Return to Transcripts main page
NYC Terror Plot Foiled; Super Committee on the Brink of Failure; Redrawing Political Lines; NYC Mayor Holds Press Conference
Aired November 20, 2011 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: All right, everyone. Thanks for joining us. Top of the hour. I'm Don Lemon. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.
We begin with breaking news from New York City. Wouldn't you know it, just before holiday travel starts, the Mayor of New York City, the police commissioner, the district attorney, all preparing right now to hold a live news conference at the bottom of the hour, in 30 minutes; we do know that it is terror related.
CNN's Deb Feyerick, Deborah Feyerick, has been working her sources since this news conference was just announced, just under an hour ago. She joins me now by phone with some new details for us. What can you tell us, Deb?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, Don, we're being told by a source with information of the allege plot that the individual who's been arrested -- (INAUDIBLE) -- now, apparently he learned how to build a pipe bomb by reading through "Inspire" magazine. That is the al Qaeda magazine, an online magazine, which tells interested people how to do these kinds of things.
We are told by the source that the man had acquired all material and was even going so far as to drill holes in a pipe bomb. He was going to use homemade ingredients in order to detonate this device. And the device, had he put it together correctly, would, in fact, have worked.
We're being told that he planned to target service men, men -- service men and women returning from Iraq. He also intended on targeting police stations or post offices, and again, this is a pipe bomb and had it gone off, it could have killed close to a dozen people, especially if he attached things like nails.
He was following instructions from this al Qaeda-based magazine on this Web site. We are told that there was an informant who was monitoring this person, who was involved. This is the man who has been on the NYPD radar for about two years, Don, and they decided to go in and arrest him now, especially given the week that's coming up -- Don.
HOLMES: So, Deb, you said he was following instructions -- and by the way, that was a little cross-communications there -- that was not coming from Deborah, I don't know exactly what happened, you heard a baby crying there. But listen, Deb, he's following instructions as you say from an al Qaeda-based magazine. What do we know about the individual here that they are going to talk about at 7:30? Do we know anything more about him? Do we know his nationality, where he's from? How old he is?
FEYERICK: Now only thing we know, he's a man, he lives in Manhattan? Sorry, Don, I lost you a little bit there. But what we do know is that he is Hispanic. He lives in New York City, it's not clear whether, in fact, he attended any sort of a mosque in Manhattan or whether the mosque he was attending was somewhere in upstate New York. That's what we're hearing. This is a single individual. This would have been what's called a lone wolf attack.
But just to put it in context, and context is very important in a case like this, to put it in context, this does not rise to the level of the Times Square bomber --
FEYERICK: -- somebody who had a much larger device, somebody who planned to do significantly more damage. This was somebody who was on the radar, who was being closely tracked by the NYPD, somebody who is now under arrest for allegedly trying to do this -- this terrorism plot, which is to explode a pipe bomb.
Again, maximum amount of casualties, had it succeeded in going off, would have been about a dozen people -- Don.
LEMON: About a dozen. But even just one, even just one dead, you know, that's too many. Listen -- and I know you have great sources and we don't want to get ahead of ourselves. Deb has some great information there and she is saying this is -- this doesn't rise to the level where of major concern, that's according to Deb, according to Deb, it's not a Times Square bomber-type incident, at least according to her sources. But Deb is standing by. Don't go anywhere, Deb. But we're waiting on the Mayor and the police commissioner to confirm all of that.
And as you know, as you know with the Times Square bomber and the other Christmas incident that happened just two years ago, we know that these things can -- can get bigger than was expected. So just stand by. I want to get to CNN's -- and Deb, we'll get back to you. Don't go anywhere.
We're going to get to CNN's national security analyst, Peter Bergen. He's also on the phone. So Peter, I want you to tell me what you're learning. Because Deb -- as Deb was saying, lone wolf, a pipe bomb, maybe a maximum of a dozen people. He was following instructions from an al Qaeda-based magazine, apparently an Hispanic gentleman, or a Hispanic man, I should say is more apropos from New York City what are you learning?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST (via telephone): Similar to what Deborah has reported a Hispanic convert to Islam is building this bomb apparently in his mom's apartment. He'd been the subject of interest by the New York Police Department for the past two and a half years. The bomb making that he'd been engaged in he'd been engaged in for the past week, six weeks.
Significantly, NYPD the New York Police Department did have an informant in the case, although they say that that this case was, you know, that the person who's alleged to be behind this is somebody who was pushing this idea himself, not being led on by the informant.
The al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula is the publisher of "Inspire" magazine where this recipe was publicized on the Internet. Apparently this guy had quite a lot of online activity. This has crossed a threshold beyond which the New York Police Department thought it was important to, you know, basically to hold this activity. Apparently, he was drilling into the pipe that was going to be the pipe bomb and was planning to attack returning servicemen from Iraq and Afghanistan and perhaps also postal facilities.
So that's what we know and I think, as Deb indicated, this is, you know, seems significant, but not earth-shattering in terms of its importance. It's interesting that Mayor Bloomberg is going to have a press conference shortly. It's unusual for him, I think, to have these kinds of press conferences on a -- on a Sunday night at this time.
Clearly, it's something that's, you know, reached a threshold where they think it's worth going out and making a public statement on the weekend -- Don.
LEMON: Yes and you know, Peter, New York City has this campaign, "If you see something, say something." You see it all over the subway and mass transit you see it on signs all over the city. But you've given us a lot of information. You've given us something to work with here. You said that -- according to your sources, he was planning on attacking service members returning from Afghanistan and Iraq and also postal facilities, which is -- which is disturbing in itself.
When they found him, you said he was drilling into the pipe. Now apparently, was this in his mother's apartment where they picked him up? Do we know where they picked him up and where he was in the process when they grabbed him?
