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Conflicting Reports On Bombing Arrest; Justice Department: No Arrest Made

Aired April 17, 2013 - 14:30   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, actually, let's have one more question. Do you have a sense whether they are going to appeal again to the public for -- to try to help identify this person or is this something that at this point they don't feel that's necessary? Do you know?

TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Anderson, I think that would be necessary and I'm sure they'll continue to appeal it. And even if they had a suspect in custody, they would still be appealing to the public to get additional information to provide ample evidence or more evidence to support the prosecution down the line.

So they would always be continuing to seek the public support all through this process of the investigation. There is going to be as much or more investigation that would need to be conducted after a person is in custody as much as getting them to the point of being in custody.


CUOMO: All right, Tom, let's consider another source. We have Fran Townsend with us now. Fran, what are you hearing?

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST (via telephone): Wolf, Anderson, so, look, I've been on the phone, as has Tom Fuentes, as you just heard from him, I've spoken to two senior administration officials and another federal official. All have said that what tom said is right, there is not somebody in custody or arrested, that the situation is very fluid.

They're working closely with their local counterparts. That they're working to positively identify the individual, who is on these two videotapes and that there -- there was a misunderstanding.

That was said to me, not so much that we misunderstood, but there has been a misunderstanding and lots of cross communications as understandably as law enforcement tries to work through this, what they have got, who it is, what the purpose of that is, and what the next steps are.

So I, myself, have had conflicting reports and I want to just to be clear with you that they think that is a result of the chaos and quickly unfolding law enforcement situation up in Boston.

CUOMO: So the minimum standard of what we believe to be true right now is that after cultivating evidence of photographs and of videos from surrounding stores in the area, law enforcement believes that they have identified a male, who seemed to act in a way that was consistent with putting down a bag.

That they believe could have contained a bomb, and in the photos seems to exit the scene in a manner and at a time that seems consistent with having put down that bag, knowing what is in it and leaving? That's what we seem to be --

JULIETTE KAYYEM, COLUMNIST, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": Yes, that's what we talked about yesterday, that they had stuff before, stuff after and that image they finally got, that person, though, we do not know, or we cannot confirm as Fran said, there is a lot of noise out there, where that person is or even if we know who that person is.

And that is why -- the press conference has been pushed a couple of times by the public officials. The reason they're trying to figure out what is our message to the public because this may be part of a -- a manhunt now, which is not atypical.

CUOMO: A very difficult task, also, just to keep it in perspective. Everybody wants this person caught 5 minutes ago. But to go from an image in a photo or on a piece of video to knowing who that person is, is a big leap.

KAYYEM: Right, 48 hours. It has been a long 48 hours. It's impressive.

COOPER: Our Joe Johns is also standing by. I'm told he's not standing by any longer. We'll try to get in touch with him. Joe has excellent sources and we have been relying on him in last 48 hours for an awful lot. Joe, are you -- if you're there, what are you hearing?


COOPER: Yes, you're on the air. What are you hearing?

JOHNS: Yes. I have talked to a pair of highly placed Department of Justice officials and they both tell me that no arrest has been made. It appears that no one is in custody as far as they can tell.

I was told by one of these officials that they had actually triple checked. So that seems to be the case over the Department of Justice and they have been trying to figure out what the confusion is and where all this information is coming from. Back to you -- Anderson.

COOPER: It is just a reminder, and a reminder that we have been -- that we have gotten time and time again instances like this initial reports so often are wrong. There are so many different agencies involved. There are so many different people that have small pieces of the puzzle and they tell reporters that small piece and allow us to try to paint the larger picture.

KAYYEM: Background in law enforcement it make me cautious on that because I do think -- I think what is animating a lot of the need right now by government, local, state and federal, and is that something bad happened, unprecedented 48 hours ago. That was -- we have not had a successful small scale terrorist attack since 9/11, and it did shake us.

So what is important is that the investigation is going forward. We're getting these links. It's only have been 48 hours. We have a picture of a guy. That he hasn't been arrested yet should not be viewed as bad.

