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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Continuing Coverage And Analysis Of Terror Attack At Boston Marathon
Aired April 15, 2013 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, we have breaking news on the terror attack in Boston. Here is the latest of what we know right now in this rapidly developing story.
Two people are dead and according to our affiliate WCVB, one of the victims is 8 years old. At least 110 have been injured. Eight are in critical condition. Fourteen serious and 8 of them at this time we can tell you are children.
Federal law enforcement has also been placed on what's called a level one mobilization. Now the first explosion went off just before 3:00, around 2:50 p.m. Eastern Standard Time today. Right near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Now the video from the "Boston Globe" captured the blast as they happened.
Then the explosion in the video, a second explosion then goes off and it's about 10 seconds after. So you're going to see it here the first one. Many people who were standing by there, right behind those flags are severely injured tonight.
And about 100 yards away, runners were literally knocked off their feet and thousands of spectators were sent scrambling for safety. Now then there was a third explosion, which went off around 4:00 p.m. at the nearby JFK Library.
Now very uncertain at this time as to whether those are related. Some authorities say yes. Others have said no. What we can tell you though, is that no one was hurt. CNN's Peter Hamby is in Boston tonight and has the latest for us.
Peter, you've been reporting on this throughout the day. Tell me the very latest as to what is happening right now.
PETER HAMBY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, Erin, I'm standing right downtown at the corner of Commonwealth and Exeter in the back -- just a few blocks away from where the explosion took place. I came over here right after the blast and streets were just shut down.
I had to walk over here. It was just a sea of people, obviously. It wasn't exactly mayhem. There were lots of people just milling about, confused, not sure what to do, checking their phones. I definitely saw families looking for loved ones and actually saw one family reunite and burst into tears. And actually, Erin, just as I'm talking to you, I happen to find a woman come up with appears to be one of her friends. They just embraced. One of them started crying. So you know, people here are definitely shaken. And downtown Boston is sort of settling in and emptying out.
I was tweeting out some pictures earlier just from walking around and people online were saying it looks like a ghost town. It's look like something out of the "Walking Dead" or something like that. But that's not the case yet. You know, it's starting to be a little deserted.
But this is a very densely populated part of Boston. I'm in once a very residential area. People are walking their dogs. They're just out kind of milling about. But there are still plenty of first responders on the scene.
Several fire trucks and emergency vehicles just arrived a couple minutes ago where I am. And the area where the explosives took place is roped off for people other than emergency personnel -- Erin.
BURNETT: As you say, it's roped off because at this point, Peter, it doesn't seem that we know very much. You know, it's been called a terror attack. We don't know whether it was domestic, whether it was foreign, what the reason was, what the motivation was. They don't seem to know very much at all at this point, fair to say?
HAMBY: Yes, absolutely. I mean, the only thing we can really tell right now from the ground are the descriptions that people are telling us, you know, about what happened, just talking to witnesses. They describe a loud blast.
They talked to one student from the top who was near the finish line and said the blast sounded like a cannon and that there was probably a one, two, three, second lapse in between explosions.
I talked to another runner who was back at the Westin Hotel, just a couple of blocks away from the finish line, Erin, and she had finished the race, was waiting for her mother to finish. And she said she felt the blast shake the Westin. That is a pretty big building in downtown Boston.
And then I talked to another witness who was a few blocks away and heard the blast as well and said it was unmistakably a bomb. This person said they heard a bomb before and knew exactly what it was. So yes, people are still just trying to figure it out. Lots of people are just on their phones searching for the latest information. Law enforcement people on the ground here and they are still figuring out things.
BURNETT: Peter, you know, we don't know how many people will be killed as a result of this. We don't know for sure how many are injured as we said right now we're reporting 110 have been sent to area hospitals. But give us a sense of who these people are.
I mean, I can say right now Children's Hospital, they give -- they give people a feel for the human beings are involved here. This was a holiday up there. A lot of families were there to watch.
Right now, we have a 9-year-old, 7-year-old and 12-year-old, boys who are in Children's Hospital. A 2-year-old child with a head injury and -- I mean, there are obviously adults, but I mean there are children, too. This was a family event.
HAMBY: Yes, absolutely. Look, I'm actually living in the Boston area for a few months for a program. I'm getting a feel for the place and talking to people. Even before this happened this morning, just talking to the friends and colleagues up here, they could not overstate how big a deal the Boston Marathon is for Boston. It's a huge holiday.
You know, there is a spring in people's steps. The season is starting to peek through. People are really excited about this. This is a holiday in the city. And, you know, that's why you see all of this emotion here. There are people that came in from all over the country, all over the world for this event.
And think about all the runners who are running the race and don't have cell phones with them. They're trying to reconnect with families after this. So, yes, it's just a really shake in the city here tonight -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right, well, Peter Hamby, thank you very much. We'll be checking in with Peter as we get more information because as I have been emphasizing, we know very little and at this point, not clear who is responsible for this terror attack.
Demi Knight Clark and her husband, Brian Clark, were there today. Demi was just crossing the finish line when the first blast went off and you can look at this video on the bottom left of your screen in the yellow jersey, you can see her. She was running.
Now Brian was sitting in the bleachers watching with their two daughters, Macy who is 9 and Wila who is 7. And Demi joins me on the phone now. I know you're safe and sound and a miracle for you.
Demi, what happened when you were running? I know you had been over on the side of the road by where the blast went off. But you had come over to the other side where you thought your family was so you could wave to them.
DEMI CLARK, EYEWITNESS (via telephone): I did. I was actually -- and again, I said it so many times today, angel on my shoulder, whatever you want to call it. I had been running on the left and slapping people's hands, just wonderful spectators in the last two miles.
