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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Car Bomb Found in Times Square; President Obama Heading to Gulf Coast; Interviews With Congressman Peter King, Senator Charles Schumer
Aired May 2, 2010 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Candy Crowley in Washington.
This hour, we want to update you on a story breaking this morning -- a bomb scare in New York City's Times Square.
Beginning at the beginning, a T-shirt vendor early last night noticed a suspicious-looking Nissan Pathfinder in the area and alerted police. An officer peered inside and noticed a box with smoke coming out and smelled gun powder.
Streets were cleared of thousands of tourists from the theater district so authorities could dismantle the device. Police confiscated gas containers, propane gas, batteries, fireworks, and a locked metal box that resembled a gun locker.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the device looked amateurish, but that the city avoided what could have been a very deadly event. No suspects are in custody at this time.
President Obama is being given updates on the situation. And although it's still very early in the investigation, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told us a short while ago that authorities are treating this as a potential terrorist attack.
We have reporters getting all the latest developments. We want to first go to Susan Candiotti, who is in Times Square in New York.
Susan, it looks like any other Sunday in Times Square. I can't believe it.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I know. How quickly things can get back to normal.
Of course, it's not a normal day for NYPD investigators, as well as the FBI, as well as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the bomb experts. And one thing that they're doing, they're looking at these surveillance cameras that are all over the city. Surveillance cameras by the hundreds and thousands.
We can show you one. Maybe we can pan up now and take a look.
This is what many of them look like. Some are labeled "NYPD," others are not. But the key thing is that they're looking for any evidence that someone might have seen someone actually park that car, the SUV in question, or get out of the car, move away from the vehicle, something. So they have a lot of work ahead of them.
And one other thing that's going on this hour, they are looking at the physical evidence that they do have. That means in two different locations, at two different forensic labs in the city, they're looking, A, at the car, going over it for evidence of hair, of fiber, of fingerprints. And at the other location, they're looking at the bomb components, the ones that you mentioned, including the gas cans, the propane tanks, the fireworks, that kind of thing, to see what else -- and the clock -- to see what else -- what other kind of information they can get from it -- Candy.
CROWLEY: Susan, hang on with us a little while.
I want to now go to our Jeanne Meserve, who is in Pensacola covering the oil spill.
But Jeanne, unfortunately, you've been through this in any number of times as our homeland security correspondent. So tell me what you've been learning.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, although there is nothing at this point that points investigators so a suspect, and there's nothing that illuminates a motive, there was one positive piece of information today. They did find a vin number on that vehicle.
Apparently, there was not one on the dashboard, but elsewhere on the vehicle, they were able to find a vin number. This is essentially like the Social Security number of this vehicle. They'll be able to track that and learn something about its history. It won't necessarily lead them to a suspect, because there's such a huge black market in automobiles, but it might be helpful in this investigation.
One other thing someone pointed out to me, Candy, was how unusual it was that this vehicle was parked with its engine running and its lights flashing with this device inside. As one former official said to me, it's almost like it was screaming, hey, look at me. It's not exactly what you'd expect from some sort of covert attack -- Candy.
CROWLEY: Jeanne, when you talk to your sources, do you get a sense at all that -- it just does sound so amateurish. It sounds like you and I could have collected some propane containers from gas, a couple of fireworks, and done largely the same thing. Does this in any way send off alarm bells to federal officials that it could be connected to any kind of sort of organized international terrorism, al Qaeda or whatever?
MESERVE: Well, I think at this point, Candy, it is just too early to know. They're looking at the whole realm of possibilities.
Is it international? Is it domestic? Is it a lone wolf? Is this part of an organized plan? They just don't know.
But I can tell you this -- that of course authorities were on the lookout for any follow-on attacks, any similar sort of attacks either in New York or elsewhere. New York officials told us last night that they kept police past their shift to do a run-through of all the boroughs to see if they found anything. They did not.
Talking to federal officials, nothing has been found in any other cities around the country. So, at this point in time, it appears to be a lone incident -- Candy.
CROWLEY: Let me bring Susan back in.
Susan, one of the things that they also talked about was this gun case. I see them a lot, actually, in the Midwest, these big steel -- I think they're probably talking about the same thing, these big steel containers that go in the back of pickups.
What did they find inside it? Do we know?
CANDIOTTI: Yes, that's intriguing, because at last check, a police official told me they had not yet gotten into that box which could be a gun box, it could have been for ammo. So, they're not quite sure -- at least if they've gotten in, in the meantime -- haven't told us yet what they found inside.
