Return to Transcripts main page


Two Bombings At Boston Marathon

Aired April 15, 2013 - 16:30   ET


PETER SAGAL, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO (via telephone): Hey, Jake. Well, it just so happens I ran the marathon this year as a guide to a blind runner named William Greer, and William and I had just crossed the finish line I guess at around 3:45. We were about 100 yards into what we call the finishing chute, the long area that you walk through after finishing, when there was a huge explosion right behind us. We turned, as you do, and saw a white plume of smoke rising into the air from what seemed to my perspective the course side of the finishing line, which is a big structure. And then as we were all staring at it in surprise and dismay, another explosion immediately thereafter, either adding to or causing another white plume of smoke. That's what we saw. We had no idea what it was, and the officials there immediately started shuttling us all down that chute away from the area of the explosion.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Peter, we -- first of all, I'm glad you're okay and I'm glad your friend is okay. We have reports that two individuals have been killed, 28 have been wounded. Were you shuttled out before any of them were taken away to get better medical care? Or did you witness --

SAGAL: No. I really saw nothing of the explosions because we were both 100 yards away from it, moving away, and then - there's a helicopter obviously right above my head, I apologize. And then shuttled quickly away. All I saw was a convergence of emergency equipment and personnel on the site.

In fact, as I was trying to get away from the site, I walked by an area on Huntington Street in Boston, and there must have been two dozen ambulances staged and ready to go. So I can only assume there were significant casualties. But I saw nothing from my perspective. I saw the same photos on Twitter and the Internet that you guys probably have.

TAPPER: When you were taken away, where were you shuttled to? How far from the scene of what we are now told by sources were definitively bombs... how far away were you taken?

SAGAL: Well, it was an odd experience. If you've ever run a marathon, you know part of the finish is you are very carefully and efficiently moved away from the finishing line to make room for the next finishers. That process continued with all of us (ph). As far as we were concerned, we were just walking more quickly through the chute. We were given our medals and our Mylar blankets and our bananas, just like we normally would. And at this point, we were hearing only rumors of what had happened. People were guessing all kinds of things, from something harmless as a blown-out transformer to something more serious. So, in an odd way our experience beyond the finish line moving away from the explosion was perfectly normal for a post-marathon. It was only after a while that the police started moving through the area and telling us in rather, shall we say, energetic tones to get out and to evacuate the area that I left.

TAPPER: All right, Peter, we're glad that you and your friend are okay. Former FBI official Tom Fuentes joins us now. Tom, we're told now definitively from sources in Boston that these were two bombs that went off at the end of the Boston Marathon in the last mile on Boylston Street, Copley Square Area. What exactly would the FBI be doing right now and what are you hearing from your law enforcement sources?

TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI OFFICIAL: Hi, Jake. Well, it's too soon for any sources to know since no one has apparently claimed public credit for planting those bombs there or setting them off. So, we're going to have to wait on that a little bit.

What the main focus is initially is to rescue the people who are injured, get them to medical facilities as quickly as possible, create a perimeter, cordon off the area so that other people cannot come in and obliterate the crime scene, which is possible when you have a large crowd in an area like that and people panic in the aftermath of a bombing.

So that's the preliminary thing. Then, after that, the crime scene investigators come in, particularly ones with post-blast investigative expertise, to look for the residue, the telltale signs of a bomb. Explosive residue that they would capture and analyze later to determine what type of explosive was used. They would be looking for wires, batteries, timers, any other device that -- or pieces of a device that might indicate what the original bomb looked like.

But I would like to add here that in watching these videos this afternoon, in seeing the one that tends to show the origin of one of the bombings and the smoke coming from it, thankfully it's not a huge amount of explosives that were used. And I know it's devastating, and I'm very sorry that people have been killed and dozens of people have been injured. But I've been to those kind of bombings, and particularly in an urban area, spending time in Iraq, dealing with that and investigating the aftermath. And normally large city buildings act like a container and amplify the concussion, if you will. So when a bomb goes off, the energy from the bomb can't just dissipate into thin air. It's contained within the walls of those buildings almost like a city canyon.

And I think a lot more -- if it was a huge amount of explosives, we'd have dozens of people dead not just at this point the two that we know have been killed. It could have been really, really much worse.

TAPPER: All right. Former FBI assistant director and CNN contributor Tom Fuentes, we'll be back to you in a second. I want to go right now to senior White House correspondent Jessica Yellin, who has more information about the president and how he was notified. Jessica?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jake. President Obama was notified by his new national security -- Homeland Security Adviser, I should say, Lisa Monaco, and other members of senior White House staff when he was in the Oval Office earlier today. Monaco, as you know took the place of his now-departed Homeland Security adviser, who has now left for the CIA. Monaco just new on the job.