BERGEN: My understanding is that he was arrested yesterday and that he was drilling into -- he was building the bomb in the apartment that he lived in, I guess, with his mother, and that he was, you know, drilling into the pipe.
Now, how did they know that? Was it perhaps had they rigid up some sort of surveillance inside the apartment? Were they listening in to what he was doing? Did the informant, you know, basically, raise a red flag? That's not clear at this moment, don. But clearly, they had some information yesterday that indicated that they should move in and arrest him.
LEMON: Ok. So you said, and it was -- I want to get this. You said Arabian Peninsula? Is that the name of the magazine? BERGEN: Well, the name of the magazine is "Inspire" magazine, it's an online magazine. It's had about six incarnations. It was published and written largely by an American called Samir Khan (ph) who was killed in a U.S. drone strike rather recently. And it was written in very colloquial English and it had all sorts of tips about how to build bombs. And apparently this guy was reading this and basically followed the recipes in this magazine, online magazine, in order to build a pipe bomb.
And you know, this English language magazine has attracted a fair amount of attention, because it was written by an American citizen, largely, and it had contributions from Anwar Awlaki, the American cleric who was the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who's also been killed in a U.S. drone strike. So that's kind of a back story in terms of where he got the information from -- Don.
LEMON: Now do we know -- you said it was al Qaeda-inspired. Do we know if he is a member, technically, of al Qaeda?
BERGEN: I would be very surprised if he's got anything to do directly with al Qaeda. I mean, he was just somebody who was on the Internet reading al Qaeda propaganda materials and probably self-radicalized here over time and the Internet may have had a role to play in that.
LEMON: Yes. Peter, can you stand by because we want to give our viewers as much information as possible? And Peter, I think you bring up a very good point here, that it is extremely unusual for the mayor, the police commissioner, the district attorney, to hold a press conference on a Sunday night, with something of this nature, if it is a suspect that they have already caught. There could be much more to this or some details about this that we don't already know that maybe you're not getting from your sources.
Stand by, Peter. I want to go back now to CNN's Deb Feyerick.
Deb, you said in your estimation from your source, that it doesn't rise to the level of the Times Square bombing. But again as Peter pointed out for the mayor, the police commissioner, the district attorney to come out on a Sunday night at 7:30 Eastern to hold a press conference to talk about this, there could be something in this, some details that we don't know and some safety concern for New Yorkers and the general public outside of New York as well.
FEYERICK: Sure. And, you know, one thing -- one thing that the New York Police Department is very good at, and that is at making sure that especially in anticipation of big holidays, when there are going to be a lot of people traveling, it is better for people to be on the alert to something that might happen, than to sort of go off, not aware that, still, terrorism that remains a very significant threat, especially to major cities, including New York City.
Now, one thing to keep in mind, again, putting this in context, and that is, the FBI was not brought in to this case. The FBI was not involved. And usually, the FBI is always brought in when it is a significant case and when, for example, it is operational. Right now, it appears that what was going on in the apartment, and I'm told that it was the apartment of the informant where this particular bomb was being built, that it was -- that he was putting it together. He was planning this but it was not yet ready to go. He was not walking out prepared pipe bomb in hand. So he was not technically operational in terms of making sure he had a place where he could put this together.
FEYERICK: I've seen other cases with these, you know, wannabe terrorists, like Najibullah Zazi who is targeting the transit system here in New York City. He also was using this "Inspire" magazine, this online magazine of al Qaeda based to put together his bomb.
Again, this is something that they do. I think Peter's point that that he was likely self-radicalized. My sources telling me that he had started talking a lot about jihad, a lot about getting involved in doing something and trying to accomplish something.
And it's also the issue of converts, that people who come to Islam, people who want to do something to show that they support the sort of radical ideology of Islam, the Islamists, basically, this is not mainstream, this is not a moderate kind of Islam.
FEYERICK: But he wants to prove that he can be as bad as the bad guys.
LEMON: Deb, you've got a lot of information. Hold that thought for us, Deborah Feyerick. We're up against a break. We have our Deborah Feyerick, who is clearly -- clearly has a lot of information on this story with the mayor, the police commissioner, the district attorney going to announce at 7:30 and more details will come out of that.
Also, our Peter Bergen, our senior terrorism analyst on the line as well, giving us information about what is happening.
Again, an Hispanic man -- they're saying it's a man -- from New York City, believed to be trying to make some sort of pipe bomb, and he was inspired by a magazine. He got the instructions from a magazine, is believed to be that he was at least a sympathizer of some sort to al Qaeda, if not a member.
It was thwarted. There was a New York City Police Department informant as well. More details to come on the other side of a break as our reporters and our staff get more information on what's going to happen at 7:30 Eastern live here on CNN from New York City.
LEMON: We have some breaking news, it's out of New York City, and here's why this is important. A lot of people are about to get on trains, planes, automobiles to go home for the holidays, to go visit their loved ones and New York City a major destination for any of that, especially mass transit. Three huge airports there, international airports, and when the mayor of New York City says, "I'm going to hold a press conference to talk about something that's terrorism related," just a couple of days before Thanksgiving, you can better believe it's breaking news and we should continue to talk about it. The mayor, the police commissioner, the district attorney of Manhattan, preparing to hold a news conference at the bottom of the hour; we're going to carry it live here on CNN.
We do know that it's terrorism related. We have CNN's Deborah Feyerick on the phone with us, and our national security analyst, Peter Bergen, also on the phone as well.
Peter, I'm going to go to you now. You mentioned something very interesting. You said -- you mentioned how this man, who is believed now to be in police custody, he was apparently making a pipe bomb of some sort, either in a home for New York City, which was a New York City informant's home, or the home that he shared, the apartment that he shared with his mother. Apparently, we're not sure -- this will be announced at the bottom of the hour -- he was maybe caught in the process of making, of drilling into a pipe bomb or making a pipe bomb so that he could have at least multiple casualties, maybe a dozen or more casualties in New York City.
