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Senate Moves to End Flight Delays; Bombers Intended to Attack New York Next

Aired April 26, 2013 - 05:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The bombing suspects had more terror in mind. The surviving suspect in the Boston marathon bombing telling investigators that Times Square was in their sights.

Plus, new this morning, a harrowing, firsthand account from the carjacking victim who gave cops a chance to catch the bombing suspects.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And putting an end to the long wait at the airport. Congress finally taking action on control tower furloughs.


SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Welcome back to EARLY START. Thanks for being with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin in New York.

BERMAN (on-camera): And I'm John Berman live in Boston. It is Friday, April 26th. And Zoraida, we are standing in front of that beautiful memorial here in Boston that's been laid out here for all the victims of the attacks. The candles are burning, and it's only 5:30 here, but it is such a beautiful, lovely sight.

You know, we often say makeshift memorials. There's really nothing makeshift about this. This is perfect.

Meanwhile, there are some chilling, new developments in the terror investigation here. The Tsarnaev Brothers reportedly had other bombing targets, and we're going to show you a live picture of what was supposed to be the next target. we're talking about New York City's Times Square. We've also learned from the "Boston Globe" that anti-terror intelligence units in Massachusetts, they were never advised that the FBI had looked into Tamerlan Tsarnaev's activities in 2011.

And in a little bit of a different angle, 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, but there was never any follow-up.

Plus, the man who says he was carjacked by the Tsarnaev Brothers over a week ago is now coming forward. He has a chilling story to tell. So, let's begin our coverage there with Miguel Marquez. Miguel, the 26-year-old who was allegedly carjacked spent 90 terrifying minutes with those alleged bombers.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a story not to be believed, really. You read through it and the "Boston Globe" has it this morning in an exclusive. This is a guy who doesn't want to be on TV, doesn't want attention. Certainly, everyone's been chasing this guy, but he spent 90 minutes with the brothers in between the killing of the MIT police officer and the shoot-out in Watertown around 1:00 a.m. last Thursday.

So, he pulls up along a side street, 11:00 p.m. Somebody knocks on his window. He rolls it down. Tamerlan Tsarnaev jumps in the car, puts a gun to his face. They drive around for 90 minutes. They talk -- they have the most mundane conversations about New York, about CDs, about all sorts of stuff. At some point, they have to stop for gas because his brand-new Mercedes -- and this is a guy who's done quite well for himself.

He's from China. You know, he started -- he went to school here. Now, he's in a start-up here, and this is a guy who had a lot to live for, he said, and was just scared to death he was going to die. When they went to fill up his brand-new Mercedes with gas, it was cash only. And because it was cash only, Dzhokhar had to get out, go pay with cash.

At that point, Tamerlan fumbled with a GPS device, he says, put his gun down, and this guy known as Danny -- he won't go by his real name -- snaps off his seat belt, grabs the door handle at the same time, jumps out of the car. He can feel Tamerlan's hand trying to grab him as he's getting out of the car, runs across the street to a mobile station, begs the guy to call 911, which he finally does, and survives.

An unbelievable story. Then police are able to track that SUV down, and finally, it ends as it did -- John.

BERMAN: It's amazing. He actually probably saved lives, Miguel. He kept those brothers from getting very much farther. They were only caught in Watertown. It could have been a longer search for them. Meanwhile, we are getting a clearer picture, Miguel, about some of the intelligence miscommunications that happened over the last several years dealing with Tamerlan.

MARQUEZ: Yes. Also in the "Globe" today, a very interesting story about whether or not the information that the various federal agencies, CIA and FBI, shared with local authorities here. There is something called the fusion center. There are many of them across the country established after 9/11, and they are meant to be sort of a clearinghouse for data and analysis of information like this.

Those little data points about Tamerlan's interview, about the concerns that they had at a federal level were never shared with this local agency. It's not clear even if it was shared whether that information would have been proved useful to the local authorities because the FBI office in Boston knew about it, but they didn't share it then with local law enforcement.