I knew my family was in the bleachers on the right and so I moved over so that my daughters could see me. It was really important for them to see me at the finish. You can see the blast happened right to my left.
I immediately looked over and saw the runners down. And just smoke and people up against the fences and just horrific, horrific scene. And then the second blast went off.
BURNETT: And what did you think when that happened? I mean, were you just in shock? Did you think this was an attack? I mean, what went through your mind?
CLARK: Honestly, I mean, for somebody who had just run for four hours, you know, didn't know anything. I'm trying to get my wits about me. I honestly there is this image of the official that was to my left as I crossed the finish.
He was facing that direction. It was just this horrific look on his face. He was horrified and so I immediately turned at that point after just hearing that blast. And I saw it and then the second one happened and then I immediately thought of my family. So I think just disbelief like what just happened?
BURNETT: And did you see injured people?
CLARK: It was immediate because there was so much glass and so much -- it was so explosive. I don't know how else to say it. It was so impactful that there were people just up against the fence and blood everywhere and glass and just something out of a war zone. I can't say it any differently.
BURNETT: And then, Demi, you must have looked for your family. You must have been so terrified. Were you able to find them in the stands? I mean, I know they're OK and you're all there tonight in the hotel room together. But were you able to find Brian and Mazy and Wila?
CLARK: I was. Thankfully my husband is big. He is about 6'4" and 240. He literally had one daughter under each arm. He was easy to spot in a crowd and at that point, I think we all -- after the second blast went off, we thought I think collectively right there at the finish, what else could be happening?
Were the bleachers go up next? You know, could it -- could there be another chain reaction of explosions? So it was immediately get as many people out of that scene as possible. And I can't say enough about the Boston police. They were right up on the scene.
Those guys went straight over to help as well as race officials, just volunteers, so many people to help. And they just really corralled us through as runners to try to get us out of there so just so many helpers.
BURNETT: And, Demi, what was the reaction of your daughters? They're 9 and 7. Did they understand? I mean, this is one of those events that will change your life and the lives of many who were there, probably theirs, too.
CLARK: Absolutely. My husband is with them right now and they just want to go to bed. I think they're exhausted emotionally, mentally. My daughters were just in tears. We were all crying. I heard the other account of just reuniting with families and being in tears and that's exactly how we were. It was just how can I get my family to safety, being a momma bird and then also having just this heartbreak for the families of injured people or worse because those were all -- those were all supporters of someone behind me that was running. And that could have been us and it's just -- it's heartbreaking.
BURNETT: And Demi, what's next for you? You're there tonight, obviously. They've made it clear that you're not supposed to leave the hotel room or do anything like that, right? You're supposed to stay with your family inside?
CLARK: Right and happy to do that right now. Again, make our kids feel better. They're the most important to us. And we fly home tomorrow night so back to the Charlotte area and back to our friends and families. So just looking forward to taking care of our kids.
BURNETT: All right, Demi, thank you very much. We're so glad that you are safe. Their story obviously ended well, but so many have ended in horror and injury and death tonight and authorities in Boston are combing the city trying to get clues to help them find the person or people responsible for the deadly terror attack today.
The FBI, ATF, the state police and the National Guard, are all involved in the investigation. President Obama vowed to find out who did this, but at this moment there are no suspects in custody.
OUTFRONT tonight, former FBI Assistant Director Tom Fuentes and CNN national security contributor, Fran Townsend. Fran, what is the latest that you can tell us from your reporting of what we know right now? There are so many question marks.
FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well, and there remain a lot of questions, Erin. We know that this was a well planned, coordinated attack that had the two bombs go off. We're told by law enforcement authorities that they were what they refer to as crude devices. That is it wasn't a high grade explosive.
As bad as those explosions look, they could have been much worse if it was a high grade explosion. What they're looking for, we see many injuries from the shrapnel, the flying glass. They'll look to see if there were other things put in the explosives packages to increase the likelihood of injury.
BURNETT: Often they do, right? They put all kinds of things whether it's ball bearings, nails --
TOWNSEND: Exactly. That's right. So they're looking for that sort of thing. They made clear to me while they're calling -- the FBI has designated this a terrorism event. They don't know whether it was perpetrated by a domestic group or a foreign group. They're going to go through all sort of investigative steps.
They're pulling surveillance camera video. They're doing interviews. They're looking for people to bring cell phone pictures and videos so they can use those. They're going to put together the clues to try and understand what was the motivation? As the president said, who perpetrated this and what was the motivation?
BURNETT: Tom, one of things that's amazing is, you know, the two press conferences that the Boston police commissioner has spoken at today. I've watched him in both cases, he was asked directly did you have any warning? He was very clear, no, nothing. No warning. No, you know, sense in advance that anything possibly might have happened and he said we are prepared for that. Does that surprise you?
TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: No. It doesn't, Erin. And, yes, he said that several hours ago and nothing's changed. They are still going back through more records and more phone conversations that may have been intercepted of known suspects, of terror groups.
They still have no indication that they missed a warning. That was delivered prior to the event. So that's still an issue that no one anybody in advance and since the event, no one's taken credit that I know of.
And sources of mine are saying that it's still unattributed to who did it and why they did it. As far as the crudeness of the devices, we saw it almost reminded me of the Centennial Park bombing at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 where you had roofing nails in plastic food containers attached to the explosives.
So that when the bomb went off, it spread the nails through the air and one of them actually killed a woman who turned around at the wrong time and the explosive went off. So to put crude device together, maybe a pipebomb, maybe, you know, something similar and maybe put some crude shrapnel with it whether it be nails or ball bearings or some other stones.
