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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Investigation into Background of Boston Marathon Bombing Suspects Continues; CIA Added Boston Suspect to Watch List; Vladimir Putin Speaks about Boston Bombing; Interview with Rep. Adam Schiff

Aired April 25, 2013 - 07:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, five U.S. presidents will be in one place today for the opening of President George W. Bush's presidential library, giving Mr. Bush a chance to r reflect on his legacy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: History will ultimately judge the decisions that were made.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Later we'll have the first images of the Bush library in a tour with former first lady Laura Bush.

It is Thursday, April 25th, and this special edition of STARTING POINT begins right now.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Christine Romans this morning. We begin with breaking news. Two fuel barges on fire this morning after a mass I've explosion. It all happened in Mobile Bay, Alabama. The explosion and the fire still burning so intense firefighters have set up a one-mile safety radius. Firefighters at this hour unable at this point to get near the flames.

The first explosion happening just before 11:00 eastern followed by at least five more and heard up to 20 miles away. The barges are reportedly loaded with gasoline. And that's why it's keeping the fire going at this point. Firefighters, the fire so fierce, firefighters can't get in there to fight it.

Three people have been rushed to the hospital suffering from severe burns. They're in critical condition at this hour. We're learning this morning the flames are finally starting to die down but firefighters say they will wait until daylight to get a better look at what can be done.

Ironically, all of this happening at the same facility where the crippled Carnival Triumph is docked. The cruise ship under repair, of course, after an engine fire left it adrift at sea with more than 4,000 people on board in February. We are continuing to monitor this situation. We're going to bring you updates all morning long.

Ed John in Boston making news in the marathon case. John Berman there with more on that. Good morning, John. BERMAN: And there is breaking news this morning in the Boston marathon bombing case, as well. The parents of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev holding a news conference right now. So far his mother is telling reporters that the U.S. is accusing them of being terrorists. She's in tears. She says U.S. officials have told them she will not be able toe to see their son Dzhokhar when they come to the United States. Nic Robertson is in the news conference in Dagestan. He will join us live in a few minutes with more.

Meantime, here's the latest in the investigation. A congressman who sits tons house intelligence committee revealing the Tsarnaev brothers used a remote control device similar to one used to operate a toy car to set off the explosives at the Boston Marathon finish line. In the next 24 hours the father of the suspected bombers Anzor Tsarnaev is expected to arrive in the United States. We are told he is cooperating with the FBI investigation.

And we've also learned that the Russian not t only flagged the FBI about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, they also sent a warning letter to the CIA after the FBI checked him out. Both agencies determined there was not enough specific information to move on.

So, with the new information about the use of remote controls, investigators are focusing on how these bombs were made. They want to know if the Tsarnaev brothers got any helper happens from any militant inside Dagestan. CNN's Miguel Marquez has the latest on this angle from the streets of Boston. Good morning, Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Lots of details starting to come to light in this investigation. I want to take you back to the place where this began though, the finish line of the Boston marathon. And what's incredible here is just how close the first bombing was. I don't think you get a sense of that from the video we all watched together. This little spot here on Boylston Street now hallowed ground.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

Investigators tell CNN and other news agencies at least one of the homemade bombs was triggered by remote control, possibly a crucial clue. Were the devices based on a blueprint in Al Qaeda's English language magazine "Inspire" or similar to ones built in camps run Dagestani militant Abu Dujan. Whether he and Tamerlan Tsarnaev ever met now part of this massive worldwide investigation.

This as Boston's dead are remembered.

ROBERT ROGERS, SEAN COLLIER'S BROTHER: He was born to be a police officer, and he lived out his dreams.

MARQUEZ: Thousands in attendance for memorial for MIT police Officer Sean Collier.

ROGERS: Officer Sean Collier, we love you.

MARQUEZ: In attendance, Vice President Biden who seemed to make news by suggesting that Tsarnaev brothers were self-radicalized.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Why were there Al Qaeda central out of the fatah or two twisted, perverted, cowardly knockoff jihadis.

MARQUEZ: Investigators saying nothing ruled out as Boston takes another big step toward normal.