COOPER: Critical though to this investigation was their ability to secure the crime scene very quickly, to move people out in an ever expanding radius of blocks.

KAYYEM: Security at the Boston marathon, worried about dehydration and, of course, you know, sort of crowd control issues and exhaustion. And that's what that medical tent used to be for, became a triage unit before.

But the sort of almost, you know, simultaneously decision to move thousands of people away from coming over the crime scene. Crime scene was huge, was brilliant from a perspective of retaining the evidence.

COOPER: To divert the runners who had not --

KAYYEM: They could have got stuff in their shoes. They could have walked over things. They would have sort of made this crime scene messy. It was messy already. You didn't need thousands of runners making it more messy and I think then that's going to be the solid evidentiary work that then leads to a -- if we find a person, to bringing a -- the goal is not just a case, it is a successful case.

CUOMO: So let's do this. Let's close the circle on this initial report that there may be someone in custody, Jake Tapper is over at the court. Jake, if you're with us, is there any sense of any activity on that end?

JAKE TAPPER, HOST, CNN'S "THE LEAD" (via telephone): Well, there sure are a lot of reporters here, Chris. There is a huge media throng. There do seem to be some law enforcement officials out in force as if something is about to happen, but while a crowd has collected to look on to whatever may happen and there are dozens and dozens of TV cameras and reporters and satellite trucks, there is nothing concrete happening in terms of the perp walk that some seem to be expecting now.

CUOMO: All right, let me know if you hear anything. So to be clear, if there is no arrest, if there is no one in custody --

COOPER: And multiple sources are telling a variety of our reporters --

CUOMO: That seems to be the case.

COOPER: And, in fact, no name of a suspect. KAYYEM: That we don't know. They might have an internal name they're not going to disclose because they have some information that is going to lead them in the next 48 hours.

CUOMO: So what would they be doing right now? What are the different avenues to identifying someone that they pick out from a piece of video?

KAYYEM: OK, so, they might have a picture of this person already through either public sources or through other investigatory sources, got to be careful here. We don't know if this person has under have some surveillance, if they were part of -- part of a group that they're already looking for.

CUOMO: So a known quantity.

KAYYEM: A university or a college or someone they can make the facial identification, which would then give you a name. If they don't have that, if this is some random guy, don't have a picture of him, I would anticipate that by the end of the day they will probably try to engage the public as they rightfully should because the person lived here. We -- had to have been here for some time. I have been saying -- I know the Boston marathon is a global event, but it is quite local and --

COOPER: Why not have made the device somewhere else, driven into town, and --

KAYYEM: You could drive it. It would be risky to drive.

CUOMO: Why? Explain why?

KAYYEM: Temperature factors might have this detonate, the bouncing might have it detonate and I just keep going back, this was not a suicide bomber. So that makes it harder, right? Because they have a motive and they're also gone.

This is someone who did not want to die for the cause. That means that they wanted to protect themselves as they were dropping this at various sites. And then what that also means is in the investigation itself, right, in the questioning, this is going to be -- you're going to be able to use the fact that he may not be as strong for the cause as a suicide bomber to get information from them.

But I've been saying, patience is hard, I know, but this is the kind of thing that as I said, you -- we want a case. We want a person, but want the right case and the right person and we want a guilty verdict. That's the goal.

COOPER: When we hear the Joint Terrorism Task Force is overseeing this, involved with this, we know the FBI is the lead investigation, agency on the case, how does the JTTF work? I mean, they're all sitting in a room together?

KAYYEM: Yes, there is actually a room where the JTTF meet, I won't disclose where it is. It is here, it is run by an individual, tends to be an FBI agent. They are -- for many things, just sort of a management person, right. They are managing all the different pieces coming in.

And, you know, in this instance we might have immigration, Department of Homeland Security may have a big role, immigrations, customs and border enforcement, you'll have state and local officials, they sit in a room.

When there is not a case, it is a lot of sharing information. We're following up on this. When there is a case, they have been there 24/7. They have gotten support from D.C. There are other people here.