You know, something that may have caused additional damage to the people around it, you know, that still remains to be seen. The bomb techs working that scene will look for the type of explosive used, was it a pipebomb? How was it detonated? How was it wired up? What other material was in the container?
Is there evidence that it was in a knapsack, which may have burned material nearby that indicated that it may have contained the device in it? Additionally, for the authorities, for the investigators, even with all of the videotapes, even with all of the media and spectator videos that were shot at the scene, you have thousands of people there.
You have diversity of people from all over the world attending as runners and spectators. And about half of the people you see are carrying backpacks, the ones there with loved ones who are running. They have dry clothes. They may have food. They may have other material in those backpacks.
So seeing people from a variety of nationalities and ethnic backgrounds carrying backpacks in a confined area like that is going to be very difficult. And also you have seen what's been touted as eyewitness reports, but none have really been an eyewitness to the event. They've been an eyewitness to the aftermath. They turned when they heard the explosion. They saw the smoke. They saw and heard the people running and screaming. But no one, at least that the media has reported on, no one has said I saw this individual place the item there. Then it went off. I can tell what you he looked like. I can tell you what he was wearing.
That's what law enforcement is looking at now. That's why they're hoping they can interview the victims in the hospital. Maybe one of them will be able to shed some light on a description of a suspect for both of those bombings.
BURNETT: Fran, that's one of the things. There are reports of possibly of a video. Not just video from people who were around, but CCT video from Boston, right? That may have shown the suspect. There have been reports maybe from behind. So that they're thinking they might have some sort of way to identify this person. How quickly do you think they're going to be able to identify a suspect?
TOWNSEND: You know, look, the first priority has been to get all that film. You heard earlier, you reported, Erin, that the FBI is on a status one alert. The whole idea there is to flood human resources so that you can have many people looking over various pieces of film to try to come up with those sorts of leads.
And there will be false leads. Let's be clear. You'll get a picture of somebody. You're going to want to interview them. It's going to turn out to be innocent.
BURNETT: There have already been so many confusing stories.
BURNETT: And with people from 50 countries, there have been leads that may or may not be true and assumptions that people are making that may not be true.
TOWNSEND: One thing we did hear, though, the Boston police found two other devices that's they did what is called a controlled explosion of. That is there were more than just these two devices that's we've shown the pictures of. And the Boston police will learn a lot from those devices and from what the incendiary devices were, what the packages looked like, the size of them, the contents of them. And that should help further the investigation.
BURNETT: And final question to you, Fran. What is your instinct right now on the person who did this or the people? Domestic or foreign?
TOWNSEND: You know, you really can't say, Erin. There's not multiple simultaneous explosions in a big public event would suggest to many that it could be an al Qaeda or a foreign terrorist. But I really do think we've got to be cautious. I think it's too early to tell. We saw Oklahoma City. We saw Waco. These are domestic terrorist events. Their anniversaries at the end of this week.
TOWNSEND: And so, it really is too soon to tell what the cause is.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Tom and Fran, thank you very much. Obviously, you'll be staying us with. As Fran pointed out though this is near the anniversary. April 19th was the anniversary for the Oklahoma City bombing, for the Waco, Texas event.
So let me just run through the basics here again of what we know. Two bombs went off, explosive devices very close to one another just around 3:00 this afternoon in Boston. We now have been able to report that there were perhaps one or two other devices which police successfully were able to dismantle. At least 110 people have been injured. And the two deadly explosions, as we said, went off about ten seconds apart from each other.
"The Boston Globe" captured the scene on Boylston Street as it happened. I want to show you the video and give you a sense of the sounds so you can feel how shocking and terrifying this was for people when it happened. Runners were literally knocked off their feet from the blast. Thousands of spectators were completely -- were thrown against the walls, thrown against buildings and had to flee.
BURNETT: The president has spoken on this issue. The latest that we know, though, is that we don't know who is responsible. We do not know whether it was someone from the United States or someone overseas. And there is no sense right now as to a motive.
Joining me on the phone right now is Cassidy Quinn Bretler. She was 30 feet way when the explosions happened, watching her co-worker cross the finish line. Tell me what you saw.
CASSIDY QUINN BRETTLER, EYEWITNESS (on the phone): Yes, so I -- like you said, I was 30 feet from the finish line when it happened. Mainly I heard it and I felt it. I heard -- you just showed video of it. I heard a noise that I've never heard anything as loud as that in my entire life. And felt the ground shake like nothing ever before. I mean, my legs were shaking for two hours after it happened because I was so shaken up, literally.
And then probably about 25 seconds later, I realized I should probably turn and see what is actually happening and look at what happened besides just run away. So, I looked up and just saw smoke everywhere and people screaming and running different directions and just utter chaos.
BURNETT: And at any moment, Cassidy, did you think this is some sort of an attack? Or were you unsure? What was your instinct at that moment?
BRETTLER: I mean, for some reason, there was never a thought of it was an accident. For some reason in my mind the whole time I thought it was an attack. And maybe I guess that says something about the way that things happen in this country that a lot of times we have to assume that, unfortunately.
But, yes, in my mind, that was -- it was an attack. Especially when I heard the second explosion about 12 seconds after the first one. I immediately thought, OK, two -- twice in one minute that, is not an accident. Someone did that.
BURNETT: Cassidy, what did you see when you looked at the, you know, you were 30 feet away. You must have --
BURNETT: You must have seen people that were injured or worse at that moment.
