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Fingerprint Discovered Among Bomb Debris; U'S' "Going Backwards" On National Security?; New Ricin Evidence Revealed; Guantanamo Prisoners on Strike; Blocked from Providing Benghazi Info?
Aired April 30, 2013 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jake, thanks very much. Happening now, investigators discover at least one fingerprint among the bomb debris from the marathon attacks. And it doesn't appear to belong to one of the two suspects.
Plus, President Obama renews his push to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba amid an alarming hunger strike involving more than half of its detainees.
Could you soon be seeing more nudity and profanity on your TV?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
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BLITZER: But we begin this hour with the dramatic potentially revealing new twist in the hunt for clues behind the deadly Boston marathon attacks. We're just learning that investigators have discovered at least one fingerprint along with female DNA among the bomb debris. Our national correspondent, Susan Candiotti, is in Boston. She's been working the story for us. She's got the latest details. What about this fingerprint, Susan? What are you learning?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, wolf. Yes, tonight that is new information that we are learning about at least one fingerprint found on a piece of the bomb debris, those two bombs, pressure cooker bombs that were used at the killer Boston marathon. We don't yet have word to whom that fingerprint belongs and still waiting for more information as well on that female DNA that was also found on a part of the pressure cooker bomb.
Remember, authorities have been trying to pinpoint that information, and at last check, we have no word on whether a match has been made. The question remains, who made those pressure cooker bombs? Where were they made? Were they tested in the United States? And what kind of training did any of the bomb makers make where they only -- did they get the training here? Did they get it overseas?
It is suspected that the bomb maker could be the elder of the two brothers, but of course, no firm answers on that as yet. But of course we know that for a long time, the suspect who was currently being held in that federal medical facility had been talking but still trying to work out whether he will continue to talk to investigators now that he's been read his rights -- Wolf.
BLITZER: So, they now have a fingerprint and they have DNA. That's a good start in this investigation I am sure. Susan, thanks very much.
President Obama took the podium at a last-minute news conference today telling reporters all levels of law enforcement have handled this investigation, in his words, "in an exemplary fashion." Our crime and justice correspondent, Joe Johns, is taking a closer look at how federal officials are responding to the tragedy. He's got new information -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, from a justice standpoint, this case is still really in its infancy, but the director of National Intelligence is already heading up an effort to try to determine whether any signals were missed that could have prevented the Boston bombing.
JOHNS (voice-over): With the criminal investigation of the alleged Boston bombers still in full swing including the search for possible accomplices, Tuesday, President Obama defended the government's handling of Tamerlan Tsarnaev who the FBI investigated back in 2011. The intelligence community is now doing a review to determine what might have been done better.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The question then is, was there something that happened that triggered radicalization and actual -- an actual decision by the brother to engage in the attack the way -- the tragic attack we actually saw in Boston? And are there things, additional things, that could have been done in that interim that might have prevented it?
JOHNS: One issue, whether the case presented what one intelligence analyst called a signal to noise problem that so much information is now coming in about so many potential terrorists it's becoming increasingly hard to separate what's important from what's irrelevant. Some of the most important information that came was from Russian intelligence in 2011 warning about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, which sources described as vague, but the president said things are improving.
OBAMA: The Russians have been very cooperative with us since the Boston bombing.
JOHNS (on-camera): And the president's assessment of the FBI's handling of this case so far is already getting just a little bit of pushback from some Republicans on Capitol Hill who are saying it's just too early to reach any conclusions when the investigation isn't even over -- Wolf. BLITZER: They've got a lot of work to do, there's no doubt about that. Thanks very much. Much more on the Boston bombing investigation, but I want to turn now to Syria and what President Obama has repeatedly said would be a game changer in the escalating civil war, the use of chemical weapons. The president reiterated that warning today, but this time, with some more conditions.
So, is he moving that so-called red line? Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is getting some new information on what's going on behind the scenes over at the Pentagon. What are you learning, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we've all seen the talk game changer, red line. The president has avoided specifics about what all of that means, but questions now about how much longer he may be able to actually avoid spelling it out.