Initially, we heard last night that there was a box within a box. But we know that they haven't been able to get into that yet. That's one of the things they're doing at the forensic lab.
And one other thing that you and Jeanne were just discussing about the flashing lights and leaving the motor running, another interesting point in that regard is that another police official told me that it's possible that because they've had so much smoke coming from inside the car, and possibly from the fireworks that might have been lit before the driver got out, one theory, is that perhaps the smoke might have helped in some way to diffuse the fumes that might have been in the car, perhaps preventing it from carrying out what it was supposed to do. But, again, perhaps this fits in with the comment made by the mayor, saying that it looked like it was done by an amateur.
CROWLEY: Jeanne, can you tell how much federal involvement there has been in this so far? Is it largely local and state police, or are federal authorities kind of in charge?
MESERVE: New York Police is extraordinarily robust. They have their own intelligence unit, as well as an extraordinarily large number of officers and detectives.
It is largely a local investigation, but the FBI is very deeply involved in this, and so is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms as they try and do forensics on the bomb. So it's a mix there.
At this point, the Department of Homeland Security appears to be monitoring the situation, assessing what's going on, waiting for results of this investigation, and they've been communicating some with state and local partners. They will communicate more as they learn more about exactly what did happen in New York.
CROWLEY: Susan, you know, when I'm listening to the two of you, the sense I'm getting is, at this point, it could be anywhere from some crazy loner who just, you know, had had it with his life, or wanted to make some big statement, to some possible terrorism, because you always have to sort of keep that in the mix until you know differently.
CANDIOTTI: Sure, it's impossible to determine that at this time. It's so early. But, of course, they will certainly be considering the possibilities. And it's very early on, to be sure, so they have a lot to look at, and a lot of that might come from talking to a lot of witnesses, the T-shirt vendor, the way it was put together, other similar situations that have occurred in New York City over the years in terms of there have been some, you know, pipe bomb explosions and those involving metal boxes, actually, at some other instances, but they happened in the middle of the night.
What makes this one different, of course, is the time that it happened. It was not in the middle of the night. It was around 6:30 in the evening, on a Saturday night, when people are out in even bigger numbers than during the weekdays, out to dinner, at the theater. So many things were affected because this happened.
CROWLEY: And Jeanne, that brings me to another point that I haven't quite gotten an answer for when I've been talking to people, and that is, so, if you have a couple of propane gas tanks, and five, 10 gallons of gasoline, and some firecrackers, what does that do had it worked? I get the sense this didn't work, whatever was supposed to happen.
Is it a big fire? Is it an explosion? What would it do?
MESERVE: Well, I think they're still in the process of trying to figure out exactly that. That's why they're doing this forensic on the bomb, not only because they want to trace the components, see if they can figure out who bought these things and put them together and placed them there, but, also, they want to get a better sense of the dynamics of this bomb.
The mayor said last night he thought it could have been something quite significant. And one federal law enforcement official who I was talking to last night said the thing that he could compare it to most closely was the bombing at the Glasgow airport a couple of years ago, where somebody had a vehicle improvised explosive device and drove it into the airport. And there was quite a huge conflagration there.
So, at least a big explosion and fire. And as Susan has mentioned, in a very crowded area, one has to believe it would have had a significant impact.
CROWLEY: And Susan, before I let both of you go, is it as normal as it looks in New York right now?
CANDIOTTI: Yes, it sure is. And it's a beautiful day, as it has been this weekend. A lot of people are here. It's unusually warm for this time of year. And so people are out and about and taking advantage of it.
And if I might add, Candy, if you don't mind for another moment, in regard to the smoke that was filling that area, remember how when you have a gas tank, it will be interesting to find out, were these gas tanks full and were the propanes full? Because if they weren't quite full, the question is, were they open, or was one open and one closed? Because what provides the explosiveness of this in an incendiary device is if you have something that lights it, and lights the fumes, not the gas, but the fumes that emanate from either the gas tanks or the propane tanks -- so, still a lot of questions involved here.
CROWLEY: In fact, I'd go so far as to say we probably still have more questions than we have answers, but I know both of you, Susan Candiotti, Jeanne Meserve, I know you're both looking for them. I appreciate it so much.
Susan just mentioned Mayor Bloomberg, who did give sort of a middle-of-the-night news conference last night. We're going to play some of that for you right after this.
CROWLEY: Welcome back. I'm Candy Crowley. This is CNN's coverage of an incident that happened in Times Square, New York, last night, when they found a car bomb. No one was hurt, but very scary times.
