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THE SITUATION ROOM
Newtown 911 Tapes Released; Radioactive Material Stolen
Aired December 4, 2013 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN.
BLITZER: Happening now, reliving a massacre. Newtown Police released gut-wrenching 911 calls from the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting. Are the tapes simply too painful to hear?
Plus dirty bomb fears. Homeland Security joining the search for stolen radioactive material. It could potentially be used to make a weapon of mass destruction. Do the thieves know what they have and what it can do?
And inside "Alpha House". The actor Mark Consuelos joins us. He's in a new TV series about members of Congress who share a home. We'll also visit with the real-life lawmakers who inspired the show by living like frat boys.
I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Right now, CNN is reviewing desperate 911 calls from one of America's most heartbreaking day, the shooting massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Police in Newtown, Connecticut, have released the recordings nearly a year after Adam Lanza slaughtered 20 first-graders and six adults and then killed himself.
Authorities lost a legal battle to keep the calls under wraps after arguing the tapes would add to the community's pain. The recordings have generated a lot of controversy here at CNN and indeed across the country.
Our national correspondent, Deborah Feyerick, is part of the CNN team right now reviewing the recordings.
Tell us what we are learning about those emotional calls, Deb, and what portion CNN has decided to air.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, one of the things, when you listen to these tapes, what you don't hear is you don't hear panic, you don't hear pandemonium or chaos or screaming. What you hear is very calm professionalism both by the 911 dispatchers, but also by the teachers, the administrators, those who were inside the school who were calling for help.
It appears that the teachers did what they had to do when they heard the gunfire. They were able to get to the classroom, hide their kids and lock the doors. That's what really comes through in terms of listening to these tapes. One teacher, she says that she's on the phone, she is saying we hear gunshots, we hear gunshots, I have got to go. I have got to now lock my door.
She alerts 911, and then does what she's supposed to do, and keeps her kids safe. A second person who was shot in the foot actually crawls into a classroom. Even though she's unable to lock her door, she's able to tell the dispatchers that in fact there are children in that class, that they're hiding near a bookcase, and so police were able to get a very clear picture of what was going on in the school, so they could better respond.
And the one person who really stands out in all of this, aside from the dispatcher, is the school custodian, who was able to serve as the eyes and ears for all those responding officers who came into that building. He tells them when he's hearing gunshots. He tells them where the gunshots seem to be -- or where the gunshots seem to be coming from.
And so by doing this, he was able to bridge what was going on in dispatch with the responding officers who were there, who were trying to figure out how many gunmen there were and what specifically was going on, Wolf.
BLITZER: And tell our viewers why we're not airing those tapes, at least right now.
FEYERICK: Well, we're not airing them right now. We have gone through them very, very carefully. Everyone has been involved, lawyers, standards, practices, ethics, a lot of very smart people looking at this to determine what the news value is.
And by giving this a context, what you really see happening is that these police in the small town of Newtown did what they were supposed to do. The people in the building who are charged with keeping the children safe, they too did what they were supposed to do.
And so while there is a bit of urgency and almost this quiet fear as they tell the dispatcher they have got to send police, what you realize is that everybody was doing what they needed to, to try to get out of this, Wolf, alive.
BLITZER: Deborah Feyerick, with that report, thanks very much.
Now to an international manhunt for thieves who stole radioactive material that could be used to make a very dangerous terror weapon, a so-called dirty bomb.
Brian Todd has been looking into this alarming story.
What are you finding out?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the thieves got that radioactive material, it's called cobalt-60, by stealing a truck near Mexico City.
Mexican authorities have been searching for the truck and the perpetrators for nearly three days. And security officials are getting increasingly worried about just who might eventually get their hands on the material. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
TODD (voice-over): A truck stolen from this gas station in Mexico has border authorities on the lookout, and prompted the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency to send out an international alert. That's because the material inside is cobalt-60, a radioactive substance used to treat cancer.
It's usually transport in lead casing. Mexican authorities say if it's removed from that:
MIGUEL GARCIA CONDE, MEXICO ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF CIVIL PROTECTION (through translator): The radiation that it might emit, gamma rays in this case, is harmful and dangerous to your health.
