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Suspects' New Target: NYC; Boston Strong; U.S. Intel: Syria Used Chemical Weapons

Aired April 26, 2013 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A chilling revelation from the surviving Boston bombing suspect. New York City's busy Times Square was supposed to be their next terror target.

Plus, the reluctant hero who helped turned the tide and maybe even saved lives. New details on how a carjacking victim's split-second decision foiled the bombing suspects' escape.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: And a long wait at the airport could finally be over. New this morning, Congress putting an end to furloughs in air traffic control towers. There's some good news for you.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. Glad you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin in New York.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman, live in Boston this morning. It is Friday, April 26th, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And this morning, I am standing in front of that memorial, Zoraida, that beautiful memorial that's been set up here in Boston's Copley Square.

There are running sneakers here. There are mementos left behind for all those people lost here in these tragic events nearly two weeks ago now. And as everyone here in Boston around the country remembers, investigators are still piecing together their case here.

And we begin with a chilling, new development in these Boston marathon terror attacks. The Tsarnaev brothers reportedly planned more attacks. And here's a live look at what was supposed to be their next target. That's New York City's Times Square, of course.

The "Boston Globe" reports that anti-terror intelligence units in Massachusetts were never advised that the FBI had looked into Tamerlan Tsarnaev's activities in 2011. And also this, the apparent security gaps do not end there. A U.S. official says a counterterrorism task force received a warning about Tamerlan's extended trip to Russia nine months before the Boston bombing.

Also, the man who says he was carjacked by the Tsarnaev brothers over a week ago is now coming forward. What a story he has to tell.

There are also new details emerging from those dramatic moments when Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was discovered hiding in that boat in Watertown, Massachusetts.

Miguel Marquez is live at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. That is the site where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is still being treated.

Good morning, Miguel.


And it is expected that Mr. Tsarnaev may soon be moved to either another medical facility, a civilian facility or a state-run facility that would be a part of a prison system. When that happens, we want to be here for it. All of that as we are learning much more about this investigation.


MARQUEZ (voice-over): In a shocking revelation, sources now say Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had no weapon when he was hiding in a boat, and a police officer injured during the operation appears an accidental victim of friendly fire. This as it's revealed New York City may have been a target as the Tsarnaev brothers sought to flee Boston.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), NEW YORK: The surviving attacker revealed that New York City was next on their list of targets. He told the FBI, apparently, that he and his brother had intended to drive to New York and designate additional explosives in Times Square.

MARQUEZ: The brothers had six more explosives, another pressure cooker and five pipe bombs.

Eleven-year-old Aaron Hern, injured in the attack, still wheelchair- bound, visited the memorial. If it was comfort he sought, he got it.

AARON HERN, SURVIVOR: Where do you come from?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: California, San Francisco.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a little more like home.

MARQUEZ: And 11 days on from the attack, there is this survivor story.

HEATHER ABBOTT, SURVIVOR: I felt like my foot was on fire. I knew I couldn't stand up. And I didn't know what to do. I was just screaming, "Somebody please help me!" and I was thinking, who's going to help me?

MARQUEZ: Four people did. Then, Heather Abbott had to make a decision she thought she never would, keep her left foot mangled by the explosion or have it removed.

ABBOTT: If someone had told me that I was going to have half a leg, basically, at the age of 38 before this happened, I think I would have never believed it, I think I would have been devastated. I think I'm going to be able to live my life in a normal way eventually when I get that permanent prosthesis.

MARQUEZ: And finally, one more sign of Boston's strength -- marathon sports, site of the first bombing, tore down the paper and opened its doors. Runners welcome once again.



MARQUEZ: Now, coming up in a bit, we are going to tell you a riveting story that the "Boston Globe" has in an exclusive with a guy named Denny (ph), a Chinese national. He was carjacked by the two Tsarnaev brothers, and then they spent 90 minutes cruising around Boston, basically, as these two were seeking a way out of the city. It's a riveting story.

John, we'll have it for you in a bit.

BERMAN: You know, it really is, Miguel. So many pieces of this puzzle still coming together. Miguel Marquez over at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, great to see you this morning.

We want to go now to Times Square. That is the site the Tsarnaev brothers allegedly had their eyes on for another attack.

CNN's Richard Roth is there this morning.

