Return to Transcripts main page


Obama talks Marathon Bombing; Saving Lives in Boston; Search for Boston Bombing Suspect, Motive.

Aired April 16, 2013 - 11:30   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go now to our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, who is at the White House.

Jessica, what do we know about what he might say?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. President Obama has just wrapped up a briefing with his top national security team that involved the attorney general, his FBI director, the secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, the vice president was also in there as well as his national security team and his chief of staff and deputy chief of staff here in the White House. No indication whether they will come out here with him. So far only the president is scheduled to be here. There he is.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good morning, everybody. I've just been briefed by my national security team, including FBI Director Mueller, attorney general holder, Secretary Napolitano and my counterterrorism and Homeland Security adviser, Lisa Monaco, on the attacks in Boston. We continue to mobilize and deploy all appropriate law enforcement resources to protect our citizens and investigate and to respond to this attack.

Obviously our first thoughts this morning are with the victims, their families and the city of Boston. We know that two explosions gravely wounded dozens of Americans and took the lives of others, including an 8-year-old boy. This was a heinous and cowardly act, and given what we now know about what took place, the FBI is investigating it as an act of terrorism. Anytime bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror.

What we don't yet know, however, is who carried out this attack or why, whether it was planned and executed by a terrorist organization, foreign or domestic, or was the act of a malevolent individual. That's what we don't yet know, and clearly we're at the beginning of our investigation. It will take time to follow every lead and determine what happened. But we will find out. We will find whoever harmed our citizens. And we will bring them to justice.

We also know this -- the American people refuse to be terrorized because what the world saw yesterday in the aftermath of the explosions were stories of heroism and kindness and generosity and love. Exhausted runners who kept running to the nearest hospital to give blood and those who stayed to tend to the wounded, some tearing off their own clothes to make tourniquets, the first responders who ran into the chaos to save lives. The men and women who are still treating the wounded at some of the best hospitals in the world and the medical students who hurried to help saying, when we heard, we all came in. The priests who opened their churches and ministered to the hurt and the fearful and the good people of Boston who opened their homes to the victims of this attack and those shaken by it. So if you want to know who we are, what America is, how we respond to evil, that's it. Selflessly, compassionately, unafraid. In the coming days we will pursue every effort to get to the bottom of what happened, and we will continue to remain vigilant. I've directed my administration to take appropriate security measures to protect the American people, and this is a good time for all of us to remember that we all have a part to play in alerting authorities if you see something suspicious, speak up.

I have extraordinary confidence in the men and women of the FBI, the Boston Police Department, and the other agencies that responded so heroically and effectively in the aftermath of yesterday's events. I'm very grateful for the leadership of Governor Patrick and Mayor Menino, and I know that even as we protect our people and aggressively pursue this investigation the people of Boston will continue to respond in the same proud and heroic way that they have thus far. And their fellow Americans will be right there with them. Thank you very much.

And you can expect further briefings from our law enforcement officials as the day goes on. When we have more details, they will be disclosed. What I have indicated to you is what we now know. We know it was bombs that were set off. We know that obviously they did some severe damage. We do not know who did them. We do not know whether this was an act of an organization or an individual or individuals. We don't have a sense of motive yet. So everything else at this point is speculation. But as we receive more information, as the FBI has more information, as our counterterrorism teams have more information, we will make sure to keep you and the American people posted.

Thank you very much, everybody.


BERMAN: A brief, succinct statement from President Obama from the White House briefing room. And I think the headline here is really crystal clear. The president says the FBI is investigating these bombings in Boston as an act of terror. He used those words. He says anytime a bomb is used like this it is an act of terror. The president says, what we don't know, however, is if this was carried out by an organization, a terror organization either foreign or domestic, or perhaps by what he called a malevolent individual. The president promised that the United States will find out.

Jessica Yellin at the White House right now.

New words from the president, new words that matter.

YELLIN: I thought, John, you're right, the use of the word ""malevolent" person is an interesting choice of words, perhaps leaving the room for the possibility this was the act of a crazy person or we'll have to find out why he chose that particular phrase. It seems to me that's the immediate reason that comes to mind why he would rule out the possibility that this could be anything other than the act of a malevolent person.