So, it may be one of those situations where the dots just weren't connected, but we're going to have to wait for more on that -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Miguel Marquez with us this morning in Boston from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Miguel, great to see you this morning.

I did get to spend some time yesterday with a family recovering from these awful attacks. Kevin White and his mother, Mary Jo, both suffered injuries in the blast. They were just a few feet away from the first explosion. Mary Jo's husband, Bill White, a Vietnam veteran, lost a leg in the blast. He is still in the hospital this morning. That whole family affected. His son describes what happened the second the bomb went off.


KEVIN WHITE, INJURED IN BOSTON TERROR ATTACK: From what I recall, we were close to the finish line and kind of meandering, stopping, starting, stopping, starting. And suddenly, there was this loud explosion, which to me, sounded very metallic and almost like had an echo to it. And, I saw a huge flash of light, blinding, and then just dark.

I am right here. I kind of got blown away from the blast by about five feet. My father's in the red right here laying down and my mother is right next to him over him, and you can see that the blast happened right around there.


BERMAN: We'll have their just amazing story. Again, that whole family affected.

SAMBOLIN: That's incredible.

BERMAN: And we talked about their survival and their recovery, which is ongoing. And Zoraida, we'll have that full interview at 8:30 this morning on "Starting Point." Really nice people.

SAMBOLIN: But the whole family, john. My goodness, what are the chances? Looking forward to that. Thank you.

All right. Thirty-six minutes past the hour. The House could vote today to put furloughed air traffic controllers back to work. The Senate approved a plan last night that would free up some money. The goal is to end the big delays that have made flying such a pain in the neck this week, but those workers wouldn't be back in the towers until tomorrow. They're saying that's at the earliest. So, today it's a busy travel day. It is Friday. It could be very ugly for you.

CNN's Zain Asher at New York's LaGuardia Airport. So, you're sharing probably the bad news, right? It's going to be a tough day for commuters. ZAIN ASHER, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely, an ugly day to say the least. This entire week, in fact, has been very disruptive for pilots and passengers alike. In fact, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, we saw 3,000 flights delayed, specifically, because of budget-related reasons. Basically, let me just break it down for you. The FAA essentially had to try and find a way to save $600 million between now and September.

And as a result, they had to sort of lay off or furlough 10 percent of air traffic control officers in that time. As a result, you had more space between planes. You had planes circling in the sky for longer. You had planes sitting on the tarmac for longer as well, but pilots are being very open about this, saying hey, you know, guys, if there are delays, it's actually not our fault, it's because of the sequester, it's because of budget cuts.

We're seeing lots of delays at major airports as well. So, we're talking LaGuardia, JFK, we're talking L.A.X. We're here at LaGuardia right now. There's not too much to report in terms of delays right now. That's because it's still very early in the morning. It's 5:30. But we are expecting delays a little bit later on.

So, bottom line, if you are traveling today, just make sure you contact the airline or the airport in advance -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: And if you don't do that, then pack a lot of patience. You know, last week also, this past week, it's been also Mother Nature, right? It added to those incredible delays. So, hopefully, it will get better. Zain Asher live for us at LaGuardia. Thank you very much.

Thirty-eight minutes past the hour. Disturbing new developments in Syria's bloody civil war. The Obama administration confirming there is evidence the Assad regime has used a chemical weapon. It is sarin gas. CNN's senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon, is in Amman, Jordan, this morning. And Arwa, so, that famous red line, has it been crossed?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, so far, the U.S. administration is saying no. They want to get proper corroborated and clear facts. They're saying that this initial assessment is being put forward with varying degrees of confidence. Very important to look at the specific wording that the U.S. is using.

No one wants to see the same kind of devastating mistake when it comes to the failures of the intelligence community that we saw taking place in Iraq when it comes to Syria at this stage. But when it comes to the issue of chemical weapons, that most certainly is something that everyone is taking extremely understandably very seriously. It is believed that Syria does have one of the largest stockpiles of chemical weapons in the world.

