Return to Transcripts main page


Emails Released Regarding Benghazi; White House Press Briefing Today; Community Protests Police Inactivity on Missing Persons Cases; Police Missed Clues; Tsarnaev Buried in Virginia

Aired May 10, 2013 - 12:30   ET


REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: We learned that on September 12th, the day after the attacks and four days before Susan Rice's TV appearances, a senior State Department official e-mailed her superiors to relay that the Libyan ambassador -- she had told the Libyan ambassador that the attack was conducted by Islamic terrorists.

The State Department would not allow our committees to keep copies of this e-mail when it was reviewed.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: An initial report blamed the attack on demonstrators, they were angry over this anti-Islamic YouTube video.

Well, the current top diplomat in Libya, Gregory Hicks, testified on Tuesday there was no demonstration, that there was an early report even that the attack was coordinated by Islamic terrorists.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Our Jim Acosta joins us now.

Jim, have you got news for us on these e-mails, the Benghazi e-mails?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We have confirmed through congressional sources, Suzanne and Michael, that these talking points were changed by various administration officials.

If you look at some e-mail exchanges that were going on a few days after those attacks on Benghazi and the attack in Cairo on September 11th, I want to point you to an e-mail exchange that was going on on September 14th.

This exchange happened on September 14th and then went into the weekend following that September 11th of last year attack.

And I want to show you some e-mails about that because there is a discussion that goes on between various administration officials over these talking points, and what they mean by talking points is how they're going to explain to the public, explain to the world exactly what they believe at that moment happened at the consulate in Benghazi.

And here is one e-mail, one portion from an e-mail, from Victoria Nuland. She is the spokeswoman for the State Department. And she says in this one e-mail, quote, "Why do we want the Hill fingering Ansar al Sharia when we aren't doing that ourselves? And the penultimate point could be abused to beat the State Department for not paying attention to agency warnings -- so why do we want to feed that either? Concern, dot dot dot."

And the she, later on that evening, same person, Victoria Nuland sent an e-mail to various people who are in this e-mail exchange, saying, quote, "These don't resolve all of my issues and those of my building's leadership. They are consulting with NSS" -- and that is referring to the , and Suzanne, you would know this from working here at the White House, the national security staff, the national security council staff with the Obama administration.

Now, according to these e-mails, guys, this exchange went back and forth over the course of maybe 24 hours. The e-mails stop and then apparently, Saturday morning, if you look at these e-mails, there was a meeting that went on among several top-level Obama administration officials about these talking points.

And then later on Saturday afternoon, according to this e-mail exchange and all of this coming from congressional sources, the e-mail exchanges no longer include the possibility of this extremist group or possibly terrorist group being involved in the attack on Benghazi.

And then there is another e-mail that went to Susan Rice, the U.N. ambassador at the time, that said, quote, "I spoke with Jake immediately after the SVTS" -- that refers to a secure video conference from what we understand -- "and noted that you are doing the Sunday morning shows."

So there's a reference here to the Sunday morning shows that Susan Rice was doing on that Sunday after that September 11th of last year attack.

And the quote goes on to say, "And you need to be aware of the final posture that these points took."

And so it seems that these administration officials are trying to make it clear to Susan Rice that the talking points that she is to use are not the ones that were being discussed earlier in this e-mail exchange.

Why is all that important? Because as you know, Michael and Suzanne, Susan Rice went on those Sunday morning shows. She did almost a "Full Ginsburg" and went to almost every show and talk about this attack on Benghazi being the result of a video, an anti-Islam video that sparked a siege at the U.S. embassy in Cairo.

There was an assumption among news organizations that perhaps this was just basically the same thing that happened over in Benghazi, and the administration through Susan Rice was essentially saying that.

But if you go back and look at this e-mail exchange, there are administration officials who seem to know more or at least suspect more about all of this. Now, we should also caution because a lot of people are going to say, hey, wait a minute, all this was done for political reasons. That may very well be the case in the long run. We don't have confirmation of that at this point.

There are also concerns expressed in these e-mails that they want to make sure that the talking points reflect the fact it was an ongoing investigation and that they don't want to jeopardize that investigation.

