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CNN NEWSROOM

NYC Leaders Confirm City Was Target; Boston Suspects Intended to Attack NYC

Aired April 25, 2013 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


RAY KELLY, NEW YORK POLICE COMMISSIONER: Investigators that he and his brother decided after the Boston bombings that they would go to New York City to party. However, a subsequent questioning of Dzhokhar revealed that he and his brother decided spontaneously on Times Square as a target. They would drive to Times Square that same night. They discussed this while driving around in a Mercedes SUV that they had hijacked after they shot and killed an MIT police officer in Cambridge, Dzhokhar said.

That plan, however, fell apart when they realized that the vehicle that they hijacked was low on gas and ordered the driver to stop at a nearby gas station. The driver used the opportunity to escape and call the police. That eventually led to the shootout in Watertown, where the older brother was killed in an exchange of gunfire with the police.

Up until that point, the two brothers had at their disposal six improvised explosive devices. One was a pressure cooker bomb, similar to the two that had exploded at the marathon. The other five were pipe bombs. We know that Dzhokhar was photographed in Times Square with friends on or before April 18th of 2012, and that he was in the city again in November of 2012. We don't know if those visits were related in any way to what he described as the brothers' spontaneous decision to target Times Square.

The NYPD intelligence division is actively investigating to determine Dzhokhar's movements in New York City, as well as who he might have been with here. New York City detectives and supervisors assigned to the Joint Terrorist Task Force with the FBI are assisting in the ongoing investigation in both Boston and New York. There's no evidence at this time, however, to indicate that New York City is currently a target of another terrorist attack stemming from the Boston bombings.

Mr. Mayor.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: I'll be happy to take a question or two.

Yes, sir? Please identify yourself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dave Seifman (ph), "New York Post."

Commissioner, you said they decided to do this spontaneously, meaning that they had no plan before to come to New York, they just decided on the spot? KELLY: That's what we believe now. In the car they made a decision to go to New York with the remaining explosive devices that they had and to detonate it - detonate one or more in Times Square.

BLOOMBERG: And keep in mind that we didn't interrogate the suspect ourselves. This is the information we're getting from those - the FBI and the local police departments in Boston that did interrogate.

Yes, miss?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Joan Culvin (ph) from "The Observer." Were you told of any -- anything about the conversation and why they decided that Times Square was the target that they wanted?

KELLY: No, we don't have that depth of information at this time.

BLOOMBERG: Yes, sir?

AARON KATERSKY, ABC: Mr. Mayor, Aaron Katersky from ABC. In regard to what you had just said, Mr. Mayor, do you believe the FBI hid information or delayed giving you any important --

BLOOMBERG: There's no reason to think the FBI hides anything. The FBI does what they think is appropriate at the time and you'll have to ask them what they found out and what the actual details of the interrogation were. We were not there. But once they give us information, then the police commissioner, right away, acts on that information, takes whatever steps he thinks is appropriate. For example, the first time we heard of the bomb blasts, right away we deployed, Ray deployed, all of our police resources and strengthened everything, heightened security, and that's what we're supposed to do.

Yes, sir?

JOSH EINIGER, WABC: Mr. Mayor, Josh Einiger, WABC. I'm wondering if you have any specific knowledge about specific location within Times Square they were looking at. And also if you could discuss the technology that you have in that area and how it might have potentially affected the outcome.

KELLY: We have no specific information about a targeting location, if you will. But we have, as the mayor said, a lot of technology in place. A lot of cameras. We have a lot of police officers there around the clock. And assuming they left at some time at 10:00 and were able to get here at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, they would have seen a lot of police officers in Times Square at that time.

BLOOMBERG: Yes, miss?

ALISON FOX, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Alison Fox with "The Wall Street Journal." Is there - was there any indication that the suspects were going to, I guess, target not only a specific area in Times Square, but a specific time period? I mean they would have gotten here in the middle of the night and there wouldn't have been many sort of tourists or, you know, people hanging around. Was this at all thought out any more than, let's just go to Times Square and see what happens? KELLY: No. We have no more specific information. Again, you know, the initial information we have is they were going to come to a party. Then it changes in the subsequent interrogation of a, you know, intent to bomb, but we have no more specificity than that.