However, you are looking at a picture of Air Force One on another huge story that is happening right now. The president is on board. He is now headed to the Gulf Coast. Specifically, he is going to Louisiana.
As you know, more than a week ago, there was an explosion and a fire and the total destruction of an oil rig about 40 miles offshore. Eleven men were killed, and over the course of the following days, we came to discover that oil was leaking up, gushing up, in fact, from the bottom of the ocean through the various mechanisms that had been a part of the oil rig.
Now, huge, huge pools of oil are headed toward the Gulf. There is nothing like a picture of a president going somewhere to kind of say what George Bush, the father, used to say, "I care." This is the kind of missions that presidents like to go on to try to tell people that they are on top of the case.
I want to bring in our Kate Bolduan.
Kate, this really has become kind of a must-do for presidents. When something happens, they need to show up as soon as possible without being a bother.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, and that seems to be the fine line that they have to walk, a kind of balancing act that they work out.
President Obama, he's getting aboard Air Force One, heading down to -- you already mentioned it -- down to New Orleans. The schedule really is a little murky at the moment because there are some weather conditions that they're having to deal with. We've been talking about similar weather conditions having to do with the flow of the oil spill, Candy.
I think we see the -- well, we're seeing some video of the president. He's getting off Marine One right there.
But the schedule when the president gets down to New Orleans is, if weather permitting, he will then chopper and take a helicopter tour of the oil spill, an aerial tour of the oil spill, on their way to the Coast Guard command center down in Venice, on the Gulf Coast, where he'll be having a closed briefing, really an update on the situation there. As we've been seeing in the days -- in the past, as well as today, there are so many moving parts, and this is such a complex problem. It seems to be changing by the minute, at least in the severity and the magnitude that they're dealing with down there.
Then, after the president gets that update on the situation down there, after he gets his own firsthand assessment of the situation down there, according to the travel pool, the reporters that are traveling with the president on this trip, he will be making a statement to the pool. And I'm working. I'm trying to get some guidance to see if there is any possibility that the president not only will be talking about what he's learning, as well as his thoughts, as you said, to show the "I care," which is so necessary of presidents in these kinds of catastrophic situations, but I'm also working to see if there's any guidance that the president might be also talking about the other big story that -- the potential attempted terrorist act in New York City when we've been talking about that car bomb that we've been talking about all morning -- Candy.
CROWLEY: That's kind of another one of those balancing things that presidents have to do on almost anything, which is you want to say, hey, the feds are all over this, we're looking at this car bomb, except you don't want people to think there's some big plot going on out there if it's one lone crazy person, frankly. So that's tough for them.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely. It's tough. And you see early on, federal officials -- and you could see it in the words and kind of the way she carried herself, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
They are so careful in their characterizations and the words they choose early on in the investigations because it's necessary. There are so many things as the evidence comes out that they don't want to get ahead of the investigation, as one federal official said today. And that's also in how much they talk about a situation. It can even heighten that kind of sensitivity to the situation.
Again, another balancing act. But, you know, the president will be heading down to New Orleans in a few short minutes.
CROWLEY: Well, he's pretty good at balancing acts.
BOLDUAN: I would agree.
CROWLEY: One of the things that I've noticed though, that that from the time this explosion fire at the oil rig, which I believe was the 20th, there was a slow kind of ratcheting up of the administration's desire to be seen as involved. And I feel like we're sort of, like, full-court press now.
There's been an evolution, hasn't there?
BOLDUAN: There seems to be. And I've actually been wondering that as well, because at first, it seemed maybe it was because information was slow to come out because of the remote location of this explosion, and how the information was trickling out. But it did almost -- you almost got the sense that everyone was just amazed at how big this actually is, when it first -- while it was -- seemed like a horrific explosion that was fatal, 11 people being killed, it seems that there's a lot of full-court press going on right now as people are really starting to understand how big the situation is.
I found it fascinating, the sound that you ran with your cabinet secretaries earlier this morning, when they made a point to make sure they dialed back in that video that you showed, that they are not partners with BP. They're holding BP's feet to the fire to do what they're legally bound to do.
CROWLEY: Yes. It sounds very much like the federal government, in the form of the Coast Guard at this point, Admiral Allen is in charge. But BP's going to end up paying for it, which we'll say the company has said, we're responsible and we'll do that.
I wonder also if now they're looking -- the other thing that really struck me about that interview was that, when I asked the admiral, "So, if the Exxon Valdez was a 10 on the catastrophe scale of oil spills, what's this?" And he said a 9. And I asked Secretary Salazar, the interior secretary, and he said this is a catastrophe.