TODD: And security officials have long been concerned that cobalt-60 could be used by terrorists in a so-called dirty bomb like those seen in this simulation. I asked a homeland security expert if a truck bomb laced with cobalt-60 exploded at a crowded city corner.
RANDY LARSEN, CENTER FOR HEALTH SECURITY: You have damage the buildings, you are going to have injuries. You're going to have fatalities from the explosion. But the dirty bomb, and it's a dirty bomb because it has about this much cobalt-60 in it, not a lot, it's going to contaminate the area. It's not an immediate threat to public health, but you could not live or work here for the next year or so if it were not cleaned up. It would increase your probability of cancer.
TODD: Experts say it wouldn't be difficult for terrorists to put cobalt-60 in a conventional bomb.
KINGSTON REIF, CENTER FOR ARMS CONTROL AND NON-PROLIFERATION: It would be laced with this radioactive material, so when the device explodes, the material that would be ejected would have this radioactive material on it.
TODD: Law enforcement officials tell CNN there are a lot of safeguards in place to prevent this material from crossing the border, sensors at border checkpoints, devices carried by agents.
All border crossings have been alerted to this by the Department of Homeland Security, but U.S. officials say it is not clear if the thieves were actually after the cobalt-60 or even knew it was inside the truck when they stole it.
BLITZER: The police report doesn't clarify that, either.
TODD: No. We have got details in this police report. It says the driver and his assistant were resting at a gas station when a man with a gun rapped on the window and demanded the keys. The driver and his assistant were taken out, hands and feet bound, they were told not to move.
The victims then heard one of the assailants use a two-way communications device to call someone else and say -- quote -- "It's done." That speaks to some organization, but again it does not indicate that they were actually after that cobalt-60.
BLITZER: Still a dangerous situation.
All right, Brian, thanks very much.
Still ahead, a winter storm is unleashing snow and ice, and it's set to spread across much of the nation. In some places, temperatures could plunge as much as 50 degrees in one day. Stand by. We will have team coverage.
And an exclusive look inside the very messy home shared by some of Washington's power players. You're not going to believe this. It's the inspiration for a new TV series. And I will talk with one of the stars, Mark Consuelos.
BLITZER: A brutal winter storm is on the move right now. It's packing lots of snow, ice and bitter cold. It's threatening a big chunk of the nation and it's also threatening to get worse in the hours ahead.
Our severe weather expert, Chad Myers, is standing by, but let's go to CNN's Ana Cabrera.
She's in Boulder, Colorado, where it's single digits right now, right?
ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is frigid cold right now, Wolf.
We have been out here since 4:00 this morning local time and the snow has not let up. As the snow continues to pile up, the temperatures are going even lower; 13 degrees was the high today, single digits right now, and below zero tonight. The arctic air is not expected to let go any time soon.
CABRERA (voice-over): Rippling cold temperatures and heavy snow, a dangerous combination gripping parts of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, the thermometer in my truck said seven degrees when it was driving over here, so it's cold.
CABRERA: Colorado in the bullseye today, more than a foot of snow pounding the mountains, setting up prime avalanche conditions and triggering travel trouble.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Slippery. I spun out going around the corner. They put de-icer on the road before this, but it doesn't seem to be helping a lot.
CABRERA: Boulder, a community hit hard by floods in September, now seeing several inches of snow settling on a layer of ice. It's deceptively slippery, with temperatures hovering in the single digits and teens. And that's the high.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anybody that can't find a place to be indoors, that's obviously a real problem.
CABRERA: With frigid cold weather expected to last several days, residents are worried.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My pipes and my plumbing in my house.
CABRERA: But this is just the beginning.
CABRERA: Just the beginning because tonight it's going to be negative 10 degrees through much of the Colorado metro area around Denver, single digits for high temps tomorrow, back into the negatives.
We aren't expecting to see anything higher than teens until some time in the middle of next week. In fact, the National Weather Service says this could end up being the coldest stretch of air that Colorado has seen since 2009 -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Cold just thinking about it. All right, Ana, thanks very much.