I will tell you I've spoken to a number of sources inside the government since yesterday about the use of the word "terror" and "terrorism" and why the president may not have used it yesterday and it's being used by so many. Bottom line, they say, when it comes to an investigation on the ground, whether it's called terrorism or not it doesn't make much of a difference. It matters to us in the media. It matters to the public in terms of how we feel about it. But when it's an investigation, they proceed the same way terrorism comes into play in how you prosecute these things -- John?

BERMAN: It was almost like he was explaining why he was using the word today. He said, anytime bombs go off like they did it is, in fact, an act of terror.

Gloria, wondering what you think the significance of using that word now is.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it was by way of clarification, really. It's something that, as we spoke about earlier, Senator Feinstein said yesterday, and as Jessica was alluding to, anytime you do investigate a bomb that goes off that has been set deliberately it is an act of terror. And I think, to your earlier point about what the president stated very flatly is, we don't know how broad this is or whether it was a single individual or a group. And the other point he made is we do not yet know motive. That's another important thing to consider when you talk about the phrase "malevolent." We don't know whether this was just some sick person or whether there was political motive, for example. So obviously that's what law enforcement is trying to piece together right now. As we have been reporting all day yesterday, there wasn't any intelligence gathered beforehand that gave anybody any indication that something like this might even be in the air. So I think that, you know, that's got law enforcement kind of scratching its head.

BERMAN: Indeed. And they're going back, no doubt, over all the information, all the transmissions that happened in the days and weeks before.

BORGER: Right.

BERMAN: Jessica, it is interesting. This is a president who often chooses his words extremely carefully on the one hand. It's also a president who famously is no drama Obama. He doesn't like unnecessary drama, the lore goes. It may very well be the drama over the use of the word "terror," not using the word it's just not worth the hassle to him. Get it out of the way today and move on with the investigation, which is actually the important thing here.

YELLIN: I think you're right. And I also think, look, he didn't use the word "terror" yesterday I think for a number of reasons. First of all, when he spoke it was just three hours after the bombs went off. They didn't have all the facts that they have today. They didn't have all the same facts that even Governor Patrick had when he used the word "terror" this morning or others have all day long today. So it was in the immediate aftermath. Second, this administration has stumbled in the aftermath of other potential terror attacks in the past, sometimes waiting too long to speak, sometimes speaking in the case of the bin laden raid and attack and then getting the facts wrong.

They've also been accused of leaking national security information unrelated to terror attacks but in general. So I think they're very cautious about the words they use around these kinds of national security incidents. So they err on the side of caution. They did not want, I'm sure, to attend an ongoing investigation. And when the president says something from the White House, it carries far more weight, as you know, John, than when any other U.S. official says it. So they were being cautious yesterday and immediately after the president spoke I got a call and many others got calls from White House officials saying of course the White House and the president regards this as an act of terror, but they wanted to wait and see if the investigation was a terrorist investigation.

So sort of parsing when it came to a term of art regarding the investigation. With more information, the president now much more comfortable saying indeed it is a terrorist investigation -- John?

BERMAN: Jessica Yellin, excellent points. Our thanks to you.

Gloria Borger, thanks to you as well.

Again, headlines from the president's brief statement just minutes ago, the FBI is investigating these bombings, this attack in Boston as an act of terror. The president says, what we don't know is if this terror was committed by a domestic or foreign organization, he says, or perhaps by a malevolent individual. We're following two tracks here, the investigation as to who might have done this, and then the recovery of all those victims.

We have brand-new information about the plight and recovery of 176 people who are now injured in this attack. What are they doing to keep these people healthy and get them safe? Once again, we have new information from Dr. Sanjay Gupta when we come back.


BERMAN: It is no exaggeration as all to say that treating the Boston bombing victims has been a matter of life or death for dozens of doctors, nurses and other medical workers here in Boston.

Dr. Vivek Shah was actually running in the Boston Marathon yesterday. He finished the race immediately before those bombs went off. And what did he do immediately after that? He looked to see if the people around him were OK.