BRETTLER: I did. I mean, I didn't know where to go. And people were just screaming and running different directions. So I went into a little ATM booth that was close by. Everyone just seemed to be going inside for safety. So, I went inside there and from the window, from there I saw people being carried past me that were in -- I mean, I was fine. But these people were in much worse shape than I am, obviously. And just blood everywhere. Body parts that should never look in the state they were looking. Just total -- I mean, just disturbing.
BURNETT: I mean it's changed your life, right?
BRETTLER: Totally. You always see these things on the news and you read about them online and never actually think oh, I'm going to be there when the next one happens. It's just totally shocking and never anything that you should or ever think you're going to have to deal with. Totally life changing.
Right now, I'm in shock. I don't even know how I'm not, like, like sitting in my room crying right now. It's just - just shocking. How do you even internalize that?
BURNETT: Well, Cassidy, thank you very much for sharing that with us. As Cassidy is saying, feeling that sense of shock. You always think that it can't happen to you. And all those people and families there would have thought that, and then it happened to them today.
We're going to take a very quick break. And when we come back, you'll hear from the president who spoke just a short time ago about the bombings and who's responsible. We'll be right back.
BURNETT: President Obama was briefed on the situation this afternoon by the FBI director Robert Mueller and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Here is the cautious statement he said to the American people just moments ago.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good afternoon, everybody. Earlier today I was briefed by my homeland security team on the events in Boston.
We're continuing to monitor and respond to the situation as it unfolds, and I've directed the full resources of the federal government to help state and local authorities protect our people, increase security around the United States, as necessary, and investigate what happened. The American people will say a prayer for Boston tonight, and Michelle and I send our deepest thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims in the wake of this senseless loss.
We don't yet have all the answers, but we do know that multiple people have been wounded, some gravely, in explosions at the Boston Marathon. I've spoken to FBI Director Mueller and Secretary of Homeland Secretary Napolitano, and they're mobilizing the appropriate resources to investigate and to respond.
I've updated leaders of Congress in both parties, and we reaffirm that on days like this there are no Republicans or Democrats; we are Americans united in concern for our fellow citizens.
I've also spoken with Governor Patrick and Mayor Menino, and made it clear that they have every single federal resource necessary to care for the victims and counsel the families. And above all, I made clear to them that all Americans stand with the people of Boston.
Boston police, firefighters, and first responders, as well as the National Guard, responded heroically and continue to do so as we speak.
It's a reminder that so many Americans serve and sacrifice on our behalf every single day, without regard to their own safety, in dangerous and difficult circumstances. And we salute all those who assisted in responding so quickly and professionally to this tragedy.
We still do not know who did this or why. And people shouldn't jump to conclusions before we have all the facts. But make no mistake, we will get to the bottom of this, and we will find out who did this. We'll find out why they did this. Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups, will fill the full weight of justice.
Today's a holiday in Massachusetts, Patriots Day. It's a day that celebrates the free and fiercely independent spirit that this great American city of Boston has reflected from the earliest days of our nation, and it's a day that draws the world to Boston's streets in a spirit of friendly competition.
Boston is a tough and resilient town, so are its people. I'm supremely confident that Bostonians will pull together, take care of each other, and move forward as one proud city, and as they do, the American people will be with them every single step of the way.
You should anticipate that as we get more information, our teams will provide you briefings. We're still in the investigation stage at this point. But I just want to reiterate, we will find out who did this, and we will hold them accountable. Thank you very much.
BURNETT: I want to bring in Jessica Yellin, our chief White House correspondent. Jessica, of course as the president left the podium, a couple people yelled out, is it a terror attack? Is it an act of terrorism? You had thought that he would use those words. He chose not to. Do you have a sense as to why? Is that because he thought that might imply, for example, it was foreign and they're not sure now? Or what do you think?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, I spoke to a few officials outside of the White House who tell me they think it's too soon simply to call it terrorism in their estimation. At the same time, inside the White House I'm told that this is essentially -- we can read this as acting out of an abundance of caution on the president's part.
Here is an actual statement from a White House official. I'll quote for you. A White House official told me, "Any event with multiple explosive devices as this appears to be is clearly an act of terror and will be approached as an act of terror. However, we don't yet know who carried out this attack, and a thorough investigation will have to determine whether it was planned and carried out by a terrorist group, foreign or domestic."
So, Erin, to parse that and be clear about what is going on, the statement I just read you is the politics of this. The president and his team want to be clear that they view any attack or any incident where Americans are killed as terrorist - as a terror act. On the other hand, while an investigation is just beginning, it is a term of art to call it terrorism and it's clear that officials are being careful not to label it that way publicly while facts are still being gathered.
So, on the message, the political message, yes, he viewed it as a terror act. On the investigative language, for some reason, they don't think they're there yet in calling it terrorism officially.
I will tell you that he has had a number of briefings. We have a photo of him in the Oval Office getting briefed by his head of the FBI, Muller. And once it is even thought to be terrorism, that's when the FBI's assigned to be in charge of it. So very fact that the FBI is running things is an indication that they're leaning that way.
He is in the photo with his new team. Denis McDonough, his chief of staff, his new chief of staff, comes from a national security background. Very well versed in security matters. So, supremely well- suited to run this and from the White House. And Lisa Monaco, his new homeland security adviser, had just taken over for John Brennan who himself shifted over from that job to the CIA.
And the president was informed at 3:00 p.m., quickly after this happened, had two briefings, we were told already earlier. And, Erin, also, let me tell you, the perimeter around the White House itself has been extended, keeping tourist away from the entrances to the White House.
A standard precaution any time there might be an act of terrorism inside the U.S., Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Jessica, thank you very much.
Now, I want to bring in Ari Fleischer now, a contributor and former White House press secretary for George W. Bush.