BLOOMBERG: Right up here. This gentlemen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, Abi Frarer (ph), AM New York. Now that you've got this information, will you deploy any NYPD counterterrorism officers to Boston to further interrogate the suspect or get more information NYPD side?

KELLY: To do - to go --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get more information about this, just from your own staff instead of the FBI?

KELLY: We have people who are working with the Joint Terror Task Force in Boston. We have officers that are working in the BRIC, which is the Boston Regional Intelligence Center. So, you know, we have a lot of interaction, obviously, communication, with the Boston police commissioners. So if that's your question, there's a lot of - there's a New York City Police presence there, a welcome presence, I might add, and we have exchange of information all the time.

BLOOMBERG: But, remember, this is the Boston Police Department, Watertown Police Department, Boston branch of the FBI. They're the ones in charge and we have great confidence in their abilities.

Yes, in the back, this young lady.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Could you elaborate a little bit on the time frame of these two interrogations, the first one when they talked about partying and then the second one that revealed the new information. Was it the same night? Days later?

KELLY: You're talking about the period when they were questioning him, when he was questioned?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

KELLY: Yes, we believe the first interrogation of Dzhokhar happened on Saturday evening, into Sunday morning, and that the second questioning period was Sunday evening into Monday morning.

BLOOMBERG: To this gentleman up here, all the way up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tony Decefin (ph) of "News Day." How confident, Mr. Commissioner, were you that the surveillance, police presence in the area, and also the metric camera systems, that biometrics that you may have used, would have seen something and perhaps forestalled any event?

KELLY: It's unknown. You know, we have - we have a lot of presence there and resources there, but there are no guarantees. BLOOMBERG: We spend every dime we think we can spend to get a real value, and we work with -- we train our people continuously, and we monitor what goes on around the world for best practices and what the terrorists might be doing. But as Ray said, there are no guarantees. All we can do is do everything that we can, and that's exactly what we're doing. The public has a right to expect us to keep them safe to the extent humanly possible, and that's exactly what we're doing.

Sir?

DEAN MEMINGER, NEW YORK 1: Dean Meminger, New York 1. Obviously, the FBI is questioning suspect number two still in the hospital. Initially, people hear him saying he wanted to come to New York to party, now to bomb. Is there a reason for you to believe the second story and not the first? A real reason? Maybe, you know, that he was really coming here to bomb, or is he making up stories altogether?

KELLY: We have an obligation, we believe, to put that information out. The information we received that he was a lot more lucid and gave much more detailed information in the second questioning period.

BLOOMBERG: And regardless, whether we believe it or not, this is the information we get and we're going to take everything seriously. God forbid -- we don't make light of anything. We have to assume the worst and deploy our resources to make sure it doesn't happen. It would be wonderful if it wasn't true, but this does appear to be what the FBI or the Boston Police are telling us is what the guy said.

We want to get to this young lady here.

MARCIA KRAMER, WCBS-TV: Mr. Mayor, Marcia Kramer from WCBS-TV. It's a two-part question, really. Number one, you have evidence, I presume, pictures of them being in Times Square in April of 2012, I think you said, and again in November. I wonder if you have any more information about what they were doing here. And secondly, had they got to Times Square with their six bombs, including the pressure cooker bomb, what's the potential damage they could have done if they exploded them?

KELLY: Well, we know that, as you say, on or before 18, April of 2012, they had that picture taken. Some of the people in that picture have been identified and that part of the investigation is certainly going forward.

You know, you look at what the bomb did in Boston and then you would have to take that and, obviously, speculate as to what it could do in Times Square. There's a significant number of people in Times Square at that hour. There are clubs, bars that are operating. So, you know, I wouldn't want to guess, but clearly we saw the power of the bombs in Boston. You take that and you can just use your, you know, give a guesstimate as to what the damage would be in New York City.

BLOOMBERG: And just because they came here doesn't mean they'd have to do something right away.

We have a question back here. This young lady. No, first the young lady in front of you had her hand up. I'm sorry.