One other quick thing, the White House, a senior administration official has put out a response to these e-mails and they say, hey, wait a minute, Congress has had these e-mails for some time.

That's not exactly right. There are people on the various committee staffs who have looked at copies of these e-mails, but we're not exactly clear they have those e-mails or copies of those e-mails in hand. We've heard from the speaker's office that they don't.

But here's a quote from a senior administration official. Quote, "The White House made stylistic edits to the talking points to emphasize that the investigation was ongoing as to who is responsible to simplify certain phrasing and to clarify that the Benghazi mission was not a consulate."

Note the words there, "stylistic edits." You can go back and look at these e-mails, this e-mail exchange, Suzanne and Michael, and conclude that this was more than stylistic edits.

As you said, the White House having its briefing at 1:45 this afternoon. It was scheduled earlier today. That's been postponed. And basically what they're going to be doing is getting back to us on all of this later on this afternoon.

Suzanne and Michael?

HOLMES: Going to be an interesting briefing, that's for sure. Jim Acosta, thanks.

MALVEAUX: I want to bring in John King, our chief national correspondent. And, John, let's go through some of the points here when Jim is talking about the e-mails here.

Tell us about what is important. The White House is saying these are stylistic changes. They've come forward in the past saying that some of this has to do with national security. They don't want to upset an ongoing investigation.

You and I know it's not uncommon for intelligence, State Department, for the administration to be all talking amongst each other before you put out the talking points, official talking points.

So when you take a look at this, is there something that goes to intention, why it is that they took out -- allegedly took out some of those words like Islamic terrorist or words like al Qaeda? JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think without a doubt, those are -- look, there's a lot of partisanship here in these investigations on Capitol Hill.

But there are also, Suzanne and Michael, a long list of legitimate questions. And among the long list of legitimate questions is who did exactly what and why to change these talking points?

If you go online, you can find this interim progress report from the five Republican committees that are looking into this. There are five Republican committees in the House of Representatives looking into this. And that's where this e-mail exchange -- these e-mail exchanges are first broken down.

They talk about the early e-mails from the CIA mentioned that there was a threat of attacks in Benghazi and across Libya, potential links to Ansar al-Sharia, a terrorist group that has an affiliation with al Qaeda, information about the CIA producing assessments about potential terrorist activity and involvement in Libya.

All that disappeared. All that disappeared. It was in the initial talking points and all of it disappeared by the time Susan Rice went on television.

Now the White House says it was removed and the State Department says, so the administration broadly, says that was removed because there were concerns that the FBI was still involved in this investigation. You didn't want to clue off the terrorists, tip them that you were looking for them and for other national security reasons, and because of conflicting information.

But the House Republicans say that they've gone back through the exchanges, including FBI exchanges in which the FBI had some of that sensitive information in talking points it approved.

So the Republicans make the case that the White House explanation that we had to do this for the FBI simply isn't credible and that's now part of the investigation.

There is no doubt that the early talking points are very different from the final talking points and there's no doubt and no one in the administration disputes this that what Susan Rice said on those television shows was simply not true and was simply not the latest information or the information that everybody in the government was operating which was these were coordinated planned terrorist attacks on the Benghazi consulate.

And so there are legitimate oversight questions the Republicans are asking and there's a lot of partisan politics to play into it. Welcome to Washington.

MALVEAUX: All right, John, we're going to be watching about 1:30 or so the press briefing room to see whether or not there's anything new that comes out of this, if there's a different line that the White House is offering. As John knows, you've got to work and work to get a little bit. And we'll see if this story changes or if they simply give the same explanation they've been giving all along.

HOLMES: Jay Carney must be a little nervous, about to get -- face the assembled people like you.

MALVEAUX: We're going to be watching that.

HOLMES: Yeah. All right, it will be interesting. Don't miss that. It will be right here on CNN, of course.

Now neighbors describe how their complaints could have helped investigators find the three kidnapped Ohio women sooner.

MALVEAUX: They claim police missed opportunities to do more.


MALVEAUX: Neighbors in the Ohio community where those three missing women were rescued say enough is enough.

