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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Boston Marathon Terror Attack; Interview with Congressman Michael McCaul of Texas, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee; Looking For Suspects & Motive

Aired April 16, 2013 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everyone. I'm John Berman.

This morning, the names and faces of the victims in the Boston bombings, they are starting to come to light, including this one. This little boy, Martin Richard, killed in the attack while he was returning from giving his father a hug at the finish line. He there was to hug his father. His mother there also, she was hurt. His sister was there also, she lost her leg. Such an awful story.

Overnight, police searching an apartment in Revere, Massachusetts, in connections with the bombings. A search took place by the consent of the owner. That's interesting. We're going to follow that all morning.

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BERMAN: Good morning. Welcome back to the special edition of STARTING POINT. I'm John Berman. I am live in Boston. I'm on Commonwealth Ave about two blocks from where the bombings took place, at the finish line of the Boston marathon.

We have live team coverage of the investigation into these twin bombings. It really unfolding all around us as the investigation continues. It really shifts into hyper high gear.

Overnight, federal, state, local agencies turned to an apartment in Revere in Massachusetts upside down, searching for clues. That's about five miles from here. They left with bags of evidence, but no word on any arrests.

Other news, we learned that three people were killed in these terror attacks, 144 people wounded and as we told you, one of the youngest victims identified as 8-year-old Martin Richard, according to "The Boston Globe", that is the boy's sister, we told you, lost her leg. His mother suffered a brain injury.

That is just one of the families suffering this morning. The community of Dorchester where they are from, rallying around them.

The two explosions yesterday, they happened within seconds of each other. This is what it looked like, this is what it sounded like. (VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)

I have seen it again and again and I still can't believe it. You can bet the people who witnessed the carnage couldn't believe their eyes either.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF CURTIS, WITNESS: They were banged up. Severe lacerations, amputees. A lot of shrapnel. Pretty big explosions. A lot of blood everywhere.

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BERMAN: President Obama was briefed overnight on the investigation by his homeland security, and counterterrorism teams. He'll get another briefing later this morning.

Meantime, no real sign of rush hour here in downtown Boston. The streets are getting a little busier as the day goes. The normally bustling area of the city, on Boylston Street, where the attacks took place, completely shut down this morning as the investigation continues.

And that is no small thing. That is where Boston Public Library is. It is where Copley Place is. It is an entrance to the Prudential Center there. A lot of activity goes on there.

Overnight and this morning, there have been lots of police activity right here. We've seen trucks going by. And nearby, in Revere, Massachusetts, that's about five miles north of Boston, officers were busy for hours, searching an apartment there, doing it with consent. That is crucial. That means they did not mean a warrant. Still, it looks like they left with some evidence.

Our Pamela Brown, CNN's Pamela Brown is live in Revere, continuing our team coverage. And, Pamela, what's happening there right now?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we are learning some new information this morning. According to CNN producer Carol Crowley (ph), the resident inside that lives in the apartment that authorities searched yesterday starting at 5:00 p.m., as a young Saudi here on a student visa. That Saudi resident is being questioned right now, but last official word is that nothing was found inside the apartment that was searched connected to yesterday's explosions.

Now, officials were here at the fifth floor apartment, starting around 5:00 yesterday afternoon for around eight hours, they were seen taking out boxes from that apartment. According to CNN's Susan Candiotti, the residents of that apartment gave authorities consent to conduct the search. In other words, a search warrant was not executed.

At this point, we are told that no arrests, no one is in custody. Of course, we will keep you posted on any developments -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Pamela Brown in Revere, Massachusetts. Sort of a working class town about five miles north of Boston, where that search took place overnight. And, again, Pamela had the key piece of information. It was with the consent of the owner of the apartment.

Being here in Boston on the streets, it feels like there is so much going on with this investigation. We've seen National Guard convoys pass us on this busy street. We've seen SWAT teams go by and we've seen convoys of motorcycles and buses carrying law enforcement personnel. That's the investigation on the ground here.

The wheels are also turning in Washington, in our nation's capital. The entire security apparatus looking into this.

Our national correspondent Susan Candiotti is with us, of the latest on the investigation. Good morning, Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. You know, federal law enforcement sources, officials, are telling us no one is drawing any conclusion yet as to whether this was a domestic led by a homegrown terrorist, either a single individual or some group, or whether there could be a foreign nexus to this.

Certainly, investigators have a full plate. They are looking at, for example, surveillance videos from hotels and surrounding buildings around the blast site. They are looking at stills and other video taken by regular people, bystanders. And, of course, they are looking at all kinds of evidence to determine exactly what happened.

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CANDIOTTI (voice-over): The FBI is taking the lead in the investigation.

