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Explosions at Boston Marathon; Controversy at Gitmo

Aired April 15, 2013 - 15:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour, I'm Brianna Keilar in for Brooke Baldwin. Fights between detainees and guards with improvised weapons, hunger strikes, it might sound like a prison riot, but it's not. This is all happening in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. You may not have even thought about the U.S. detention facility lately, but you can be sure there is a lot going on down there.

In today's "New York Times," one of the detainees wrote a scathing op- ed detailing those hunger strikes that have been going on for about two months now.

The article is titled "Gitmo Is Killing Me." And he says -- quote -- "There are so many of us on hunger strike now that there aren't enough qualified medical staff members to carry out the forced feedings. Nothing is happening at regular intervals. They're feeding people around the clock just to keep up."

He then goes into disturbing detail about the painful feeding tubes used to give the detainees food and says he would not wish this cruel punishment on anyone. Some people, however, are not swayed. Here's retired General James "Spider" Marks this morning on CNN responding to that op-ed.


BRIG. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Let me tell you, that guy has no rights. I have no sympathy for that guy. He is a prisoner of war.

He made a very bad choice leaving Yemen and going to Afghanistan and getting into a fight post-9/11. I'm not going to attribute any veracity to that guy's op-ed piece. All I'm telling you is that he has no rights. He is a prisoner of war. There is a job that needs to be done at Gitmo. And they chose the conditions under which they are living.


KEILAR: Joining me now is Carlos Warner. He's a federal public defender who represents 11 of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, two of whom are taking part in that hunger strike.

So, Mr. Warner, what do you say to people like General Marks who say that the detainees in Gitmo have no rights?

CARLOS WARNER, FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER: It is more than two, probably the vast majority. We know 130 out of 166 men are striking.

Listen, General Spider Marks, he has a cool nickname, but it ends there. He knows nothing about Guantanamo. I doubt he's ever been to the base. I can promise you his words go straight there and drive the resolve of these men deeper.

Listen, this individual that was described in "The New York Times" has an amazing amount of rights, because, first, he's a human being. Second, our own government has said that he's cleared for release, that he should be released. People like Spider Marks have told our government and President Obama that this person shouldn't be there, and he remains there dying, starving himself to death because President Obama refuses to pick up and follow through with his promise.

He's letting these men die. He's not only not intervened in -- with his promise, but he could end this hunger strike today and he's chosen not to. So the left has to wake up and I come from the left. The left has to wake up and recognize that President Obama is causing this hunger strike in Guantanamo Bay.

KEILAR: So when you say he needs to do something to end this, what does he need to do? What would get these detainees eating again so that they aren't being force-fed by the medical staff there?

WARNER: We were -- I was on the base the week after this began, second week in February. And the demand then was that the men wish to voluntarily surrender their Korans by their own will for the military instead of having them searched by the Muslim linguists that work there.

For the past two months, that demand has been exactly the same. If they're allowed to voluntarily give up the holy book to the military, then they will start eating again. This is not a new demand because this is exactly what the military allowed in 2007, when there were hunger strikes.

But I don't think the military knows that it allowed it back then or is otherwise refusing to allow the same condition, even though we're dealing with exactly the same people who are hunger striking. So they don't understand why there is no military continuity and frankly I don't either. And President Obama could end the strike today by just picking up the phone and making a phone call.

Instead, he was in court, Brianna, today, uttering the words of Dick Cheney, which shocked me, saying that the courts have no place in Guantanamo. That's what our president decided to do instead of -- instead of calling and ending this current crisis.

KEILAR: Now, but let me ask you about this, Mr. Warner, because it is not just an issue of the hunger strikes. Around the same time in early February, you started to have detainees who were obstructing surveillance cameras and windows.

They were obviously trying to it appears prevent being seen by some of the guards who were there. There was a scuffle just this last weekend as guards tried to move some of these inmates into basically individual cells so that they could keep a better eye on them because of some of the things that were taking place here over the last couple of months.

What is going on with that? And obviously you can see there is a concern for even the safety of the guards as they ultimately had to file fire some less-than-lethal rounds at detainees.