ANNA BURSAUS, BOSTON RESIDENT: I think for life in Boston it's very important that things move on because everyone has been very much -- very upset for the past week.

MARQUEZ: The urban flow returning to Boylston Street, except at the locations of each bombing. Those places, like a world, still on hold, places of reflection, places where emotions still flows.

At the memorial to the victims, Jill Biden, wife of the vice president, stopped to pay her respects.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: And another sign of just how strong Boston is, a picture tweeted out last night of Jeff Bauman, the guy in the wheelchair who lost both his legs. It's hard to think about. He delivered an 18th birthday present to Sydney Corcoran, also injured in the bombings, just fantastic to see.

One other note though on the Tsarnaev parents coming here, the father coming here, we understand Tamerlan Tsarnaev, his body has not been claimed at the medical examiner's office and that is probably a very powerful motivation for the family to get here. John?

BERMAN: Miguel Marquez here on the streets of Boston. On the thought about the parents of the Tsarnaev brothers, happening right now, each parent is speaking out this morning, tearfully talking about their sons. Investigators are also exploring the Russian connection of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Nick Paton Walsh has spoken with the mother of the bombing suspect. Nick joins us now. Good morning, nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Some key things from speaking to Zubeidat Tsarnaev this morning. She was quite clear the FBI came to see Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011, saying that his turn toward radicalism had worried them. They wanted to start monitoring them. She also said she won't be going to the U.S. just yet, the father will be going tomorrow or at some point during the weekend. She also shed some light on how her family had turned into devout Muslims. An Armenian who converted to Islam later in his life appears to have had a profound effect on all of the family.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZUBEIDAT TSARNAEV, BOMBING SUSPECT'S MOTHER: Everybody is talking about Misha. When Misha visited us, he just opened our eyes, you know, really wide about Islam. He was really devoted and he is a very good, very nice man.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WALSH: Now, she describes actually how her elder son said to mother, you should probably cover our hair at some point. The clear extreme points of view of the Islamic faith that he began to hold. But also investigators say are now looking at any other links there may be between Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his time here six months of last year. We don't know if he actually met a militant activist here called Abu Dujan. What we do know is he linked images from his YouTube page.

Police saying that Abu Dujan was running training camp for militants where they learned to make homemade bombs.

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WALSH: This is Dagestani militant Abu Dujan in a video that one of the alleged Boston on the bombers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, posted on his YouTube channel.

Russian special forces killed Abu Dujan in a shootout last December in Dagestan and we don't know if he ever met Tsarnaev. The Dagestani police revealed to CNN this small-time militant ran training camps for bomb making, but foreigners came, too. Police gave us images of Abu Dujan's group training in the woods. This one explains how to mix and prepare homemade explosives almost anywhere. And the group's pictures suggest they learned to use a mobile phone as a detonator. Local police chief who helped hunt down Abu Dujan said the militant trained foreigners.

ASKHABALI SAURBEKOV, POLICE CHIEF, KIZIL-YURT, (via translator): We do not have audio or visual confirmation but we do have information confirming that Abu Dujan met with foreigners.

WALSH: What did the foreigners learn in the woods?

SAURBEKOV: I can't talk about the number of foreigners, but they met to exchange their banded experience. There are Dagestanis who have taken citizenship elsewhere who come here to meet in their historical motherland, whose roots are here.

WALSH: And could that have included Americans?

SAURBEKOV: It's entirely possible. But I know p there were Arabs and Turks among them, but whether there were Americans, I don't know.

WALSH: The police chief told us Abu Dujan was often observed coming here to the heart to this Islamic mosque behind me which itself denies any links to extremism. It is possible though that Tamerlan Tsarnaev last year also prayed here.

SAURBEKOV: Of course, the culture of mosque is their mosque where all of them go, technological work gives us operational information that Abu Dujan went there, met people, and agitated. Not once but many times.

WALSH: There are reports that Dujan was observed at the mosque and he was observed meeting Tsarnaev. Do you know this?