STARR (voice-over): CNN has learned the Pentagon is intensifying planning for potential military action against Syria's chemical weapons facilities since a March 19th attack in Aleppo appeared to show Bashir al-Assad's troops using chemical weapons against civilians. There was classified intelligence about as many as three separate attacks.
OBAMA: The use of chemical weapons would be a game changer.
STARR: President Obama says if it's proven Assad's troops attacked with chemical agents, the threat has escalated.
OBAMA: And that means that there are some options that we might not otherwise exercise that we would strongly consider.
STARR: A senior U.S. official tells CNN, defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, wants detailed military options he can hand to the president if action is ordered.
CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I won't speculate on those options nor publicly discuss those options.
STARR: U.S. military sources tell CNN one option, making warships carrying cruise missiles on routine patrol off Israel could strike Syrian command-and-control sites and air defenses, clearing a path for precision air strikes against chemical sites. Military action could involve thousands of U.S. troops, but sources say no U.S. ground troops. The senior official tells CNN two crisis points potentially could trigger a strike if the chemical weapons fall into the hands of terrorists or if the regime collapses, and no one is controlling the weapons.
But officials stress they need more information before deciding on a next step. Neighboring Israel, Jordan, and Turkey are all being consulted on the intensified planning effort. But the big problem? Right now, the U.S. says it doesn't know where all the chemical weapons are located. SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: You have confidence we could secure it?
GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Not as I sit here today simply because they've been moving it, and the number of sites is quite numerous.
STARR: Now, pressure is growing from some Republicans and Democrats on the Hill for the administration to arm the opposition, provide them weapons. Sources in the administration are telling me that will not happen because there is still a great deal of concern about who really is making up the opposition right now. It could cause even bigger problems.
But what these U.S. officials will also quietly tell you is that, yes, the CIA has been helping train some of the rebels in neighboring countries -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Barbara, thanks very much. We're going to have more on this story later here in the SITUATION ROOM as well.
Let's get back into the investigation into the Boston terrorist bombings. Not everyone agrees with the president about how this investigation has been handled. Republican senator, Lindsey Graham, has said Boston is an example of the U.S. going backwards when it comes to intelligence gathering.
Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, asked the president about those comments at today's news conference.
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OBAMA: Mr. Graham is not right on this issue, although I'm sure, it generated some headlines. You know, I think that what we saw in Boston was state, local, federal officials, every agency rallying around the city that had been attacked, identifying the perpetrators just hours after the scene had been examined. We now have one individual deceased, one in custody, charges have been brought.
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BLITZER: Shortly after the news conference, I spoke on the phone with Senator Graham and I asked him to respond.
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VOICE OF SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: It's not so much about blaming people as to get it why (ph) we've lost eight Americans in seven months, four overseas, four at home, and why instead (ph) radical Islam is on the march. We need to up our game. Clearly to me, the systems did not work the way they're supposed to. I'm shocked that this happened after 9/11 where people no longer talked with each other. I thought we'd gotten over that.
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BLITZER: Let's dig a little bit deeper right now with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. Gloria, the president walking a delicate line. He said the FBI has done a great job since the bombings or making sure there were arrests and all of that, but he says, yes, it's a good idea to have some sort of inquiry, some sort of look back to see --
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure.
BLITZER: --maybe things could have been done better.
BORGER: Look, he's clearly trying to thread the needle here. He's trying to protect his administration from the charges that you've just heard Senator Graham level, which was that they were effectively asleep at the switch, that they didn't pay enough attention to a bright, red flag waved at them by, of all people, the Russians. These aren't the British or the French who came to us with this inquiry. It was, after all, the Russians.
So, the president goes out there and says that's not the case. In fact, the FBI did everything it could. It interviewed Tamerlan. It interviewed his mother. They came up empty. He went also went out of his way not to criticize the Russians, which law enforcement has done because they went back to the Russians and didn't get further answers to questions that they were asking.
But, he also, in threading the needle, left the door open for some kind of self-examination, saying that there are protocols -- they're going to look as they should to see if there are, quote, "protocols and procedures" that should be put in place in the wake of this. He said, look. This is hard stuff. And what he also told us is there is one question he doesn't have the answer to, which is, what triggered this radicalization? We just don't know.