Good morning, Richard.


Yes, this may be the lightest in traffic during the 24-hour cycle for Times Square, crossroads of the world, but the damage that could have been inflicted, should the brothers have reached here, could have been catastrophic.

New York authorities revealing that the men were intended to be coming here with perhaps an arsenal of weapons. Tsarnaev, the surviving brother, was photographed here in Times Square not that long ago, which New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said was an ominous sign.


COMMISSIONER RAY KELLY, NEW YORK POLICE DEPT.: We know that Dzhokhar was photographed in Times Square with friends on or before April 18th of 2012, that he was in the city again in November of 2012.

We don't know if those visits were related in any way to what he described as the brothers' spontaneous decision to target Times Square.


ROTH: Mayor Bloomberg of New York says the possibility that they were coming here is an ominous sign for the city, and of course, a reminder that New York City always needs help from the federal government.


BLOOMBERG: The fact is, New York City remains a prime target for those who hate America and want to kill Americans. The attacks in Boston and the news that New York City was next on the terrorists' list shows just how critical it is for the federal government to devote resources to high-risk areas.


ROTH: This would have been a second possible attack here. Two or three years ago, of course, a Pakistani-born U.S. citizen failed to detonate a car bomb here packed with weapons -- John.

BERMAN: Richard Roth in Times Square for us, New York City always on the ready for this type of thing. Thanks so much, Richard.

Meanwhile, the father of the Boston bombing suspects planned to travel from Dagestan to the United States today to bury his oldest son, but now, that trip could be in doubt. And their mother apparently won't be coming here at all because she is wanted on felony shoplifting charges in nearby Natick, Massachusetts.

CNN's Nic Robertson has the latest on all this from the capital of Dagestan.

Good morning, Nic.


Well, we learned late last night that the father wouldn't be coming today. Last night, his wife called an ambulance for him. It's not clear on his physical state right now, but he's been understood to have been ill for some time, and it was decided after the press conference the pair of them held here yesterday that he was too ill to travel, despite during that press conference, he said he would be traveling yesterday, would have been arriving in the United States today. That seems absolutely off at the moment.

And it remains really unclear what their real intentions are, when he may be fit to travel and if he will travel when he is fit.

What we heard at that press conference were continuing denials from the pair that their sons were ever involved. The mother at one point saying she regretted ever taking the family to the United States.


ZUBEIDAT TSARNAEV, BOSTON BOMBING SUSPECTS' MOTHER: Yes, I would prefer not to live in America now. Why did I even go there? Why? I thought America is going to, like, protect us, our kids, it's going to be safe, for like any reason, but it happened, opposite. My kids just, America took my kids away from me. Only America.


ROBERTSON: Now, we've heard a lot about how Tamerlan, her oldest son, was sort of set on a more radical path by a man he met called Misha.

We heard from the mother in the same press conference saying how she was impressed by Misha, how she felt ashamed that she wasn't a good Muslim, and after this first contact with him, how she began praying regularly -- John.

BERMAN: Such an interesting piece of this puzzle. We have to learn so much more about this, Nic. This mysterious Misha figure.

Nic Robertson with us in Dagestan this morning -- thanks so much to you, Nic.

As we're talking about the suspects, we want to keep the focus as much as we can about the victims, and we have an image to share with you that really defines the phrase Boston strong. It is an amazing picture. Look at the cover of "Boston" magazine. That is just beautiful.

Those are running shoes forming a heart with the message, "We will finish the race." Those words, of course, spoken by President Obama at that memorial one week ago. Every single pair of shoes in this image was worn by someone who ran the Boston marathon the day of the attack.

And again, the slogan "We will finish the race" is just one of the many important mottos for this city, which, Zoraida, is so Boston strong.

SAMBOLIN: It's really great to watch, everybody come together. And also, as you watch all the victims that are returning to the site, have you seen any of them there, John?

BERMAN: We've seen so many people walk by this site and I've had a chance to talk to a lot of the victims, some who want to go by the site, some who are taking their time, would rather not go there right away. It's obviously a very poignant place for people who went through that awful day more than a week ago, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. It seemed to be really healing for a lot of people. It's been great to watch. Thank you, John. Let's check back in with you.

Ten minutes past the hour.