We're all pretty tired. Part of what you learn and in crises is also sort of emotional management, right, and energy management. You have to. It is -- and because this could be a long haul.

They are then sharing information, but the head of the JTTF has done press conferences and will work with the FBI and the case is eventually brought by either the U.S. attorney here in D.C.

COOPER: And in terms of analyzing video, I mean, they have hundreds of videos, thousands of still photographs to go through. Do we have a sense of how big an operation that is? Are there multiple video terminals and screens?

KAYYEM: I would guess thousands of people are involved because we have different federal agencies that have the capacity, the FBI couldn't do this alone, you're going to have the NCC, the Department of Homeland Security, the Counterterrorism Center, you're going to have state and local have capacity and so everyone is looking.

COOPER: And then once they have identified through, say, that Lord & Taylor video and the other video, we believe there are two videos that were key to the identification to the extent of this apparent suspect, alleged suspect. Once they do that, I imagine they have to go relook at everything they already looked at with that person in mind.

KAYYEM: Right. And then -- my guess is that's what made them pretty confident because they had -- they finally had the middle piece that they didn't have before then they could go both backwards and forwards and see what this guy was doing. Did he start running after he dropped the bag in terms of timeline?

CUOMO: But we don't really know how confident they are, right? Because we believe they saw somebody who they think is acting in a suspicious way, but who he is and what he was doing and what the rational would be.

I mean, to get some contexts on this, Mike Brooks I believe is with us. He's a legal analyst, worked in the area of Homeland Security. Mike, if you can hear us, what would be the basis of sufficiency to make the call to arrest someone in a situation like this? MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, Chris, I was with the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force at the Washington field office for six years and was one of the team leaders with their evidence response team also, worked bombings overseas, here in the United States.

You know, one of the things they're going to do, we talked about technology, we talked about this video and all the pictures. We have seen this picture of this person, we have been looking at, Deb Feyerick was talking about the Ben Thorndike photos, this gentleman who we're looking at right here.

What they have done, they will take this picture, any video that is along that route, and they will try to put together a timeline. Going back before, during and after and what they'll do is they'll take this video, and they will send it to Quantico.

The FBI lab at Quantico has an engineering section. I have used them on a number of my cases to help enhance video and the technology has increased so much, you know, over the years --


BROOKS: Yes, go ahead.

COOPER: Mike, I'm sorry, Joe Johns, we're getting word, has new information on the Justice Department. Joe, what are you hearing?

JOHNS: Again, Anderson, the sum and parcel of what I've been told is that no arrest has been made. I talked to one justice official who said that person had checked three different times, three different sources. A second justice official e-mailed me and said no arrest has been made. So, I mean, that's essentially where we stand at this time. We're trying to get some --

CUOMO: So we got that. Joe, did they -- OK, good.


CUOMO: Joe, let me ask you something. Where are they willing to go? No arrest, we got it. Do they believe they have a specific individual, a name, do you know what type of level of information they're acting on?

JOHNS: No, not at this time and I'm not willing obviously to speculate on what they may have. The communications have been pretty curt and to the point to me. It was a one sentence statement pretty much, no arrest has been made. I've checked three times. So there you have it, at least at this point.

COOPER: OK. John King is also now joining us. I know, John, you've been working your sources.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I was one of the people first on the air when we said Fran Townsend had a federal source saying an arrest has been made, I had a Boston source saying we got him. I want to go through this.

I'm told they have now checked as high as the attorney general of United States who would know if an arrest has been made. This federal law enforcement source has just communicated with significant progress has been made, but no arrest.

Anyone who says an arrest is ahead of themselves. I went back to the Boston law enforcement sources who said got him, identification on arrest, the source says can't talk to you right now, says there is significant blowback at the leaks and says there will be more information later today.

One of the federal sources I was just communicating with said even to say it's an identification, a specific identification, was to go too far, but then I circled back several Boston and other sources said we have identity based on the enhanced video. They call it a significant breakthrough, but clearly there has been some significant confusion and question of an arrest.