BLITZER: And that's what part of the investigation.
BLITZER: Are we going to see this political tension continue between some of the Republicans on the Hill and this administration?
BORGER: Yes. And some of the tension, I would argue, is healthy tension because it's Congress' job to oversee law enforcement, to oversee the executive branch. And that's what they're going to do. So, we know that the Homeland Security Committee in the Senate, for example, is going to start having hearings on this. I think they ought to do that.
What you have to be careful about is that this just doesn't turn into some kind of partisan witch hunt because people want to play politics with it. We really need to get the answers to a lot of these questions and hold people accountable if they should be held accountable. But the important thing is to fix the process if anything was wrong. Nobody would argue we haven't come a long way since 9/11. We have come a long way since 9/11. The question is, whether we have further to go. So, they ought to do it and, by the way, the administration with the director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, is going to have his own investigation into this. He ought to do that as well.
BLITZER: And there will be Congressional investigations to be sure as well.
BORGER: Yes. There will be and there should be, by the way.
BLITZER: That's part of the role of Congress -- oversight. Lessons learned and make sure we don't repeat those mistakes if there were mistakes.
BLITZER: Gloria, thanks very much.
Up next two high profile candidates go at it in South Carolina. The Democrat, Elizabeth Colbert-Busch versus the former governor, the Republican, Mark Sanford. And, yes, she went there, hitting Sanford for his 2009 affair that led to his gubernatorial resignation.
Plus, prisoners on a hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay. Now, the president may finally make good on his long-time promise. He's saying once again on this day after a long period of silence, he wants to take action to shut down that prison at Guantanamo Bay for good.
BLITZER: Apparently, nothing was off the table when the former South Carolina governor, Mark Sanford, and Elizabeth Colbert-Busch went head to head in the state Congressional debate last night. Colbert-Busch went there as one moderator commented when she slammed her opponent for visiting his mistress back in 2009.
ELIZABETH COLBERT-BUSCH, (D) SOUTH CAROLINA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: You and I met on a number of occasions. You said you would support trade. You said you would support the dredging, you said you would support all the things that we needed, and, in fact, you didn't tell the truth. You turned around and did the opposite.
MARK SANFORD, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: In the wake of that, if it really bothered you, why would you write a campaign check in support of my candidacy and run for governor?
COLBERT-BUSCH: When we talk about fiscal spending and we talk about protecting the taxpayers, it doesn't mean you take that money we saved and leave the country for a personal purpose.
JOHN AVLON, CNN ANALYST: She went there, Governor Sanford.
SANFORD: I couldn't hear what she said.
SANFORD: Do you think that President Clinton should be condemned for the rest of his life based on a mistake that he made in his life? You don't go through the experience I had back in 2009 without a greater level of humility.
COLBERT-BUSCH: I want to be very clear, Mark. Nobody tells me what to do.
COLBERT-BUSCH: Except the people of South Carolina's first district.
SANFORD: I was in essence against ear marks before being against ear marks was cool.
COLBERT-BUSCH: This is not the end of our time as we know it. The sky is not falling, Henny Penny. As a matter of fact, our best days are ahead of us.
SANFORD: Whose voice will you carry to Washington, D.C.?
BLITZER: Pretty feisty debate. CNN analyst and the moderator of the debate last night, John Avlon, is joining us right now. Bottom line, who do you think won that debate, John?
AVLON: Wolf, it was a fiery debate. I think Elizabeth Colbert- Busch won it on points. There was no knockout punch. These two candidates are evenly matched. The polls are close. Ms. Colbert- Busch slightly ahead. But here's the thing, Colbert-Busch had never had a full debate before. Mark Sanford has had 20 years of debates.
And she walked in well-prepped, confident, with some real memorable one liners and more than held her own. She walked out feeling like a winner last night.
BLITZER: Because what he said about, are you still holding it against President Clinton for what happened with Monica Lewinsky all these years later, did she respond directly to how he came back on that issue?