RICK DESLAURIERS, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: It will do so through the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force. This will be a combined federal, state and local effort. It will be an ongoing investigation, it is a criminal investigation that is -- has the potential -- is a potential terrorist investigation.

CANDIOTTI: And they are asking the public for help.

DESLAURIERS: Anybody who has any information pertaining to this crime to call.

CANDIOTTI: So far no, firm suspects in the bombings, but law enforcements say they have a number of active leads.

They have issued a Be on the Lookout bulletin for someone described as a darker skinned or black male with a black backpack and black sweatshirt. He could be a foreign national with an accent. Sources say he tried to gain access to a restricted area before the blast.

Police are also looking for a Penske truck that tried to gain access to a restricted area. A federal law enforcement official told CNN that both bombs were small. Initial tests showed no C-4 or other high-grade explosive material, suggesting packages used in the attack were crude devices. Still -- BOB BAER, FORMER CIA OFFICER: The fact that two bombs were used there, is a certain level of sophistication. Having made these bombs before, it's not easy. You can't just get it on the Internet, make two of these bombs go off fairly closely together. So, somebody had some experience, somebody practiced.

CANDIOTTI: Sources tell CNN that one, possibly two unexploded devices also were found, potential treasure troves of clues about who may have made the bombs.

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CANDIOTTI: And other sources tell us that at least one of those bombs, you saw the smoke from it, light colored because of powder. They are discovering made up one of the -- at least one those devices.

So, they're going to be picking these devices apart, particularly these bombs, looking for signatures in terms of how they were made, and what kind of components were involved, where those components might have come from to help determine who made them. How sophisticated they were. Apparently not very. But certainly, John, very, very deadly.

BERMAN: They certainly were. And they were a number of them. The two that went off, and apparently unexploded bombs on the scene that investigators are looking at.

Susan Candiotti, our thanks to you this morning.

CANDIOTTI: You're welcome.

BERMAN: We want to bring in Congressman Mike McCaul from Texas. He is the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

We're also going to be joined by Fran Townsend, CNN national security analyst and former assistant to President George W. Bush for homeland security and counterterrorism.

Also here with me in Boston, CNN analyst Juliette Kayyem, former assistant secretary of a homeland security, and also homeland security official right here in Boston.

I want to start with you, Congressman. As chair of the homeland security committee, this is a homeland security incident. I want to know what you are hearing this morning.

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL, (R-TX) CHAIRMAN, HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: Well, first, my heart goes out to the victims and families. Just a tragic event yesterday.

From early on, I called this an act of terrorism. I was a federal prosecutor that worked counterterrorism. The way this was perpetrated, multiple bombs going on simultaneously, mass casualties, spectacular event, fits all of the indicators of the terrorist attack.

And we do know there was a person of interest, in one of the hospitals. As you mentioned, a search warrant executed. Not sure what has come out of that, but I know that between surveillance videos out at the scene and the idea that was mentioned to reverse engineer these bombs to find the signature threads to be able to tie it back to the perpetrate and the motivation.

But at this time, while it is an act of terrorism, we just don't known it's foreign or domestic attack.

BERMAN: Congressman, I should say, we do know that search in Revere, about five miles north of Boston, we know it was done with consent. Meaning that no warrant was necessary. But as you said right now, one of the key questions were facing, we don't know, was it domestic, was it foreign? The source of the terror.

I want to ask Fran Townsend, who has vast experience analyzing this type of situation, what type of clue do you look for to indicate that it might be domestic versus foreign?

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: You know, John, it's really hard, because oftentimes these things look similar in the early investigative stages. So, the congressman is quite right. Multiple, near simultaneous explosions, a big high profile event is something that investigators do typically associate with a foreign terrorist attack.

We've seen it many times over the last decade. But we have to remember, there are also events like the Oklahoma City bombing and sort of we've seen an attack at the Holocaust Museum. We've seen an attempt in Times Square. We've seen the attempted subway plot using back pack bombs, also small improvised explosive devices. That was disrupted by the NYPD.

So, you know, they come in both categories, John, and as I say, they look similar. So, I think both investigators and the administration is really careful and correctly so, not to point in one direction or the other until the facts take them there.

BERMAN: Because there was a legal differentiation to be made there.

I'm joined here shivering on the streets of Boston, with Juliette Kayyem, who really brought us an interesting piece of returning about what's going in the airport right now.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: A couple of things, interesting but smart and is sort of eyewitness, trying to find out who was an eyewitness, because you may not know you are an eyewitness. So a lot of questioning going on at Amtrak and now at Logan, of people leaving, because everyone there taking pictures.