Get this. In parts of the Southwest, temperatures could nosedive, nosedive from 70 degrees today to 20 degrees tomorrow.
BLITZER: Coming up:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Their refrigerator, well, it's a scary sight.
Yes, that looks...
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: It's a lethal weapon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You're going to be something amazing here in Washington. Dana Bash is about to take us on an exclusive tour of a home shared here in the nation's capital by three of Washington's power players. And I'm going to tell you right now, the tour of this home is going to make you a little queasy, how these guys live.
Also, we're going to be joined by one of the stars of a new TV show inspired by that frat-style house. I'm going to speak with Mark Consuelos. That's still coming up.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Just getting this update on the story that Brian Todd was reporting.
We're now being told that the radioactive material stolen in that Mexican truck, that thieves have recovered a sealed container -- this from the Mexico National Nuclear Commission, the radioactive material stolen in Mexico found. The thieves removed it from a sealed contain, this according to Mexico National Nuclear Commission.
Reuters news agency just reporting that. We are going to continue to monitor this story. If in fact this is accurate, that would be good news if they have in fact discovered the stolen radioactive material, an update to Brian Todd's story.
A very different note right now. Some of the most powerful men here in Washington have been sharing a frat-style house for years up on Capitol Hill. It sounds like a sitcom. Now it's actually a new TV series.
The actor Mark Consuelos is one of the stars. I will talk to him in a minute, but, first, an exclusive look at the real-life lawmakers turned roommates.
Here's our chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.
BASH (voice-over): Paint peeling off the walls, sheets covering the windows, broken blinds, a mangled chair covered up with a wood board, an ancient stove with a giant hole, and, yes, that's underwear in the living room.
What looks and feels like the most rundown frat house on campus is actually the Capitol Hill home of some of the most powerful men in Washington.
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL), MAJORITY WHIP: Welcome to omega house.
BASH (on camera): I love what you have done with the place.
SCHUMER: Thank you.
BASH (voice-over): Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer, the second- and third-ranking Senate Democrats, live here together. Their landlord and third roommate is Democratic Congressman George Miller. The house is so legendary, it inspired a new TV series, "Alpha House," except the Senate roommates on the Amazon.com show are Republicans.
SCHUMER: We want to say they are nothing like us. Don't even begin to think so.
BASH (on camera): When people see this house, they're going to know, because in the show it's a little bit nicer.
REP. GEORGE MILLER (D), CALIFORNIA: Now, wait a minute.
BASH (voice-over): Miller, the owner, started taking in tenants more than 30 years ago. The house hasn't been updated since.
MILLER: When we stopped buying L.P.s, that's when the music stopped.
BASH (on camera): But you actually have a record player here.
SCHUMER: Yes, the same exact records are there now as the day I moved in, in 1982.
BASH: The best part about it are the products that are on the -- the cassette player. Is this an eight track?
SCHUMER: This is my medicine cabinet right here.
BASH: Yes. Whose closet is this?
MILLER: Oh, Mr. Neat, Mr. Neat's closet.
BASH (voice-over): Schumer's stuff is strewn all over the living room.
(on camera): Seriously, this is where you sleep every night?
SCHUMER: Every night.
BASH (voice-over): Their refrigerator, well, it's a scary sight.
(on camera): Yes, that looks a little...
SCHUMER: It's a lethal weapon.
MILLER: The rats may have done that.
BASH (on camera): Wow. How many rats did you have?
SCHUMER: Don't ask.
I had a dream literally two nights ago that.
MILLER: I thought the rats were in the Senate. I didn't know they came to the house.
BASH: And what year is this from, Congressman?
SCHUMER: Well, Ben Franklin gave that to us.
BASH (voice-over): Since this is not a kitchen fit for cooking, the congressional roomies take the easy route. Cold cereal. They buy it in bulk.
(on camera): You're the Raisin Bran. Senator Durbin, which one are you?
DURBIN: Oh, I prefer Raisin Bran. But I like the Mini Wheats.
BASH (voice-over): The fictitious lawmakers in "Alpha House" have breakfast together, watch sports at night. Not so much here.