BERGEN: Yes. I mean, he was essentially reading a recipe off the Internet, and assembling the ingredients, which included things like nails, a pipe, apparently Christmas lights, which might have acted as some kind of ignition, sugar, which is sometimes used in explosives, and, you know. Of course, this whole issue of, you know, reading a recipe off the Internet doesn't necessarily make it a bomb that will actually work. You know, anybody who's listening to this can, you know, go on the Internet and look for a bomb recipe, but making a bomb is a little more complicated, and usually it's a lot more helpful if you've gone to a terrorist training camp if you really want to pull it off.
I mean Deborah mentioned Najibullah Zazi who, of course, was planning to do bombs in the Manhattan subway in the summer -- fall of 2009. He had actually gone to a training camp on the Pakistan border. He really knew how to build a bomb and was planning to detonate these bombs on the Manhattan subway, as Deborah pointed out. That was a really serious potential plot.
This is much more in the wannabe category. You know, obviously, you don't let these things go too far and the authorities in this case felt that the threshold had been reached once he started drilling holes in the bomb, that he was actually trying to make this bomb operational. They say that he, being engaged in this activity for the past few weeks, they also said they'd been monitoring him in some shape or form for the past 2 1/2 years.
So, to me, Don it's a little puzzling why they're going to this press conference because while it's serious, this doesn't seem to be earth- shattering. LEMON: But by question is, and I'm sure a lot of people are thinking, as you are, Peter, if it doesn't appear to be that earth shattering, as you said, why this press conference. Perhaps there could be something in there that we don't know. And maybe the mayor will come out and announce exactly everything that we have said. But the fact that the mayor of New York City, the most populous city in this country, holding a press conference at 7:30 on a Sunday night speaks volumes about terrorism.
LEMON: Peter, hang on, stand by. Deb Feyerick, I know, is standing by on the line and, Deb you have been working your sources. Can you update us on the situation as you talked about? You said the New York City Police Department has a history of not letting these things go too far, because they want to thwart it well ahead of an act taking place.
FEYERICK: Yes, absolutely. And again, this is a man who was on the FBI radar for about two years, someone who clearly was developing a plan to do something. The fact that Thanksgiving's coming up, the fact that a lot of people are going to be traveling, the fact that the NYPD and the mayor always want people to be alert, especially during times of very heavy travel, this may be one of the reasons why they're holding a press conference now, tonight, at the bottom of the hour, as you mentioned.
And again, the FBI was not called in on this. Federal authorities were not involved. This was exclusively an NYPD sort of led sting, as it were. They had a confidential informant who was in on this, so they knew very well what he was up to, how he was planning it. As Peter earlier mentioned, apparently the informant was not there to egg him on, but really to serve as eyes and ears for the NYPD, something, obviously, that the man who was described as a Hispanic convert to Islam did not know.
Again, the man who was arrested yesterday, he was talking a lot about jihad. He was talking about wanting to do something. So the timing seems to have worked out, that they decided, because as Peter mentioned he was drilling the holes, give it time to at least move in, because it appeared he wanted to target either returning service members who were coming back from Iraq or police stations or post offices. And again, drilling holes in a bomb is one thing. Putting the materials in to make it work is quite something else, which may be why they did this.
And again, front page newspapers tomorrow will likely have this. And people will be aware that as they're traveling, they need to be on the alert, that it is a very dangerous sort of state of affairs. Don't let your guard down -- Don.
LEMON: All right. CNN's Deborah Feyerick, also Peter Bergen, thank you very much. We appreciate your reporting. You're going to stand by and we'll be standing by for this press conference in just about ten minutes, live here on CNN from the mayor of New York City. Apparently a terror plot thwarted, foiled in New York City. We're going to get the details from the mayor.
In the meantime, there's other news to report.
You know that so-called super committee that was supposed to cut -- that was supposed to cut more than $1 trillion from the U.S. deficit? Apparently, not so super; they may be announcing, and announcing soon, that they cannot reach a deal. Details coming up here on CNN.
LEMON: We're following breaking news here on CNN. The mayor of New York City, the police commissioner and the district attorney are preparing to hold a live news conference at the bottom of the hour in about six or seven minutes. We know it's terrorism related. We're going to carry it for you live so make sure you stay tuned here on CNN. We'll have some analysis after that press conference as well.
In other news now, the so-called super committee in Congress given the job of cutting more than $1 trillion from the deficit over the next ten years looks headed for failure. They're down to the final hours of their self-imposed deadline to come up with a deal and at this hour, things don't look good, as we look, as we look at live pictures now of Capitol Hill. Our congressional correspondent Kate Bolduan has more for us -- Kate.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Don, the so-called super committee is on the brink of failure, as talks have all but fallen apart. Clear evidence of that is shown in the change of tone among the members on the committee. As they took to the Sunday morning talk shows, the conversation has dramatically shifted for pushing for an agreement and hopeful they can reach an agreement to who should be to blame if and when the committee fails to reach agreement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JON KYL, (R), ARIZONA: Nothing new came out of this. From the Democratic side, it was the same thing: raise taxes, pass the President's job bill, no entitlement reform. On the Republican side, you had the one true breakthrough. And that was this new concept of tax reform, which can generate revenue, from the upper brackets, for deficit reduction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), WASHINGTON: The truth is at this point today, Democrats have made some really tough decisions and come to some pretty tough choices that we're willing to put on the line, on entitlements, on spending cuts. But only if the Republicans are willing to cross the line on the Bush tax cuts and be willing to say revenues have to be a part of the solution.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: Both sides clearly blaming the other for not being able to reach agreement around a deal of a minimum of $1.2 trillion in deficit savings over the next ten years. The talks breaking down largely around the issue that has held up the talks to this point, the issue of taxes; Democrats insist that revenue tax increases must be part of any balanced approach, any balanced deal, as they like to say. But Republicans on the flip side, they're very much opposed to any tax increases, unless it's part of a broader overall tax reform process that would lower rates.