AVLON: She did not, Wolf. But this was one of the many surreal things about the debate. You know, here, you've got a Democrat trying to reach out to the center quoting Dick Cheney to explain her support for marriage equality and the Republican candidate, Mark Sanford, comparing himself to Bill Clinton. It was a wild ride last night.
And a lot of serious issues beneath it. You know, there's been so much focus on the personalities of the debate, the scandals of the past. But this -- the constituents down in South Carolina really wanted to hear about policy and they got a real, fierce fight on policy as well as personality last night.
BLITZER: Our CNN political reporter, Peter Hamby, is reporting that Rand Paul, the senator, is going to endorse, is going to work over the next several days for Governor Sanford. Nikki Haley, the current governor, she's supporting him as well. I assume that's going to help. But what about the two of them down the road? Is it going to help them?
AVLON: Well, this could haunt them. Remember, Wolf, you'll recall that the Republican National Campaign Committee, the Congressional committee, pulled its funding from the Sanford campaign because he was seen as tainted and tarnished. But look, Mark Sanford's core argument is don't judge me by my scandals. Judge me on my policies.
And he can say with some credibility that he's been a consistent fighter for fiscal conservatism even before it was cool, going back to the republican revolution in 1994. That's the policies that Rand Paul is associating himself with and Nikki Haley to some extent, but it is an uphill fight from Mark Sanford right now despite the fact that this Congressional district leads heavily Republican.
BLITZER: We'll see who wins. There've been conflicting images out there on the polls. Thanks very much. Good work, John.
AVLON: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: We heard it all throughout his campaign, the president vowing to shut down the prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Coming up, why the prisoners' hunger strike might actually make that promise a reality. What's going on? New information coming in.
And it's one of the most brazen robberies at gun point you'll ever see. But it's not the robber who's dangerously bold. It's the would-be victim.
BLITZER: A new report as welcome news for home owners. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. Lisa, what happened?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, it's always nice to report good news and that is that home prices are bouncing back. A new report shows that in February, they made the biggest gain since the height of the housing bubble. Home prices in 20 major markets posted a nine percent rise over the last year. That's the biggest 12- month jump in that index since May of 2006 just after home prices hit a record high.
And if you've never heard of a Dutch king before, well, you're probably not alone. Today, Willem-Alexander became the first one since the 1800s. His mother, Queen Beatrix, abdicated the throne after a 33-year reign. Willem-Alexander is 46 years old, got wife, and three children. And for only the second time in 50 years, a temporary flame is being used at President John F. Kennedy's grave site. The eternal flame is undergoing upgrades to make it more modern, energy efficient, and easier to maintain. It's expected to take about three weeks at which point the flame will be relit. The only other time a temporary flame was used was in 1963 when President Kennedy was laid to rest.
And now, you have got to check out this crazy video from New Orleans. Take a look here. Man walking down the street when he's approached by another man with a shotgun trying to rob him. The victim acts quickly. You see there. Yanking the gun away and chasing after him. Our affiliate, WWL, reports the robber returned to the scene in a car afterward and asked for the shotgun back in exchange for the victim's dropped cell phone.
The victim? He refused. The police are now asking the public to help find the perpetrator. So, very dangerous thing, though. The victim takes the gun away, but then, can you believe it, the robber goes back and says, can I have my gun back.
BLITZER: He's nuts.
SYLVESTER: Just unbelievable. The things you hear, Wolf.
BLITZER: People do weird, weird things. All right. Thanks, Lisa. Thanks very much.
We've got important news we're following here in the SITUATION ROOM. Get this, more than half of the prisoners right now at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, they are on a hunger strike and President Obama said he's now had enough. I'll speak with a reporter who got a first-hand account of the hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay.
What's going on? Stand by. The president is outraged by what's going on there at that prison camp.
Plus, the FCC is tired of people complaining about indecency on network television. How this could mean more nudity on TV? Stand by.
BLITZER: This just coming in to the SITUATION ROOM. We're getting new information about the suspect in the case of those ricin- laced letters that were sent to President Obama and other officials. CNN's John Zarrella is standing by in Mississippi right now. What are you learning, John?
