on YouTube since it was posted. But it's also drawing criticism, with a New York times editorial calling him "the candidate from Xenophobia," and writing that James is "transparently intent on tapping into the anti-immigrant, anti-government mood of malcontent voters. Alabama voters should be insulted."

Opponents also say that, if the proposal were adopted, Alabama would lose some of its federal transportation money for violating Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that prohibits programs that receive federal assistance from discriminating.

According to U.S. English, a group advocating for English as the official language for the United States, at least nine states offer English-only driver's license tests. Georgia is also debating a bill in their state legislature that would make their driver's tests English-only. So far, the U.S. government has not moved to cut the funding of any states with English-only tests.

The Alabama primary is June 1st.

Thank you for watching "State of the Union." I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. "Fareed Zakaria: GPS" begins in a couple of minutes, but we don't want to go before we get you an update on a breaking story, the car bomb scare in New York City's Times Square.

I want to bring in Mary Snow. She's up in New York, and Mary, I hear you may have some new information from the White House. MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We do. And this is from CNN's Ed Henry, Candy, who spoke with a federal official who was briefed on the investigation, telling CNN that it was not a professional operation and does not appear at this point to be affiliated with a terrorist network, but stressing that it is still early in the investigation. And this less than 24 hours after parts of Times Square were locked down last night after an SUV was found with propane tanks in the car, and this happened around 6:30.

As you can see, less than 24 hours later, everything appears here at Times Square to be business as usual. Our theater district here operating as usual. Security does not seem to be out of the ordinary on what it might be on any ordinary day. The tourists we spoke with said they were not aware of what happened last night, so I'm thinking that perhaps a movie was being made. Others, though, in finding out the news saying that it's just become the grim reality of what is to be expected, and that that would not deter them from coming back and also going to shows and being here in Times Square, which you can imagine how it was packed last night.

At this point in the investigation, Candy, the NYPD has taken that SUV to a forensics lab in Queens, New York. Also the components, the bomb components were taken to another lab in New York and Bronx. Those are both being examined right now, and the NYPD does plan to have an official briefing at about 3:00 this afternoon to update us on any official findings of what they have discovered so far. We do know that the license plate on that car did not match the truck, and CNN has also learned that there's an investigation right now at an auto parts company in Stratford, Connecticut. This as investigators try to find out the origin of that license plate. Candy.

CROWLEY: And, Mary, you know, at this point in the investigation if it's going to go the way that the White House has intimated, that Senator Schumer intimated, and that is it looks like somebody that wasn't attached to any group, perhaps someone who was unhinged. If it goes that direction, everybody is going to sort of look at the place that this happened. And one of the things that Congressman King said to me was that perhaps it was tied to the Viacom Comedy Central building, since it happened right along there. Has there been any discussion of that sort, about the placement of where the car was?

SNOW: There has been, because the Viacom offices are not far from where I'm standing right now. Mayor Bloomberg was asked about that earlier today. We should put it into context that Comedy Central is the owner of South Park, and there was a skit recently that featured the Prophet Mohammed and there was a lot of criticism of that. Mayor Bloomberg says there is no evidence that it is tied to Comedy Central or Viacom. Viacom right now is also declining any kind of comment.

The mayor also pointed out that there was no evidence, he said, that this was linked to the Army recruiting center, which is nearby here as well. As you may remember, a couple of years ago, there had been an incident where a bicyclist -- a cyclist had thrown a device, a small device, into that Army recruiting center. So at this point officials are saying that they do not know of any link to that. CROWLEY: CNN's Mary Snow. Thank you, Mary, really appreciate it.

There will be much more coverage of the New York City car bomb scare throughout the day here on CNN, but right now, "Fareed Zakaria: GPS."