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Boston Suspect, Officials Communicating; Boston Bombings Probe Turns to Russia; UMass-Dartmouth Reopens; Questions Loom Over Russian Brothers

Aired April 22, 2013 - 09:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Holding a moment of silence at 2:50 p.m. Eastern this afternoon. The moment the explosions rocked the world.

NEWSROOM special coverage of the Boston bombings begins right now.

Good morning, I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting live from Boston. We're following all of the latest developments here. Some of the latest developments this Monday morning in Boston. Charges could be filed as soon as today for the surviving suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Officials say evidence recovered suggests, suggests, he and his brother were planning another attack.

Some 55 people remain hospitalized at multiple facilities throughout the Boston area. As families mourn those killed, a funeral will be held this morning for Krystle Campbell and a memorial service is scheduled later tonight for Lingzi Lu.

And following a tense, a tense Friday under lockdown, Bostonians this morning, they're heading back to work, resuming a bit of normality. But the blast site, a stretch of Boylston Street that includes Copley Square near the marathon's finish line, remains closed at least for now. Boston's police commissioner telling CNN the area is expected to remain -- to reopen, I should say, in the next day or two.

Right now let's start with the surviving suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19 years old. He's at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He's in serious but stable condition. He is sedated with a tube down his throat after suffering a gunshot wound to his neck.

And this just coming into CNN, sources now confirming that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is communicating in fact with investigators by writing his answers down. They have been questioning him since yesterday. There is some form of communication between law enforcement and the suspect we believe in writing.

Pamela Brown is outside the hospital for us, she's joining us now.

What's the very latest, first of all, Pam, on Tsarnaev's condition?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest, Wolf, is that he remains here at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in serious condition. He is still in the Intensive Care Unit handcuffed to his bed 24/7 monitoring by law enforcement officers. We are told that he is intubated and sedated with a gunshot wound to the neck. So it appears that he is still pretty out of it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Doctors are telling us, Pam, that Tsarnaev could put something - you know, something -could be getting something that's described as a sedation holiday. Sedation holiday. I know you've been checking with medical personnel over there. What does that mean?

BROWN: Well, Wolf, I've been talking with our medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and she tells me that essentially this means doctors can decrease the sedation for a few minutes to a few hours so that doctors or authorities would be able to communicate with the patient. We've seen this before it in other cases and it appears now that we're hearing from colleagues Gloria Borger and Fran Townsend that he's communicating with investigators, it appears that this sedation holiday has been used.

Typically what happens is that the patient is pretty out of it, but they're able to understand what's being said to them and they're able to communicate through writing. So again it appears that this is what's been happening in this case -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Security obviously very intense over there at the Beth Israel hospital.

Pam, we'll get back to you.

The Boston police commissioner Ed Davis believes the bombing suspects were planning in fact another attack. Davis spoke just a little while ago with John Berman. Listen to this.


COMMISSIONER ED DAVIS, BOSTON POLICE: The two suspects were armed with hand guns at the scene of the shoot-out. And there were multiple explosive devices including a large one that was similar to the pressure cooker device found down on Boylston Street. I saw that with my own eyes. I believe that the only reason that someone would have those in their possession was to further attack people and cause more death and destruction.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CO-ANCHOR: What you can tell me about Transit Officer Richard Donohue? He was shot in that car chase, in the shootout Thursday into Friday morning. We understand he lost a great deal of blood. Do you have any information about how's doing this morning?

DAVIS: Rich Donohue from the Transit Police who, by the way, were incredible partners on this. They were with us every step of the way. He's doing much better. He was able to communicate through hand signals with his family yesterday. And he was in grave condition when he went to the hospital so we're very optimistic at this point in time and our prayers are with him and his family.


BLITZER: Investigators are also still looking for a motive into last Monday's terror attacks here in Boston. We've heard from several people who knew the suspects and we're getting their reaction.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is joining us now from southern Russia, he's in Dagestan.

Nick, you spoke with the suspect's aunt. What did she say?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A number of interesting things. Firstly, that when he came back last year to Dagestan, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older brother, he went twice to Chechnya to visit relatives. But also most importantly she was struck by how he had embraced devoutly the Islamic faith. Here's what she had to say.