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is really a big piece of the puzzle that we've been waiting for. The criminal complaint unsealed today by the federal government against James Everett Dutschke. And in this criminal complaint, you recall that another man, Paul Kevin Curtis, a self-avowed Elvis impersonator, was the first man arrested, and during the course of the questioning with Curtis it came out from Curtis and Curtis' family members that there had been this long-standing contentious relationship, primarily in social media, e-mails, social postings, between the two men, between Curtis and Dutschke.
So then the FBI continues to investigate further and they have a witness who tells them, according to the criminal complaint, that Dutschke had told this witness several years ago on more than one occasion that -- Dutschke said that he could, and I'll read it here, "He could manufacture a poison and place it in envelopes."
Well, the FBI also searched a Tae Kwan Do studio in Tupelo that was owned by Dutschke and in the drain they found -- in five different samples that they took, they found evidence, positively tested for ricin in those drains.
Now here's a key paragraph out of the criminal complaint. And I will read that to you. "After departing the former business location, Dutschke drove a short distance, approximately 100 yards, and was observed discarding several items through the window of the vehicle into the public garbage receptacle. After Dutschke departed the area personnel from the Jackson Division of the FBI and Mississippi Office of Homeland Security removed the -- recovered the items. Observed inside the garbage receptacle were the following items. The box for a Black and Decker smart grind coffee grinder, a box containing latex gloves, a dust mask, and an empty bucket of floor adhesive."
This is quoting. "Based on my training and expertise, I know that a coffee bean grinder could be utilized in the process of extracting ricin from castor beans. Furthermore latex gloves and a dust mask could be utilized as personal protective equipment while the castor beans are being crushed to protect the producer from an accidental exposure."
The items that Dutschke threw away were sent to the NBFAC for testing, that's a laboratory, and initial presumptive tests on the dust mask that Dutschke threw away was positive for the presence of ricin. A second preliminary test on the mask also positive for the presence of ricin. The final test also confirmed the presence of ricin.
And one final note, one of the highlights in this criminal complaint, Dutschke, according to the complaint, ordered 50 castor beans off eBay in November of 2012 and then in December of 2012 he ordered another 50 castor beans off eBay.
So this is the criminal complaint we've been waiting for that really outlines quite a bit of the evidence that the federal government now has against James Everett Dutschke -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Now we know why he has been indicted with all -- with this crime.
Thanks very much, John Zarrella in Mississippi for us.
BLITZER: Let's turn now to the U.S. Detention Center at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. And an alarming hunger strike under way right now. More than half of the inmates housed there are participating in this hunger strike and some of them even have to be administered liquid nutrition through a tube in place of food. Whether or not the facility should be shut down has been a hot button issue here in Washington for many years.
The president vowed early on in his presidency to do that. So far that has not happened. Today he strongly renewed that push.
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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, it is not a surprise to me that we've got problems in Guantanamo, which is why when I was campaigning in 2007 and 2008 and when I was elected in 2008 I said, we need to close Guantanamo. I continued to believe we've got to close Guantanamo.
I think, well, you know, I think it is critical for us to understand that Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe. It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing. It lessens cooperation with our allies on counterterrorism efforts. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed.
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BLITZER: And joining us now the "New York Times" Washington correspondent Charlie Savage. He's been reporting from Guantanamo.
Pretty powerful words from the president today, Charlie. What's your response when you heard what the president had to say?
CHARLIE SAVAGE, NEW YORK TIMES WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, he certainly was recommitting to his vow from 2009 to close the prison somehow. I was a little confused about what he meant by that, however. Because his specific plan for doing so was to take the detainees who are there and bring them to a maximum security prison inside the United States where many of them would continue to be held without trial as war time prisoners.
And so while that might solve some of the problems he listed with Guantanamo like its expense and its sort of public relations symbolism, it's not clear to me how that would address the problems now under way with the hunger strike among the dozens of detainees, really over 100 at this point who are refusing to eat because they've been held for over a decade without trial and they've lost hope that they'll ever go home alive.
