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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

From A Boxer To A Terror Suspect; Boston Bombings: Big Brother Was Watching

Aired April 22, 2013 - 16:30   ET

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


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Like, say, you were searching back in time digging carefully layer by layer, slow methodical work. Some have said, well, what about reports of sloppy recordkeeping at that facility? Investigators say yes, they'll look at that, but right now they're focused on the evidence that could perish, anything washed away, rain, elements, things like that. They want to get that stuff first.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Martin, we understand the blast did extensive damage to the city's infrastructure. Tell us about that.

SAVIDGE: Right, it did. I mean, we've all heard that about 50, 75 buildings were severely damaged. But much of the town has suffered in other ways. It triggered that kind of earthquake and underground, apparently, there has been a lot of damage done to the infrastructure, especially the water system.

There are a number of homes, perhaps several hundred that are suffering without water or limited water. The entire city is under a boil order, and they say that's going to be a problem for a long time to come. Even here at city hall, there is no water, and there are Port-A-Pottys set up all over this community.

TAPPER: Martin, I wonder if there are people in Texas who are concerned with the fact that so much of the attention of the media has been focused here on Boston because of the terrorist attacks when actually there was much more loss of life in West, Texas. Are people upset about that, or are they just focused on recovering and they couldn't care less about media?

SAVIDGE: Well, they're not focused so much on measuring or comparing death tolls, but they have actually noticed what's been going on in Boston. There has been an empathy in this community. They're focused on their tragedy, but they realize their city went kind of through the same thing. Not the same way.

There were periods here of extreme fear. There were periods here of terror, and of course now, there are periods, just heading into it, for mourning. And the same thing was true in Boston. They realize whether it was a small town in Texas or a big city on the Eastern Seaboard, they kind of went through a terrible week, and in many ways they do feel a connection, if it's an emotional one.

TAPPER: Interesting. Thank you, Marty Savidge. Appreciate it. Another big story we're keeping an eye on on during this hour. Make sure your phone has a full charge. Those deep federal spending cuts, the furloughed air traffic controllers have now kicked in. And while most airports are not reporting problems, some major hubs including LAX, where three fewer air traffic controllers were on the schedule, reported delays of up to three hours because of staffing issues. The FAA says with fewer eyeballs, controllers will space plans farther apart so they can better manage traffic. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper live in Boston.

Despite word that the surviving bombing suspect is on a breathing ventilator and heavily sedated, he has been charged. A federal magistrate judge visited his hospital room earlier today. He's looking at one count of using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction in the U.S. and in causing death. And also one count of malicious destruction of property by using an explosive device resulting in death. If convicted, it could - could mean the death penalty.

The White House also says he will not be tried as an enemy combatant. He's listed in serious but stable condition at a local Boston hospital, but that has not stopped authorities from charging him and pressing him for answers. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: A bullet wound in his neck. Sources say that's what's keeping Dzhokhar Tsarnaev from voicing what could possibly have been going through his mind one week ago when he and his brother allegedly bombed the Boston Marathon.

But we do know he's regained at least some consciousness. Sources tell CNN that investigators have been questioning him since yesterday, and that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is communicating, responding to questions about public safety by nodding his head. Though it's not clear what he has told authorities.

MARTHA COAKLEY, MASSACHUSETTS ATTORNEY GENERAL: People are focused on what he may be able to say, but there's also a lot of work going on by the federal authorities, and I'm sure what he is saying, if he is saying anything, is important. But it's not the only piece of the investigation.

TAPPER: We're also not yet sure about how he received his wound. It could have been in Friday night's final shootout with police. Thermal imaging showing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev cowering in a trailered boat in a Watertown backyard. After 25 minutes of negotiating, police moved in and took him alive.

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We have a million questions, and those questions need to be answered. TAPPER: Or Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could have been shot earlier in the violent showdown that police say he and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev had with officers early Friday morning in Watertown. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev may have even killed his older brother by running over him in his haste to escape the scene.

ED DAVIS, BOSTON POLICE COMMISSIONER: My understanding is his brother was run over, and the other brother was driving the car when that happened. I don't know what the cause of death was, and we won't know that until the medical examiner rules.

TAPPER: The brothers also allegedly shot and killed MIT officer Sean Collier. They're said to have been armed with handguns, at least one rifle and several explosives. Police now say neither brother was licensed to carry a gun in Massachusetts.

ROBERT HAAS, CAMBRIDGE PD COMMISSIONER: Neither one had a license. The younger brother by virtue of his age wouldn't be eligible to get a license and we have no record of them ever applying.