SAURBEKOV: I really can't answer this. For different reasons, I can't answer. You understand me?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALSH: Now, I should point out the two men didn't actually meet although so much of their lives overlap. Some more points coming out of the press conference by the parents. The mother suggested she may renounce her U.S. citizenship, saying she doesn't believe she will be allowed to see Dzhokhar if she went to the United States. She seemed a little bit less sure she wouldn't get access when I spoke to her earlier on, and also saying that he's been shot in the neck and now being fed by tubes. So very emotional scene at this press conference, contrasting, I think, with the woman you've seen more calmly when I spoke to her earlier on to try and reconcile the vision that she had of her angelic children and that being presented by the media and by U.S. officials. John?

BERMAN: All right, Nick Paton Walsh in Dagestan this morning, thank you.

Earlier in Nick's report you heard him speak about this mysterious Misha, a man who some relatives say may have influenced the elder Tsarnaev brother, brainwashed him into adopting a stricter form of Islam. CNN's Brian Todd is following that part of the story for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Family members now describe a mysterious man who they say had a mesmerizing influence on Tamerlan Tsarnaev. They only know him as Misha. They don't know his full name. Here's how the suspect's uncle described the man and his influence on the older brother in an interview with CNN.

RUSLAN TSARNI, SUSPECTS' UNCLE: There is a person who knew converted into Islam, from Armenian descent. This person took his brain, brainwashed him completely. Tamerlan is off now. There is no respect his own father. That concerned me big time, unbelievably.

TODD: More pieces fit together in a telephone interview Wolf Blitzer did with the ex-brother-in-law of the two suspects. He said he had met Misha twice, introduced to him by Tamerlan. He said he didn't witness Misha actually turning Tamerlan into a radical Islamist but --

TSARNI: He surely did have influence and did teach him things that would make Tamerlan, you know, go away from the people and go more into the religion and maybe, maybe that's possible that he suggested him some radical ideas.

TODD: He said he had told him he had quit boxing and listening to mainstream music because Misha taught him that in Islam it's not good to do these things. Asked if he suspected that Misha was connected to any terrorist groups --

ELMIRZA KHOZHGOV, SUSPECT'S FORMER BROTHER-IN-LAW: I didn't suspect either him or Tamerlan being connected to terror group or having terrorist ideas, but I know that they had a lot of conversations about just, you know, Islam and how Islam is being attacked from the outside, you know, from the western countries, and how Islam is under pressure.

TODD: Asked when Tamerlan became a more devout Islam, the ex-brother- in-law and the uncle say they both noticed it about four years ago. We searched for Misha using the internet, a search database and social media, cross referencing his name with descriptions of him. One name did come up. We scoured matching addresses in the Boston area, phone numbers and e-mails. We couldn't find him, so we're not mentioning his name.

Has Misha ever been connected with the Islamic society of Boston, the mosques they attended? I put the question to mosque spokesman.

Is there such a person in this congregation?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

TODD: And do you think there could be anything to that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not to our knowledge.

TODD: Another mosque official told me, quote, "We are looking for him, too." They say they want to find Misha as much as anyone else right now.

Brian Todd, CNN, Boston.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: Our thanks to Brian for that report.

And new this morning, Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking out on the Boston terror attack calling it a disgusting crime. During a televised question and answer session with the Russian people this morning, he said the bombings should re-enforce the need for more U.S. and Russia counterterrorism cooperation.

A Chechen opposition leader called the Boston bombings a potential gift to Putin if he tries to enlist the U.S. as an ally in his fight against the Chechen people. The Tsarnaev brothers of course of Chechen heritage and they lived in the neighboring Dagestan region before moving here in the United States.

Lots more going on today elsewhere. Christine Romans is back in New York with more of the day's top stories.

Good morning, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, John. We're following new developments in the investigation of those ricin-tainted letters sent to President Obama and others on Capitol Hill. The FBI's focus has now shifted. They're searching the site of a former martial art studio in Tupelo, Mississippi, and the home of a former politician who was an instructor there.

Investigators are trying to determine if someone tried to pin the poisonous letter on Paul Kevin Curtis. Charges against him have been dropped. Curtis' attorney says her client was a scapegoat.

Our Victor Blackwell will have the latest from Tupelo in about 20 minutes.