WARNER: They did. The men were shot and we believe -- we haven't been able to talk to our clients yet. I have asked for a call with my clients today or tomorrow to try to get their side of the story.

But, yes, that was the condition, but the military could have ended that without resorting to force, because the men were willing to draw back. They were willing to de-escalate with this one demand that they had, that remains constant, which is going to go away soon. But they have said that they would have gone back to normal if they were just allowed to surrender the Korans.

And they said that for the past couple of months. Instead, the military chose to escalate by coming in and taking away all freedom that they have, injuring the men. And, in fact, the news reports which is what I have to go on, was that this was a drawn-out battle that they had, a pitched battle for a long period of time.


WARNER: I'm sorry, go ahead.

KEILAR: Wouldn't you say it is also just more about the uncertainty of this? The detainee in this op-ed is talking about 11 years behind bars or being detained there. You have said yourself the only way out is in a box. And that is the feeling of these detainees.

WARNER: That's right. Brianna, that's exactly right.

That -- look, what sparked it was the way the military, the new command in the military is behaving there. But that -- the flame -- or the fuel to the fire is President Obama, the hopelessness, the fact that these men have realized that president has no intent at all to follow through on his promise and, in fact, is going to let them stay there and die there and they're not going to do it quietly. So, yes, again, the president -- the second part, we can end this strike...


KEILAR: Carlos, I'm so sorry.


KEILAR: We have some -- we have some breaking news. Otherwise, I wouldn't cut you off so abruptly. Carlos Warner, thanks for joining us.

WARNER: Thank you, Brianna. BALDWIN: Let's get now -- let's get now to Boston. Apparently, there has been an explosion at the Boston Marathon, I'm told. One of our producers, Matt Frucci, is there on the ground, talking to us by phone.

What can you tell us, Matt?


It was about 15, 20 minutes ago, near the finish line on Boylston Avenue Boston when I heard two explosions, the first one I thought close to the finish line from where we were. It was big. It was booming. I saw a big mound of smoke come up. And about 10 seconds later, across the street from me, on the sidewalk, another big explosion.

People are hurt. They have stopped the Boston Marathon. Everyone rushed indoors. I'm now inside the Copley plaza mall looking out on the scene. And I can see swarms of police officers treating people on the scene. I count at least five, six people hurt. But I have a feeling there are more.

KEILAR: So you're seeing -- describe the injuries as you can see them, Matt. And how far away are you from the area?

FRUCCI: I'm in the area now, about 30 feet away from Boylston Avenue, which is where the scene is happening. I'm actually up elevating on the corridor that goes from one mall goes to the other. I see it through glass doors.

I see one woman walking away now limping, covered in a sheet. I see three or four people on the ground being treated by paramedics. But I have a feeling there are more off to the left where I can't see, which is where that explosion was just across the street from me.

It was a pretty big explosion. When we were all speeding away, I could see that there were a bunch of people piled around what may have been a trash can or something there across the street. I'm not entirely sure.

KEILAR: Describe the scene of where this took place, Matt, for someone who isn't perhaps familiar with the Boston area. Is this an area that obviously has, you know, businesses or what is it?


FRUCCI: This is the finish line of the Boston Marathon. It's the very final mile. So it is not only crowded with runners who are running down the streets, but it's also crowded with crowds lining both sides, I mean, thousands of people on both sides.

We're now being moved out of the mall. I'm not going to have eyes on the scene anymore, but I can tell you that there were thousands of people in the area. I don't know how many are hurt. I can only count about six or seven from what I have seen so far. KEILAR: What are people there who witnessed this saying? What are their concerns and do you think these were members of the crowd that were injured or were these people taking part in the marathon?

FRUCCI: It looked like it was more members of the crowd, it looked like it happened on the sidewalk, not on the street itself. In the first big explosion that I heard, when I looked up the street, it didn't look like it was on the street itself either. It looked like it was off to the side, so on a sidewalk, but perhaps the parking lot or a building, I'm not entirely sure. It was off in the distance.

KEILAR: Is this -- the finish line for the Boston Marathon, where is it in terms of -- is it near any of these sites that might be familiar to people?