TAPPER: The Tsarnaevs threw explosives at officers, police say, and had in their possession another pressure cooker bomb, like the ones believed to have been used in the terrorist attacks on the marathon. Leading investigators to believe they were planning even more carnage.

DAVIS: I believe that the only reason that someone would have those in their possession would be to further attack people and cause more death and destruction.

TAPPER: But the two would never get their chance to stage another terrorist attack. Twenty-six-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, lying dead, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in custody, facing the prospect of the death penalty. And the people of Boston reclaiming their city.

STEPHANIE RILEY, MARATHON RUNNER: Now just about trying to move on and put the pieces together and get ready for next year.

TAPPER: Today many people in Boston went back to work for the first time since Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's capture and since the manhunt that paralyzed the city. Hundreds lined up to say good-bye this morning at funeral services for Krystle Campbell, one of the three people killed in the terrorist attacks. Later this evening, a memorial is planned for Lingzi Lu, the Boston University graduate student from China, also killed one week ago today.

But life is moving forward here again. Mayor Thomas Menino announced a plan to reopen Copley Square, the site of the bombings. And today, city buses flashed the unofficial slogan that has emerged from this nightmare -- Boston Strong.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: As investigators attempt to pull critical information from the surviving bomb suspect, some members of the FBI could be in for a grilling of their own. Senator Dianne Feinstein says FBI officials may be called in to testify before a special intelligence committee hearing as early as tomorrow. Lawmakers want to know why the FBI didn't keep an eye on the older suspect despite warnings from the Russian government as far back as 2011. The FBI got a tip then from Russia that Tamerlan was a follower of a radical Islamic group, and they questioned him that year. They interviewed him, but found, quote, "no signs of terrorism activity," unquote.

But his social media history shows otherwise. Daniel Benjamin is a former coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department. Daniel, thanks for joining us. One of the group's investigators say Tamerlan may -- may, have had an interest in the Caucasus Emirates CE. What can you tell us about this group?

DANIEL BENJAMIN, FORMER COUNTERTERRROISM COORDINATOR AT STATE DEPT: From the primary radical Chechen terrorist group since about 2007/2008. it's led by a man named Doku Marev (ph). It's been responsible for an enormous number of bombings and killings in Russia. It was designated under executive order 12334 when I was coordinator as a terrorist group, which means that we were eager to help the Russians go after its financing.

But, other than some harsh rhetoric, we have not seen it target the United States in the past. And frankly, I would be surprised if they were widening their aperture to go after the U.S. right now.

TAPPER: A common thread, Dan, that we've seen over the last decade is attacks or attempt at attacks being carried out by individuals who have recently moved to this country, taking out their frustrations on their adoptive countries. For example, the attempted Times Square bomber.

What kind of challenge do these type of terrorists present to counterterrorism officials as opposed to more traditional al Qaeda- type terrorists?

BENJAMIN: Well, not just in this country. You'll recall that in France just a couple of years ago, a man named Mohammed Marah killed a lot of people in and around Tulouse. There was also a case in Holland in 2004 where he killed a famous artist.

These are very, very difficult cases because if they're not maintaining connections with terrorist groups in other countries, then there are not a lot of leads to go on. Sometimes these people will say things that will get reported by members of their community or others, or they'll do postings that may cause some attention. But they're very, very hard to find, much like lone wolves in general. So, this is one of the real challenges that counterterrorism officials face today, especially in law enforcement.

TAPPER: And, Dan, the U.S. has historically -- the U.S. government -- not always been willing to buy the Russian line that Chechnya is a breeding ground for extremists. U.S. officials think they're just trying to drag us into their war. Do you think it's possible that that skepticism may have played a role in how the warning about Tamerlan was handled? He was interviewed in 2011, but it wasn't followed up in 2012. BENJAMIN: Well, we know that Chechnya is a breeding ground for extremists, but it's mostly been extremists who were targeting Russians. And I think that one of the issues here is the sort of historic relationship between the FSB, that's the successor of the KGB, and the FBI.

So, the FSB may give us a tip but doesn't give us much to go on. And I understand in this case that we did actually follow up with several inquiries to them asking for more information about this case. And this is not an unusual sequence of events. We have, overall, a pretty good relationship with the Russians on counterterrorism, certainly compared to our relationship on a number of other issues. But when you're dealing with these old Cold War foes, sometimes the relationships can be frosty. There's a lot of concern about what they're up to, what are the sources and methods, what are they trying to draw out of us.