BLITZER: As -- about those forced feedings and getting some nutrition into these hunger strikers the American Medical Association has been calling out the Department of Defense ethically. How difficult is this hunger strike in dealing with it? SAVAGE: Well, that's right. It's the Defense Department's position that detainees are allowed to hunger strike but they're not allowed to kill themselves, and so if they grow dangerously malnourished or don't drink they have to be forced fed. And if they refuse to drink this Ensure nutritional supplement they are strapped to a chair and a tube is run into their nose and down their throats and into their stomach and this nutritional supplement is poured into their stomach to keep them alive.
We now know that over 20 of them are receiving or at least approved to receive that procedure if they refuse to eat behind closed doors. And President Obama today was asked about it. Are you going to keep force feeding detainees? And he said he doesn't want these people to die.
You're right that medical ethicists say that that's a violation of professional ethics for a doctor to intervene with a prisoner in any kind of incarcerated setting who is of sound mind and is choosing not to eat or drink. This was a similar fight that the AMA had with the Bush administration during earlier rounds of hunger strikes in the last administration. Now it's squaring under Mr. Obama.
BLITZER: You spoke to a lot of folks at Guantanamo Bay and other experts. What could end these hunger strikes? What would satisfy the prisoners?
SAVAGE: Well, we were told, when we were down there, several reporters recently, we spoke at length with a Muslim cultural adviser to the military who's worked there since 2005, and his opinion from talking with the detainees and observing them over the years is that the source of the frustration is driving all of this is that transfers out of the prison have dried up.
There's not been a low level prisoner transferred since 2011 who wasn't ordered released by a judge or some other judicial process. Eighty-six of them have been long since designated for potential transfers, security conditions have been -- can be met but they remain stuck there more than three years later and President Obama until recently had not talked about closing Guantanamo anymore and had reassigned the ambassador whose job it was to negotiate transfers without replacing him.
And his sense was that what they want to see to calm down and start complying with the rules again is someone leaving, which would give them hope that if they obey the rules and are quiet some day they, too, might be allowed to go home.
Now obviously we're not talking about high level terrorists like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who are facing trial before a military commission for specific terrorist attacks. We're talking about the bulk of the detainees who have been deemed to be sort of part of al Qaeda but on a foot soldier level and are not linked to anything in particular.
BLITZER: Charlie Savage writes for the "New York Times," just back from Gitmo. Thanks, Charlie, very much. SAVAGE: Thank you for having me.
BLITZER: When we come back, President Obama faces some tough questions about Benghazi at today's news conference but doesn't seem to have the answers. We'll have a full report.
And you're going to see and hear from suspect number one, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. For the first time we'll hear his voice. That's just ahead. That's coming up at the top of the hour.
BLITZER: The president faced some tough questions about Benghazi at today's news conference over at the White House. Questions that he didn't seem to have all the answers for.
Our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash is joining us with this part of the story.
At one point the president said he needs to get some more information.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You know, there are few issues, as you know, that rile up the Republican base more than questions about whether the Obama administration engaged in a cover-up about what happened around last fall's deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
Now House Republicans are investigating and they say the State Department is effectively blocking officials there from testifying. The president as you said was asked about that today and appeared to be caught flat footed but we can explain.
OBAMA: I'm not familiar with this notion that anybody has been blocked from testifying.
BASH (voice-over): The president may not be familiar but there's a high stakes tug-of-war going on between the State Department and House Republican oversight chairman Darrell Issa. At issue at least four employees -- three at the State Department and one at the CIA -- apparently want to talk to Congress about the administration's handling of the Benghazi situation. But much of the information is classified.
The attorney for one of the employees says she cannot get answers from the State Department on how to get clearance to see the classified information in order to advise her client.
VICTORIA TOENSING, ATTORNEY: There is a clear obstruction to my client when my client cannot give me all the information because the State Department will not give me a process for my being cleared.
BASH: The State Department suggests it is up to the employee to ask. PATRICK VENTRELL, ACTING DEPUTY STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We're not aware of any employees who have requested clearance for private attorneys, security clearances for private attorneys in connection with Benghazi.
BASH: But veteran lawyer Victoria Toensing argues her client is afraid to ask and shouldn't have to.
TOENSING: I have to protect my client and I'm not going to let my client go to the people in the State Department and expose herself or himself without my being able to be with that person. And if I'm not cleared I can't be with them.