FRUCCI: Yes, I mean, the big one is Copley plaza mall, which is where I'm inside right now, which is attached to the Prudential Center, which I believe is the tallest building in Boston.


And I want to tell you, Matt, we are looking at some live photos here, what appear to be authorities. It is hard -- difficult to make out, but it does appear that it is a stretcher, if I'm not mistaken, although we're not for sure about that. We're seeing some authorities walk down the street there in Boston. We can see a number of police vehicles.

Do we have Mike Brooks on the phone?

MIKE BROOKS, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: I'm here live with you, Brianna.

KEILAR: OK. We have Mike Brooks live with us.

Mike, what can you see, especially as you're looking at the pictures here?

BROOKS: Yes, it does look like fire and EMS are there on the scene. It is hard to see in the small monitor here. Trying to get a larger monitor up so I can see exactly what is going on.

But it does look like Boston fire, EMS there on the scene. At least one stretcher from what I'm seeing, Brianna, and then I'm reaching out to some of my sources right now to try to find out exactly what is going on up there. You know, as I look, it looks like a number of patients being treated.

I'm going to get up here, walk over and take a look at this a little closer. I see at least one, two, three, four, possibly four patients there being treated at the scene. A large number of fire personnel, EMS, Brianna, there on the scene. Don't -- but it is hard to tell exactly the extent of injuries that we're looking at right now.

But it does look like a number of EMS teams working on multiple patients there at the scene, Brianna.

KEILAR: And, Matt, I think you're still with me. At what point in the event did this happen?

FRUCCI: This is near the end of the race. I mean, most of the top finishers had already finished about an hour or two ago, but my brother is running and he still probably had another 45 minutes to go. So, there were a lot of people left on the race. I mean, 25,000-plus people had run and maybe half of them or more had already gone through, but the rest were still coming.

KEILAR: Matt, talk to us about this sort of -- take off your producer hat for a moment and put on your brother hat. Your brother was in this race, and I'm sure and obviously you were right there near where this happened.

How much concern do you have having gone there for what is supposed to be a very -- almost a joyous occasion in a way where your brother is doing something so difficult, and instead you're there witnessing this happen?


FRUCCI: I believe my brother is fine because he was a good 45 minutes away from the finish line. We're trying to contact my other brother and his kids now because they were somewhere on the other side of the street. We're hoping they're OK and they should be OK because we think they're another block or two down on the other side.

But it is tough to get phone signals out now. I was lucky enough to get through to you. I have three other family members dialing my brother and sister-in-law frantically right now to make sure they're OK and at least the very least tell them to stay away from trash cans, because someone muttered that to us once. I don't want to say that's where the explosions came from, but that's what people here are theorizing.

KEILAR: OK, Matt, stay with us for just a moment.

I do want to turn now to Lou Palumbo. He's the director of Elite Intelligence and Protection. He's overseen security at a number of major sporting events.

Lou, what goes into security at an event like this and to try to prevent something like this? And are you surprised that this happened? Or is this something that is obviously just ultimately a fear and sort of a vulnerability of something like a marathon?

LOU PALUMBO, FORMER NEW YORK POLICE OFFICER: Well, I think to say it is a vulnerability is conservative.

As we all know, you know, we're very porous as a nation. You would always hope that events like this would not take place, but I will tell you, it is in the forefront of the minds of law enforcement anytime an event like this is staged. You're hoping the intelligence community has kind of an edge on things to where there if is information floating around regarding a possible threat, they would be on it. A lot is going to go into this now. At this point, you're going to have the FBI in response, Boston P.D., their bomb squad, the ATF, you know, emergency medical. They're going to be pulling cameras in the area. There is a whole process under way right now.

But the reality of the situation is it is almost impossible to protect an event, especially one that is over a protracted space as a marathon is. And, you know, I hate to say it, but these are the times that we live in.

KEILAR: So when you say that they're pulling cameras, they will be looking obviously to see -- we have heard from Matt some people wondered if it wasn't from a trash can in the area. What will they be looking for, Lou?

PALUMBO: On the cameras, they're going to try to pick up activity, depending on how far back...