So, I think we don't even yet know, and that may be why they're sort of upping their presence, because this really looks like it's just going to get worse.
BOLDUAN: Well, and Admiral Thad Allen is known to be a straight shooter. And those types of people, they don't parse their words or try to blow anything out of proportion at all.
I mean, when you hear -- when he said it's so complex, it's impossible to guesstimate, however his words were, how much oil is leaking, how large this spill is, it really shows that right now, it seems everyone is trying to get their hands around, what is the situation that we're dealing with and how do we stop it? And at the same time, it seems that they're also trying to figure out who's really at fault and who's going to handle the cleanup.
Our Kate Bolduan.
We love the straight shooters, don't we?
BOLDUAN: We sure do.
CROWLEY: Thank you so much.
BOLDUAN: Of course.
CROWLEY: When we come back, we are going to return to that story of the car bomb found in Times Square in New York. Again, it did not explode. It was found before that. No one hurt, but a lot of people scared.
We'll be back with more after this.
CROWLEY: Welcome back to our coverage of that car bomb found in New York early last evening, diffused, the car taken away. They are now looking for suspects and exactly what sort of bomb it was.
But I tell you as I bring in our Josh Levs, got to say, for someone who -- if anyone out there has never been on a Saturday night in Times Square, I thought the most miraculous thing that happened was that they managed to clear it, because it is hugely crowded.
JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not only that, Candy, but the stories that we're getting from people who were there, who experienced this, everyone so far is describing a lot of order during this evacuation. They're saying people kind of came together and stood where they needed to stand, they did all the right things.
We're not hearing stories of fights breaking out, people getting really upset. And, you know, this is important. New Yorkers have been through a lot.
What I want all of you to understand is this location where this bomb scare happened is perhaps the busiest spot on Earth. It's one of the busiest spots on Earth. It's certainly one of the busiest cities on Earth.
And we're going to zoom to this screen. Let's do this -- we'll take you to Google Earth. This is good.
What we're seeing here is, basically, it was just off of Broadway at 45th. Now, you might not know this location very well, but you're going to when you see this screen behind me right here.
Take a look at what I have for you. This is from Google Earth, a street view.
And when we're taking a look here, what you're going to see is that this is where the Broadway shows are. This is where you walk through Times Square.
Let's zoom in right here.
If you've seen the New Year's Eve celebrations at Times Square, if you've ever seen any images of New York, which are very frequently Times Square, what you're seeing is this. And this is where it was.
It was at 45th and Broadway, just a little bit west along 45th Street. And the area that was cleared out is this incredibly busy area.
This is not a live image, obviously. The way that Google works is they have these images that show you some of the spots that people have taken pictures.
I want to come around a little bit, because I want you to see what it's like along 45th, which is where the car was. You have some Broadway shows here. You have "The Lion King," you have other Broadway shows.
You also have some offices along here. Viacom has offices along here.
Mayor Bloomberg was asked whether there's any reason to believe this location was specifically chosen for a reason. He has said that nothing so far indicates any specific reason for it, but obviously, the investigation is just beginning.
So you know this spot. Now let's go to this video which shows you some pictures from last night. And what you're going to see is something that you've probably never seen before, hopefully won't have to see again.
It's these images of Times Square being basically emptied out. What happened there was that all these people were pulled out of a pretty significant area that's always packed. And you can see right there -- I mean, this is what Candy was just saying. It's so stunning.
This does not happen. In fact, look at this. I mean, some of these pictures were taken at 1:00, 2:00, 3:00 in the morning. It always looks like it's daytime because Times Square is so lit up.
Look at that, complete emptiness. And all the stories that go along with this are that people stood up, they went where the authorities said they had to go. The authorities came in, did what they had to do.
Eyewitnesses who saw the actual bomb in that car say that it felt like a grenade went off inside the car. They describe light, a little bit of smoke, but nothing beyond the car itself. So that right there is the drama.
And then we've been seeing today, Candy, as you know, some really busy images of what's going on inside Times Square. So good to see everyone back there today. CROWLEY: Yes. Josh Levs, thanks so much. It doesn't even look real when it doesn't have people in it.
LEVS: Isn't that amazing?
CROWLEY: Yes, it is.
Overnight, as we have mentioned, very early, 2:00 in the morning, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and city Police Commissioner Ray Kelly briefed reporters about the incident.
Here's some of that.
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: Well, good morning.