New this morning, the Senate voting to put furloughed air traffic controllers back in the towers and hopefully end the long airport delays that you have been experiencing this week. The House could vote on the bill today and controllers likely would be back at work tomorrow at the earliest.

So, that means today, which is a very busy travel day, could be a long one if you are flying. FAA employees were furloughed because of the forced spending cuts. So, pack a little patience this morning if you're at the airport.

And round one of the NFL draft is in the books, and it turned out to be a very big night for some very big linemen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eric Fisher, a blue-collar family, suburban Detroit, now drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs.


SAMBOLIN: Incredible night, 300-pound defensive tackle Eric Fisher of Central Michigan picked first last night by the Kansas City Chiefs. In fact, the first seven selections in the first round were all linemen. Fisher never expected to hear his name called right off the top.


ERIC FISHER, NO. 1 PICK IN NFL DRAFT: This is so hard to process, the fact that I was the number one pick in the NFL draft. It's a dream come true, something I've been working for, for so long, and I'm standing here right now and I just can't believe it yet.


SAMBOLIN: That's a really big guy.

Here are the top five picks from last night's first round. At number two, another offensive tackle, Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M. He heads to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Miami Dolphins trading up to number three to select linebacker Dion Jordan of Oregon. At number four, another offensive tackle, Lane Johnson of Oklahoma chosen by the Philadelphia Eagles. And rounding out the top five, defensive end Ziggy Ansah of BYU, now a Detroit Lion.

And making news for not getting picked, Notre Dame's Manti Te'o, hoping someone will take a chance on him in round two tonight. I was trying to figure out, what's the difference in money between round one and round two? So, in 2010, which are the figures I found, an average of $14 million guaranteed in round one, $2.2 million earned by second rounders compared. That's quite a difference.

All right. Twelve minutes past the hour.

The Obama administration says the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons in the ongoing civil war. The president has said that would be crossing a red line. Will the administration take action? A full report, ahead.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman, live in Boston this morning. We're standing in Copley Square, at the site of the simply stunning memorial to everyone who suffered in these horrible Boston marathon bombings one week ago. It's not even 5:30 in the morning, we've already seen people come here to pay their respects to this beautiful site.

There are some new, chilly developments in the terror investigation here to tell you about this morning. Before their plan unraveled, the Tsarnaev brothers reportedly set their sights on a new target. New York City's Mayor Michael Bloomberg says these brothers wanted to bomb Times Square.

Also, the "Boston Globe" says that anti-terror intelligence units in Massachusetts were never advised that the FBI had looked into Tamerlan Tsarnaev's terrorist activities in 2011. And another apparent security gap: a U.S. official says the U.S. counterterrorism task force received a warning about Tamerlan's extended trip to Russia nine months before the Boston bombings.

So, Zoraida, a lot of questions still here about how this all came together and what opportunities may have been missed to find these brothers.

SAMBOLIN: And every day, new details. We'll check back with you. Thank you.

Seventeen minutes past the hour.

The United States on the record this morning saying publicly that it believes the Syrian government has used chemical weapons on civilians in its ongoing civil war, but the White House is moving cautiously now, even though some folks in Congress want a swift response.

Here's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.



BARBARA STARR (voice-over): March 19th, Aleppo, Syria. There is talk civilians here have been attacked with chemical weapons but no confirmation.

Now, suddenly, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel traveling in the Middle East --

CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The U.S. intelligence community assesses with some degree of varying confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin.

STARR: The White House sent letters to Congress responding to questions about chemical weapons used and calling for a U.N. investigation.

After the debacle over Iraqi weapons, Hagel says the U.S. needs to confirm exactly what happened.

HAGEL: We need all the facts. We need all the information.

STARR: Senator John McCain told CNN's Jake Tapper it's not the response he wants.

SEN. JOHN MCAIN (R), ARIZONA: A disappointment but not surprise. The president has not wanted to engage in Syria in any way, any meaningful way for a couple of years.

STARR: McCain wants a no-fly zone, weapons provided to the Syrian opposition and chemical weapons secured. President Obama had promised action but was never specific.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus.