You may have seen someone. I still believe that whoever did this was probably on site or close to site at the time that the finish line is sort of more porous than it is normally, have you thousands and thousands of people coming through. There are family members, media everyone. And so, someone may have a picture of that potential perpetrator. I think it would have been very hard to put something there that's 48 hours before. It's not locked down, but it's pretty secure. There was a backpack, someone would have seen it. Problem is, for anyone who has seen a marathon there, there's hundreds and thousands of bags, people are getting their clothes, getting warm.

So, that's just smart police work, smart FBI work, and we'll see where it leads.

And just picking up on what Fran and the congressman said, it's smart now not to make conclusions, because if you lead in one direction, it means the real perpetrator has time to leave, has time to get out of the investigation, investigator's sight. Not just we want people to remain calm which we do. It's also because it may lead us in a way that detracts from where we really need to go.

BERMAN: Congressman, I want to ask you the final question right now, there was no warning sign. They pick up no sense that it was any kind of imminent threat to this from either a domestic or foreign source right now.

I want you to give me a sense of what probably is going on around the world in terms of this investigation, maybe going back and reanalyzing intelligence that came back in over the previous week.

MCCAUL: Well, I think you make excellent point and as Fran knows in the case as well. We have stopped many of the terrorist plots and attempts from the past through good intelligence. In this case, we really didn't have any. There wasn't a whole lot of chatter. So, we don't know if this is the lone wolf type plot or not.

But the fact is, there wasn't a lot of advance notice. There wasn't any and really not any chatter or intelligence to act upon. And that's usually our best effective tool to preventing these types of acts from taking place.

It's very hard to secure an opening gathering like this, whether it'd be marathon, and football stadium, a shopping mall, if you don't have good intelligence beforehand.

So, I think D.C. and New York, are all in their heightened state of alerts right now and I do think our European counterparts, there's a lot of discussion going on in the event this is a foreign terrorist plot to coordinate with it.

If I could just add one last thing, I talked to the White House yesterday. This was one of those moments that really transcends politics. I told them this is not a Republican or Democrat issue. We're all Americans today standing against terrorism.

BERMAN: You know what? And I think we all thank you for that, sir. Chairman Mike McCaul, homeland security, a Republican. But you know what, that doesn't matter today. Our thanks to you. We're also joined by Fran Townsend. Thank you so much and Juliette Kayyem. Thanks for being with us here all morning. I really appreciate it. Ahead on STARTING POINT, we're going to talk about recovery. How will this great, wonderful city we begin the recovery process? Next, I'm going to talk to a local, Congressman Barney Frank. He represented parts of Boston right on the marathon route.

You are watching a special edition of STARTING POINT, covering the Boston bombings. Our team coverage continues.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I made the turn, it was like the first pop. Boom! And then another one. Boom! And then another one, boom. It's like one after the other. It was just one big cloud of smoke. White smoke and then the other one, one after the other to the other.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was just crazy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone, to this special edition of STARTING POINT live from Boston as we continue to cover the bombings here at the marathon. After surveying area hospitals, we just learned now there were 152 people injured in these terror attacks. That is an increase. That is up from 144. We are now saying 152 people hurt in these awful attacks, these twin bombings, at the conclusion of the Boston marathon yesterday.

I'm joined now by former congressman, Barney Frank. He was a congressman from Massachusetts, part of his district right on the marathon route. He joins me by phone right now. And congressman, you know, we're both Massachusetts natives. I supposed you, like so many of us right now, our hearts go out to everyone involved in these attacks.

VOICE OF BARNEY FRANK, (D) FORMER MASSACHUSETTS CONGRESSMAN: Absolutely. The swings from so much fun, so much enjoyment, so much pride to the horror of death to the people you love and severe injuries, it is just the worst possible (INAUDIBLE). It's such an emotional shock. You know, bad enough if someone you love is dying. You get a chance to prepare. But this swing from everything wonderful to the worst possible situation is just devastating.

BERMAN: We are talking about recovery here all morning, as this city, as this state tries to bounce back from this. And someone brought up an interesting point that, in some ways, the recovery is based on the response. The response yesterday was so remarkable. They stopped the marathon midpoint and calmly moved some 5,000 people from the racecourse.

There were moments of chaos right there, but they were able to clear the scene fairly well. What are your impressions of the response here in Boston, so far? FRANK: I'm glad you raised that because it gives me a chance to make a point -- this terrible situation, let's be very grateful that we had a well-funded, functioning government. It is very fashionable in America has been for some time to criticize government, belittle public employees, talk about what people think is their assessment of health care. Here, we saw government in two ways perform very well.

First of all, the government in charge moved efficiently and rapidly and bravely. Secondly, it has been seamless cooperation that you've shown on the program. You don't know when it's state, when it's federal, and when it's the city. The police commissioner on the screen, the head of the FBI in Boston, and the governor and also goes to the recovery. Again, I never was as a member of Congress one of the cheerleaders for less government, lower taxes.