BASH (on camera): So it's a chicken or an egg.
TOENSING: It's a chicken or an egg, and the State Department is playing games with that kind of language.
BASH (voice-over): For now Toensing says she must protect her State Department client's identity insisting there is already intimidation going on.
(On camera): As he or she felt threatened?
TOENSING: Well, if you're going to take away somebody's job or living, that's a threat. It's a kind of a threat.
BASH: And your client --
TOENSING: And it's a threat --
BASH: Your client has been told that their job or living has been -- will be taken away if they come forward and talk about whatever it is that they feel they need to --
TOENSING: It's done in a more subtle way.
BASH: How is it done?
TOENSING: It's like they just put somebody in an office and say we just don't have an assignment for you.
BASH (voice-over): The State Department denies anyone is being threatened. Secretary of State John Kerry said this before Congress earlier this month.
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: I do not want to spend the next year coming up here talking about Benghazi.
BASH: Now he is reiterating a promise to help Congress get answers.
KERRY: We have to demythologize this issue and certainly depoliticize it. The American people deserve answers.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BASH: Now the House Oversight chairman Darrell Issa plans to hold public hearings in the next few weeks and he's hoping to have one or more of these employees who he calls whistleblowers to come and testify and Toensing told me her State Department employee client wants to testify but says that won't happen unless she as the lawyer can fully advise her client and of course she says that includes advise about classified information that she just doesn't have access to.
BLITZER: Because there are ways that lawyers can get the classification -- classified background checks in order to represent these kinds of clients.
BASH: That's exactly right. And what she said to me today is that she just wants to know what the process is. She says she is relying on the House Republican chairman Darrell Issa to get that information and he says that he has not gotten answers from several letters that he sent to the State Department asking for the process.
BLITZER: She is a former official in the Justice Department.
BASH: Yes, she is.
BLITZER: So I assume she would get that classification. All right. Thanks very much, Dana, for that report.
BASH: Thank you.
BLITZER: Keep us up to speed.
President Obama gives a no-nonsense news conference over at the White House. Coming up the question, though, that made the president say, and I'm quoting him now, maybe I should just go, maybe I should just pack up and go home.
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OBAMA: I'm here to answer questions in honor of --
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BLITZER: So far the president hasn't had a whole lot of success in his second term when it comes to the issues of gun control or comprehensive immigration reform, although he says he's optimistic that will happen. He has been trying, though, but listen to this exchange from today's news conference.
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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you still have the juice to get the rest of your agenda through this Congress?
OBAMA: If you put it that way, Jonathan, maybe I should just pack up and go home. Golly. You know, I think it's a little -- as Mark Twain said, the rumors of my demise may be a little exaggerated at this point. I feel confident that the bipartisan work that's been done on immigration reform will result in a bill that passes the Senate, passes the House, and gets on my desk.
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BLITZER: Let's talk about it in our "Strategy Session." Joining us, two CNN political analysts, the former Obama pollster Cornell Belcher and the Republican consultant Alex Castellanos.
Does he still have enough juice left -- at least to get comprehensive immigration reform? Because guns, not going to happen.
CORNELL BELCHER, FORMER OBAMA POLLSTER: Well, I'm tickled at the question. I mean, the question should be directed at Congress. You talk about the president with a majority job approval, with the Congress -- Republican Congress with 72 percent disapproval.
The question should be, how come a Congress -- how come this Congress is broken. How come they're not acting on things that the public overwhelmingly want to do? Ninety-one percent want gun reform. You know, the majority want immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship. All these things are being blocked or having a hard time in Congress. The question should be, how come Congress is broken and not acting.
ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Wonderful question. The answer is, we have a president, the president's supposed to lead. That's kind of his job. And apparently he's not very good at that. Certainly at this point.
When you're asked at a press conference if you're a lame duck basically, you might as well quack, because the answer to the question is the question. He's lost his juice. A couple of reasons. One is Republicans in Congress are in safe districts, and they don't really fear or respect this president. Two, the president ran a substanceless campaign. He built a marvelous machine to crank out young vote, black vote, young female vote. But it wasn't about an idea. So he has nothing to bring to Congress.