WALSH: Is there a connection between this gun fight involving militants and police in Dagestan and one of the Boston bombers? The YouTube page of deceased brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev suggests there might be. He put up a link to a video titled "Abu Dujana, Amir Rabbanikaly." The video was removed, but CNN has now found it and it shows this man.

Abu Dujana is the name used by an Islamist militant, Gadzhimurad Dolgatov. Russian Special Forces hit Dolgatov's hideout last December. An armored car brought in to kill as many as six militants inside including Dolgatov. The grisly aftermath showing their heavy weapons, but also the heavy hand used to kill them.

Four months later, the marks remain of the tit-for-tat violence fueling militancy across this region. Neighbors told us the young man who once lived here seamed peaceful, ordinary, but in the dust lies a question, why did Tsarnaev's YouTube page linked to the militant who died here in a town where Tsarnaev's father lived and that Tamerlan visited just last year?

(On camera): Where inside you can see just how intense the violence must have been against this part. And here could be the clearest link yet between one of the alleged Boston bombers and the violence that's been gripping southern Russia.

(Voice-over): A U.S. intelligence source told CNN that Tsarnaev brothers social media accounts are being examined for possible links to extremists in the Caucasus in case they reveal the darkest secrets of Boston. Why did the bombers do it?


WALSH: Now it doesn't necessarily mean that Tamerlan Tsarnaev and that militant actually met here in Dagestan, but it is obviously interesting that he chose to post a video related to this man just after he'd in fact been here.

We were talking before that report was played about an interview I did earlier with the aunt. Having technical difficulties there. But she was clear talking to me how surprised she was when her nephew, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the elder alleged bomber, came back to Dagestan, how surprised he was at how he had embraced so devoutly the Islamic faith in America.

Let's hear what she had to say.


PATEIMAT SULEIMANOVA, SUSPECTS' AUNT (Through Translator): Strange to me that it was him who adopted Islam, not his father, not his mother, but himself. But it's not so strange nowadays that children study Islam and teach their parents and that's exactly how it turned out with him. They hadn't prayed before they went to America. Nobody taught him. He learned everything himself.

At the same time, we were happy about it because he didn't start doing drugs or alcohol and adopted the path to Islam.


WALSH: Now clearly she paints a picture of a man who is very much devout in his faith, didn't look other women in the eye unless he was related to them, talked also about how during that visit he met to Chechnya twice to meet relatives. Also interesting, though while U.S. officials say he was in Russia between January and July of last year, she only saw him in this part of the world around about March. So a bit of a hole there for what he was doing in Russia. Slowly we're piecing together the little pieces about his time here last year and exactly how this man grew up -- John.

BLITZER: Nick, it's Wolf here in Boston, but a quick follow-up. Do we know for sure that while he was in Dagestan he did make a side trip to Chechnya?

WALSH: That's what she says, twice. Now she points out that is not in itself anything to be suspicious about. The dynamics of this region have changed enormously in the past few years. Actually where I'm standing, Dagestan, now in the minds of many more of a hot bed of militant violence than Chechnya which used to of course be not the case during the decade of intense violence it seemed during those two particular wars.

But people perhaps asking quite what other links he may have had around the region and who he may have seen during his visits here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Nick. Thanks very much. Nick Paton Walsh on the scene for us in Dagestan.

As we wait for the formal charges to be filed against the younger brother, many wonder if the FBI should have been watching Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older brother, more closely.

CNN law enforcement analyst and Former FBI assistant director Tom Fuentes is joining us.

Now I know a lot of us are -- all of us are much smarter with 20/20 hindsight, Tom, and I'm sure there's a full review underway. Did the FBI miss certain indicators when they were tipped off about the older brother from the Russian authorities? What are you hearing?

TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Well, Wolf, what the FBI will be doing is exactly that, they'll go back to examining the original request that was made by the Russian Federation from their FSB to the FBI agents in Moscow, how they worded it, how much knowledge they had, did it look like it was a search for information about his political beliefs or religious beliefs or in fact what the basis of suspicion was that he was involved with the militant group.

They'll look at what they did in response to that request in Boston and other places to try to determine could it be determined on this end that he was in contact with militant groups or other groups here in the U.S. that could be linked to a militant group.

Do the interview with friends, neighbors, colleagues like the media has been doing all week and probably heard the same glowing accounts of what a great kid he was at that time. Now this apparently is before the time that people are now saying he became radicalized. But at that time, you know, people were saying that, you know, great American kid. And the younger brother, as well.