STARR: A senior U.S. official says the Syrians continue moving chemical stockpiles, causing even more worry. Hagel is sending the first armored division's headquarters from Ft. Bliss, Texas, to Jordan. The official tells CNN it will spearhead securing Syria's weapons if ordered.

ANDREW TABLER, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: We could use air strikes, drone strikes. There could be teams of Special Forces who go into the country.

STARR: But the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff who is reviewing military options says troops aren't the answer.

MCCAIN: Do you have confidence that we could secure it?

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Not as I sit here today, simply because they've been moving it and the number of sites is quite numerous.

STARR (on camera): The U.S. is adamant there will be no go-it-alone military action for American troops, but many allies are still reluctant to get involved, and it's raising questions about where all of this is headed.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


SAMBOLIN: Our thanks to Barbara.

In the next half hour of EARLY START, we're going to check in with CNN's Arwa Damon. She's in Amman, Jordan.

She has been covering the civil war in Syria from the front lines for more than two years now. We'll get her perspective.

And developing overnight in Bangladesh, the death toll from a devastating building collapse on Wednesday climbing to 285. More than 2,000 people have been rescued, but it's believed hundreds more may still be trapped in that rubble. Before it crumbled, cracks developed in the building which housed garment factories, but workers were reportedly ordered inside of that building anyway.

Russian officials fear as many as 38 people may have been killed by a raging fire. This is a psychiatric hospital in the town of Ramensky. It's just outside of Moscow.

Thirty-five people were inside the building at the time. Only three managed to escape those incredible flames. Thirty-five bodies have been found so far. Some of them were in their beds.

The fire may have been sparked by an electrical short.

And this morning, we're getting an aerial view of those burned-out fuel barges docked in Mobile, Alabama, that we told you about yesterday. All fires have been put out and the shipping channel has been reopened to traffic now.

Yesterday, the barges exploded in flames. They were being prepped to take on fuel when a spark apparently ignited vapors. Three workers were severely burned there.

And coming up, show me the money, but only if you majored in the right subject in college. The highest paying fields, coming up next. Stay tuned for that.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Good morning to you. Twenty-five minutes past the hour.

Christine Romans is here. She's minding your business.

Apparently, we have a report card due today, a good one?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Oh, we do. The GDP, gross domestic product. Futures lower ahead of the report card on the U.S. economy. At 8:30 Eastern, we're going to get a first look at economic growth for first quarter.

And this is what it looks like. Estimates are coming in just below 3 percent. The fourth quarter of last year, you can see that little tiny sliver of blue there, was not so hot, 0.4 percent.

So, the expectation is that the economy rebounded a little bit, Zoraida, in the first quarter. And you know, that's what you want to see. Bottom line: this economy is growing, but it needs to speed up to create more jobs.

All right, speaking of jobs, imagine this --

SAMBOLIN: I saw this yesterday and I said this will be Christine's story tomorrow. I knew it.

ROMANS: You know me so well. SAMBOLIN: Yes.

ROMANS: Look, you're fresh out of college, maybe still in college, you get your first job offer and the starting salary is $93,500.


ROMANS: What major is that? Petroleum engineering.

A new survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers list that as the best, but look at that list.

SAMBOLIN: Engineering, engineering, engineering.

ROMANS: I know, study hard, kids. Computer engineers are second with more than $70,000 a year, a chemical, $67,600. Computer science majors are fourth. Aerospace fifth at $64,400.

But even if you're not an engineer, salaries are improving. The average for 2013 is nearly $45,000, up 5.3 percent compared to the class of 2012. We told you before, STEM, science, technology, engineering, math, that's where the money is. Those are the areas paying most for the class of 2013.

I will tell you, for the second year in a row, I'm hearing from marketing companies, consultants, the big firms. They are hiring kids, signing kids before they graduate.


ROMANS: The real stars are getting the letters saying we want you to start work after you graduate. So, that is a really good sign.

SAMBOLIN: But I wonder how much they're making in marketing, right?

ROMANS: It's pretty well. It's doing pretty well. And the point is, is that you know, companies are starting to hire kids out of school again, and that's good.

SAMBOLIN: All right, thank you, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-six minutes past the hour.

Next on EARLY START, carjacked by the Boston marathon bombers: the man who spent 90 terrifying minutes with the Tsarnaev brothers breaks his silence. The chilling details, coming up next.