And with such little time left, it seems highly unlikely that committee will be able to reach agreement at this point. Of course, magic can happen in these 11th hour negotiations with Congress, but it seems the question now is turning to when and how the committee will make its formal announcement that they have failed to reach agreement. Many think that that announcement could come as early as Monday -- Don?
LEMON: All right, Kate. Thank you very much.
I want to check our headlines right now, around the world. Egypt's revolution isn't over. Hundreds of soldiers and police stormed Cairo's Tahrir Square today.
Demonstrators fled in the face of tear gas and what sounded like gunfire. Ten people have been killed in the square so far; that's according to Egypt's health ministry. Hundreds have been injured. The military insists it will transfer power back to civilians and parliamentary elections will be held later this month. But protesters are upset about the slow pace of reform and the possibility the military will try to operate outside government control.
One of the last high-profile fugitives in Libya is in custody now. National Transitional Council officials say their forces captured the country's former intelligence chief. Abdullah al-Sanusi (ph) was Moammar Gadhafi's brother-in-law and a notorious figure in the former regime. His arrest comes one day after revolutionaries captured Gadhafi's son, Saif.
Authorities say he'll remain in the town of Zintan because of security concerns. Libya insists it will bring him to justice, even as officials with the International Criminal Court insist he should be sent to The Hague for trial.
We're following breaking news here on CNN. It should happen in just about three minutes. The mayor of New York City, the police commissioner -- live pictures of that room right now -- and the district attorney are preparing to hold a live news conference right at the bottom of the hour, just about three minutes here.
We know it is the terrorism-related. Apparently they have one suspect in custody, who is apparently making a pipe bomb for multiple casualties. We'll carry it for you live here on CNN.
In the meantime, ever wonder why some political districts have unusual shapes and boundaries? A CNN investigative report looks at gerrymandering in North Carolina and why it resembles political racism and oppression of the past.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Following breaking news here on CNN. The mayor of New York City, the police commissioner, and the district attorney preparing to hold a news conference at the bottom of the hour. You see them lining up, getting ready there, and we know it's terrorism related. We've heard analysis from our senior terrorist analyst Peter Bergen and also from Deborah Feyerick, who's covering this story as well. We're going to follow that and we'll carry it for you live. Don't go anywhere.
I'm trying to get this next report in. It's about the voting rights act really of 1965. It's supposed to ensure that minority votes count it equally, and every election the Supreme Court has outlawed the practice of classifying people according to race. But over the last few decades, especially across the south, state legislatures have said redrawing political boundaries in some very controversial ways.
Our Drew Griffin is here from our special investigations unit and Drew is going to have some analysis after the story. But Drew, if that press conference starts, we'll cut out and we'll get to you after the press conference. Here's Drew's report.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT (on camera): This is another one of those weird redistricting designs that screams gerrymandering. Behind me is the Cape Fear River here in North Carolina, and just upstream is a connecting point no wider than this river. The water here is the only link to the second half of the district farther downstream.
Politicians used it to cram in as blacks as possible into just a few congressional districts, keeping the rest of the districts mostly white and predictably Republican.
(voice-over): This year, Republicans won control of the North Carolina legislature for the first time since right after the civil war.
REP. DAVID PRICE (R), NORTH CAROLINA: They're even splitting precincts, to include the black population in one district and purge them from another. I think that's atrocious.
GRIFFIN: By design, Republicans crammed almost half of all the African-American voters in North Carolina into just three of the state's 13 congressional districts. State Senator Bob Rucho.
(on camera): From the outside, this looks like pure political grab. And the Republicans of this state using the voting rights act to justify the redrawing of the map.
BOB RUCHO (R), NORTH CAROLINA STATE SENATE: I don't agree with your premise on your question, because we are not using the voting rights act to do anything. We're following the law. GRIFFIN: State senator Dan Blue.
DAN BLUE (D), NORTH CAROLINA STATE SENATE: It's just a concerted effort to ghettoize the black vote in North Carolina.
GRIFFIN: Is this just power politics or is this racism?
BLUE: It's racism and it weakens the country.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): There is a racial divide today in the politics of the south. Ninety five percent of all registered Republicans in North Carolina are white. Ninety six percent of all registered blacks are Democrats. In the five deep south cotton belt states, from South Carolina over to Louisiana, there are only nine democratic congressmen left. Only one of them is white. He's from Savannah, Georgia, and Republican redistricting in that state has just taken his home city away from him.
DAVID WASSERMAN, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: It's possible there won't be a single white Democrat remaining from the deep south by 2013.
LEMON: So Drew is here now. Drew, some of these congressional districts look pretty well, and you look at the way they're drawn, they're all over the place.
GRIFFIN: And they're drawn for one purpose. To keep these incumbents in power, to keep parties in power. It happens every 10 years. It's one of the biggest things that happens in congressional races across the country, that most of us don't know about, because these are backroom deals, these are power play deals, and we can expose them all over the country tonight.
LEMON: And I spoke to members who were leaving Congress last year, and they said, this was one of the biggest issues that they face in their districts, besides partisanship, and this was basically for that and race as well. This was one of the biggest issues they believe that was helping divide the government in Washington, was gerrymandering.
GRIFFIN: Because when you get in a district where you can't get voted out of, you can just go right or you can go far left and you never have to be going towards the middle. It really is - many people believe this is what's polarizing Congress, what's locking people in on the left and the right, where they do not have to move towards the middle, don't have to move towards compromise, because if you're a solidly Democrat district, you're never going to face a Republican, if you're solidly Republican, you'll never have to face a Democrat. And your district looks like a salamander, to make sure of that.