JILLIAN JORGENSEN, STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE: Jillian Jorgensen from Staten Island Advance. Obviously Times Square is an area that has a lot of technology, a lot of cameras, a large police presence. When it comes to larger events that span, you know, all boroughs, like the marathon or like the TD bike tour that's coming up, how do you secure those large public gatherings from something like this?

BLOOMBERG: With great difficult, right?

KELLY: Yes, right. With difficulty, as the mayor said. But certainly it requires a lot of law enforcement presence, a lot of police officers. And that's precisely what we'll be deploying. We have some cameras, as you know, we've said that we are moving to expand the number of mobile cameras that we have, but that's going to be a ways off. We have some, but a relatively small number.

So, we'll have a lot of people covering that route. We have some kind of terrorism resources that we use. We have a vehicle that takes pictures, 360-degree pictures, that we use on a route of major events. We'll be continuing to do that sort of thing. We have our sky watchers that give you an elevated view. We have - we're - you know, if we need it, license plate readers, that sort of thing. We would deploy them.

BLOOMBERG: And the gentleman behind you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. James Ford (ph) from -

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You're listening to a press conference given by the police commissioner, Ray Kelly, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, saying that based on a second interview of the suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, in the hospital by FBI and other interrogators, this interview, which Commissioner Kelly indicated he believes took place late Sunday, the first interview he believes took place late Saturday. Based on this second interview, New York has been given information by the interrogators that the suspects had intended to go to New York after leaving Boston on late Thursday night, head toward New York and try to detonate whatever remaining explosive devices they had in Times Square.

Again, this is information, according to the commissioner and the mayor, that comes from FBI and other interrogators based on a second interview with the suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. As you know, as Commissioner Kelly mentioned yesterday, based on a first interview with the suspect, the suspect had said that they intended to come to New York to party, as Commissioner Kelly revealed in a press conference yesterday. As for the discrepancy between the first interview and the second -- information coming out of the second interview, Commissioner Kelly said the interrogators believed he was more lucid during the second interview.

Importantly, though, and I think it bears repeating, Commissioner Kelly stressing that this seemed to be kind of a spur of the moment decision, or at least the interrogators who have interviewed Dzhokhar Tsarnaev believe this is more of a spur of the moment decision, not a preplanned trip to New York. And also, most importantly, both the mayor and the commissioner stressing there's no known information about any direct threat to the city of New York at this time. No ongoing threat to the city of New York at this time in this bombing investigation.

So, we're joined now by a former director of the FBI, Tom Fuentes, also Gloria Borger and Jason Carroll in New York.

Tom, let me start off with you. I do think it's critical, the statement that Commissioner Kelly made, that this was a -- seems to be, all indication is, that it was a spur of the moment decision, not a pre-planned trip.

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Right, Anderson. And I think that one of the important takeaways from that is that it would also indicate that there weren't additional people involved in this plot. So in other words, the two of them were going to go to New York and carry out the terrorist act. That it would indicate that there's not a third person out there that could go do it for them or was already deployed to do it or could have done it simultaneously with the Boston attack. So it does indicate that they probably were alone and didn't have others involved in trying to set bombs up somewhere.

COOPER: Tom, also, what does it tell you about the fact that they are deciding spur of the moment, or talking about spur of the moment, about going to New York? That they're stopping at ATM machines to try to get cash by using that -- the person they allegedly carjacked? I mean doesn't seem like they had much of an end game here.

FUENTES: Well, it does - no, it would seem so, and you're right, but, you know, we don't know that for sure. One of the other things is shows is that they were not suicidal. And, of course, we've seen that. They didn't commit suicide in the attack at the marathon. And certainly, later on, they're shooting it out. They're not trying to necessarily get killed on purpose. And then, of course, Dzhokhar, when he's in the boat, he completely complies with the negotiates' request to stand up, lift his shirt, and surrender peacefully. So it indicates that, yes, they may have come up with this on the spur of the moment, but again, it didn't sound like it was going to be a suicide attack. It just sounded like they're going to do what they're going to do when they feel like it.

COOPER: Gloria Borger, you broke this information on our air before this news conference. What do you make of what you hear from the mayor and the police commissioner?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think there -- this is one way of telling the people of New York City to be vigilant. That while New York City was clearly not a target of these attacks initially, that spontaneously these guys, apparently, if we're to believe the suspect, apparently sort of said, OK, let's take what we had left and let's - let's just head to Times Square in New York.