COOPER: What identification means is also up for debate. That could mean actual name. That could just mean a video image. We don't know.

CUOMO: Legally it means we do know a little bit. It is a term of art. Identification means this guy, that's all it means. Doesn't mean they have a name. It doesn't mean he's recognizable. We're looking for this --

KING: They were saying earlier -- they were saying a couple of hours ago that they had clearly identified a suspect. That indicates that they were looking at a specific individual.

KAYYEM: I think we know there is no arrest because there is not 10,000 cops at the federal courthouse. There has not been an arrest like this in a very long time. That could be confirmed, but maybe we are a long way. Unfortunately, this is going to make how far they have come, look like not far enough. It looks like -- put this in perspective. This event happened --

CUOMO: It is a needle in a hay stack, even if you take it at the minimum standard. Even if they believe they isolate somebody who they see in a photo or piece of video doing anything they believe is connected to what looks like the bag and the bomb that they're looking for, it is a needle in a hay needle in a hay stack in and of itself.

KAYYEM: And it's just about 48 hours later and who have thought just even 12 hours ago, we'd be here. So this is a significant move that is not the person, probably means at 5:00 we'll learn a little bit more and also engage the public in the search.

And it is relevant because if we get too far ahead then people -- the culprit may you know, sort of do things we don't want him to do. So we will remain until we know his name, we'll sort of keep it close.

CUOMO: The question becomes process.


KING: The question also becomes, again, to say this, part of this reflects on us, part of it also reflects on people you talk to, reliable sources, and Fran Townsend is one of our finest people, Boston law enforcement source saying we got it.

So when you have people who have been reliable sources if they're ahead of themselves, we need to circle with them. We need to figure this out ourselves, but you to have -- there is clearly something afoot today and now you have people who are out there, pulling back some and we need more information.

KAYYEM: And part of this may be if there are -- part of the reason for this is that this individual may be known or unknown. This individual may have -- may have a name we know about. But there are accomplices and affiliates of him we don't have yet. So we don't want to get too far ahead of this. All of this is sort of unfolding in a way you would expect given that it was only two days ago.

CUOMO: Let's get Mike Brooks. Mike, are you still with us?

BROOKS: Still here, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, let's pick up on this point of assuming they have seen someone on a video, let's use the word identified. They're now trying to pursue. What are the different tools available? How does this usually work at this point?

BROOKS: Well, you know, as I said, they're going to try to enhance that to try to identify who this person is, have they had any contact, they're going to put it out across every field office in the FBI and law enforcement, to find out who this person is.

You know, I go back, if you want to go back to the Centennial Olympic Park bombing, I was running the show up in D.C., the Olympic site up there, people running the whole security there, and when that happened, we put up the phone lines.

Well, we had an image and we were getting -- we put it out there to the public, said, do you identify -- do you know this person? Can you identify the clothes? Who is this person, try to identify. This could be where we are, but you know, there are a lot of other things too.

This person, they could have a person in pocket, if you will. Waiting for certain things to happen, waiting for certain testing, pictures to be enhanced before they do anything. I just got a text from one of my federal law enforcement sources, two words, no arrest.

So, you know, is this person in the hospital? This picture we were looking at earlier that we were talking -- started to talk about before Joe Johns came in, the Ben Thorndike picture, that person, I have looked at that this morning, I blew it up, looking at a number of different pictures, that person is burned.

You see the clothes hanging off of that person. Now, is that -- is this person in the hospital possibly with injuries? We don't know. These are all questions that remain unanswered.

Could this person that we're talking about be in a hospital? And they're still waiting for certain things to happen before they make an arrest. These are all questions that we don't have answers to.


COOPER: Mike, as you were saying, you were involved in the Centennial Park Bombing. Talk about the timeline of that investigation a little bit because Richard Jewell, who identified the bomb -- the suspicious package before it went off, called over some law enforcement personnel. They were actually able to get eyes on the device before it detonated.