Ari, what's your -- what's your sense of how the president handled this so far? And as Jessica reports, an abundance of caution, the White House making it clear they believe it's a terror attack. But the president himself being careful and not yet using the terms.
ARI FLEISCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Two hours after an attack, it's appropriate for the president to be one of the most cautious people speaking about it. The power of the White House and particularly the power of the presidency, every word gets magnified. Caution is the right approach for the president. And, frankly, that's what he did today.
On a day like today, this is a day you support everybody, who is doing their best to handle what happened in Boston.
BURNETT: And how should they handle it from here? I mean as you said, so two hours, you know you have to be extremely caution (ph). Caution is the way to go.
But, now, of course, people want answers. People are going to want to know who was responsible. And they're going to want to know that quickly, perhaps more quickly than law enforcement is going to be able to get an answer.
Two points, one on the staff level. One in congruity that I don't understand is why the staff is calling it terrorism and the president isn't. They should be in sync.
FLEISCHER: If the president doesn't use the word, the staff should not use the word, even on background.
As for what comes next, the White House should not be tempted because the reporters demand answers and to giving answers before they have facts. Speculation is a killer in that position. You do not engage in speculation, because as soon as you say it, everybody runs to a say the White House today said. And there is no room for nuance.
So, the White House's motto must be caution, no speculation. Don't say it until you know it. And that also means the White House is the last to reach a conclusion that other agencies and other people are saying. So be it. It may frustrate the press. But that's the way the White House should act because of the power of the White House's words.
BURNETT: And, you know, Ari, as we talk about the importance of that word. When people hear terrorism, a lot of them jump immediately to think al Qaeda or they think of something like that and perhaps that's why there's so much caution with the word, at least on behalf of the president.
But, you know, our Tom Fuentes has said, former assistant director of the FBI, that this was a coordinated preplanned, multiple explosive device event and that is a terrorist attack no matter how you consider it.
I mean, we have no idea who is responsible. It could be a disgruntled worker. It could be an anarchist. It could be a person inspired by foreign elements. We don't know.
But if it's one of the first two, if it's someone domestic, with a personal issue or an issue against the government, in your view, is that still terrorism?
FLEISCHER: Well, first of all, for today and for the short term, I'm less interested in the lexicon of what the president is saying and more interested in catching who did. So, whether he calls it or doesn't call it that, to me, that's not the big issue for today and probably for tomorrow either.
Now, this reminds me many ways of the anthrax attacks, where we always thought it was a case of domestic source, domestic attack. We saw no evidence it was a foreign attack. Even though, frankly, Brian Ross on NBC News reported that Iraq was behind the attack, and I told him his report was wrong. There was still an urge from at least ABC News to describe that as a terrorist attack.
You do have to just be guarded until you know. Even if it is domestic, you don't know who is behind it, what the reasons are, et cetera. So, again, until you know, don't reach conclusions. Let law enforcement and people who wear the uniform, police, be the first responders in the communication war as well -- the communication response I should say as well to what has happened.
The White House should lag behind the others. They're on the ground. They'll get the facts first and then they'll brief the White House. That sequence makes perfect sense.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Ari Fleischer, thank you very much.
Ari backing how the president has responded to this event so far.
And for those of you just joining us, I want to go through the very latest on what we know about the attack in Boston today. Two people are dead and according to our affiliate, WCVB, one of the victims is an 8-year-old child. At least 110 have been injured right now.
And we have just learned that the Navy has provided a three- person explosive ordinance disposal team based out of Newport, Rhode Island, to assist local authorities as needed. The two deadly explosions went off shortly before 3:00 Eastern Standard Time, right around 2:50. They're about 10 seconds apart right now the finish line of the Boston marathon. "The Boston Globe" captured the scene on Boylston Street and I want to play that for those that haven't had a chance to see it. It does capture the suddenness and the fear and terror of what happened at that moment. Runners, as you can see, literally knocked off their feet from the blast, thousands of spectators who were standing right behind those flags were scrambling for safety.
And as we have told you, more than 100 at least injured, some seriously so.
Police say they have no suspects in custody. Federal law enforcement has been placed on what's called a level one mobilization.
We're going to bring you the latest throughout the hour as soon as we have it. There are still so many questions. Most important, we do not know who was responsible, how they did it or why.
Brittany Smith joins me on the phone now. She was volunteering at the medical tent when the explosions went off.
Brittany, what did you hear and see?
BRITTANY SMITH, EYEWITNESS, BOSTON, MA (via telephone): So, yes, I was in medical tent B. I wasn't right at the finish line. I was a couple blocks further away from the finish line.
And I mean, we were just trying to treat the runners and then all of a sudden, we heard one boom, felt the boom and then, you know, something like five to eight seconds later, we heard another boom. So, you know, people were looking around. They didn't know if it was cannons.
You know, I've never heard of them putting -- blasting cannons on the Boston marathon. There has to be something else going on. So, I mean, like panic just pretty instilled right away. No one really -- I mean they didn't -- they didn't release too much information right away. We were told to wait.
Then we heard the emergency responding vehicles and ambulances and fire trucks and police cars. It was just really chaotic and scary.
BURNETT: And did people come into your tent at first, some of the injured or --
SMITH: At first, no, they were pretty much all sent right to medical tent A, which is right at the finish line. We did see a couple in medical tent B. But they were for the more like minor injuries.