So that's what they'll be looking at, what they were told, what they received, what electronic communications they were able to analyze from him to others. And then -- and send the results back to Russia. And in this case ask Russia for additional information which didn't come apparently. So that's what they're trying to determine exactly all the communications and what was done about it.

BLITZER: And they're also trying to determine, Tom, whether or not these two brothers had any assistance, any training, any assistance in getting the explosives, the weapons, any assistance in getting the money to buy all this equipment. That's noting for to be that easy to find out all the answer, but I know the FBI is working hard on that front, as well, right?

FUENTES: Right. They'll be working on that -- they'll be examining their cell phone and Internet communications here especially in the most recent time as well as continue the interviews of more current classmates and colleagues, neighbors, friends to determine that. But this was not an expensive operation.

This is not spending thousands of dollars to learn how to fly a jetliner. This is a couple hundred dollars probably to buy the pressure cookers or pipes and the black powder and a couple of wires and timers. It's really not that expensive an operation.

The other issue is how much engineering training did the older brother get. He was allegedly an engineering student. In the Toronto 18 case in 2006, a kid takes one course in mechanical engineering at a junior college and he's able to rig up a bomb and then he's got a video of him testing it in his living room where he sets it off with a -- with a telephone and receiver built into the bomb and he explodes it. Very small, you know, goes up in smoke basically. Doesn't burn the apartment building down.

But it shows that somebody with a little bit of aptitude, a little bit of training maybe in college, maybe elsewhere, can do it. They can do -- you know, probably it would take a little bit of training, but if he took the right engineering courses and read the right books, he could get it.

BLITZER: They're also trying to determine where they got the weapons, the guns, the long rifle that local law enforcement said they had as well in the shoot-out. So all these questions obviously under investigation right now.

Tom, thanks very much.

Emotions are still raw at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth where the 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was a student. Some of his friends think he might have been brainwashed by his older brother.

Luis Vasquez knew both the bombing suspects. This is what he said.


LUIS VASQUEZ, KNEW BOTH BOMBING SUSPECTS: He was the follower and somewhere down the line he was brainwashed by somebody who was also probably brainwashed.


BLITZER: CNN's Chris Lawrence has been speaking with the students on the campus.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Dzhokhar's friends tell us not only did he come back here to campus, he talked about the bombing. Calling it both sad and crazy.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): A little more than 24 hours after video cameras captured him at the Boston marathon, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev jumped back into campus life, seemingly unfazed, classmates say, by the terror attacks he's accused of committing.

ZACH BETTENCOURT, UMASS DARTMOUTH STUDENT: I saw him Tuesday the day after at the gym.

LAWRENCE: And Zach Bettencourt says Dzhokhar was acting like he didn't have a care in the world.

BETTENCOURT: He seemed very nonchalant, he didn't seem like -- I mean, like nervous or anything.

LAWRENCE: Dzhokhar worked out for a while and didn't shy away when Zach brought up the bombing.

BETTENCOURT: I was basically like, yes, these things happen in like other countries, you know, maybe Iraq and Afghanistan, something like that. And he was like, yes, tragedies happen like this all the time. And it's sad.

LAWRENCE: Just days before helicopters and SWAT teams descended on UMass Dartmouth, Dzhokhar was seen all over campus.

(On camera): Students have to swipe their I.D. to get entrance to the building and records show Tsarnaev did just that right here on Wednesday.

(Voice-over): Friends saw Dzhokhar walking around his dorm. They say he went to this Italian restaurant on Wednesday hanging out with other intramural soccer players.

BRANDON ALEGI, UMASS DARTMOUTH STUDENT: I think it was a pasta party for the soccer team.

LAWRENCE: And the campus buzz over the bombings didn't seem to bother him.

BETTENCOURT: He was like, yes, tragedies happen. And like these things happen around the world. It's crazy.

LAWRENCE: And to some students, scary.

BRITTANY LETENDRE, BOMBING SUSPECT WENT TO GYM, DORM AND PARTY: I ate where he ate, I slept like a few feet away from him. I've had class where he's had class. Like with a terrorist.