KEILAR: Let me tell you, just a moment. We're looking at pictures right now of what appears to be that explosion with smoke rising. We actually could see -- it did appear we saw at least one person fall down, although it looked like perhaps their injuries were minor.

But we're looking just to give you a sense of what was described as two huge bangs, two huge explosions that happened there at the Boston Marathon. And witnesses reported seeing the smoke that you just saw there. We're looking at authorities sort of rushing to the scene. These some of the first pictures that are coming in to CNN from our affiliate WBZ.

This happened just moments ago near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

And, Lou, are you able to see these pictures?

PALUMBO: I am. I am watching these pictures.

KEILAR: What are you seeing as you see that explosion and you see the authorities rushing toward the area?

PALUMBO: Well, at this point, you know, there are attempting to identify first and foremost what exactly took place. And without going too far out on a limb, I would conservatively say that these were probably planned explosions. At this point they're handling a crime scene.

On top of the fact that they're trying to render aid to anyone that may have been injured, they're now dealing with this as a crime scene. They're trying to identify exactly what took place, what explosive was used, if an explosive was used, the nature of it, what are accelerants. They're reviewing cameras, as I mentioned to you a few moments ago.

There is a whole undertaking at this point and I will say to you that they will gather a tremendous amount of information probably in the next few hours as to exactly what took place in those garbage pails if, in fact, that was the location that the explosion occurred.

KEILAR: And I just want to bring people up to speed on what we're looking at, two explosions there at the Boston Marathon. This happened near the finish line of the event.

At least -- it seems at least six people were hurt, that is according to one of our CNN producers who was on the ground. And also if we can go -- is that right, we have Adam Aigner on the phone as well?

Actually, we have Alina Cho with us, who is -- who can describe some of what she is seeing there on the scene.

Alina, what can you tell us?

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Obviously, Brianna, these pictures are just terrifying to watch when you see the people as we did a moment ago, just running away from that large plume of smoke.

What we can tell you, as you have been reporting, is that CNN has confirmed there have been a pair of explosions in downtown Boston near the finish line. I went to school in Boston, Brianna. I'm an alum of Boston College. So I can just tell you that this happened in Copley Square, which is in the center of downtown Boston.

This is a day, I might add, the third Monday of April, when this race is run every year, on Patriots Day, that is traditionally a very festive day. People take the day off of work, lots of people out on the streets.

And so you can imagine the streets of Boston were jampacked today. And as Matt Frucci, our producer, pointed out, about half of the runners had finished, but half had not. This race was in progress. As you have been reporting, our early reports are that half a dozen people have been injured. But these are very preliminary reports.

I have seen some early tweets online from "The Boston Globe" breaking a witness report hearing two loud booms. "Runners World," the press room is on lockdown. Someone else, an explosion went off in downtown Boston. Obviously, a very terrifying scene, very early on. We're still trying to gather more information and we will bring that to you as soon as we get it -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Alina Cho, thank you for that.

Let's go now on the phone now to Boston where actually one of our White House producers, Adam Aigner, is there. He's there on the scene and on the phone with us.

So, Adam, we understand from Matt Frucci, one of our other colleagues, there appears to be half a dozen people, that's just a rough estimate, of folks that he saw injured. Can you tell us anymore about what you're seeing? Can you see the scene? And sort of what is the what is the mood there? ADAM AIGNER, CNN PRODUCER: Well, currently, Brianna, I'm about one mile from the scene. I was about a little over a mile when the explosions took place.

Right now, people aren't in a panic as -- right after it happened (AUDIO GAP) walked past me and said (INAUDIBLE) two explosions that had taken place and that they were headed in my direction.

I would say that people are relatively calm for the most part. No one seems to know exactly that this has happened yet. As Alina said, this is a very festive day in Boston. As a native -- it's a New England holiday. And recently everyone seems to be calm where I am. But we will see how it gets when we get closer.

KEILAR: And obviously they will -- I know you're making your way, I can hear you sort of huffing and puffing a little bit as you try to head to the scene there.

You said it is a New England holiday. This is something that takes place obviously 26.2 miles in Boston, and it finishes up in sort of a dramatic fashion there in downtown Boston near the Boston public library.