BURNETT: And, Brittany, how do you -- what's your reaction now? I know so many people have talked about the shock and of seeing things that you never think as a human you're going to see with people with their limbs torn off and people who are there just for entertainment and to enjoy a holiday and special day. SMITH: Yes. I mean it's very shocking. It is definitely good to be home and safe right now. But immediately after the booms and I kind of realize that it was an emergency, I was just like I need to get out of here. I need to go home. How can I go home? Like, is there going to be more explosions? It was all surreal. It is still surreal now.
But, yes. Still a little shocked.
BURNETT: And, Brittany, what happened and you heard that noise? What did you think? I mean, I'm trying to get a sense from people is that, was it instinctual that you knew it was something wrong? Did you think it could be either something accidental or something celebratory or did you just know?
SMITH: I mean, me personally, I felt and heard the boom. I didn't think it was celebratory thing. People around us were like are they shooting cannons? I'm like, there is no way. I mean there is no way it's a cannon. It is something serious.
And then a minute and a half later, you hear all the emergency vehicles. You know that it wasn't a celebratory thing. You know it was, you know, it's something different, something wrong.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Brittany, thank you very much for talking to us.
SMITH: All right. Yes. No problem.
BURNETT: Thanks to you.
Representative Mike McCaul joins me, the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.
And good to see you. Appreciate you taking the time.
Chairman, what is the latest you know right now?
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R), TEXAS: Well, Erin, first of all, my heart goes out to the victims and their families. Very, very tragic, tragic day. My assessment as chairman and also as a former counter- terrorism prosecutor is this has all the hallmarks of an act of terrorism -- the multiple bombs going off simultaneously. Mass casualties infliction and a spectacular event. That's what the terrorists always try to accomplish.
So, it's got all signatures of that. And I think right now, I've been briefed by the White House, federal, state and local officials in the Boston area. And now, it's time to let law enforcement do its job.
I can tell you this: we will bring the perpetrators to justice. And then, hopefully, move this thing forward.
BURNETT: And in your briefings, Chairman McCaul, is there any sense -- I mean, I guess let's start off first with the bombs, the explosive devices I'll say themselves. You know, former FBI assistant director has told us that even the quality, this wasn't incredibly sophisticated.
Is that also what you have been briefed, the same effect?
MCCAUL: Not terribly sophisticated but they never really are. The one bit of piece of information that's been reported out there is that there were ball bearings used with the devices which would be compatible with an IED.
We have been concerned about IEDs coming into this country and being detonated for quite some time since 9/11 -- in fact, is the case, that could give insight into the signature threat of the perpetrator and the possible motivation. But at this point in time, it would be premature to conclude who the perpetrator really is.
BURNETT: And in terms of detonation, you know, there were some reports which proved to be erroneous that they had shut down cell phone service in the Boston area because they were worried that further explosive devices could be triggered by cell phone. But the device that did go off, do you have any knowledge from your briefing in terms of how that was detonated?
MCCAUL: I don't. I heard the same report you did. Cell phones were confiscated. If a cell phone is used, obviously that isn't consistent with an IED device.
And I think it's also important to note that my understanding is that there may be a person of interest now in custody that's undergoing questioning. I think, Erin, while this is clearly an act of terrorism, what is unclear at this point is whether it's a foreign or domestic threat. I think that's the unanswered question at this point the.
BURNETT: And do you have a sense on that at all when you talk about a person of interest -- you know, obviously that person may or may not be involved. It's a person of interest. That's what the word mean. Does that lead down a path to either foreign or domestic at this point?
MCCAUL: It doesn't. Because we don't know anything about the person of interest at this point in time other than they are in custody. That's good news. That means law enforcement -- and, I do want to commend the Boston fire department, police department for their quick response on the scene to save lives. Very tragic, two killed, 22 injured including eight children. This is a horrible, horrible tragedy.
But the fact that they're moving so quickly to get to the point of putting someone in custody I think is very positive, good sign that, hopefully, we'll be getting answers soon.
BURNETT: And there has also been some questions already as to what the preparations were. For example, no one in that grandstand area or around says they had to go through any sort of metal detection or bag check. That there were trash cans and obviously some places a big event they try to remove trash cans for the very reason that someone could plant some sort of an improvised explosive device in one.
Do you think that there was anything in the preparation that may not have been adequate, that could have made this preventable had it been handled differently?
MCCAUL: Look, I think the great concern of law enforcement and Homeland Security officials and FBI is that you just can't protect everyone in these outdoor events. And we've always been very concerned about these outdoor events whether they be marathons or whether they be football games, shopping malls, you can't have a complete lockdown of security in a free society.
I think that's the balance we always have. And it's almost impossible to completely secure these type of open events. So I think it's very difficult to prevent something like this.
I do think canines do a pretty good job of that. I think you're going to see heightened state of alert obviously not only in Boston but New York and Washington. And, unfortunately, in future marathon events, you'll probably see additional security taking place.
BURNETT: And a final question for you, sir. We also heard that they're checking international flights and manifests. Is that something you have also been briefed on, that they're actively checking international flights leaving the United States tonight?
MCCAUL: My understanding is that at Logan airport they are checking the outbound and inbound flights at this point in time, for obvious reasons.
I think they have to, you know, I think this may be a contained incident at this point in time, act of terrorism. We just don't know if there are wider tentacles to this. I think the great concern is any future bombs going off within the next couple of hours.
My understanding is to be calm that they believe they have both the bombs that went off at the marathon and the one that was self detonated by the Coast Guard is my understanding at the JFK Library. They do believe they contained this attack at this point in time.
If I could just add to the White House contacted me not too long after this event. We had a very good conversation. It's times like this bring the nation together. We both, you know, agreed this is not a Republican and Democrat issue. It's truly an American issue.
MCCAUL: I think it's a time when we all come together.