In the Cleveland neighborhood now, we say -- well, actually some say the case is evidence of neglect by city officials and law enforcement.

HOLMES: At a community meeting last night, they actually complained that police do not do enough about missing persons cases, especially involving black women and children.

Angelique Malone's mother was reported missing and later found dead.


ANGELIQUE MALONE, DAUGHTER OF MURDER VICTIM: The mayor has done nothing. The captain, the chief, has done nothing. The city, no one is doing anything for black people in my neighborhood.

I live in this neighborhood. I raise my children in this neighborhood. And no one is doing anything.

No one seems to care. And we have had enough. Enough is enough.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Enough is enough! Enough is enough! Enough is enough! Enough is enough!


HOLMES: Neighbors say they called police in the past to report suspicious activity at Ariel Castro's house, but they say police never thoroughly checked out their complaints.

MALVEAUX: Jake Tapper, he's taking a look at whether or not the police actually might have missed some warning signs about the horror that was going on inside that home.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: For nearly 10 years, Ariel Castro's house on Cleveland's Seymour Street doubled as a prison for three young women.

DEPUTY CHIEF ED TOMBA, CLEVELAND POLICE DEPARTMENT: What they told law enforcement was key. And that's going to be a key part in the case.

TAPPER: Police say that over those years they never had a reason to suspect anything out of the ordinary was happening behind Castro's boarded up windows.

TOMBA: And we've asked ourselves that question numerous times over the last ten years, are we missing anything? Is there something? Is there a sign?

TAPPER: Neighbors say, yes, there were signs.

In 2011 after he heard yelling from within Castro's house, Israel Lugo says he called the police.

ISRAEL LUGO, NEIGHBOR: Cops come, I don't know, around half hour later on, knock on the door for about five, 10 minutes, about 20 good times. No answer.

They look around. They can't see through the window, so what they do usually they get back in the squad car and leave.

TAPPER: Neighbor Elsie Cintron told CNN her granddaughter also noticed something deeply disturbing at the home.

ELSIE CINTRON, NEIGHBOR: She noticed in the backyard this white woman crawling on fours like a dog.

TAPPER: And a few months later, Cintron says she warned police something just was not right.

CINTRON: I told the police officers, I told the women, I said I have a problem on Seymour, I need somebody to go down there and check it out.

She told me that she could not help me.

TAPPER: In a press conference, police had a different version of the history on Seymour Street.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our review indicated there were no other calls except one call for service in 2000. And we were able to identify that Cleveland Police were at the home once in 2004 for an incident that involved Mr. Castro as part of his employment as a school bus driver here in the city of Cleveland.

TAPPER: Cleveland Police have been criticized in the past for their slow response to residents' concerns in low income communities. Back in 2009, officers discovered the bodies of 11 women inside the home of Anthony Sowell. At the time, the former Marine lived in this poorer section of Cleveland's Mt. Pleasant neighborhood. Neighbors said they had complained to police and the city council about a foul smell coming from his home.

ZACK REED, CLEVELAND CITY COUNCILMAN: We received a phone call from a resident that said, councilman, there's a foul odor that's coming from across the street and it smells like a dead person.

TAPPER: Instead, the victims' bodies were discovered after police went to the home to investigate a sexual assault complaint. Sowell was arrested, convicted of the murders and sentenced to death.

The serial killer case resulted in multiple lawsuits filed against the city and its law enforcement officials. Some of which were dismissed. Nonetheless, Cleveland's mayor impanelled a special commission to investigate the police department and its sex crimes unit. That panel made dozens of recommendations including steps to ensure that all requests for assistance received a timely response, and making better efforts to collaborate with community members to find missing people. That last recommendation was based in part on a suggestion from the family of a teenager who disappeared on a walk home from school. The teen's name? Gorgina DeJesus.

SANDRA RUIZ, GINA DEJESUS' AUNT: There are not enough words to say or express the joy that we feel for the return of our family member, Gina.

TAPPER: Yes, the same Georgina DeJesus who was rescued from Seymour Street this week.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: And who is Ariel Castro? How could anybody do something that he is accused of actually doing? We're going to talk with someone in the next hour on that. But also tonight, Piers Morgan takes a look inside the mind of a monster. That's at 9:00 this evening.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: It still seems extraordinary he was able to get away with that for 10 years and no one knew. We'll be right back.