The U.S. has been trying as best it can along with other allies to monitor the movements of these chemical weapons. They do believe that they have been moved by the Assad regime. But here's the especially disturbing part. The exact specifics of where they are and how much the Syrian government may possess, no one is entirely sure about that at this stage.

SAMBOLIN: So, Arwa, they are saying, the Obama administration is saying that there is evidence. What is that evidence?

DAMON: Well, this is based on initial reports that are really focusing on three to four attacks that took place this year, one of them happening last month in Aleppo, another happening outside of Damascus. Earlier, a few months ago, there was one such case in Homs. A lot of this really initially being based on evidence such as blood samples, soil samples, but again, they're not releasing those specific details just yet.

If you ask the Syrian population that has been suffering for so long, they will tell you that the red line in Syria, well, that was actually crossed a long time ago.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Arwa Damon reporting live for us in Amman, Jordan. Thank you so much.

Forty minutes past the hour. The blast could be felt for miles, but the people who lost loved ones will feel it for the rest of their lives. Coming up, a moving tribute to the first responders who gave their lives. Take a look at that. Oh, my goodness. West, Texas. We'll be right back with much more.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Forty-four minutes past the hour. The people of West, Texas, they are trying to move on with their lives by saluting the heroes who gave their lives. Our hearts go out to them. CNN's Ed Lavandera attended a memorial service for those killed in last week's fertilizer plant explosion.

Ed, when we were headed to you earlier, we were teasing this segment and all we saw were coffins lined up, draped with the American flag or the Texas flag. Very, very sad.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a really powerful several hours that took place yesterday afternoon in Waco, just down the interstate here in Central Texas, as thousands of people turned out to pay their respects.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): Amid the solemn melodies of bagpipes, tears flowed and flowed. Thousands of firefighters and first responders honored the victims killed in the earth-rattling explosion at a fertilizer plant in the small town of West, Texas. The flag-draped coffins were a poignant sight, but it was the videotaped eulogies from family members that offered the most gripping emotion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was a true hero, always one of the first to answer every call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was a strong, caring man, good family man. He did everything for us. He never missed a sporting event of ours in his life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was the friend that showed up to help you even before you asked.

(CHANTING) We will love you forever, we will like you for always. As long as we're living, our son you will be.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rest in peace and take care, sweet son. I love you.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I cannot match the power of the voices you just heard on that video.

LAVANDERA: President Obama and first lady, Michelle Obama, attended the memorial service. The president honored the small town strength of a town like West.

OBAMA: America needs towns like West.


OBAMA: That's what makes this country great is towns like west. You have been tested, West. You have been tried. You have gone through fire. But you are and always will be surrounded by an abundance of love.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just looks like a bomb went off.

LAVANDERA: In the coming days, residents will begin moving back into evacuated neighborhoods, but homecoming for some, like Susan Knapek, won't be happening any time soon. She's lived in this house 19 years.

This is just unbelievable.

SUSAN KNAPEK, WEST, TEXAS: It's just -- I'm just thankful I wasn't here in the kitchen.

LAVANDERA: Susan Knapek's house is just 300 yards away from the blast site. Her son escaped with only scratches on his leg, but when you talk to Susan, you can sense how losing friends in the explosion and watching neighbors lose their homes is taking a toll.

What does it mean to you to have so many friends out here helping you?

KNAPEK: There's no words. People have come up to this door, and we've been here, we don't even know, offered help. People have brought food, offered money. People have come from I don't know where, and it's awesome. It just warms my heart.


LAVANDERA (on-camera): And Zoraida, as presidents often do in times of tragedy like this, that person will meet privately with victims' family members, and after the ceremony, the memorial ceremony yesterday, President Obama met with these families of the victims privately, and that meeting lasted more than an hour. So, it was after the ceremony and memorial service had ended. Marine one didn't take off from Waco for more than an hour. So, you can imagine just how an emotional and long meeting that was with those family members -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All of it's so emotional. We're glad you're there for us. Ed Lavandera reporting live, thank you.