LEMON: Or something. Or whatever it is.
GRIFFIN: That's right.
LEMON: It's definitely, what do you call it, modern art. Whatever you conceive. It looks like a (INAUDIBLE).
GRIFFIN: We had some really funny, funny bits to try to - it's kind of a dry, gerrymandering, but some funny bits on there.
LEMON: I put out on Twitter that you were going to be here and people saw it, and you're a hit, because people want to know about this. You said it's kind of dry, it's not really dry. I think people are interested, Drew. And you know, everything is involved in politics, because also people on social media are talking about what's happening in New York City right now.
They believe the mayor is saying, you know, it's serious, anytime there's terror, but they're saying, "Hey, the mayor," anything other than occupy, the mayor wants to draw attention to, so they believe there's some politicking in what the mayor's going to do in just a of couple minutes as we watch there. Drew, fascinating, fascinating stuff. Good to see you here on the weekend, taking you away from the kids.
GRIFFIN: See you, Don.
LEMON: That's how it goes. Thank you, Drew.
Listen, you don't want to miss it, "Gerry-Rigged: Why your Vote for Congress Might Not Matter." Drew Griffin reports at the top of the hour, 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. Make sure you stay tuned.
As we've been saying, we've been following breaking news here on CNN. The mayor of New York City, police commissioner, district attorney preparing to hold a news conference in just a few minutes. Let's show a live picture of the room. There it is right there. You see the reporters getting ready. Say one more time? Oh, yes, yes, there are - there are monitors there in the newsroom, I'm getting information in my ear here that you can't hear. Thank you (INAUDIBLE) that there are monitors in the room and they're showing pictures.
People are taking photographs of the pictures, not sure if it's the suspect or the bomb or the bomb-making material or whatever it is. There's information that they're giving to the media, photographs, that we will share with you just as soon as we can get them back to you via satellite or e-mail or whatever, however they do it.
But during this press conference, I imagine they're going to announce some more information. We do know, again, that it is terrorism related. CNN's national security contributor Fran Townsend is on the line right now.
So, Fran, you know we have our skeptics here who say the mayor's trying to divert attention from what's happening in his city. It's not such a big deal, because it doesn't rise to the level of a Times Square bombing, but when the mayor of the most populist city in the country holds a news conference on Sunday night, which is unusual, and then says it is terrorism related, we pay attention.
FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR (ON THE PHONE): Well, we do. And look, you know, we have to hear what the facts are, but we understand this guy has been under surveillance for a sustained period of time. Not clear why the news conference, other than that he's been taken under arrest in the last 24 hours. You know, what will be interesting to hear and understand, we've been told that there's been an informant who assisted in this case.
How far did the suspect get in terms of assembling the bomb? We know that he had acquired some of the materials, but you know, wherever you have an individual, even if he's acting alone, who's begun to acquire materials, you're in the end stage of a plot. So understandably, they wanted to take him into custody.
LEMON: That is understandable. And Fran, again, as we are looking here, we're being told that they were showing some photographs on the monitors in those rooms. You can see some of the press folks there for the mayor. The mayor's staff and aides handing out information to the people in the room. And this is city hall, I would imagine. I can't tell from our monitors here, not as big. I would imagine this is happening at City Hall, not some crazy mansion on a Sunday night especially with press conference as big.
And as we look at the live picture of New York City there and Fran, here is the interesting thing too as well, New York City is a destination all the time but especially during the holidays. And there is this new campaign, if you see something, say something in New York City. This could be in an abundance of precaution as well, but we could also, as you said find out new information. We have to see what the mayor's going to say.
TOWNSEND: That's right. I mean this is a very important economic time for the city. I mean remember, as we're coming into Thanksgiving, the holiday season, there's shoppers, there's visitors. It's just a tremendous time of tourism and commerce in New York City. We're understanding from sources that the bomb, the pipe bomb was intended to target government workers. It will be interesting to the see what locations and what information the mayor and the police commissioner are willing to release about that.
But, again, this is, you know, we have to learn what the facts are from the mayor and police commissioner, but this is not - I must tell you, the NYPD is the best in the country. And so if Commissioner Ray Kelly is telling us that this was a threat, I feel pretty confident he's going to have the facts to persuade us that that's correct.
LEMON: And this is the concern to the new concern. Homegrown terrorism. Peter Bergen earlier mentioned "Inspire" magazine, and the person who wrote for "Inspire" magazine, Sameer Khan, the late Sameer Khan, at least, and the concern about homegrown terrorism and people just going on to the internet and figuring out how to make bombs. And we know one of the ways that Al Qaeda grooms people is online, is through the internet. And apparently, this person, at least according to the sources from our reporters, this person was groomed that way or had some sort of affinity for Al Qaeda, because through the internet, Fran.
TOWNSEND: Yes. Look, individuals can get all the information they need, because it's available on the internet. You know, it's interesting, we have heard sources say that that was the way that he was recruited and was able to get these materials. But, you know, it's from a wide variety, if this hadn't been Al Qaeda, you couldn't imagine whether it's right-wing or left-wing, extremists, even domestic sort of terror groups can get recruited and trained in that way. So that's why I think I see them coming, it looks like somebody's coming up now.
LEMON: Yes, reporters are there at the ready. That was a gentleman - you must be getting a little bit of a delay there, Fran, because realtime here as we're looking at it, gentleman walked out, reporters are at the ready, starting to take the pictures. Every one is sitting down in that room. We're hesitant to go to a break here, because we don't want to, you know, have a commercial and then cut out in the middle of that commercial or miss anything that the mayor is going to say.
And listen, tell me this. Deb Feyerick mentioned this, Fran, she said the FBI was not involved in this, but the mayor is going to have the police commissioner and the district attorney there as well. His call as to who he has as the press conference, but is it significant that the FBI, federal officials not involved at least from Deb's sources?