Happening now in the New Orleans suburb of Kenner, picking up the pieces this morning after a pair of back-to-back twisters tore through town. Roofs were ripped off, debris thrown around, nerves definitely rattled in Kenner.

Meanwhile, parts of the soggy Midwest could see some relief today while other areas brace for more flooding.

Jennifer Delgado has more from the studio weather channel.

Good morning, Jennifer.

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Christine. Yes, we are watching the flooding right along the Illinois as well as Mississippi River and many of these locations were still at major flood stage. And for Peoria, 10 feet above.

Let's go to some video of what conditions were like on the ground. We're talking many homes are under water. You're looking at video right now coming out of Fargo, North Dakota. They're prepping for flooding for this weekend.

As I take you back over to our graphic here, I want to point out to you for the Mississippi River right at Cape Girardeau, we're already talking moderate flooding there. But by tomorrow there's some major flood states, and that means homes can be evacuated, roadways have already being blocked, and we're also talking about 100,000 acres already flooded.

Now as I said to you, up towards the area of the northern plains, for North Dakota, temperatures are going to be soaring this weekend into the 70s. Allowing for rapid snow melt and that is going to lead to flooding roads right along the Red River. And that's really going to be peaking as we head into the weekend as well as into next week. And those temperatures climbing to the 70s.

On a wider view, I want to point out to you, as you've seen the clouds where John Berman is reporting out of Boston, that frontal system slides over towards the east. We'll see lots of sunshine setting up. Clouds lingering for New Orleans where they had two tornadoes there yesterday -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Jennifer Delgado.

DELGADO: Full weight of weather. Back to you.

ROMANS: I'll say. Thanks, Jennifer.

Meantime, rescuers in Bangladesh desperately searching for survivors of a factory collapse that has so far claimed at least 160 lives. More than 1,000 people injured when the eight-story garment factory collapsed Wednesday near the capital city of Dhaka. Many survivors say they were scared to come to work after cracks began to appear in the building on Tuesday. Those survivors claimed the building owners told them the factory was safe and ordered them to report to work yesterday. Of course, the factory made garments for exports to places like the U.S.

President Obama attending a memorial service at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, today in honor of the 14 people killed in a blast at a fertilizer plant in a town of West, Texas. At the devastating site of that explosion, investigators are trying to piece together exactly what happened. They still don't know what caused the fire or what triggered the deadly explosion last week that leveled the plant, leveled nearby buildings and many homes.

It will be a sight to behold, five living U.S. presidents together in the same place for the dedication of the George W. Bush presidential library. It begins at 11:00 a.m. Eastern in Dallas. These days the nation's 43rd president is preoccupied with being a new grandfather and an aspiring painter. He says the new library is all about laying out facts. And he tells our John King he doesn't feel any need to defend himself or his presidency.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, 43RD PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know this, that Laura and I gave the presidency eight years of our life. We gave it our all. Made the best judgment calls I could. Didn't compromise my principles. And I'm a content man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The nation does seem to be looking a little more kindly on the Bush presidency. According to a new CNN/ORC poll, 68 percent of Americans considered his two terms in office a failure right after he left the White House in early 2009. Now that number has fallen to 5 percent.

In the next half hour of STARTING POINT, a live report from Brianna Keilar in Dallas where the big dedication is less than four hours away now.

And stay with CNN in the 8:00 hour of STARTING POINT, former First Lady Laura Bush takes our John King on a tour of the new Bush presidential library.

Keep it here for special coverage of the dedication as well hosted by Wolf Blitzer starting at 11:00 a.m. Eastern only here on CNN.

Back to you in Boston, John.

BERMAN: Thanks so much, Christine. We are continuing to monitor two breaking stories this morning, including the parents of the accused Boston marathon bombers speaking out. That news conference is still going on. Expected to end in about 15 minutes. We will get a live report from what they said. They are in tears.

Plus, we're getting inside details on just how much the information and the CIA knew about Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Congressman Adam Schiff briefed last night by the fed. He joins us to tell us what he heard. More when our special edition of STARTING POINT continues.

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BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. We're now joined by California Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff. He is the -- Adam Schiff, I should say. He's the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. He is among the lawmakers who have been briefed on the Boston investigation including a briefing last night.