Forty-eight minutes past the hour. Coming up, a police chief apologizing for a video that is now 27 years old. The controversy over this parody of officers making fun of the homeless. I said officers making fun of the homeless. EARLY START back after this.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman live in Boston. We're at the memorial site here in Copley Square, really near the finish line of the Boston marathon. This memorial is such a beautiful place. We've seen runners coming by this morning to check it out, which is such a nice sight to see also.

There are four crosses there for the four people who died in the bombings, and then, the subsequent shooting of Officer Sean Collier one week ago.

There are new developments to tell you about this morning in the investigation. It seems that Boston was not the only site for the Tsarnaev Brothers. They had planned more attacks. Their next reported target, New York's Times Square. Packed nearly 24 hours a day with residents, tourists from around the world. We all know Times Square.

Also new this morning, the "Boston Globe's" reporting that anti-terror intelligence units in Massachusetts were never informed that the FBI had investigated Tamerlan Tsarnaev's activities in 2011. And on a different front, another apparent security gap, 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, but nothing ever came of that contact -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you, John.

Fifty-two minutes past the hour.

New this morning, Seattle police clearing a skeleton out of their closet. A 27-year-old parody music video that shows officers making fun of homeless people.


(MUSIC PLAYING) Under the viaduct, where dirt is our floor. under the viaduct, who could ask for more. Under the viaduct, we'll be drinking our booze. Under the viaduct --

(END VIDEO CLIP) SAMBOLIN: Who thought that was a good idea? The 1986 video was part of a training film shown to Seattle cops. The interim police chief was in it, and he says even though it's decades later, he wanted to be transparent and he's apologizing.


INTERIM CHIEF JIM PUGEL, SEATTLE POLICE: The attempt at humor clearly was wrong. And again, I am deeply sorry for it, but I own it. Frankly, now that I'm in a much higher profile position, at some point, eventually, it could have come out, and I promised the media, I promised my officers, I promised the command staff that I would be open and honest and approach things head on.


SAMBOLIN: I suppose it's a teaching and learning opportunity. This same department has come under federal scrutiny in recent years for its treatment of minorities.

And space shuttle "Atlantis" retired and now reborn. Take a look. Workers at Kennedy Space Center in Florida took it out of plastic yesterday. "Atlantis" has been wrapped up for months so it wouldn't get damaged while its new home is being built. The shuttle will be the centerpiece of a new $100 million exhibit. It is set to open June 29th. Looking good there.

So, do you think diamonds are forever? Up next, how a $5,000 sparkler at the bottom of a champagne glass wound up inside a woman's body. Oops!


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Fifty-eight minutes past the hour. Trending online this morning, it's an example of why diamonds aren't always a girl's best friend. Meet Miriam, the 80-year-old Tampa woman doesn't want to show her face after a night at a charity event that she's finding a little hard to swallow. A local jewelry store put a fake diamond in every glass of champagne at the fundraiser except one.

The winning glass had a genuine $5,000 sparkler in it. We'll let Miriam and the jeweler pick up the story there.


VOICE OF MIRIAM, SWALLOWED $5,000 DIAMOND: What are the odds of this happening? And I was not paying a whole lot of attention. With the first sip I had taken, I had swallowed it. I just felt certain, well, they'll find the winner and I won't ever have to tell anybody.

ANDREW MEYER, CONTINENTAL WHOLESALE DIAMONDS: There was 400 glasses of champagne we had to test, and we finally get to the end and still no diamond showed up.

MIRIAM: I said, oh, gosh, now I have to tell them.


SAMBOLIN: What could possibly go wrong, right? So, Miriam went for a colonoscopy the next day and tests confirmed that she had, indeed, swallowed the winning diamond. So, she says she's going to keep the gem in her family. We stress, she does not mean that literally. Oh, poor woman. I wouldn't show my face either.

EARLY START continues right now.


BERMAN (voice-over): A chilling revolution from the surviving Boston bombing suspect. New York City's Times Square supposed to be their next terror target.

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

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): And the long wait at the airport could finally be over. New this morning, Congress putting an end to furloughs in air traffic control towers. A lot of folks are going to be happy about that.