No tax cut would have helped us deal with this or will help us recover. This is very expensive. You have adequately described thousands and thousands of people, examining every parts of questioning people, checking things, providing the medical care. We're not asking people, look, do you have private health insurance or not? Can you afford this or not? Maybe the government will have to pay for it.

And this is an example of why we need -- if we want to be a civilized people, to put some of our resources into a common pool so we are able to deal with this, and to deal with it, you can't simply be responsive once it happens. There has to be in place experts, experts in detection, experts in public health. So, on the hole, I would say this is a terrible day for our society, but a day when I hope people understand the centrality of having a government in place with the resources.

And you know, for Boston -- at a time like this, no one thinks about saving pennies, but going forward, I hope people aren't going to think, oh, OK, well, you spent these tens and tens of millions of dollars, which is probably a low estimate. Let's just take that out of everything we have going forward. This is an example of why we need to provide the resources for our common good.

BERMAN: Congressman Barney Frank, thank you so much for being with us this morning. He does bring up the point. Politics put aside today, we have heard from both Democrats and Republicans talking about how we all have to come together in this investigation, in this recovery effort of right now. And, again, congressman also brings up a very good point. Now, the scales of recovery, immense.

Doctors telling us they have never seen this number of injuries of this type all at once. Some 152 people now we know recovering from injuries, also the skill of the investigation, immense. Happening on the streets of Boston on Boylston Street, a little while -- a little ways behind me, all the way up to Revere, about five miles north of Boston. The investigation continuing at this very second.

So, ahead on this special edition of STARTING POINT, we will be talking with one of the runners who crossed the finish line just minutes before the bomb blast went off. We're going to hear that story.

You're watching STARTING POINT.

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BERMAN: Welcome back to this special edition of STARTING POINT. I'm John Berman live in Boston this morning. Tom Beusse is the president of "USA Today" sports media group. He was running the Boston marathon yesterday and finished about three minutes, three minutes, before those bomb blast.

You estimate about you're, what, about 150 yards away right now. You saw the smoke. You saw the devastation. He joins us right now. Just give me a sense of what you saw and what it was like?

TOM BEUSSE, BOSTON MARATHON RUNNER: It was crazy. I just came through the finish line as you said and all of us were sort of meandering through these corals that they bring in through while you go get your medal. And you know, runners are a little dazed after the race, and we were all kind of just meandering along, and the next thing you know, these explosions took place.

And, everybody sort of panicked. You know, everybody immediately there was a problem. The smoke rose immediately above the building. It rose so quickly. It was clear that it was a big explosion. The sound itself sort of rumbled the ground, and then the Boston police took over. I mean, it was immediate. The Boston police just gathered everybody, took us immediately through the coral, called it a crime scene, and got us out of harm's way.

BERMAN: You bring up such a good point. You know, when you finish a marathon, you're not in the clearest state of mind necessarily. Your mind is not always working in the best sort of way. And after an event like this, when bombs go off, there can be so much confusion. Did you feel like you had the guidance you needed to get where you needed to get to safely?

BEUSSE: Yes. I mean, the first responders are great. I don't know. You see on the video now, all these guys jumping over fences trying to help out. People activated immediately, whether they were volunteers or for the Boston police.

BERMAN: And you knew. I mean, those things went off. You knew something was wrong.

BEUSSE: Yes, immediately. I mean, from 150 yards, I just spun around as everybody did, and it was -- it was tragic immediately. Everybody started wondering, you know, what is this? and then when the second one happened, it was very 9/11ish, you know?

BERMAN: Can I ask this? You know, it's not the most important thing, because the race doesn't matter at this point when there are lives lost, when there's this investigation going under way, but put yourself in the position of the runners who are still on the course right now. What it must have been like for them, to be at mile 22 or 23and told the race is over? BEUSSE: I think, remarkably disappointing. You know, a lot of these people are from around the globe. People fly in for this race. It's very international. people Really gear up for this race in particular, Boston, in a way that's sort of a life event.

So, I think one of the people who ran for the same charity than I did, Family Reach Foundation, was literally half a mile from the finish line and was turned away. And it would have been her first marathon. So, so sad, but in the scope of things, hardly meaningful.

BERMAN: In the scope things, and the important thing is that she's OK, that you're OK. Thank you so much for being with us this morning. Really appreciate it.

BEUSSE: You're welcome. My pleasure.

BERMAN: Ahead on STARTING POINT, we want to talk to Congressman Peter King. He, of course, has so much expertise and intelligence in homeland security. We're going to speak with him. Find out what he has learned overnight.

You're watching a special edition of STARTING POINT live from Boston. We'll be right back.

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