It is interesting that the FBI was not involved, because typically, even if it was a local case with a local informant, if the NYPD believed that this had a tie to a larger international terror group, they ordinarily would have brought the FBI in. What that suggests to me is this is very much a local case. It was a local threat, it was developed locally with the informant, and it was - from beginning to end, handled by the NYPD and local authorities. It suggests to me that it's not as big and serious a terror case as we saw in the times square plot or other internationally-related cases.
LEMON: OK. We're watching - I see the mayor in the background as the doors open. So we're going to dance, as we call it, for a little bit. And now we see the officials coming out. And there is Mayor Michael Bloomberg, stepping to the podium to make his announcement. Let's listen in in New York City right now.
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: Well, good evening. I'm joined by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, David Cohen, deputy commissioner for intelligence and Adam Calfman from the D.A.'s office. He is the head of the chief of the investigations division.
Yesterday afternoon, New York City police officers arrested a 27-year- old Al Qaeda sympathizer who was plotting to bomb police patrol cars and also postal facilities, as well as targeted members of our armed forces returning from abroad.
Jose Pimentel of Washington Heights which is in the northern end of Manhattan faces terrorism-related charges that District Attorney Vance will discuss in a moment. Earlier today I also described this case to U.S. Congressman Pete King, the chair of the house committee on Homeland Security, who has long been a champion of federal support for the NYPD's counter-terrorism efforts. The NYPD intelligence division did outstanding work in tracking this individual and containing the threat he posed to the city.
The police also constructed a duplicate of an explosive device that the suspect built, and then designated it in a way that he intended to use his weapon, and we wanted to show you a video about the resulting damage.
I should point out that our staff briefed the governor's staff on this earlier this evening and I've asked Commissioner Kelly to discuss this case in greater detail, but first, let me make these observations. The suspect was a so-called lone wolf, motivated by his own resentment of the presence of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as inspired by Al Qaeda propaganda. He was not part of a larger conspiracy emanating from abroad.
He represents exactly the kind of threat FBI director Robert Mueller and his experts have warned about, as American military and intelligence agencies have eroded Al Qaeda's ability to launch large- scale attacks. This case is also reminiscent of another lone wolf plot in 2004, in which two New Yorkers, angry over the treatment of prisoners in Iraq, plotted the bomb in the Harold Square Subway Station.
Like the current case, the Harold Square plot was uncovered by the NYPD intelligence division. And as with still another case earlier this year, in which a lone wolf plotted to attack a large synagogue, the NYPD teamed up with the Manhattan district attorney office to prosecute Pimentel under state terrorism statutes. With the launch by lone wolves, Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda affiliates, there have been at least 13 previous terror attacks since 9/11 targeting New York City. This would be the 14th. Because of such repeated threats, the NYPD remains focused on preventing another terrorist attack. We assign a thousand police officers to counter terrorism duties every single day, and this is just another case where our precautions paid off.
Now let me ask Commissioner Kelly to provide details. Ray?
RAYMOND KELLY, POLICE COMMISSIONER, NYPD: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Over two years ago, the New York City Police Department became aware of a follower of the radical cleric Anwar al Awlaki. The follower, then residing in Schenectady, New York, was talking about traveling to Yemen for training before returning to New York to become a martyr in the name of jihad. That was Jose Pimentel. An unemployed native of the Dominican Republic and convert to Islam who lived most of his life in Manhattan.
Pimentel is a U.S. citizen. Before returning to Washington Heights last year, he lived in Schenectady for about five years, where he made even some of his like-minded friends nervous by his extremism. He talked about changing his name to Osama Hussein, to celebrate his heroes, Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Pimentel talked about killing U.S. service men returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly U.S. Army and Marine Corps personnel.
He talked about bombing post offices in and around Washington Heights and police cars in New York City, as well as a police station in (INAUDIBLE) New Jersey. As in other terrorist cases, Pimentel's behavior morphed from simply talking about such acts to action, namely bomb building. Pimentel followed instructions from Anwar al Awlaki's "Inspire" magazine, to first acquire the bomb-making materials and then assemble them. He relied on a particularly notorious article called "How to make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom."
Pimentel acquired the readily available ingredients from Home Depot and other stores, being careful not to make all of these purchases from any one location at the same time. He wanted to avoid raising red flags. He used elbow joints, customarily used to join two pipes, as the main housings for the bombs. Right here is an elbow joint. This is what one bomb looked like.
In the car explosion that you saw, there were three of these. He made three bombs. This small size can do that damage, and here's the clock that would ignite it. He also planned to affix nails to them as additional shrapnel. Pimentel planned to make three bombs, to begin, as I said. He had already drilled holes into the elbow joints to accommodate timing devices when emergency service police officers entered an apartment in Washington Heights at 3:30 yesterday afternoon. They were accompanied by NYPD bomb squad and intelligence division detectives, who took him into custody without incident.
The NYPD has been keeping track of Jose Pimentel since May of 2009, when he talked about violence and more intensely in recent weeks as he acted on it. We had always planned to take him in to custody before he could detonate a fully operational bomb. We did not want him to trigger it. Even accidentally and put neighbors and others at risk. That's why we had emergency service officers standing by to take down the door if necessary.
Pimentel planned to test the effectiveness of the bombs by planting them in mailboxes and detonating them. Once his bombing campaign began, Pimentel said, the public would know that there were Mujadeen in the city to fight jihad here. As the mayor indicated, Pimentel was a lone wolf. As you know, there have also been plots against 9/11 - since 9/11 directed against the city by Al Qaeda central and its affiliates including one to take down the Brooklyn Bridge and to bomb the subway system.
We keep a 360-degree perimeter as a result. Looking for Al Qaeda central, its affiliates or lone wolfs to return here to kill more New Yorkers. We remain the nation's financial capital. We remain its communications capital and a world stage on which terrorists can get the most bang for the buck. Thanks to the outstanding work of the officers involved, and support of district attorney the buck stopped in Washington Heights yesterday afternoon. Mr. Mayor?