Congressman, thank you so much for joining us this morning. Let me start off with this news that we did hear overnight, that the FBI, not only the FBI was informed by the Russians about Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011 but later in the year the CIA was also informed by the Russians.

The Russian Intelligent Service reaching out to the CIA, that the CIA look into the brother. Both the FBI and CIA independently looked into this brother and found no reason to continue their investigation. But it doesn't appear that either spoke to each other.

What are you hearing about that?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, it seems like it's really two identical or nearly identical inquiries merely sent to two different agencies. The FBI responded. They went out, they interviewed him. They did a, you know, background of all the online traffic to try to find out, was there any information indicating that he had been radicalized as the Russian inquiry suggested. And basically weren't able to find anything and they did a pretty thorough look based on this single tip.

And, John, you've t got to keep in mind they probably get 10 to 20,000 tips or inquiries like this every year. So considering the volume and considering that they really didn't have much to work with they did a pretty thorough job. They went back to the Russians and said we haven't been able to find anything. What have you got? Can you give us more to go on? And the Russians didn't respond.

And I think they went back to the Russians multiple times and were responded to with nothing but silence.

BERMAN: And then, though, we learned that the Russians went to the CIA with the similar request and the CIA found the same thing.

I guess what I'm saying here is that at some point should there have been some communication between the FBI and the CIA on this or is this another example of what they call stovepiping within the intelligence agencies?

SCHIFF: You know, I don't think there's any indication that there was a stovepiping problem here. This information was put in a database. It was shared among different agencies. It was shared with a joint terrorism task force. And that's exactly what should happen. So I don't think this is a situation where either agency was withholding something from the other. The reality is that the agency that went out and did the investigation wasn't able to find anything.

So I'm not sure what more could have been done, particularly in light of the fact that we just don't have the capacity to surveil everyone that we get a tip on and also it's regrettably the fact that some of the foreign intelligence agencies will share misinformation if they want to somehow impugn someone that they consider dissident or undesirable. So we have to look out for these false positives, as well.

BERMAN: So you're suggesting that maybe you have to be careful with some of the information that the Russian government was providing?

SCHIFF: We do. Now there's no indication that that was the case with the Tamerlan brothers. But we do have to take with a certain grain of salt some of the inquiries that we get. And again it's a question of capacity. There were a lot -- a lot of people, suspects, that are much higher on the suspicion list than these brothers were. And that's where a lot of the resource get devoted.

But I haven't seen any indication yet that this was a failure to share information or the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. Obviously the investigation is still at a very early stage and we're going to withhold any conclusions but some are racing to say that the FBI dropped the ball or the agencies weren't talking to each other. And that just doesn't seem to be the case.

BERMAN: All right, Congressman Adam Schiff, Democrat from California. Thank you so much for joining us. Really appreciate your time this morning.

SCHIFF: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Ahead on STARTING POINT, President George W. Bush tells us what he thought when he heard about the Boston marathon bombing as he prepares to open his own personal library. We'll have a live report from Dallas in just minutes.

ROMANS: And "Minding Your Business" this morning, a boost for the economy thanks to prom? I'll explain right after the break.

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ROMANS: "Minding Your Business" this morning. Stock futures are higher. The Dow futures is up, about 42 markets in the -- 42 points rather in the premarket. A little optimism ahead of a rush of earnings report. Amazon, Starbucks, ExxonMobil, the big reports today.

So how's this for a quirky economic forecast here in the U.S.? Call it the prom indicator. For the second year in a row families are spending more on prom. Visa says the average U.S. household spends $1,139 on prom related expenses. That's up 40 percent from just two years ago. Parents pay 59 percent of the cost. Teens pay 41 percent. But research says as long as mom and dad are paying more, teens have little incentive to cut costs on the dress, on the shoes, on the hair, on the flowers, on the limo.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, we're following breaking news. The parents of the accused bomb -- Boston bombers speaking out, making their own allegations at this hour. We've got details in a live report.

Then, five U.S. presidents will be in one place today. The opening of President George W. Bush's library. Find out what the president had to say about the terror t attack in Boston.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: I was reminded that evil exists.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: A full report in Dallas right after the break.

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