You obviously have been familiar with this event for many years, Adam. What do you think -- news of this is obviously going to spread. This is something -- do you think people have ever even really thought about this as a concern? Do they take precautions? Is there normally any concern?

AIGNER: Well, there was certainly a lot of security here for the Boston Marathon, lots of police officers along the way, lots of uniformed military personnel.

I would say that the finish line near the (INAUDIBLE) library, as you said, is one of the most secure areas of the route. I would say that and the starting point. I have watched the marathon many times. I was at the Red Sox game today. At the end of the Red Sox game, this happened on marathon Monday, almost every year since I was a little kid.

And I know the security, they take it very seriously. We saw a lot of security here today. But it is difficult to see how something like this could happen. I certainly don't think that many people here were prepared for this.

KEILAR: Certainly not.

Do we have Matt Frucci, our CNN producer, on the phone?

FRUCCI: Yes, I'm still here.


Matt, take us back, describe to us where you were. You were waiting for your brother. He's running in the marathon. You said he still had about 45 minutes to go. Tell us again what was your vantage point and describe the scene right before and right after you heard these explosions.


I was on Boylston Avenue, which is the main thoroughfare in Boston. It's where the runners are making their final mile towards the finish line. It is packed with runners down on the street and it's packed with spectators on both sides.

About 30 minutes ago at this point, I guess, there was a big explosion about 100 yards toward the finish line from where I was standing. It wasn't in the middle of the street. It was off to the side of the street, right up to the sidewalk or a parking lot. I'm not entirely sure. I heard a big boom, saw a giant plume of smoke, and then about 10 seconds later about 30 yards from me, or even 20 yards, across the street, another big explosion, didn't seem as big as the first one, went off, on the sidewalk.

And that's when everyone started to scramble. There was a mad push for people to get away from the scene, not knowing if there were more explosions to come. But it seems like those are the last ones that I saw.

But moments later, they stopped running of the marathon, so they stopped the race. And they started clearing out the area and ambulances and EMTs swarmed in.

KEILAR: What were people saying, Matt, the folks who were there for the...


AIGNER: People were saying they were scared. I know we got sort of shoved into a building and there were people who were freaking out inside the building saying they weren't sure if something was going to happen inside the building, if that was a safer place to be.

But soon enough, everyone sort of went on the sidewalk and found their way off Boylston Avenue and the cops sort of rushed everyone away from the scene.

KEILAR: We're looking obviously at scenes. This is right during one of the explosions that has happened near the finish line of the Boston Marathon coming to us from our affiliate WHDH, and this was just moments ago as the marathon was approximately half finished.

The top runners had come through a long time before there were these two explosions, one of which you're seeing the aftermath of right there, smoke coming up in a big plume. We're hearing from one of our producers there on the ground that it was this large bang on one side of the street and then not far away there was another one that appeared to be smaller. You can see just how many people there are at the end -- near the end of that final stretch of the Boston Marathon.

Crowds obviously gathered there in the bleachers to watch runners coming through for what is a huge event in Boston. And you see the security personnel there running to investigate the scene. If I have Lou Palumbo on the phone with me, Lou, when you're looking at these -- at the security staff running toward the event, what are they trying to do? Are they running toward the victims? Are they trying to -- we're seeing obviously there some of the EMS carrying some of those who are injured. What are they trying to do and how do they secure this area obviously in case there is even more danger?

PALUMBO: Well, the first thing they are doing is they're running to render aid to anybody that they feel may have been injured as a result of these explosions.

At the same time, the radio calls are going into headquarters to get additional resources there because they have to now figure out what took place there. They have to contain the area, treat it like a crime scene. There is a number of things that have to take place simultaneously. But their initial response is driven by people in need.

KEILAR: And we're going to head now -- thank you to all of you. Stand by for my colleague Wolf Blitzer. He will be taking over coverage right now following two explosions it appears in Boston during the Boston Marathon -- Wolf, to you now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Brianna, thanks very much.