The president has spoken with the mayor of Boston, Tom Menino, and Massachusetts governor Duvall Patrick, and offered them all the resources that they may need from the federal government. In a statement, we're also told that he expressed his concern for those who were injured and made clear, again, that his administration is ready to provide needed support as they respond to this incident.

Jake, the president does have one event later this afternoon, so we are scheduled to see him on camera. He will be officially induct the new diplomats into the Foreign Service Corps. So we'll look to see if the president makes any kind of statement about the events in Boston, and we'll bring that to you when it happens. I would imagine it would be hard for him to avoid commenting on this at this stage. Jake?

TAPPER: Jessica, thank you. If you're just joining us, we are expecting a press conference from Boston police commissioner Ed Davis at 4:45 Eastern, 1:45 Pacific in response to the two explosions, two bombs we are now told that occurred a few hours ago in the final mile of the Boston Marathon. We're told by Boston Police that two individuals have been killed in these blasts, and at least 28 have been wounded.

CNN can also confirm that the FAA has placed a temporary flight restriction over the site of the explosion in Boston at the request of law enforcement. It has a radius of three nautical miles from the site and extends from the surface to 3,000 feet.

I'm joined here in studio by Jane Harman, former congresswoman and former chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Congresswoman, you have been through -- we have been through a lot, but certainly not as House Intelligence Chair or ranking member - incidents like this. In fact, I believe this Friday is the anniversary of both Waco and the Oklahoma City bombing. What's going through your mind as you watch these events unfold?

JANE HARMAN, WOODROW WILSON INTERNATIONAL CENTER: Well, I'm concerned. A signature of al Qaeda, if this may be al Qaeda -- and we have no proof yet or some associated organization -- is near- simultaneous attacks. And yes, there were at least reported so far several bombs that went off along the route of the marathon. But there may be other things at other sporting events or in other cities that are high targets. I'm looking at Peter Bergen, who is sitting across from me, and he's nodding. TAPPER: Just to interrupt for one second, in fact, six days from now, the London Marathon will take place. We're already told that the chief superintendent of that marathon is going to be reviewing security arrangements in light of today's attack, today's bombing at the Boston Marathon.

HARMAN: So I would say, based on experience in this modern era with al Qaeda and al Qaeda-like organizations, we should anticipate, if this turns out to be the signature, some other attacks either in sporting events or in high-target cities or in -- on holiday afternoons where there are mass gatherings.

I mean, this is an obvious tragedy, but when you think about half a million people along the route -- this is one of the premier if not the premier marathon. I've run the Marine Corps Marathon. One of my children has run this marathon. They're big deals. Fifty nations represented. I mean, if you really want to target innocent civilians, this is a great opportunity. And sadly, maybe someone will have taken advantage of it.

TAPPER: And we have a statement here from the governor of Massachusetts, Duvall Patrick. "This is a horrific day in Boston. My thoughts and prayers are with those who have been injured. I've been in touch with the president, Boston Mayor Menino, and our other - our public safety leaders. Our focus is on making sure the area around Copley Square is safe and secured. I'm asking everyone to stay away from Copley Square and let the first responders do their jobs."

We're waiting. In about five minutes, we're told the Boston police commissioner, Ed Davis, will join -- have a press conference to talk about what's happened today.

John, every city probably feels like it could happen there, but it hasn't happened yet. Now we have this horrific event happening in Boston.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And right in the heart of the city. Again, it's not only the finishing line for the marathon, when Tom Foreman was showing you the pictures earlier and the other finish line. That big building he showed first was the Central Library, the Boston public library. New Breach (ph) Street is a block away. It's a big tourist site. The Boston Common and Public Garden less than a quarter mile away. A lot of students and tourists go through that area.

So again, if you're looking to make a political statement -- and we now do hear from sources they were explosive devices. Two went off that we know of. At least one other was found unexploded that we know of, and we're waiting to hear details from law enforcement.

So, you have devices. Someone is trying to make a statement. The question is who? Is it some local issue, is it international issue? Hopefully the law enforcement officials - and I'm guessing in the early hours, they will say they don't know as much.

I'll tell you one other thing that happens in this case, Jake. I have a lot of family in Boston, including a son at Boston College. And you're trying to reach people to try to find out were they there? Are they safe? And the cell phone networks have gone down. They've been so overwhelmed - not down, but they've been overwhelmed, so it's a hard time getting through.