MALVEAUX: We've just learned new information about where the Boston bombing suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, is buried. This is from a source that is close to the investigation telling CNN that he is buried in a Muslim cemetery, this is in Doswell, Virginia. This is just north of Richmond. And Paula Newton, she's joining us outside from Boston to tell us, first of all, how do we know?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have it confirmed from (INAUDIBLE). I had a phone conversation with him a little while ago and he confirms that, in fact, Tamerlan Tsarnaev's remains are left there. In the conversation with him he said, look, it's our Muslim tradition. I know some people would have preferred cremation, but it's our Muslim tradition that these people that are dead are buried. He also said that it was an interfaith coalition from that community in Virginia that decided they would lend him a hand to make sure that his nephew's body could be laid to rest. He also said he had a conversation with his brother, Tamerlan's father, yesterday just to give him an update. And the point, Suzanne, was that, look, he didn't even ask me where he was buried. He has no information that his brother will be returning to the United States anytime soon. And he told me, frankly, it angers him. He thinks he should be here for his children and should be here to help out with the investigation if he can.


HOLMES: And, Paula, speaking about the investigation, any updates on that?

NEWTON: Well, in terms of this investigation, it's still -- we're dealing with search warrants that were still activated on the brothers' apartment in Cambridge. Still don't know the results of that. There is a lot of DNA testing that they actually have to work through.

But also interesting developments this week. Katherine Russell, the widow of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, retained another lawyer. And that is a lawyer now with many years, decades of counterterrorism experience with terrorism prosecutions and she continues to be questioned. Her lawyers say that she is cooperating. But still, what she knew, when she knew the information, all those things still something that the investigators are looking into, as well as, keep in mind, Michael, we have still right now an FBI team on the ground in Dagestan trying to determine if Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older brother, was radicalized there at all, was inspired, was given any bomb making instructions. Still trying to get to the bottom of that.


HOLMES: All right, Paula, thanks so much. Paula Newton there in Boston.

MALVEAUX: An alleged kidnapper who pretend to help find his victims, that is possibly one way that Ariel Castro might have flown under the radar in Ohio.

HOLMES: A psychologist analyzes such manipulative tactics. That's coming up in the next hour. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


HOLMES: Welcome back.

Ariel Castro's daughter says she is horrified by what her father is accused of doing.

MALVEAUX: An exclusive interview with CNN's Laurie Segall, Angie Gregg says the little things she never really thought about suddenly now are making sense. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you want to see them at all? Do you -- would you like to see them at any point?

ANGIE GREGG, KIDNAPPING SUSPECT'S DAUGHTER: I would love to see them. I would love to see the little girl, Jocelyn, but I don't want to pressure them at all. And that's -- maybe further down the road, maybe it will be a possibility. I would really love that. But, you know, right now, these girls need to heal. I would just want to know why - and why did he do this in the first place? If you knew that you had these urges, why didn't you get help? Why along the way did you never feel guilty enough to where you wanted to just send them free, especially seeing the parents out there looking for their children, going to the vigils. Why did you keep them? Why didn't you just say enough is enough? You're 50 something years old. You've lived your life. These girls were young. You should have never did that.

SEGALL: You never want to talk to your dad again?

GREGG: No. No. After this, and, you know, hearing what I've heard, there's no doubt in my mind, of course, that he's guilty. And I have no problem cutting him out of my life. I have no problem doing that. I never want to see him again. And another thing that I would like to ask him is, when did he think this was going to be over? How did he think it was going to end? You're 52 years old, did you think that you can carry this charade forever? What did you think was going to happen? And eventually you would have been caught. And then what of these girls? What of your family? You didn't care. You only cared about yourself.


HOLMES: There's so much more to learn about this case as well.

Got to go. That will do it. Thanks for watching AROUND THE WORLD. Thanks for your company.

MALVEAUX: CNN NEWSROOM starts after this. Have a great weekend.

HOLMES: Yes. And you too.