BELCHER: He -- a campaign that sort of bring out what America looks like now. But if you look at what his campaign was about, fundamental fairness, you know, you know, tax fairness, overwhelmingly majority of people want that. When you look at sort of pathway to reform, the majority of the people want that. All the things that the president ran on, he won by, what, like five million votes.
This is what the people want. The Congress is not acting. But you're right on this. That they're acting because they think they're in safe districts. And right now you have a Congress that's more worried about a primary than a general election.
CASTELLANOS: One thing I'll say, the president's idea in the campaign was inequality. Gallup says the 1 percent of the American people think that's America's biggest problem, he didn't campaign for anything except himself. You know what Democrats are worried about? They're worried that Obama's victories won't translate to the party, their personal. It's about him, not the Democratic Party or their ideas.
BELCHER: Expanding the middle class, expand the middle class, you know, infrastructure, jobs, you know, education, more Pell Grants -- the middle class can go to school, those aren't things that --
BLITZER: The criticism -- now, Cornell, the president had a lot of issues he was running on. He had a pretty precise policy campaign. But the criticism that he's facing, and you know this, if 90 percent of the American people want expanded background checks, why can't he twist enough arms and get that through the Senate?
BELCHER: He doesn't have a magical wand. I mean, I think it's a ridiculous question. He doesn't have a magical wand. He can't make Congress do what the American people want to do. The question should be, how come Congress isn't doing what the American people want them to do? And part of that reason is, quite frankly, and I don't know, the districts right now are gerrymandered to such an extent that they are no longer sort of the popular will of the people.
Look, the popular will of the people does not -- no longer rules Congress.
BLITZER: Very quickly, we've got to go.
CASTELLANOS: This president -- most people don't believe Washington can actually do anything and solve many problems at all. Even when we want to protect our kids from guns, Washington can't do anything. And this president isn't able to convince them.
The one thing he's passed, Obamacare, is really beginning to fall apart before our eyes. Why trust Washington to fix anything?
BELCHER: But Congress runs half of it.
CASTELLANOS: And they've given us the mess we've got today.
BLITZER: All right, guys. I'm not messing your words. We'll leave it there. We'll continue this conversation. Guys, thanks.
When we come back, a boxing documentary from a few years ago resurfacing right now. In it we hear the haunting voice of the dead bomber, the alleged dead bomber, I should say, Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
But first, you expect to see nudity or hear four language on premium channel, but could that soon be the norm on network television.
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DAVID ORTIZ, BOSTON RED SOX: This is (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
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BLITZER: That was David Ortiz dropping the F bomb on national television. The FCC, though, may loosen the rules governing profanity on network TV.
CNN's Rene Marsh is joining us now.
Rene, what's going on here?
RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right. Well, Wolf, it all goes back to the Supreme Court. Last year they said that the FCC essentially unfairly punished broadcasters for isolated moments of profanity and sexual content. So after the Supreme Court made that ruling, the FCC said, well, maybe we'll think about possibly tweaking our rules. So they've opened this possibility up for public comment.
So the question the FCC is now asking the public is should they pay less attention to those brief and unintentional moments, the slip of the lip, like you just saw there, and pay more attention to more deliberate moments of indecent contents.
That would be an example of maybe a shock jock who deliberately is just being offensive and also being indecent for the sake of getting ratings. So the FCC is now asking the public what we think, should they loosen the rules, should they not -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What's been the reaction so far?
MARSH: Well, as you can imagine, a lot of people not too happy about it. At last check, there were more than 90,000 comments on the FCC Web site. I asked them, you know, is that considered a lot when they open up the commenting board for something like this? And yes, they say that is considered a lot.
When you go through those comments, it's really tough to find many people who say they think that this is a good idea when it comes to the FCC tweaking their rules. You know, you have groups like the Parent Televisions Council who says that this would just open the door for network and broadcast channels to just allow really indecent content on. And of course, that would be exposed to the children, Wolf. So the debate continues.
BLITZER: It certainly does. Rene, thanks very much.
Happening now, President Obama's response to a life-and-death question. Could more have been done to prevent the Boston terror attacks?