He joins me right now here not more than two blocks from where the bombings happened.

Dr. Shah, tell me what that was like yesterday.

DR. VIVEK SHAH, BOSTON MARATHON RUNNER: I think initially myself and all the other runners weren't sure whether it was a firework gone bad or something that was supposed to happen. Then after the second explosion went off, we knew something was wrong because all the spectators and fans started running away from us. We were just about to finish. So I -- my whole family was on that side where the explosion had gone off so I start running towards where the bombs had gone off to check on my family and to see if there was anything I could do to help.

BERMAN: I think it's an important thing to point out, the Boston Marathon is a family event, family day, marathon Monday, Patriots Day, so many families come together to watch, so many kids there to support their parents. Tragically, as we know, so many victims in this case, the wounded, are children. We know one young boy, 8 years old, was killed. You went to check on your family to make sure they were OK right away. You also looked at all the people wounded around you. What was that like?

SHAH: I mean, it's nothing that you can ever describe. In all of my medical training I've never seen anything like the amount of trauma that I saw yesterday on the sidewalks there.

BERMAN: You heard the president a short while ago not talk about just the bad but also the good. You say you've never seen that much trauma, but imagine you've also never seen that much support, doctor after doctor, nurse after nurse, so many people there on the ground to help immediately.

SHAH: Absolutely. You know, I thought I would be one of the first people there because I was 25 yards from the finish line when the bombs went off. By the time I got there, there were so many first responders and volunteer physicians, it was -- I've never seen anything like that in terms of the quickness of the response to that tragedy.

BERMAN: I have to believe there's no question that saved countless lives.

We're joined also by Dr. Sanjay Gupta standing by at Brigham and Women's Hospital. He is an expert on trauma care, an expert on so much.

Sanjay, thanks for joining us.

We talk about the tragedy here, but there was also luck at play. These explosions happened within eyesight of a medical tent where there were so many medical personnel around to help.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: No question. I can tell you, you know, sort of picking up the story there, we're outside one of the largest level one trauma centers here. There were nine different hospitals patients were taken to. Just to give you an idea, within 15 minutes after the explosions, patients starting arriving here. It was quick. I just talked to the doctors inside. Within 60 minutes, that proverbial golden hour, all the patients that were coming here had arrived. There were 31 patients, 15 were admitted here, nine of them requiring surgery. There are hundreds of people on the surgical staff here. They have 42 operating rooms. They immediately cleared seven rooms, started taking care of the patients. It all happened they quickly. They also confirmed, John, you may know this by now, in these types of injuries you often see a lot of debris, shrapnel-type wounds, but they did confirm now that the type of shrapnel that they saw could not have just been debris lying around but rather carpenter nails and bb-like objects as they were described they found. And doctors are confident now that those were actually within the devices and intended to be part of the injury that was sort of seen here. Also at children's hospital, as you may know, John, 10 patients were taken there, Boston Children's. Two were adults, eight children. Three remain in the hospital, two in critical condition. But many of the patients are being discharged. A little bit of good news there, John.

BERMAN: All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Dr. Shah, thank you for being with us. Thank you for your service yesterday looking after those people who were hurt at the conclusion of that race.

Thank you. Appreciate it.

There is so much information coming in here on the investigation, on the recovery. We will give you the newest highlights when we come back.


BERMAN: Welcome back to Boston, everyone. CNN's live coverage of aftermath of the bombings at the Boston Marathon. One of the hallmarks of the great city, it's a sports town. Obsession with sports teams here. The Boston Marathon is one of the highlights of the sports year here. We are getting a look just now at the new cover from "Sports Illustrated" that will hit the newsstands today. I want you to take a look at this. It's one word "Boston" in photos, in words. "Boston" a picture of someone on the ground. This is the older man, I believe 78, knocked down by the explosion. He got up, finished that race. I think that's important. An important message of perseverance and resilience with this city on the cover of "Sports Illustrated" today. Really is a remarkable picture there.

