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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Celebration Turns Into Chaos: Boston Marathon Bombings; FBI Searching for Those Responsible; The Nation Reacts

Aired April 16, 2013 - 04:30   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Celebrations turn into chaos and turn into carnage. Two bomb blasts at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. They leave a city reeling and a nation recoiling from another terror attack on American soil.


BOB O'DONNELL, BOSTON MARATHON SPECTATOR: The awful thing is right at the finish line. It was right at the point where a lot of people were -- the average Joes were just coming in.


BERMAN: : The FBI is heading up the search for whoever pulled off this act of terror. How the suspect or suspects found and exploited a gap in the city's security. Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. CNN's live coverage of the Boston marathon's bombings. I'm John Berman. I am live in Boston this morning. It's about 30 minutes after the hour. No more than 13 and a half hours since this bombing took place.

This is what we know about the twin blasts that happened just at the finish line of the race. At least three people are dead this morning, including an 8-year-old boy. "The Boston Globe" identifying this boy as Martin Richard (ph). Other family members also hurt in that blast. Some 144 people were wounded, 17 of them are hospitalized in critical condition this morning, 25 in serious condition.

The FBI is taking charge of the criminal investigation telling the public, no detail is too small to share. Right now no motive, no suspect at this point but law enforcement sources say there are a number of active promising leads. The crude explosive devices were said to be packed with nails, zippers, blades. A doctor's report pulling ball bearings out of patients. Gruesome descriptions of leg injuries all around. There have been ten amputations.

The area surrounding the sight of the bombing which is normally a busy bustling area, shopping and the like, completely shut down this morning. The National Guard is patrolling the streets. President Obama said whoever is behind the explosions that killed these three people and injured more than 140 others at the marathon will feel the full weight of justice.

Investigators right now combing through the evidence this morning with the FBI and the Boston police asking anyone who may have seen something, heard anything, share that information with authorities.

I'm joined this morning by Pamela Brown in Boston, covering the investigation. Good morning, Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, John. This area, the heart of Boston's Back Bay, very popular area. Still closed this morning. Residents being asked to stay hyper vigilant. There is a heavy law enforcement presence here this morning. It is all hands on deck as authorities investigate who's behind this act of terror, how they were able to carry it out and why.


BROWN: Just before 3:00 p.m., more than 4:09 into the race, a thunderous boom. Celebratory cheer turned into screams of horror. Seconds later, at least 50 yards away, another. Runners and spectators at the finish line stunned. As shock rippled through the crowd, many running from the scene, others towards it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We heard just one massive explosion, a huge boom. Obviously we didn't know what it was. Then when the second one went off, we said, that's a bomb, and it was -- we could smell the smoke. We saw people lying on the ground. Runners were crying and the police were on it.

BROWN: Blood everywhere, people without limits, the wounded crying, confused.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was the most serious thing I've dealt with being on a fighter bomber in 26 years. It was a terrible scene.

BROWN: Rescuers, many already there for the race, rushed to victims tearing away the debris, using stretchers and wheelchairs. Ambulances lined up near the finish line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get all units in the city to this scene now please.

BROWN: Others treated in tents meant for tired runners. Police told runners and spectators that the area wasn't safe and sent them on their way. They ran and walked in a daze.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone's sort of scrambling to get out of the way, scrambling into buildings, scrambling off of Boylston onto side streets. I was able to get another vantage point. I thought there were six or seven people strewn about on Boylston avenue itself being treated by EMTs or police officers.

BROWN: Soon the reports came in from hospitals of fatalities and scores of injuries, including children. One of the dead, an 8-year- old boy. As a shocked nation watched, President Obama spoke about the attack.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Make no mistake, we will get to the bottom of this and we will find out who did this, we'll find out why they did this. Any response -- any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.

BROWN: The bombings, classified as a terror event by federal law enforcement, a level 1 mobilization with all hands on deck. The FBI is in charge of the investigation working with Boston and Massachusetts police agencies. A federal source told CNN the two bombs were small packages, and not believed to have included plastic explosives, but they were deadly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Something just blew up.

BROWN: In the hours after the blast there were reports of other devices not detonated. In the wake of the attacks, sports and cultural events in Boston were canceled or postponed. The airport went on high alert. Police departments across the country went on alert as well.

As the nation focused on Boston, at 5:09 p.m. the U.S. House of Representatives paused for a moment of silence. Overnight, the finish line of the Boston Marathon, usually a busy area filled with bars and restaurants, shut down. It's now a crime scene bustling with investigators looking for clues as to who is responsible for the terror.


BROWN: At this point the death toll stands at three. That includes an 8-year-old boy. One hundred and forty-four people still in the hospital. We're told 17 in critical condition. John, it's not clear at this point whether the bombings were domestic or foreign. We are told there were no credible threats ahead of the race.