BURNETT: And Chairman McCaul, quickly, just before we go, because I want to make sure I understand because, obviously, Boston police have been a little vague on this whole issue of whether anyone was in custody. You said that someone was undergoing questioning, a person of interest in custody. Was that also in your briefing today? MCCAUL: We just got this report as of -- in the last few minutes.
MCCAUL: Somebody has -- a person of interest is in custody and is being asked questions. That doesn't mean necessarily that this is the person who did it.
MCCAUL: There is a person of interest in custody that is being questioned.
BURNETT: All right. And there is nothing else you can tell us about that person at this point?
MCCAUL: That would be irresponsible for me to do so at this point in time.
BURNETT: I understand.
MCCAUL: That is the ultimate question. Is this a foreign or domestic act of terrorism?
BURNETT: Absolutely. Well, Chairman McCaul, thank you very much for taking the time and answering all our questions. We really appreciate it as do our viewers watching around the world with so many questions tonight.
MCCAUL: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: Steve Blum was running the marathon. He was a quarter mile from the finish line when the first blast went off. His wife Ellen was waiting for him about 100 yards before the finish line and they join us on the phone now.
Good to have both of you with us. Tell me what you saw, Ellen.
ELLEN BLUM, EYEWITNESS, BOSTON, MA (via telephone): Well, I had actually been at heartbreak hill for the first half of the marathon waiting for Steve to go by. Once he did, I then headed into Boston as I did last year to see him over by Boylston Street and made my way. I was 100 yards from the finish.
And probably about 10 minutes before I expected Steve to come by, I heard this blast and saw this brown smoke coming up from down by the finish line. I think everybody around us was just confused and shocked at what was happening. And I think others had mentioned it sounded like a cannon or, you know, with the Patriots Day activities, you didn't know if it was some kind of a celebratory sound which seemed odd because I've been there before and never heard such a thing before.
And then within 10 seconds, second one and there was no question at that point that there was something seriously wrong and everybody just started running and screaming get away from the manhole covers. Nobody knew what to do.
The runners seemed to stop and then continue and then stop again, unsure what was happening. And then security just kicked right in. I have to give a lot of credit to the Boston police. They were on scene within seconds just shutting down that rest of the route.
BURNETT: And, Steve, what did you think? You're hearing what your wife's view of things. I know you probably have both been going through this again and again with each other. But from your vantage point running, what did you -- what did it look like for you?
STEVE BLUM, EYEWITNESS, BOSTON, MA (via telephone): I was running along com avenue probably a minute or two away from making the turn on to Harrisburg Street and unto Boylston to finish the race. And suddenly the runners, myself included, heard a blast that sounded like, almost like cannon fire from the USS Constitution which they do once a year and sounded kind of odd that we would hear it so far away from where the ship is docked or where it would blast. But it really sounded like cannon fire, and then moments later heard a second one.
But we didn't really make anything of it. We just kept running not really realizing what that could possibly be. Maybe a construction going on, we didn't know.
And about a minute later, as we're getting ready to turn right on to the Harrisburg (ph) Street, the police yelled out, all marathoners stop running. And took barriers and blocked us from going anywhere. And we asked what was going on and the police said we don't know yet. We can't tell you anything.
So as we were sitting there waiting, not running anymore, we began speculating. Certain people had cell phones who were trying to reach out to friends and family.
S. BLUM: And I think the cell coverage must have been shut down or maybe there was a lot of people on cell, so nobody could get through to anybody. And, frankly, it was a state of bewilderment for the whole group as we sat there waiting to figure out what was next.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Ellen and Steve, thank you very much. We're so glad that you are both safe and together tonight. We appreciate your time.
I want to update everyone on some information that we have just coming in. You just heard the chairman of the Homeland Security, Chairman McCaul, say a person of interest is in custody undergoing question. An update he said he just received in a briefing a few moments ago.
And to add to that, our Deb Feyerick is now reporting that police are searching for a Penske truck that tried too gain access to the marathon route before the blast but was turned away.
In addition, in terms of what sort of an explosion this was, you heard so many questions about were there ball bearings involved or nails or things that were designed to propel outward and injure as many people as possible? What Deb is reporting is that doctors are pulling ball bearings out of people in the emergency room. So, yes, there were ball bearings suggesting, of course, that the bombs were designed propel shrapnel as far as possible.
At least right now, 10 amputations, seven multi-system trauma wounds and many leg devices which according to experts who are telling Deb suggest the device was low to the ground.
The total injury count has gone up in just the past few moments from 110 to 132.
When we come back, we're going to have an update on the victims, what they're going through tonight and their chances for survival.
Our coverage continues after this.
BURNETT: All right. Welcome back to OUTFRONT.
We are following the breaking news tonight of the terror attack in Boston and here is what we know right now. Two people are dead. One of those victims we can tell you is an 8-year-old boy.
The number of injured people has been increased. It is now at least 132, and that number is fluid. Earlier this hour, it was 110. We are still very much figuring out what happened and how many people are injured.
The two deadly explosions went off shortly before 3:00, right near the finish line of the Boston marathon. The Boston globe captured the scene on Boylston Street with the audio of the surprise. You hear the overhead voice announcing people crossing the line, and then all of a sudden -- you hear that.
Runners were knocked off their feet. Thousands of spectators were sent scrambling for safety, some thrown against the office building walls, others against the retaining wall that was there.
Police have not yet identified a suspect, but Michael McCaul, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, just told us that authorities are questioning a person of interest, something he said was just confirmed to him in an intelligence briefing a few moments ago.
We're going to bring you the latest as we have it. As you can tell, the situation is still developing very quickly.
I want to bring in our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, though, now.