I'm joined by Governor Paterson; and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn; Police Commissioner Kelly; Fire Commissioner Cassano; FDNY Chief of Department Ed Culdif (ph); FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Steven Bukar (ph); Chief of Department Joe Esposito; Chief of Detectives Phil Polasky (ph); Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence David Cohen; Bomb Squad Commanding Officer Mark Torre (ph); and Officer of Emergency Management, Deputy Commissioner John Scravanni (ph).
Before I begin, let me say that we are very lucky. Thanks to alert New Yorkers and professional police officers, we avoided what could have been a very deadly event.
I'm going to begin by telling you what we know and what we don't know.
At about 6:30 last night, an alert T-shirt vendor who is a Vietnam veteran noticed an unoccupied, suspicious vehicle on 45th Street just off 7th Avenue, a few blocks from where we are standing. He alerted Police Officer Wayne Ratigan (ph) of the NYPD Mounted Unit, who was on his horse Miggs (ph), patrolling Times Square.
Officer Ratigan (ph) saw the vehicle, a Nissan Pathfinder, which had smoke emerging from vents near the backseat, and he also smelled gun powder. He, with the help of police officers assigned to Operation I, immediately evacuated the area and called for the fire department and more police.
Firefighters, emergency service officers and the bomb squad responded. And the bomb squad confirmed that the suspicious vehicle did indeed contain an explosive device.
There were gas cans and bomb-making materials in the car. The experts at the bomb squad are removing them as we speak.
Who abandoned the car and why are under investigation by the NYPD. Commissioner Kelly will fill you in on the details, but I want to thank the professionals at the NYPD and the FBI, as well as the fire department and the Office of Emergency Management, for their work tonight. But most of all, the alert vendor and Officer Ratigan (ph) of the Mounted Unit.
You know we often say that when a terrorist is caught, he has a map of New York City in his pocket. And that's a conversation I had earlier tonight in Washington. And tonight is a further reminder of the dangers that we face.
RAYMOND KELLY, NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: Thank you, Mr. Mayor.
NYPD Bomb Squad has rendered safe an improvised car bomb discovered earlier this evening inside a dark green Nissan Pathfinder parked on 45th Street and Broadway with its engine running and hazard lights flashing. NYPD bomb technicians have removed and dismantled three propane tanks, consumer-grade fireworks, two five-gallon gasoline containers, filled, and two clocks, along with batteries in each of the clocks, electrical wire and other components stored in the rear of the vehicle. In addition, a two-by-two-by-four-foot black metal box resembling a gun locker has been removed from the vehicle. The bomb squad is in the process of rendering it safe. It will be removed to our range at Rodman's Neck in the Bronx for detonation.
At approximately 6:30 this evening, as the mayor said, an NYPD mounted officer was notified by a street vendor of a possible car fire, a smoking vehicle, and went to investigate. After observing white smoke billing inside and coming out of the rear of the vehicle, he and two impact police officers on patrol in the area began to clear pedestrians from the vicinity while radioing for further assistance. Visual examination of the vehicle by responding agencies, the fire department and police department, revealed suspicious-looking components in the rear of the vehicle. It has tinted windows and was parked approximately 10 feet from the corner on 45th Street in front of Bank of America.
The Connecticut license plate on the rear of the vehicle does not match the vehicle. And investigators have spoken to the individual to whom the plates are registered.
The vehicle is seen at 6:28 p.m. on an NYPD surveillance camera traveling west on 45th Street. We're in the process of identifying additional cameras which may have captured images of the vehicle and, more important, people seen driving or leaving the vehicle.
NYPD, FBI and other authorities are actively pursuing all investigative leads at this time, and we encourage anyone with information to call our tips hotline. That's 1-800-577-TIPS.
From 43rd Street and to 48th Street, between 6th and 8th Avenues, are closed at this time to pedestrian and vehicle traffic. We expect that they will be reopened soon, and we certainly appreciate the public's cooperation. We did evacuate the south tower of the Marriott hotel. Those people are in the auditorium in the hotel, and we hope to have them get back in their rooms shortly.
(END VIDEOTAPE) CROWLEY: We are going to take a break. And right after that break, we will be talking to Fran Townsend, former homeland security adviser to George W. Bush, and get her take on what went on in New York right after this.
CROWLEY: Welcome back to CNN's continuing coverage of the car bomb scare in New York City.
Joining me now by phone is CNN National Security Contributor Fran Townsend.
Fran, I know you've been talking to people, and I'm anxious to hear, what do they think, what do you think this is shaping up as?
FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: You know, Candy, it's interesting. As I speak -- when I first spoke to senior federal counterterrorism officials who are involved in the investigation, they said the first thing they looked for is, is this related to in any way an ongoing threat stream or investigation? The answer to that is no, and so it does suggest sort of the lone wolf, if you will.