They were able to start to clear out the area, even before one person was killed by the device, another person died of a heart attack on the way running to the scene. But they actually got eyes on the device and even with that, how long did it take for the investigation to actually determine who was responsible?

BROOKS: Well, in that particular case, you know, yes, you mentioned Richard Jewell, you know who was a security guard there at Centennial Olympic Park who pointed out to law enforcement and then he became the focus of law enforcement for quite some time.

And, you know, wound up suing some news agencies, the government, anyway. But they were able to identify some pieces of that particular device and able to link that, you know, with Eric Robert Rudolph, to a bombing of a clinic here in Sandy Springs, Georgia.

And then a secondary device, a device back in Birmingham, Alabama, and then a device that they were able to render safe at a nightclub here in Atlanta, and that is how they were able to come up with Eric Robert Rudolph along with surveillance video and a lot of other evidence that they had.

But it was a number of years before they were able to arrest Eric Robert Rudolph in Murphy, North Carolina. In fact, I broke the arrest for CNN of his arrest.

COOPER: Yes, but even identifying him, my point is even having eyes on the device before it went off, being able to tell what kind of device and compare that to other devices, that investigation took -- we're talking months, I believe, so the speed with which this seems to be moving is quite notable.

BROOKS: Right, you know, you have a lot more social media. You have everyone who was a video journalist with their camera, or anything else, and here you had on Boylston Street probably the most filmed block, if you will, along the Boston marathon of anything that was going on in the United States that particular day.

So you have all of that, but we look at all of the pictures, and you had investigators going up and down Boylston Street, trying to collect every piece of video, from any stores that may have had their own surveillance cameras and asking for the public's help. In talking to some of my sources yesterday, they said, yes, we're making progress, but really didn't have a whole -- a whole lot, if you will. But now, you know, are we moving towards an arrest right now? We really don't know.

CUOMO: Well, Mike, in terms of where we're moving right. Juliette, there are issues that have to be considered as they look. You also have this one we keep pointing out, domestic versus foreign. Why is it relevant in the analysis?

KAYYEM: Well, if it is domestic, if the person has only domestic ties, I think that the investigation will be easier because it is probably much more localized, Boston, Massachusetts, New England.

If it is a foreign affiliate or someone who has tied to foreign organization, it is going to involve other countries who may not want to go very public with their assistance to us and other intelligence agencies. So it gets bigger.

But why it sort of is very important to be cautious is, one, we haven't seen a picture of this person, so we don't know who he is, or who he might look like. But if there are affiliates, just -- you don't want to tip anything.

And so what we know is a non-suicide bomber has been identified at least on a picture, that picture, whether we have a name or not, we don't know, and that that person will be hopefully found because the end stage isn't that big and hopefully he didn't get on an airplane.

And that's all we know or can confirm. That we have a picture is excellent. This is good news. May not be the news everyone in Boston or the United States wants, but it is pretty good.

COOPER: A picture and also the remnants of the device itself, with perhaps identifiable numbers, serial numbers on them or -- that may be able to be tracked down.

KAYYEM: Right. As I said you want the right person and the guilty verdict and those take time. So the fact -- the speed -- the government is not being judged by speed right now. The damage has already been done and it is now just going to be judged -- you get the conviction.

COOPER: How difficult is it when you have dozens of government agencies, state, federal, local, all in a room, trying to work toward a common cause? Obviously, everybody wants to be on the same side, but how logistically difficult an operation is this?

BROOKS: I tell you, the terrorism task force, the FBI realizes when they're in cities like Boston, Washington, New York, that they can't operate by themselves and that's why you have a task force. That's why you bring all the locals together, get them security clearances, and they can assist in your operation.

Because who has better sources on the street, who has better assets than the local law enforcement? You know, I can also tell you that I was there for six years. I had an office in the FBI field office, when we went overseas. You know, I was the team leader, running the post blast investigation in Nairobi, in Kenya, at the U.S. embassy there.

You know, they take you and you're basically sworn in, as a deputy U.S. marshal, you have federal arrest power. And so I think the task forces have come a long way. And working together, you're there as a joint operations center, as they get tips in, you know to the FBI tip line.