But let me just unwind this a little bit for you, Anderson, because there has been a threat of Manhattan sort of through this entire story, because remember the victim who was carjacked, he heard these two people talking in a language that was foreign to him, and the one word he told authorities he thought he heard was Manhattan. And that, of course, was relayed to law enforcement in New York. And they start to unravel this and start to pursue Dzhokhar and sort of figure out who he was. They discovered that, in fact, he had been to Times Square. It didn't look like anything other than a trip with a bunch of his buddies. There was some photographs on social networks. But they were, you know, kind of aware of this. And so the question is clearly asked in the first interrogation about New York, because they were following up on what the carjack victim said. And they ask about New York and the first story is, we were there to party. And by the next day, no, no, they were going to take the rest of the bombs and detonate them somewhere where they could do some damage.

COOPER: You know, Jason Carroll, obviously, the law enforcement capabilities of New York are actually vastly different than here in Boston. Boston Police force is, I think, some 2,000 people. In New York, I believe it's 35,000. I mean it's a huge number. A lot more different - a lot of different capabilities in New York.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And you heard the mayor mention something about that. But also just to follow up a little bit more what -- on what Gloria and Tom were talking about. It's pretty sobering when you hear about the amount of explosives that these brothers had left. According to what Police Commissioner Kelly was telling us, six improvised explosive devices that they still had in their possession, one was that pressure cooker type of bomb that was used in the Boston attacks, but they also still had five pipe bombs on them, as well. And so even though this may have been a spontaneous discussion that they had in the car, according to what the commissioner was saying, in this carjacked car as they were driving around Boston, it's still very clear that they still had a lot of fire power left in their possession that could have done a lot of damage.

And also following up on what Gloria was talking about, you know, they do have these pictures of the younger Tsarnaev brother being in New York in Times Square in November of 2012 and in April of 2012. But once again, according to what New York officials are saying, based on what information they're getting through the Joint Terrorism Task Force, based on that second interrogation, this was a spontaneous plan that these brothers had put together. But had they not been caught, it still could have very much been a deadly plan.

Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, Tom Fuentes, I just want to bring you in here because in "The Wall Street Journal" today there's an interesting editorial by Judith Miller and it sort of brings up some of the things that Mayor Bloomberg discussed, which is the counterterrorism program that New York City has instituted in the wake of 9/11. It's really unlike any other police force in the nation in their counterterrorism capabilities and operational capabilities.

FUENTES: Well, right, we've -- much has been made about the effort that they've made to create that entity and to use it. But I think Commissioner Kelly was rather cautious in saying that they could absolutely, even in spite of having all the resources, technological and human resources, that they would have been able to for sure stop this. And I think, you know, he and others well recognized the difficulty that, you know, they could drive into town if they found a different third vehicle, not the Mercedes, obviously, but if they switched to a different vehicle that was not being sought and drive into Times Square. And about the time they get out of the car and take the knapsack out, and, yes, even if the cameras pick up that it's them and it's a suspicious device, and they call a police officer, you know, you're talking about two seconds to light this off and make it happen. So whether it could be prevented, I think the commissioner's very cautious to know that maybe, yes, maybe, no.

COOPER: Yes. Tom Fuentes, Jason Carroll, Gloria Borger, appreciate it.

Coming up, the mother of the bombing suspects is speaking out, talking to CNN's Nick Paton Walsh. Very interesting what she has to say. She clearly doesn't believe her sons are guilty.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like to assure that my kids were not involved in anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: You'll hear from the Tsarnaev brothers' mother as our special report on the Boston bombings continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, today, a big part of the Boston bombing investigation is happening overseas in Russia. That is where the parents of the two terror suspects are talking about their sons. They're talking to the FBI. They're also talking to CNN. Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev's father is promising to cooperate with investigators when he travels to the U.S. in the coming days. Their mother, however, will not make the trip. As you may know, she faces charges here. She skipped out on shoplifting charges here years ago and there's an arrest warrant out for her, so she's not coming back here.