But, that said, Candy, I was also struck by the fact that the use of propane tanks has -- there's a long history with al Qaeda. Jeanne Meserve mentioned Glasgow earlier. There was also, if you recall, a diffused car bomb that -- it was diffused before it went off in London several years ago.
Going back to East Africa, they used propane tanks and those explosive devices, as opposed to an incendiary, which causes fire, as a booster. And so al Qaeda knows very well how to make these sort of crude bombs. In recent years they haven't been very successful at it, in the case of Glasgow and London. And so, I think they're looking at all the possibilities because of that consistency in the use of propane tanks by al Qaeda in the past.
CROWLEY: You know, when this bomb was described by the mayor as amateurish -- and when I hear that word, I think, OK, this is just somebody who, you know, is either crazy, or is just, you know, over the top at this point, and goes ahead and does this. But is there -- can there also be an al Qaeda tie if it's a "lone wolf?"
TOWNSEND: There can, Candy. Remember, the Glasgow guy, these were doctors, well-educated, who had been radicalized in the U.K. And so, there was crude. The guy was burned all over his body, very badly, ultimately died.
I mean, you know, it's interesting, because they can self- radicalize. They can get enough information to put together a crude device, not necessarily successfully, obviously. But that's why the officials -- and I also spoke to someone senior in the NYPD. They're going to look at all the possibilities, whether this is, as you suggest, some crazy person, or whether this is someone who is self- radicalized and inspired by al Qaeda, but just didn't successfully put the bomb together.
CROWLEY: I have about 30 seconds left, Fran, but I want to ask you, what do you make of the idea that this car -- the engine was running, it was parked on the curb, and the lights were flashing.
TOWNSEND: You know, Candy, I'm willing to bet you, as you know, given how crowded it is there, it's very difficult to find a parking spot. And I will tell you, as the thing began to create smoke inside the car, it may be that there was too much smoke, he couldn't wait to park the car, and just walked away from it because he couldn't stay in the car any longer. And it may be that the thing just went awry before he was ready for the thing to detonate.
CROWLEY: Fran Townsend, CNN's national security contributor.
Thank you so much, Fran. I really appreciate your expertise.
TOWNSEND: Thanks, Candy.
CROWLEY: Coming up next, we want to talk to New York Senator Chuck Schumer right after this.
CROWLEY: Welcome back to our coverage of the car bomb scare in New York City.
Joining us now by phone is New York Congressman Peter King, who is the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee.
Thank you so much, Congressman, for joining us.
I want to first go to kind of what you think somehow that they are looking at here. Do you know what police -- do they look at this and think, lone wolf? Do they look at this and think that it looks like other similar attacks?
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Well, Candy, they look at all the possibilities. It could be -- first of all, it could be a Timothy McVeigh type. It could also be an Islamic terrorist lone wolf, similar to what we've seen in England.
Fran Townsend was talking about the attack in Glasgow. There was a similar attack outside a nightclub in London three years ago, June, very similar to the one that we saw in Times Square last night.
I'm not aware of any intelligence chatter which would indicate this is part of an international conspiracy, but again, the lone wolf, the self-radicalized, the homegrown terrorist, we have to be on the lookout -- not on the look out, have to be looked at very closely. I know one possibility -- and again, this is one possibility out of a hundred, but this vehicle was close to a Viacom building which owns MTV and Comedy Central. And you have the whole issue with "South Park," which Islamic terrorists were threatening to have retribution for. So, all of these things have to be looked at. Fortunately, a lot of evidence was left behind, and you have the best police force in the world with the NYPD, and you have the Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York on top of it. And they will moving as quickly as they possibly can, and we can be sure it will be a very exhaustive and professional investigation.
CROWLEY: In your position on the Homeland Security Committee, do you get to know, sort of ahead of time, what's going on, anything about the investigation? Do you know where they are in it, whether they're closing in on any suspects, that sort of thing?
KING: I don't believe they are. And actually, right now is primarily being handled by the NYPD. So the people I have been talking to have been involved with the NYPD, rather than Homeland Security. And I know they're looking very carefully, for instance, at all the cameras.
And there's hundreds of cameras in that area, or there could be as far as all the store fronts along the way, besides police cameras. You have so many cameras which could be tracking him as the person was leaving the vehicle, running toward the streets, whatever. If you can get a facial view of that, it would be extremely helpful, the fingerprints in the car, all of that.