And you're seeing now, I have high school classmates using a page on Facebook. I've reached out to my family and some siblings up there have helped to make sure everybody is safe. Thank God everybody is in my family so far, by all accounts. But that's one of the interesting phenomena that happened here, with such an event like this with so many people there, people around the world trying to find friends and loved ones, the system gets overwhelmed sometimes.

So, as we try to get information, we should also make note there are people watching us here in the States and around the world who are desperate, too, to try to find out friends and relatives, family members who might be down in that area.

TAPPER: That's right. In fact, we don't know about the two who have been killed. At least two individuals have been killed in this bombing, and we don't know who they are. There are 28 individuals who have been wounded. We're told by police, some of them critically. We want to go now to CNN national security adviser Fran Townsend, who is in New York. Fran, what are you hearing from your sources?

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Jake, as Jane Harman alluded to, we're now hearing from a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation that this appears to be a well-planned and coordinated event. They're not using the "attack" word yet, but this is the sort of language it looks very much like it's heading in that direction now.

TAPPER: And we're told by federal law enforcement sources that authorities have found other devices in Boston. Not just one, but other devices that they're working to render safe. But the federal source says the bombs seemed small.

TOWNSEND: The one source I spoke to, a federal source, said to me there was -- he acknowledged there was a third device. They weren't sure what they had. And they were attempting to disarm it safely now.

TAPPER: All right. We're going to go to Chris Cuomo, anchor of the morning show here on CNN. He's on his way to the scene in Boston. What are you hearing, Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on the phone): Hi, Jake, how are you? Can you hear me?


CUOMO: Hey, how are you? So, this is what we understand. We're trying to get on the plane up to Boston. They just issued a ground stop there. Now part of that is perfunctory. Part of that is a reflection of them -- I'm not really confident about what the extended capabilities are here, how many other devices there could be. I don't know what you've reported so far; I've missed some of it. Two of the bombs that went off they believe were detonated by, let's say, the bad guys. A third explosion that went off was detonated by bomb techs. They found another device, they exploded it themselves.

We're hearing there may be a fourth device that they are working on dismantling. That's developing information. We do hear that the death toll is rising and expected to do so. One of the things that we got as an indication from this explosion, the white smoke -- that is usually an indication of a more crude device, nonplastic explosive. It is a distinction of a difference in that plastic explosives have much higher blast capabilities, can take people out in a much bigger range. These white smoke bombs, more crude bombs, can cause great damage as we've seen, smaller perimeter.

They believe that they were remotely detonated, could have been cellular capabilities. That's why they've been careful about cell phones, but is it a very developing situation. Lots of different parties on the ground for the marathon communicating, Jake, on the investigation of this situation. Still very fluid, obviously. No information about who did this or why. the nature of the explosives lead the experts to tell CNN they believe it would be more of a homegrown variety, again, crude devices.

TAPPER: All right, Chris Cuomo. I want to go now to CNN producer Adam Aigner, who's on the phone from Boston. What are you hearing?

ADAM AIGNER, CNN PRODUCER: I've just been pushed further back, Jake. I'm here near the corner of Dartmouth Street and Stewart Streets. We're near the Westin Hotel where we're awaiting the press conference. And police have said there is possibly another suspicious package. They are back again in the area, pushing us farther down Dartmouth Street, further away from the Copley Plaza and Copley area where the explosions took place.

I've talked to several people who were on the ground very close, and one medical official who was treating and triaging patients who were affected by the explosion. And everyone described a horrific scene, lots of blood and glass and bricks and just a scene where you see lots of people very emotional here on the ground, a lot of people very shaken up, not sure what to expect.

TAPPER: All right, Adam, we are expecting that press conference from the Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis any minute now. We'll bring it to you live as it happens.

As you know, but those who are just joining us, just to recap, there were two explosive devices that went off towards the last mile of the Boston Marathon earlier today. We're told that two individuals at least have been killed, 28 wounded, some of them critically.

I'm going to now go to former FBI official Tom Fuentes, former assistant director of the FBI. Tom, what would the FBI be doing right now, now that we know that these devices were explosive devices? This was an event designed to cause loss of life and limb. What would the FBI be doing right now?

FUENTES: Well, first and foremost thing would be to try to identify what the bombs were made of you, how they were put together, what materials were used, what type of explosive, where it could have been obtained.

Oftentimes that will tell you whether, if it's a crude bomb, somebody just learned to do it off the internet or whether or not it's a more sophisticated put-together piece that may be indicative of a certain group or a certain terrorist organization, let's say, that makes bombs a certain way and therefore has a signature for how they put them together.