They decide, OK, who is going to take this lead, where is this going to go, they take the leads, field them out to the different field offices and it is all case management. And that's one of the things the FBI does best.

Now, when we're looking at the pressure cooker and all of the frag and everything else along the crime scene, all of that is being taken down to the FBI explosives lab. They have explosives examiners who will take this, compare this with components of other bombs that have gone off in the United States and overseas.

What a lot of people don't realize, you know, a lot of the ordinance that goes off as we're investigating in Iraq and also Afghanistan, a lot of that comes back to the FBI explosives lab to see if there is any link analysis between anything that may go off in the United States, overseas, also other allies, our intelligence agencies.

They're talking to each other about the makeup of these bombs. You know, back in 2010, in July of 2010, an informational bulletin from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security went out to all law enforcement talking about pressure cookers as a possible improvised explosive device, and the makeup of them.

You know, we have seen also other journalists that mention this. So we talk about domestic, international, transnational, it is really too early to tell because it is not something that has not been on the FBI's radar before, because you can take anything for the most part, guys, and put together an improvised explosive device.

COOPER: Yes. Our Deb Feyerick is standing by, some information she's been getting. Deb, what are you hearing?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, Anderson, we want to confirm, wrap up sort of a couple of loose ends. The FBI is staunchly denying that anyone has been arrested. A statement now being posted says there has been no arrest.

And they warned members of the media that we have to be careful in our reporting because in their words there are unintended consequences. Earlier, John King reported that they do have sort of an identifier of somebody putting a package down across the Lord & Taylor at one of the blast sites and that's a big deal.

What we can't do is get ahead of ourselves and says that they know who that individual is. And that's what the FBI is working right now. That is what all the law enforcement agencies are working. There have been no arrests.

I asked whether in fact does that mean somebody is in custody? Is somebody being questioned? Do they have somebody on the radar who may have been on a watch list or somebody whose name comes up again and again and they said no. There are no arrests.

All they really have are the photographs. And in the words of somebody I spoke to earlier, Anderson, he said, look, what is going on now, it is like trying to document grains of sand, piecing everything together, to make sure that it all fits, they know who was where, when, but again, no arrests, no one in custody, no one being questioned.

But right now, they are going and interviewing people who may have seen things, but they know clearly that they have gotten images of somebody and now they're searching down that image -- Anderson.

CUOMO: So let's reset. Thank you, deb. Just back up. There have been a lot of different things going on here. So, here is what we understand at this time, a quorum on it. You have a massive effort, 30 federal agencies, state and local, federal, working together, thousands of people, some here, other states as well.

We get word today that through an analysis of videotape, they believe that they have seen the authorities, somebody act in a suspicious way with respect to a bag that they believe contained a bomb. They believe he exited the situation and because of that, they are now looking for him.

We have gotten reporting out of the authorities that they have identified somebody as opposed to just seeing something on the video. From that point on, that's really all that is reportable at this time. Yes, different people involved in the investigation have given more information.

OK, that is not just the name, there has been action taken. The AP was reporting someone was on their way to the courthouse so we scrambled over there. None of that is true at this time. There is no arrest, as far as we know, as far as what is reportable, there is no arrest, no name to be offered. But we know at the end of the day, good news.

KAYYEM: Right. And just to say, this person now knows they're identified. So this is now -- that is going to have relevance for trying to get him and that is -- that may have been purposeful. In other words, the leaks, the media may have been used, I don't know, to be told we have the picture. This person now knows they're identified.

CUOMO: Why does he now know that?

KAYYEM: Because people report it, right?

CUOMO: They report someone is identified.

KAYYEM: But it is a picture of him. So now he may do something stupid. That's good, right? Someone hiding out now gets worried they're being watched, they do something stupid, sort of show their hand and get arrested. So this may be part of a --

COOPER: Law enforcement uses media.

KAYYEM: Are you shocked?

CUOMO: Shocked.