But my understanding is that as of now, there is no suspect. But again, you have the police and the FBI here working together. We have the best possible people working on it. And again, thank God it didn't go off. Thank God that so much evidence has been left behind.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you one more question. I have about 30 seconds left.
And that is, Mayor Bloomberg, when he talked last night, pretty much seemed to say, well, the reason that New York is a target is why we need more homeland security money.
Do you agree with that?
KING: Absolutely. We need homeland security funding.
We are the number one terrorist target in the world. We also need funding for radiation detectors, which has been zeroed out in this year's budget. We have to get the funding in for that.
New York is the number one target, and we have to have intelligence to spot these before they get here. But once they do get here, we have to have the best type of investigators and first responders. We have them in New York, but it's very, very expensive. There's over 1,000 police officers in New York dedicated to fighting terrorism. That's more than the size of most police departments in the country.
CROWLEY: New York Congressman Peter King.
Thank you so much for joining us this morning.
KING: Thank you, Candy.
CROWLEY: We want to bring in now the senior senator from New York, Senator Charles Schumer.
Senator, thank you, too, for being here with us.
It looks pretty calm behind you, but last night, very tense. All in all, when you look at what happened, are you fairly certain that once it was known that there was a car bomb, that things went as they should have?
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Well, yes. I think that it's amazing. It's a good testimony for New York.
First, a typical New Yorker, a Vietnam vet who was a T-shirt salesman, noticed the smoke from in the car, immediately knew just what to do. A police officer, 19 years training, Officer Radigan (ph), again, reported it in immediately. And so the car was gotten too quickly. Times Square was evacuated quickly and without incident. It's a testament to New Yorkers and the New York City Police Department, which is, as Peter King said, the greatest police department in the world.
CROWLEY: Well, listen, you know, the fact of the matter is -- I was thinking about this last night as this started to unfold -- is that New York is a big city, it is a free city. And if someone wants to drive a carful of explosives into that town, there's not much you can do about it.
This was luck, wasn't it?
SCHUMER: Well, you know, there isn't that much you can do about it, but again, New York City is doing everything it can. Commissioner Kelly has something called the Ring of Steel, which would put detectors right now for radiation and chemical devices at all the major entrances to the city. But technology is getting better and better, and they could eventually detect a large amount of explosives as well.
So, there are things we can do. But you're right, we're a big, open, free-wheeling city, where millions of people come in each day. And it takes a lot of effort and maybe a little luck so far to avoid any major incident. But again, this guy did drive the car in, but it was detected rather quickly because of the keen eyes of two New Yorkers.
CROWLEY: As the senior senator, are there things about this investigation that you can tell us that have gone on, how close they may be, how long this may take?
SCHUMER: Right. Well, first, as was mentioned, there are a ton of cameras all over Times Square. And while they couldn't see into the car itself -- they do have pictures of the car, but it had tinted windows -- there's a decent chance that the perpetrator will be caught on camera one way or another. Second, we are very good -- this is federal, but the federal government, NSA and others are very good at monitoring the electronic airwaves. And so, when there's a worldwide terrorism alert, when terrorists in Pakistan or Somalia, al Qaeda or anybody else, try to do something, we're pretty much on top of that. It can't be 100 percent, but it's darn good.
And they had no prior knowledge of anything happening. So, the odds -- not a certainty, because the investigation isn't concluded -- but the odds are quite high that this was a lone wolf.
Could it have been a lone wolf connected to some terrorist organization? Possibly. Probably not.
Could it have been a lone wolf who had that ideology and was doing it on his own? Possibly.
Could it have been someone else who didn't have terrorist ideology at heart but might have been just mentally ill or whatever? That's possible as well.
But given the nature of the explosive, and given the fact that there was no chatter on the lines, signs point to -- and again, it's preliminary -- that this was not part of any terrorist plot by al Qaeda or another known terrorist organization.
CROWLEY: And so --
SCHUMER: The previous terrorist who was arrested here, Zazi, when he came over the George Washington Bridge, they had lots of knowledge of what he was doing because he was connected to al Qaeda.
CROWLEY: So when you look at the mix of federal investigators and New York police investigators, who's running this at this point and how does that work?
SCHUMER: Well, there's something called the Joint Terrorism Task Force. It's composed of the FBI and Homeland Security at the federal level, and NYPD, the New York Police Department, at the local level. They have had amazingly good cooperation.
You know, you always hear the stories of law enforcement, of rivalries and turf, and this and that. That hasn't happened in this task force, and it's been very, very effective, as both the feds -- the federal officials, as well as Commissioner Kelly and the NYPD, will attest to. And they'll be in charge of this because you have to integrate things.