So the first effort -- but all these efforts will be going concurrently. One of the efforts will be obviously the crime scene investigation. If they have another device that's not exploded and has not been detonated by the bomb squad, then that will be a wealth of information as to how it was put together.

They'll have the ready-made view of that particular device. Then secondly behind the scenes, has anybody claimed credit? Were there any threats? What was the intelligence reporting going on leading up to the event that may have impacted on this particular event?

There will also be trying to obtain copies of all of the media videotapes, the iPhone cameras, personal cameras that were being used at the time before, during and after the bombings, to see if they can get a view of what individual may have actually placed the device.

Now, that's going to be extremely difficult. You have thousands of people near that finish line, probably more than half carrying backpacks so that they have dry clothing for the runners when they cross the finish line or water or food or other materials.

So you're going to have people from all over the world that come to attend this, their family members, their friends. As I said, they're going to be carrying packages and backpacks and setting them down on the sidewalk because they're out there a long time. It's going to be very difficult to find some individual that stands out as suspicious in a crowd that diverse.

TAPPER: And before -- I want to play some sound from witnesses, but before I do, Congresswoman Harman wanted to say something about the fact that they were able to find some of these devices unexploded.

HARMAN: Yes. I think this is a great tribute to law enforcement. I don't think we know everything yet. There may be more devices. There may be devices in other cities. I just wanted to offer something about home grown terrorism, if that may turn out to be what it is.

It is easy on the internet to find out, quote, "How To Make A Bomb In The Kitchen Of Your Mom." There's an English language magazine called "Inspire," which is produced in Yemen by folks who have lived in the United States a long time, and one of their recent issues they've come out with a tenth issue, encouraging people to do small bomb tacks on transportation routes.

I don't know that there's any connection yet and hopefully there won't, but we're a long way from knowing whether this is home grown or not. Just one other comment, Jake, I know this may be hard to hear, but one of the things we have to show in this country is resilience. These have been so far small bomb attacks.

It is horrific that we have lost two or three lives and that dozens are injured, but we can't stop our entire economy and dwell on this. What we have to do is in a very targeted way, use our counterterrorism resources and our law enforcement resources and find out who did this.

We have to move crowds safely out of harm's way, but it would be terrible to shut down our country. Then the bad guys, if they're out there, really do win, and we have to show we're not terrorized.

TAPPER: I want to play some sound from eyewitnesses right now, if we can roll that tape.


BRIAN WALKER, WITNESS: The explosion looked like it was right outside the Marathon Sports, right outside the finish line or the building next to it. I was over there literally two minutes before. I walked down a little bit and heard two big explosions, large plumes of dust, smoke, glass. Obviously, everybody was going crazy.

JEFF CURTIS, TREATED VICTIMS AT THE SCENE: We helped people, putting pressure on their wounds. A lot of people were hurt. We just ran as fast as we could down here to give blood. They were banged up bad, severe lacerations, amputees, a lot shrapnel. You know, they were pretty big explosions, a lot of blood everywhere.


TAPPER: The press conference with Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis is about to begin. Here's Governor Duvall Patrick.


GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Mindful that we don't have the whole picture yet, but we have gotten a good deal of information. Commissioner Davis will take all of us through the information that we have, and then I'll come back and talk about some of the things and ways in which we're going to ask people to help us, help you this afternoon. Let me turn it over to Ed Davis, commissioner of police here in Boston.

ED DAVIS, COMMISSIONER, BOSTON POLICE: Thank you, Governor. At 2:50 p.m. today, there were simultaneous explosions that occurred along the route of the Boston marathon near the finish line. These explosions occurred 50 to 100 yards apart and each scene resulted in multiple casualties.

At this point in time, all of the victims have been removed from the scene. We have sent officers to hospitals to be in touch with family members and possible witnesses. We immediately activated a system of response that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the federal government has in place for these types of incidents.

My first two calls were to the special agent in charge to the FBI and to the colonel of the state police, both immediately sent resources. We have at this point in time determined that there has been a third incident that has occurred. There was an explosion that occurred at the JFK Library.

So this is it very much an ongoing event at this point in time. We are not certain that these incidents are related, but we are treating them as if they are. We're recommending to people that they stay home, that if they're in hotels in the area that they return to their rooms. And that they don't go any place and congregate in large crowds.

We want to make sure we completely stabilize the situation. We're setting up two telephone numbers that are very important. The first one is for families of victims, people who are trying to locate people. That number is 617-635-4500. That is the mayor's hotline.

The second number, if anyone saw anything at this incident, if anybody knows of any information that could lead to the arrest and prosecution of the individuals responsible for this, they should call us at 1-800-494-tips, that's 1-800-494-tips.