This is a dramatic development, clearly certainly unexpected. We do not know what caused these explosions. We do not know the complete extent of the injuries. We do know that at least half a dozen people appear to have been injured in these twin explosions right at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

It is a 26-mile, 385-yard marathon. And it was wrapping up, wrapping up. When you look at these devastating pictures right at the finish line, these are pictures shot just moments ago.

Mike Brooks, our law enforcement analyst, is standing by.

You look at these pictures, Mike, and you say to yourself, what happened here? Obviously, we don't know. I know law enforcement is on the scene, but it is pretty gruesome.

BROOKS: Yes. It really is, Wolf. You see people rolling around.

I'm looking at this smoke, and obviously I spent a lot of time on the FBI's joint terrorism task force there in Washington. I have worked bombings all over the world. I look at this, I'm thinking maybe a black powder kind of device, Wolf. It is early. It is hard to say. But I'm just hearing also from my sources in Boston that police and fire right now, they're responding to a suspicious, possible suspicious device, excuse me, at the Mandarin Hotel on Boylston Street.

Right now, everybody is at a heightened state of alert, needless to say, because you always worry -- we had two devices that we're hearing now, Wolf, but you always are concerned as first-responders of more devices. So right now they are -- that whole area downtown is shut down.

And we see a number of people. I'm hearing that they're -- from my sources up there also that there might be two critical injuries, still trying to find out whether, you know, the extent of injuries of the people, with these first two devices, Wolf.

BLITZER: It could be two explosions. It could be even more than two explosions, clearly timed to coincide with completion of this marathon, literally thousands and thousands of runners participating in this annual event in Boston, but you look at these aerial shots coming in, you see some serious damage in the buildings nearby.

BROOKS: You do.

And when you have whether it be a pipe bomb, what kind of improvised explosive device that was used today, Wolf, there is -- there is a lot of damage. And now you have got a very, very large post-blast scene. We see first-responders now, police, fire, EMS, you know, in the area. You see them. They have got precautionary lines, right, because they don't know exactly what they have.

Early on in something like this, Wolf, you're always concerned because we have seen a number of incidents here in the United States where there have been secondary, third devices that were used against first- responders who were there coming to the aid of those who have been injured.

BLITZER: Is it possible -- it is certainly possible it could have been a generator exploding or some gas lines exploding, something along those lines, as opposed to foul play? We obviously don't know what caused these at least twin explosions.

BROOKS: No, we don't. And that's that's why we're very -- we use a lot of caution when we're talking about this because we don't know.

But if I'm looking right there, Wolf, from what I saw from that, is that something that is typical, atypical of a gas explosion, a generator explosion? It is hard to say. But to have two of them happen at that same time, you know, we don't know exactly what caused that. We're trying to find out more from people who were there on the scene.

BLITZER: Let me bring in Matt Frucci, our CNN producer who is on the scene, an eyewitness to what he saw.

And for viewers, Matt, who are just tuning in right now, just methodically tell us where you were and what you saw.


I was on Boylston Avenue, which sort of the final stretch of the Boston Marathon, maybe the final mile or two. It was packed with thousands of spectators on either side, and it was packed with thousands of runners making their final sprint to the finish.

And about 100 yards up from me, closer to the finish line, I heard an explosion, turned and saw a big plume of smoke rising out of what looked like a sidewalk or a parking lot. I'm not entirely sure. It wasn't on the street. It was off the street. That much, I could tell.

Everyone sort of paused, wondered what the heck that was. And about 10 seconds later, about 20 yards from me, on the other side of the avenue, another big explosion. It seemed smaller than the first one, but maybe it was just much closer. And I turned away obviously, so I'm not sure it if it was bigger. And that's when there was sort of a mad scramble for people to get out of the area.

After that, we were sort of able to see EMTs and ambulances move in. I saw probably six or seven injured people being treated, but I think that the main injuries were on either side of where I could see after the explosion.

BLITZER: Could you tell if it looked like it was -- it's hard to discern obviously, if it looked like it an explosion coming from some sort of city infrastructure, a gas line or a generator, something along those lines? Or did it look like something obviously much more serious, much more sinister, some sort of foul play?

FRUCCI: My first instinct was maybe it was some sort of a steam pipeline or something.