BLOOMBERG: Commissioner, thank you. I would like to now ask district attorney Vance to comment on the case. Sir?
CYRUS VANCE, JR., MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Thank you, mayor. Commissioner Kelly. Chief Gaughan, ladies and gentlemen, the safety of our citizens is the primary responsibility of any district attorney and for the Manhattan District Attorney's Office that job must include a commitment to and an expertise in terrorist threats both abroad and at home. Manhattan is as the commissioner said is the symbol of much that terrorists hate about the west and this city, our home, will continue to be a target in the years to come. We are fortunate to have a police department that has risen to the challenge of addressing a global threat that focuses on our city and we support Ray Kelly and the NYPD in addressing that threat.
In combating this terrorist threat, as we all know, without special vigilance, the results will be deadly. Our office today filed charges against Jose Pimentel of Manhattan for conspiring to build a bomb for terrorist purposes and for possessing a weapon, a pipe bomb, that he is alleged to have intended to use to wage his campaign of violence. The defendant stated his belief in violent jihad and harbored a violent ideology.
And you could see that from his Web site True Islam. He posted articles on Osama Bin Laden, discussed the duty of every Muslim to wage war against the west and identified himself with terrorist organizations. He was a reader of Al Qaeda's slick online magazine "Inspire" and inspire him, it did. The bomb Pimentel is charged with building came straight from the pages of "Inspire" magazine and his stated intention to attack our service men and women as they return from Iraq and Afghanistan could have come from an Al Qaeda playbook.
Homegrown extremists are one of the faces of terrorism that we are now facing and foreign terrorist organizations attempt to recruit our own citizens to take up armed jihad against their own neighbors. The threats against us change constantly and our challenge in law enforcement is to balance vigilance and preparedness against the preservation of liberties. And to do this, we'll employ the tried and true techniques that have served us and our office for decades, we follow the rule of law and we act aggressively but responsibly.
In the fight against a shifting and difficult to identify local terror threat, there's an important role to play for local law enforcement and prosecutors working in coordination with our federal counter parts which we did in this case and we'll continue to do work within the law and employ all the tools available to us to prevent a local terrorist attack and to keep our citizens safe. Thank you, mayor.
BLOOMBERG: All right. Thank you. Before taking questions let me just summarize our announcement for our Spanish-speaking New Yorkers.
(SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
LEMON: OK. So the mayor giving the press conference and details now in Spanish. A lot of Spanish-speaking people in the city and the suspect Hispanic, as well. According to the mayor and the police commissioner 27-year-old Jose Pimentel, Washington Heights, he has been picked up on terrorism-related charges. They're taking questions. We'll listen in.
KELLY: I don't think we can say any specific reason. But it's a process that, you know, we have seen in the past where a young man does a lot of reading, perhaps he does a lot of research on the internet and we think that an event that really set him off was the elimination of Anwar al Awlaki. That happened on September 30th of this year. Although he decided, we believe, to build a bomb starting in August of this year. But clearly, based on statements of people who observed him, his actions became a lot more intense after September 30th.
BLOOMBERG: Yes. You have a question?
QUESTION: Can you explain what this is right here on the table? A duplicate that the police put together and can you explain the photo right there?
KELLY: This is the bomb - this is the device -
QUESTION: No sound.
KELLY: Holds the drill pin here and this is the - this is the timing device. So what happens is you set a time.
LEMON: So a Police Commissioner Ray Kelly stepped away from the mic, it's hard to hear what he's saying, he's describing how Pimentel allegedly was going to make the bomb. This is the actual device that he had and also there's a photograph that we have shown you. We told you about the pictures that were on the monitor. That's what was on the monitor, this photograph right here which was snapped by New York City Police.
Also, interesting in this case, the videotape, the New York City Police apparently constructed the type of device that Pimentel is alleged to have been making in the apartment in Washington Heights and showed the effects of it by blowing up a car in the press conference. So again, Ray Kelly speaking away from the microphones.
As he's doing this and we can't hear him. Fran Townsend, if you're listening to this, you know national security just about as anyone, as well as anyone. What do you make of this press conference and what the police commissioner and the mayor is saying?
TOWNSEND: Well, the most significant thing to me, this Pimentel was another acolyte of the Anwar al Awlaki. He is the Yemeni Al Qaeda cleric, now deceased due to a U.S. drone strike but Anwar al-Awlaki has been responsible also - our viewers will remember the Ft. Hood shooter who is also inspired by him.
TOWNSEND: The Christmas Day underwear bomber also recruited and inspired by the Yemen branch of Al Qaeda. And so, you know, what it means is even though you kill and take out the leadership, the "Inspire" magazine and the Web sites that still have this information act as a vehicle by which these people can continue even a lone wolf to be recruited and trained.
LEMON: All right. Fran, stand by. We have Deb Feyerick on the line as well and we also have Peter Bergen standing by. Let's listen in to Ray Kelly just for a minute. Taking questions and we'll get back to them.
KELLY: - gave us information about this individual. And we gathered that information while he was being surveilled.
QUESTION: Yes. It was mentioned that they worked with federal counterparts in this case. Can you explain where involved in this, how?
LEMON: I can't hear.
KELLY: Were the Fed involved and how?
Yes. The federal government has been fully informed of this case. We had to act quickly yesterday because he was, in fact, putting this bomb together. He was drilling the holes and it would have been - it would have been not appropriate for us to let him walk out the door with that bomb so a decision was made to act quickly. We had been talking, of course, the district attorney is fully involved in this case and has been involved working with us so we thought it best to act quickly yesterday and take him in to custody.
QUESTION: Do you mean the NYPD acted?