Our Nick Paton Walsh had a long conversation with the suspects' mother. She's got a theory about the bombings, of which by - I should just point out, she offers absolutely no proof for. No -- there's no factual basis for what she says. She's, obviously, distraught, but she also has theories about how her sons have been implicated. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZUBEIDAT TSARNAEV, BOMBING SUSPECTS' MOTHER: Tamerlan was close friends with him, so they think that Misha made him to become more -- more deeply religious, you know. So that's why. Somebody told them that Misha was the one who influenced on him.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And you met Misha?

TSARNAEV: Of course I met Misha.

WALSH: Describe him to me. What kind of guy?

TSARNAEV: Very nice. Nothing wrong. Very intelligent. Very, like, nothing (INAUDIBLE) talk about.

WALSH: OK. OK. So what else did they ask you about his trips here? Were they particularly interested in the time he came to Dagestan?

TSARNAEV: About who?

WALSH: About -

TSARNAEV: Tamerlan? Well, all questions were about Tamerlan and --

WALSH: And his trip here? Two trips?

TSARNAEV: Yes.

WALSH: Two trips, right? One in 2011 and one in 2012?

TSARNAEV: No, only 2012.

WALSH: Only 2012.

TSARNAEV: Uh-huh.

WALSH: OK. And that was six months in which he was with --

TSARNAEV: Oh, yes.

WALSH: (INAUDIBLE).

TSARNAEV: Yes. Yes.

WALSH: And are you going to America?

TSARNAEV: I think so. I think so.

WALSH: You want to?

TSARNAEV: Yes, because I really want to. Really want to see how it is going to end, you know?

WALSH: You want to bury your son?

TSARNAEV: Of course. Of course. Even though I don't know if they will let us to see Dzhokhar, but I want to go. I want to see my Tamerlan, if it's possible. Yes, I want.

WALSH: And there's an issue with this to do with an arrest warrant for you?

TSARNAEV: That's - I don't even care. That's not something that is difficult. It wasn't a big deal, and I don't care about it. What I care is only this of my oldest son, who I think was killed, and the youngest one, who is really need the support.

WALSH: Of course. Can you describe to me how you think this situation came about? We spoke before.

TSARNAEV: Yes.

WALSH: I know you believe they're innocent. How do you think it's come to this stage to the American officials saying that they are guilty?

TSARNAEV: You know, it's really difficult to -- I really don't know how to explain or describe, but I feel that there is something wrong. You know, I don't know. I really feel there is something wrong. I'm thinking through the day, through the night, I don't see anybody. I don't see anything to pay, like, a real attention to. Like, I mean about his friends, like whoever was surrounding him. Nothing that would really catch my attention that --

WALSH: Describe to me the pain.

TSARNAEV: It's - I don't know how to describe it, you know? You know mother. You have a mother, right? So just because you are not mother, you won't understand it. I am mother, loving mother of two kids. I don't know. This is really crazy. I can't even - I can't even describe it. I saw my Tamerlan naked putting into a police car. Pulling - somebody was - you know, they pulled him out of the whatever cruiser, the cruiser or the car, and they put him into the police car, where he walked naked, naked, and they are saying that it is not my son, but I know my son. I know my son. I know the body of my son, who I raised from, you know, from this size. From this size. This is my son. This is - I don't know how to describe it. He was alive. Just two days later they just put out the one - the pictures that he's dead already, so I don't know. You have the picture, please, show me that.

WALSH: Before I share, I want to say, we went to Chechnya yesterday.

TSARNAEV: Yes.

WALSH: (INAUDIBLE).

TSARNAEV: Yes.

WALSH: To Anzor Scoton's (ph) house. Was that an important place to your family? Does it have - is it like a - it's a good family location? Does it mean to you? Did it mean anything to Anzor (ph) and to -

TSARNAEV: Well, we haven't, like, been living there that much, so I don't - I don't even care about that place.

WALSH: Of course, I understand. I understand. I just want to ask you some of the things that we've been hearing so you can answer the accusations against your son.

TSARNAEV: Yes.

WALSH: There are reports that he sent you text messages saying -- talking about the radical nature of his faith and saying he would be willing even to die for Islam. Is that anything you --

TSARNAEV: No. Never! Never true.