That line will be staffed tonight. Along with the FBI and the state police, we are working with the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. We have the general here from the Massachusetts National Guard who has assisted us in securing the perimeter. And we have assets from other agencies who are volunteering to assist us.

After this incident occurred, there were certainly a lot of people who were running from the scene, some of them deposited bags and parcels they were carrying. Each one of those bags and parcels is being treated as a suspicious device at this point in time. We have multiple EOD teams that are checking each one of these bags.

But at this point, we have not found another device. The three incidents that have occurred, two of them simultaneously on Boylston Street and the third one occurred at JFK about a half hour ago. People should be calm, but they should understand that this is an ongoing event and they should understand that we need all the information that we can get available to us. Thank you.

PATRICK: Ed, thank you very much. I want to thank the commissioner. I had a call from the president about half an hour ago who assured us that we would have full cooperation of the FBI, the ATF, who are also on the ground. We have as the commissioner said, the state police, the National Guard fully deployed and we thank them for their assistance.

The city fire marshal is here as well so a lot of coordination in a very fluid situation. We are asking that people stay out of crowds and calmly make their way home or if they're visiting, back to their hotels. All of the hotels' security will be prioritized at the outset. Again, if people have information, please use those tip lines. This is very, very important so that we get as current information as we can as quickly as possible, happy to take any questions.

Well, you know, I -- the marathon is a pretty special day around here, as you know, and I started this morning visiting Mayor Menino in the hospital who's devastated he couldn't be at the marathon today. He's on his way here, right? Am I right, from the hospital?

So obviously he is as concerned as the rest of us are about the safety of the people who come for this iconic experience here in the city.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We heard reports that you're looking for a specific kind of truck or motorcycle?

DAVIS: No. There is no specific type of truck that we're looking for at this point in time. We are looking for any information that people have as to what they saw or might have heard at the site of the explosion or coming and going. We're investigating all leads right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's the latest death and injury toll?

DAVIS: We don't have the number of casualties at this point in time. This is very early in this investigation. We wanted to get out here and give you as much information as we had, but we cannot tell you exactly how many people have been injured.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were rumors there was a controlled explosion about hour ago. Then there were rumors that that was a controlled explosion. Do you know what that was?

DAVIS: That was a controlled explosion on Boylston Street, but there was a third explosion at JFK Library that we believe is related.

As I explained earlier, there are a number of parcels that have been dropped by people on the parade route -- on the race route. Anything that's out there right now is being viewed as a suspicious device, and we are clearing each one of those items with an EOD team.

They maybe blowing things up over the course of the next few hours, but at this point in time we have not found another device on Boylston Street.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Had there been any warnings, threats could have happened?

DAVIS: None. We talk about the threat picture all the time as we lead up to this particular event and we have no information that this was going to happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell us what happened at JFK?

DAVIS: It's literally just unfolding. I don't have specifics. There was an explosion there. We got reports after 3:00 that there was an explosion there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Commissioner, any injuries at JFK Library?

DAVIS: None that we know of.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you say this is a terrorist attack?

DAVIS: We're not being definitive on this right now, but you can reach your own conclusions based upon what happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you describe the diligence --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has anyone claimed responsibility for this?

DAVIS: At this point, no. Every asset in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or the federal government is here or coming here. The governor said the president has talked directly to the mayor as well as the governor and I had a personal conversation with the director of the FBI who pledged any help that we needed. So we are stabilizing the situation at this point in time, but people should be cautious. That's all. Thank you all very much.

PATRICK: We're going to try to do another briefing at 7:00, two hours from now.


TAPPER: That's Police Commissioner Ed Davis speaking, giving us the latest information. As we know, at 2:50 p.m. Eastern near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, two explosive devices went off, killing at least two individuals and wounding at least 28, some of them critically.

The explosions were 50 to 100 yards apart. There were multiple casualties at each. There have also been reports, according to Commissioner Davis, of a third incident at JFK Library. We only have 30 seconds, very quickly, Congresswoman Jane Harman, Peter Bergen, your thoughts?

HARMAN: Hats off to the Boston PD and to the EMT officials around the marathon site. This is what they're trained to do. It's a huge tragedy, but it will be less bad because they're so good.

TAPPER: Peter, what are you waiting to hear about in these coming hours?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think the actual constituency inside the bomb will make a big difference on how we identify the person or persons who did this because if it is hydrogen peroxide, that points to al Qaeda. If it's something else --

TAPPER: Could be a different group.

BERGEN: It could be a right wing extremist group or another group.

TAPPER: I now turn over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" for the latest on this tragedy.