KELLY: The NYPD with the district attorney's office with the district attorney's advice.
QUESTION: Was that - did they know afterwards or -
KELLY: Afterwards -
The person who what?
QUESTION: You mentioned that you had to make a decision quickly so -
QUESTION: Did the NYPD decide this and then the fed informed?
LEMON: All right. New York City police commissioner Ray Kelly at the podium now. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and also the district attorney of Manhattan, Cyrus Vance.
It is the top of the hour. We have been tracking breaking news this hour from New York City where all of those city officials have been holding a press conference. There is the device that they claim that this gentleman was making.
They just announced an arrest of a 27-year-old man, his name is Jose Pimentel. He is from Washington Heights. They believe he was making this equipment in his Washington Heights apartment. As a matter of fact, New York City Police -- New York City Police thwarted him in the process of making this. They describe Pimentel as an al Qaeda sympathizer who planned to build a bomb and talked about launching attacks on a post office, a police station, and even U.S. troops returning from deployment overseas.
The mayor says Jose Pimentel was known as a lone wolf, He is what's know as a lone wolf which means he was acting without outside help from al Qaeda or other groups, as well.
As we get more information from that press conference, we are listening in. We want to get some analysis now from our folks here. We have Deb Feyerick who's on the telephone. Peter Bergen who is a senior terrorist analyst, and also Fran Townsend who is a national security and a national affairs expert.
Fran, I want to go to you again because we were told before that the FBI wasn't involved and the last question from a reporter that was asked to the police commissioner, he said the feds were informed. Doesn't mean that they were involved. They were informed. They had to act quickly because this guy -- act quickly because this guy was in the process of completing this bomb.
FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR (via phone): Yes. When he was asked that question, he -- the commissioner did not seem exactly enthusiastic about having to answer it. They were informed but it sounds from the answer that it was at the last minute. And even so, if the feds were informed and understood about Awlaki's connection to the case, targeting of U.S. troops, interesting that they're not there and that we don't at least yet see federal charges.
We're going to have to see how this place out. But if you don't see federal charges, it suggests the feds don't have the same confidence in the evidence and so there's a -- there's a back story to this that we haven't gotten yet.
LEMON: And Peter Bergen, as you're standing by, does this jive what they said in the press conference to what your sources were telling us before it even started?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST (via phone): Yes. And also what they were saying to Deborah Feyerick. When's interesting is if you're motivated by this kind of jihadist ideology and the allegations in this are correct, you know, Fran mentioned the Ft. Hood case. There are others, of course, where people motivated by this ideology have tried to target American soldiers.
With the Little Rock, Arkansas, case, where a -- again a convert to Islam, a guy called Carlos Bledsoe who changed his name to Abdulhakim Mujahid, he shot a soldier at a military recruiting center in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 2009. And nearer to where this case is happening, of course, it was the Ft. Dix case where a group of largely Albanians conspired to attack the Ft. Dix military base in New Jersey.
And we've seen quite a number of cases where if you are motivated by this ideology the fact that the United States is engaged in wars not only in Iraq and Afghanistan but also to some degree in places like Yemen and Pakistan, that makes American soldiers very attractive targets for these kinds of folks motivated by these kinds of ideologies -- Don.
LEMON: And Deb Feyerick, I think it's interesting to note that the police commissioner said he was in the process of changing his name. I think he wanted to change his name to Usama Hussein and -- the mayor said that as a matter of fact. He said, because of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.
Again, the mayor and the police commissioner calling him an al Qaeda sympathizer, Deb.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Yes. Absolutely. And one thing that the mayor and the police commissioner pointed out is that really this man, more from just talking to action. To actually physically going out, to buying the components that you would need to make this particular pipe bomb.
They said that he really -- his talk was so extreme that it even began to make like-minded individuals, people who he was hanging out with, nervous. Unclear whether, in fact, the informant who ended up being involved in this plot or monitoring this plot, really, over two years whether he was one of those friends or whether he came in later, came in after.
But clearly they knew that this was somebody with a potential to carry out a plot and he had even spoken about going to Yemen and that must have also really raised the red flag, raised the bar as it were. And apparently, he did start making this device in August. And the event that set him off was the death of his mentor, Anwar al-Awlaki --
LEMON: Anwar al-Awlaki. Yes.
FEYERICK: -- who was killed in a drone strike.
LEMON: In September 30th, yes.
FEYERICK: Also with the publisher of "Inspire" magazine, the magazine that gave him the plans through an article called "How to Build A Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mother", so -- of your mom.
So clearly it's very serious, it's very significant. The police department wanted to show the impact such a device would have and so they recreated the impact of a device like this, putting it in -- putting it in a car. We saw that. They also really wanted to underscore the importance of this saying, in fact, you know, he had started to drill the holes. And that's when they wanted to step in.
It's not clear whether he had been mixing the components together. They didn't talk about that. Nobody asked that as a question yet but he wanted to clearly do something so they stepped in when they --
LEMON: Hey, Deb, let's listen --
FEYERICK: -- probably have enough evidence to to bring charges against him and also to prosecute him.
Fran Townsend mentioned that there are no federal charges against him because the FBI wasn't notified, the mayor was very careful and very diplomatic to mention the FBI, Director Robert Mueller, while he was giving this press conference.
Doesn't mean they knew but he certainly gave a nod to their authority in this kind of case. You know, and as Peter has mentioned, you know, this is something that was Anwar al-Awlaki, it obviously raises the stakes and the gravitas of this potential plot -- Don.
LEMON: All right. Deb Feyerick, thank you very much.
Deb Feyerick, Peter Bergen, Fran Townsend, thank you very much.
I'm Don Lemon in the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. Much more on this story tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 10:00 p.m. Eastern. In the meantime, we want to go to our CNN special investigations. "CNN PRESENTS: GERRY-RIGGED." It's in its entirety -- begins right now.