Moments ago, President Obama spoke out on the bombings calling the attacks heinous and cowardly. He also, for the very first time, used the word "terror." He said the FBI is investigating it as an ability of terror. All resources are being used to hunt down those responsible.

Joining us, terrorism analyst, Karen Greenberg, director of the Center of National Security at Fordham University; and CNN analyst and former FBI director, Tom Fuentes.

Tom, let me start with you and this new information coming in over the last several minutes from doctors at various hospitals, say as they are treating patients they are seeing signs of metal devices put in the bombs, carpenter nails, seeing things, pieces of metal that may be bigger than BBs now. What does that mean in terms of the investigation? What does that tell us about the potential bomber here? Does it point you toward domestic, foreign, an organization or perhaps just as what the president called, a malevolent individual?

TOM FUENTES, CNN ANALYST & FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I'd like to say, all of the talking heads that discuss this incident and indents like it, if your experience and expertise is Middle East terrorism it has hallmarks of al Qaeda or Middle East. If experience is domestic groups and bombings that occurred here it has hallmarks of domestic terrorists like Eric Rudolphs in the 1996 summer Olympic bombings. I've been to both. I've run bomb scenes in Iraq and U.S. It has hallmarks of domestic and international. You can see either side of that. The roofing nails is a -- the carpenter nails, as they've been described by the doctor, is significant. In the Atlanta bombing in 1996, roofing nails were put in a plastic food container put next to the pipe bomb in a knapsack, when it exploded roofing nails went out and the one woman that was killed by the bomb itself was hit with a roofing nail and it killed her. The other fatalities and awe journalist who had a heart attack running to the scene. The woman was killed by a roofing nail. The FBI was able to track those nails to where they were manufactured, what was significant was that there was a defect at the plant so that it made a certain run of nails unique which were trackable to where they were sold. Again that provided additional evidentiary and lead value in the investigation. So the embedded shrapnel, embedded in the bomb itself, that has been removed by the doctors from the victims, could be very significant in helping track down where the components were obtained to put those bombs together.

BERMAN: I want to talk a little bit about the calendar here. You know it was a few years ago, I was in Boston covering the Boston Marathon when the Virginia Tech shootings happened. Oklahoma City, the bombings there happened in April, roughly around this date, April 19th. Waco, April 19th. Columbine, April 20th. The attacks seem to happen. Is this something investigators will be looking at?

KAREN GREENBERG, DIRECTOR, CENTER OF NATIONAL SECURITY AT FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: I think they'll look at everything. I think they'll look at patterns that may have to do with chronology, patterns that have to do with the type of device used. They'll look at patterns in terms of locations and choice of locations. And so not one thing is going to be deposited. Everything will be put into the mix and they'll talk about it. What's really interesting about this, and that you have to notice, it's something that tom talked about, is the nature of the resilience of how the professionals are responding to this. You know we know President Obama, as they know no drama Obama president, the severity of this and tragedy of this have not gone unexamined but there isn't the hysteria that we might have worried about. I think one thing you have to say, we know about the carpenter nails, for example, now that law enforcement and public officials have been keeping the public informed since this incident happened. They may not tell us every detail of what chronological picture they are put together, whether it's a domestic event, international event, event that combines domestic and international, with an individual or somebody in a network because they are looking at everything. Eventually they will put the pieces together. It's going to take time. But they're keeping us informed and that's a very important part of the dialogue that we're having now.

BERMAN: Karen Greenberg, Tom Fuentes, thanks to both of you.

Response helps with the recovery and investigation. That's what we're doing now at this minute.

Thanks for watching special coverage of the bombings here in Boston continues after this break.




MALVEAUX: It was just less than 24 hours ago that runners were crossing the finish line at Boston Marathon when back-to-back explosions turned an end zone into what looked like a war zone.

HOLMES: It really did. President Obama called the bombings an act of terror.


OBAMA: This was a heinous and cowardly act, and given what we now know about what took place, the FBI's investigating it as an ability of terrorism. Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror.


HOLMES: New details about the horrific attack in CNN's continuing live coverage of the bombings at the world's oldest annual marathon.