So, often the exchange is not nearly as fruitful as it would be, say, between the United States and some of its Western European partners or other friendly countries around the world. So, I'm sure there will be an investigation of some kind. There will be questions to be answered. But it is not unusual to have this kind of exchange kind of come to a dead end with the Russians.

TAPPER: All right, Daniel Benjamin, thank you so much. We'll have you on again soon.

An animal in the ring. That's how one of the sources describes the terror suspect. We'll take you to the gym where he used to train. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Before he was a terror suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a monster in the boxing ring.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER (voice-over): The world knew of his brutality, the boxing community here in Boston took note of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. He fought in bouts all will over town and tournaments around the country, even competing in the 2009 Golden Gloves championships.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev told one interviewer he aspired to box on the U.S. Olympic team, but that dream stalled after his petition for citizenship was denied.

(on camera): This is the mixed martial arts gymnasium in Austin, Massachusetts, where Tamerlan Tsarnaev used to work out. He was said to not have a lot of respect for trainers at other gyms because their language was foul, they weren't supposed to be clean.

He would work out here a lot. He was regarded as one of if not the best boxer here, though his nose was broken a few years ago here. He disappeared for some time, but then reappeared a few weeks ago. He was walking around acting as if he owned the place, was asked to leave because he was being disrespectful to other people working out at the gym. In fact, just a few days ago, law enforcement came by and took the surveillance equipment from this gym in part of their investigation.

(voice-over): One fellow boxer with whom we spoke told us Tsarnaev struck an intimidating figure in the gym, calling him a premier athlete with a reputation as a beast, an animal in the ring. Trainer Eddie Bishop traveled with Tsarnaev to a national competition.

(on camera): You said you thought he was eccentric from the very moment you met him.

EDDIE BISHOP, BISHOP'S TRAINING AND FITNESS: Yes. He came into the fight and he had cowboy boots on and leather pants, and he had a special hat, funny hat.

TAPPER (voice-over): Bishop says Tsarnaev was strong, but not tenacious.

BISHOP: He had a really big punch. He knocked a lot of people out, but, you know, he lacked that fighter's heart, you know?

TAPPER: What do you mean?

BISHOP: You know, if he couldn't get you out of there, he quit.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Up next, call it Big Brother. Call it the technology that helped catch two terror suspects, but are we really any safer in a world where our every move is on camera? That's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: The Boston terrorism investigation reminds us big brother is watching. Surveillance cameras gave law enforcement some of their best clues in identifying the men they say were behind the attacks.

And while, of course, we're grateful that the suspects were found, the issue raises serious questions about privacy. Slate columnist, Farhad Manjoo, says, if anything, big cities need even more surveillance cameras because the benefits outweigh the risk.

He joins us now live from Los Angeles. Farhad, you argue cameras should be installed everywhere, but let's be honest. Cameras, they can't catch everything.

FARHAD MANJOO, SLATE COLUMNIST: Yes, they can't catch everything, but after something goes down, they're a really good way to figure out what happened, and they can also -- there's lots of evidence suggesting they can also prevent crime before it happens. We've seen this happen in a few major cities in a test in Baltimore that the police installed cameras everywhere, and they noticed that violent crime went down by a huge percentage. They've noticed this in places in Chicago.

So beyond terrorism, there's evidence that these cameras work to, you know, not only catch criminals but to prevent crime from happening in the first place.

TAPPER: But how do these cameras -- how can you work around serious civil liberties concerns about being watched at all time by government?

MANJOO: Yes. I mean, the first thing I'd say is that it's sort of too late in our society to go to a point where we aren't watched at all times. We already are watched not only by our government, but mostly by our fellow citizens with cell phone cameras and more.

If you're outside, you'll be on camera, maybe not the government's camera. It might be your friends' and neighbors' cameras. But we can have sensible rules about this stuff. We can have rules that say, you know, the government can't give you a ticket if you notice you jaywalking or you know, doing some other minor infraction.

But if you do something big, that there will be lots of people watching in a public place and they may notice you doing something really terrible and stop you before it happens.

TAPPER: All right, Farhad Manjoo, it's an issue we're going to talk about in the days to come. Thank you so much.

It was supposed to be the site of a celebration, but instead Boston's Boylston Street became a crime scene. But now the FBI is about to hand it back over to the city of Boston. We'll bring you that live when it happens, just a few minutes from now. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Now I'll leave you in the able hands of my colleague Wolf Blitzer. Wolf, big moment about to happen right now.