LAWRENCE: Obviously he hasn't been convicted, but that student, she knew him. And would see him off campus at a place students call the Russia House. It was just a home where a lot of the international students would hang out together. In fact a lot of students tell us despite what's been said about the older brother feeling isolated and not having any American friends, they say Dzhokhar was just the opposite, a fully assimilated American college student who they feel was strongly influenced perhaps even brainwashed by his older brother -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Chris Lawrence over at the campus university of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Thanks very much.

Weighing the possible charges against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, we could find out what those charges are as early as today.

A special edition of NEWSROOM. We're live here in Boston. It will continue right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back to our special edition of NEWSROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting live from Boston.

People are returning to work this morning, buses are back in service, the trains are running. And as you look around the city, there is -- there's a reason -- everybody is beginning to get strong. In fact there's this notion of Boston strong. You see the signs all over the place. Just last night, Major League Baseball, the players association, the Boston Red Sox management, they announced they will donate at least $600,000, maybe $700,000, to assist victims and families affected by the bombings at the end of the Boston marathon. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could be charged today for his alleged role in the Boston marathon bombings and actions afterwards. A Justice Department official tells CNN he'll likely face federal terrorism charges, possibly state murder charges, as well.

Our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin is joining us now to give us a little bit of perspective.

Jeff, labeling Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant, what would that mean if that were to happen as several senators, Republican senators, including John McCain, Lindsey Graham, they are suggesting?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that would take him out of the American criminal justice system and put him into some other kind of system. It's not quite clear. A military tribunal, perhaps being sent to Guantanamo. In any case the Obama administration has shown absolutely no interest in that idea and every indication is that he will be tried as a criminal defendant in an American criminal courtroom.

BLITZER: And Lindsey Graham, who himself is a lawyer, a military attorney, has spent 30 years in the U.S. Air Force, he insists he wants Tsarnaev to be tried in American civilian court, but that doesn't preclude at least for now naming him an enemy combatant to try to question him to see if there are other bombs out there, other individuals who may be involved. Sort of this imminent threat notion.

Is he on sound legal ground, Lindsey Graham, when he says, yes, he'll go before a civil trial, but at least for now name him an enemy combatant so he can be questioned?

TOOBIN: Well, the Obama administration has established a policy of a so-called public safety exception to the Miranda rule where for some period of time, it's not entirely clear how long a suspect can be questioned without Miranda warnings and that apparently is what's happening here.

Again, it's complicated somewhat by the fact that we don't know exactly what Tsarnaev's medical condition is and how many questions he can answer. Apparently he's answering some questions in writing. So I don't really see Lindsey Graham's proposal as all that different from what's going on now. He seems to suggest a longer process of questioning him without Miranda warnings, but the Obama administration has also committed to some period of questioning.

Now this all assumes that he's willing to answer questions. He can always simply say, I'm not answering questions, and there is no -- there is no way either under enemy combatant rules or in the criminal justice system to force someone to answer questions who doesn't want to answer them.

BLITZER: The argument I guess is under this limited questioning period before he is formally advised of his Miranda rights, that he has and right to an attorney, doesn't have to answer any questions. There's been some suggestion that can only last maybe 48 hours or so if he's formally named an enemy combatant, that would go on for days if not weeks. I guess that's the distinction. Is that right, Jeff?

TOOBIN: It's the length of time. Right. And the enemy combatant, if that designation were made, could go on for weeks or even months. But I just think it's important to emphasize that the Obama administration has absolutely not considered that, has not considered that approach, and every terrorism suspect under either the George W. Bush administration or the Obama administration who was arrested on American soil has been treated as a criminal defendant in the United States courts.

Senator Graham's proposal would be a complete departure from that approach and I don't think there's any indication that's going to happen.

BLITZER: Yes, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, remember he's a naturalized U.S. citizen. He's only 19. But last September, he received his U.S. citizenship, he was arrested on U.S. soil. So for the Obama administration to name him an enemy combatant, you're absolutely right, that would be a deviation from everything we've heard from Eric Holder, the attorney general, from the president on down.

All right, Jeff, we'll continue this conversation here on CNN. Thanks very much. Our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin helping us better understand the complexities of the law.

Still to come, could this Boston terror attack have been prevented? That's a huge, huge question that's under review right now, along with the FBI. Should it have paid more attention to the warnings it received about the older brother?

We're back in a moment.