You have to know what happened outside New York City, which is generally a federal responsibility, and what happened inside New York City, which is a NYPD responsibility. And the fact that we've had this Terrorism Task Force, Joint Terrorism Task Force, and it's worked so well, is another good -- it's something that's very good and leads you to believe that every effort will be made to find who did it, apprehend them, and to try and take corrective measures so this kind of thing doesn't happen again. CROWLEY: Senator, if I'm sitting in the Midwest, in Missouri or Ohio, or someplace, and I was planning on a summer trip to New York with my kids, this might give me pause.
SCHUMER: Well, you know, we New Yorkers are a tough breed. And you can see that Times Square is as crowded as ever. And I don't think you can let the terrorists win.
Praise God, there hasn't been a successful terrorist incident since the awful day of 9/11 here. The police and the authorities are on high alert. And I would urge people who are planning to come to New York, come. My daughters are coming home from law school and college, and they'll be allowed to go to Times Square or anywhere else in New York City.
CROWLEY: What is your -- when you look at this -- and you love this city, you talk so much about the city and the state in general. What is your biggest fear when it comes to this, since I think we can all agree that New York and Washington, D.C., are the biggest targets.
What do you fear the most?
SCHUMER: Well, the fear -- you know, the terrorists are smart. The worldwide terrorists, they look for our weak pressure points, so you have to go on all fronts.
Obviously, what could cause the greatest damage is, God forbid, a nuclear device being exploded near any one of our cities that would poison the atmosphere for the whole world. It's sort of appalling that six blocks away at the U.N., Ahmadinejad is coming tomorrow to a conference on nuclear nonproliferation. What hypocrisy. So you worry about that.
But then you can worry about what happened last night. Some homegrown terrorist, if that's what it was, putting explosives in a car or going on -- you can't be too careful.
And the hard thing about fighting terrorism, you have to go after it in every way. And my great worry is not that we'll not be able to do it. We need the resources, we need Washington to back New York up, absolutely. But that we become complacent, that's the worry, that, you know, it's nine years and change after 9/11, and we say it hasn't happened and it won't happen.
And we have to be always on the alert. Fighting terrorism has to be the highest priority of federal government and New York City government. And so far, thank God, we've avoided any incidents, but that doesn't mean that they're not still trying. They are.
CROWLEY: And I want to ask you the same question I asked Congressman King, because I think we'll have some bipartisan agreement here.
Mayor Bloomberg seemed to say that he needed more money. He said it at the news conference last night, because New York is such a target. Are you having difficulty getting the money out of Congress you think you need to protect this city?
SCHUMER: Well, in some areas yes, in some no. As I said, the commissioner has this very innovative plan called Ring of Steel, where every major entryway into the city will have detection monitors.
Right now those detection monitors are aimed at finding any radiological device. They can easily expand to chemical and biological and even explosive. And this year, inexplicably, the OMB zeroed the money out. They did it last year, we got it back. We'll have to fight again this year.
But this incident is a reminder, we need all the help that we can get. And terrorism is a national problem.
The reports are the car came from Connecticut. So, even it's across state lines in this instance. And New York needs help here. And it shouldn't be the taxpayers of New York City or New York State who bear the major burden.
CROWLEY: Congressman, I've got about 15 seconds left with you, so I wanted to ask you -- turn a corner and ask you, what's going to come up next in the U.S. Senate, an energy bill or an immigration bill, after you finish finance reform?
SCHUMER: Well, whichever one is ready first.
CROWLEY: And which one will that be?
SCHUMER: Well, we don't know yet, do we?
CROWLEY: Well, I don't. I was hoping you did.
SCHUMER: I don't, but you do tell me.
CROWLEY: All right. Thank you so much.
CROWLEY: Senator Charles Schumer of New York.
I appreciate it. Enjoy your day in New York. It looks beautiful.
SCHUMER: Thanks. Have a nice day.
CROWLEY: You too.
So let's just do a brief recap before we leave you.
We are talking about a car bomb that was found in Times Square in New York City last evening. It was found by a T-shirt vendor who notified a policeman who came to look at the car. It was full of smoke. They immediately cleared Times Square. Quite a feat.
Times Square, at that particular point, is full of theater-goers, moviegoers and tourists. Nonetheless, they moved everyone out.
Eventually, what was inside, propane tubes, gasoline, fireworks, were completely defused, and they have hauled the car away. No one hurt. As yet, no suspects that we know of.
So, keep with us now, ,because at the next hour, we will continue and we will go on with our "STATE OF THE UNION."
Thanks so much for joining us.