SCHUMER: I come in about midnight from my office usually.
MILLER: And we leave while he's sleeping.
SCHUMER: And they leave while I'm sleeping. You do it by design.
BASH (on camera): An opening scene of "Alpha House" shows a bowl of flag pins on the counter. This is what they have on their counter.
(voice-over): Screws and a random pill and a pen in case you need one.
SCHUMER: It's very -- it's modern art.
BASH (voice-over): It's hard to believe such prominent politicians live in these conditions.
SCHUMER: When my wife comes, she will not stay here.
BASH: But they're only in Washington about three nights a week.
(on camera): What makes it work?
MILLER: Your friends. Your friends.
DURBIN: We love it. It's home.
BASH (voice-over): Dana Bash, CNN at the real alpha house near Capitol Hill.
BLITZER: And joining us now, Mark Consuelos. He's a real-life actor in the new series "Alpha House" joining us right now based on this real-life, I guess, place that we just saw in Dana Bash's piece.
Mark, thanks so much for joining us.
How did you prepare for this role? Did you actually go visit that real alpha house?
MARK CONSUELOS, ACTOR: No, we didn't get a chance to visit it. And I have got to say that I'm shocked that Chuck -- Senator Schumer let you guys in to see what goes on in there. That's quite shocking. And it is a little messy, I would have to say. No...
BLITZER: Yes. It's a disaster in there. I was pretty shocked myself. I knew that these members of Congress were living together, spending a few nights a week there for years, but I was stunned to see what's going on in there.
I'm sure you were ago well. Tell us how you prepared for this role.
CONSUELOS: Well, we read -- I read the article about this house shared by Chuck Schumer and Senator Durbin as well.
And it was in "The New York Times" a few years ago. And it's about four senators who share a house in D.C., which I found fascinating. They asked me to play kind of the Marco Rubio prototype role. The fact that I play a Cuban American and Marco Rubio is a Cuban American and a Republican is where the similarities of my character and his real life stop and start right there.
I would be Marco Rubio after a divorce. My character is having a lot of fun in the Alpha House. I'm not sure that these guys are having this much fun, but I hope someday they do.
BLITZER: Your house looks a lot better, by the way, than the real house, which we see and our viewers just saw it.
BLITZER: Did you ever personally live in one of these sort of dirty man cave environments?
CONSUELOS: I feel like in college I must have, but I have put it out of my memory.
I can't imagine living with three other guys, and actually now even being established and later on in life and being set in my ways, having to revert back to living with other guys. I couldn't see myself doing it.
MATTHEWS: Let me read a quote to you.
This is from your mom, back in 1996, which we found, when you were working on "All My Children," the soap opera.
"He is very happy that finally on television they're portraying the Hispanic man as a decent person, not a drug dealer, not a criminal or gang member. I think with the character he portrays now, people will see a different image of Latinos."
That's a nice quote from your mom.
CONSUELOS: That's a nice quote. And Camilla Consuelos is going to be very happy.
And my dad, Tony Consuelos, is going to be very jealous that she made it on your show before he did.
BLITZER: OK. I get that, a little family rivalry going on.
BLITZER: Mark, thanks very much for joining us.
CONSUELOS: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: I want to get some more now on what is going on in Mexico with that truck that was stolen with some radioactive material on board.
Nick Parker is joining us on the phone from Mexico City.
What are the Mexican authorities saying, Nick?
NICK PARKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're just getting some new information.
A senior source the National Commission for Nuclear Security and Safeguards tells CNN that the truck that was reported missing has been found near the town of Zumpango, which is just to the north of Mexico City, about an hour's drive. They have found the truck, and, crucially, they have also found the container cobalt-60, which they say was found open. The container was found open and authorities are sending in helicopters to the area because there are obviously concerns there of contamination.
And they emphasize that almost everybody that came in contact directly with this material will be suffering from burns and radiation sickness -- Wolf.
BLITZER: So, that's encouraging news. They found the truck. They found the radioactive material.
We will stay on stop of this story, CNN's Nick Parker reporting for us from Mexico.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.