Sanjay, you know, just before we took a brief commercial, we were sharing Deb Feyerick's reporting. She was talking about a lot of the injuries being on the lower part of the leg which indicated a bomb that was close to the ground, 10 amputations, seven multi-system trauma wounds.
What can you tell us about the kinds of injuries that these people are suffering from tonight?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, those are obviously very important details and we're hearing that at least three different hospitals have now had to perform amputations, just following up on Deb's reporting there. So this all sort of fits with the type of explosion that was seen there.
Typically, Erin, you have first a primary blast and that's the blast from the bomb itself -- and as you watch those runners and people around the area, you get an idea of the significance of that blast. But it's worth pointing out as you watch that video closely that you do see people who are pretty close to where this blast seemed to have originated who do run out of that area shortly thereafter. So it seems to have been contained or at least gone into a particular direction at least a little bit. The secondary blast is usually from shrapnel. It either can be from shrapnel, debris that's been lying around or from the bomb itself. And, Erin, I think you just talked about the fact that E.R. doctors are now pulling ball bearings out of people's legs in the E.R. and that would suggest that the shrapnel, a lot of it came from the bomb itself and was designed to come that way.
So you have 132 that are in hospitals. My guess is there may be even more people who are injured, not requiring hospitalization. Seventeen of those who are in the hospitals right now are in critical condition, Erin, and that means they are quite literally fighting for their lives with the doctors' and nurses' help, in the ICU, likely on breathing machines, possibly getting some of these operations that we're talking about.
One more thing, Erin, I'll point out, if you look at that video again, you look in between, it's between these two buildings, almost like a cavernous type thing. As a result, you might have concussive injuries to people's heads like you would on a battlefield. They may not recognize those injuries yet, but they may have headaches, persistent ringing in the ears, blown out eardrums and again those people may not be in hospitals but they may have been affected by this, Erin.
BURNETT: And, Sanjay, when you talk about the amputations that are now happening, and some of those people obviously fighting for their lives, how do doctors make that decision to go ahead and say in this case that you have to do an amputation?
GUPTA: It's a tough, sometimes heartbreaking decision, but oftentimes, it is very medically driven and basically, if there's really no likelihood the limb can be salvaged, not only do you decide to perform an amputation, you decide to perform that amputation early, meaning this isn't typically something you wait and see, Erin, because the problem is that if an infection occurs and gangrene can occur, that can affect other parts of the body quite readily. So it's an operation that oftentimes, the decision is made quickly and it's a pretty obvious one when doctors see that. Again, I'll tell you, we don't see a lot of these type of injuries in the civilian setting in the United States. Lot of these doctors and especially the professors at these trauma centers are trained on the battlefield. That's where they saw lots of these injuries and that's where they get their medical triage decision- making but it's tough and heartbreaking.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Sanjay, thank you.
GUPTA: Thank you.
BURNETT: Giving us a feel for the fact that so many people are fighting for their lives, 17 in critical condition right now who are literally fighting to survive.
I want to bring John King in, our chief national correspondent, who is from Boston. John, you're learning more about the devices being found, the key question.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And, Erin, let me give you the latest from the law enforcement perspective on that point. Number one, the caution being publicly issued by law enforcement agencies, just a statement released by the FBI in Boston which says the situation remains fluid and remains too early to establish the cause and motivation. Note that, the cause and motivation.
And yet we have been getting from our sources, you just mentioned from Deb Feyerick, more from Sanjay there, about the explosive devices. Let me go through my latest information from a number of statements. And city law enforcement officials and government officials in Massachusetts.
One, as you noted a bit earlier, law enforcement source confirms to us that an 8-year-old boy was among those killed today. Two killed so far. We know that. That is confirmed. Two killed.
As you know, the number of injuries now rising well above 100 -- 130 or so -- as we continue to get the latest information. You heard Chairman McCaul told you just a few moments ago, they knew of one person of interest who is being questioned. I'm told by sources there have been several, quote, "persons of interest" but this source cautioned against over-reading this, saying it's a routine investigative tactic, somebody comes to the hospital with certain type of burns, somebody is seen in a situation near a security barrier, they might be questioned.
As of just a few moments ago, Erin, I was told, yes, several persons of interest have been questioned but no suspect officially as of about 7:15 tonight here in the East, anyway. This source, one of them confirmed the upgraded security screenings at Boston Logan Airport and other airports in the region, as well and said this was part of a routine ratcheting up of the investigation, a precautionary step asked for by the FBI in conjunction with state and local police in that area. It's interesting, both sources, this is a city official and state official, used the word "crude" to describe the bombs and said they already have not only the public video we have seen but some of the preliminary video. There are so many video cameras in that area because of the commerce, because of pedestrian traffic, because of tourism traffic. Some have already been reviewed.
They call them relatively crude devices of modest power. But as Deb Feyerick noted, you were just discussing with, Sanjay, a little comfort to those obviously in close proximity. Again, these sources both confirming what you have been talking about. Many of the injuries, leg injuries, meaning low to the bomb and ball bearings involved. So, to those closest in, the fact these were not strong enough bombs to damage people many feet away, little comfort to those struck in close proximity to those devices, Erin.
BURNETT: That is true. All right. Well, John King, thank you very much.
And reporting as you heard that several people have been taken in for questioning. At this point, though, no one at the level of what we would call a quote-unquote, "suspect". So still, no knowledge of who did it, no knowledge of the motivation and no knowledge as to whether that person or people was from the United States or from outside of this country.
We'll be back live at 11:00 Eastern Standard Time. But our team coverage continues now with Anderson Cooper in Boston -- Anderson.