BERMAN: You talked about the crime scene, the area where they're still investigating, which is on Boylston Street just two blocks down this way. This is normally such a public, busy area. The Boston Public Library is there, Copley Place, Prudential shopping area. These areas are shut down today. It will not be business as usual.

BROWN: We heard the governor say that yesterday. It will not be business as usual, and as I mentioned, he's asking residents to stay vigilant today.

BERMAN: Pamela Brown, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

In the immediate aftermath of the bombings, the FBI took control right away of the investigation. The head of the bureau's Boston office said it will be a combined federal, state, local law enforcement effort right now. National correspondent Susan Candiotti is following all of these parts of the story for us. Good morning, Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. One of the things they're looking at is the fact that so far there is no one claiming responsibility for this, but they are very -- spending a lot of time going back over, for example, people who are coming into the United States within the most recent period of time, maybe the last couple of weeks or more. Clearly, they said there were no credible threat leading up to the marathon. But they're going back over everything to make sure they didn't miss anything, while also looking ahead at anyone trying to leave the country looking now. Looking at any communications they might be hearing from overseas. But, of course keeping in mind this may very well be an act of domestic terrorism. Certainly, it's being treated as an act of terror. That's why the FBI is leading the charge here with of course help from the Boston police department. Here's their commissioner.


ED DAVIS, BOSTON POLICE COMMISSIONER: This cowardly act will not be taken in stride. We will turn every rock over to find the people who are responsible for this.


CANDIOTTI: Now one of the other things they're also going to be looking at are cell phone towers. They're going to be getting subpoenas to go after cell phone records so they can look at every phone call that was made. Imagine this and what that's going to take with all the people that were using cell phones at the time of the marathon. But, they're going to be looking at cell phone records to triangulate, find out which calls were being made at which time, right around, in particular Copley Plaza where the initial two blasts were made to see if they can trace whether it's possible that a cell phone could have been used to trigger those explosive devices.

We have no indication one way or the other right now. We can also tell you this. An interesting piece of evidence that authorities are looking at, that they're tracking down every possible lead. We know they've spent at least eight hours in Revere, Massachusetts, which is just about five miles north of Boston. We can show you police activity that began last night around 5:30 in the evening, we know police were on the scene until at least 2:00 in the morning.

Our Brian Todd who was on the scene tells us that he did not see them leave with any evidence in particular. He didn't see them leave with any suspects in hand, but he did see them talking to a couple people in the lobby, people who had walked in while they were already on the scene who presumably live in that apartment. It's just an example of the extent they are going to, to try to track down all kinds of leads, and evidence, and perhaps informants who are giving them information as well.

BERMAN: Susan Candiottino doubt a huge amount of work going on right now from the cell phone records, from the cameras, to old-fashioned police work knocking on doors in Revere, Massachusetts. Susan Candiotti, thank you so much for that.

Forensic teams will be closely analyzing the evidence left behind at the Boston Marathon finish line. They're hoping to find the bomb makers' signature from what remains of the explosives. You know, one of the things you've heard from doctors at the scene who've had work here and overseas is this felt very much like an IED attack that you might see in Iraq of Afghanistan, perhaps no coincidence that the Navy is helping. CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon with more on that. Good morning, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. The Navy helping in a small but important way. A three man explosive ordinance disposal team sent by the Navy to Boston at their request to help them with disarming some of these devices. You're absolutely right. After years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military and the FBI, working side by side, have collected thousands of so-called bomb signatures, the very thing that they're looking for in this situation.

What is a bomb signature? Well, bomb makers over time tend to put their bombs together the same way and when they train others to make and carry out bomb attacks, they train them most of the time, we are told, in the same signature, the same way of putting a bomb together.

So what we know is the FBI because of years of military assistance and their own work have phenomenal expertise in this. They are able to look at these fragments, and what are they looking for in the signature. What type of material. How it was put together. Where it might have come from. They can trace explosives. What kind of fuse or detonator was used.

These very precise details that they're going to look at, and then go back and see if it matches anything they already know. Does it match a signature possibly of a foreign terrorist that has carried out attacks in war zones or in potential al Qaeda attacks? Does it match the signature of a homegrown terrorist? These are the kinds of things they're starting to look at. We know that from the expertise that they've all assembled. It may take some time but this is what they're going to focus on at least in the coming days. John?

BERMAN: You know, it sounds cliche, Barbara, but no detail is too small because you don't know where that break might come from. We should also say there's news from Pakistan this morning with the Taliban. What's the Taliban saying about this right now?

STARR: Exactly right. You know, this is the other thing they're going to going to look at - claims and responsibility. Well, the Pakistani Taliban is claiming they didn't do t. Let me read you a brief part of the statement that they put out. Quote, "wherever we find Americans we will kill them, but we don't have any connection with the Boston explosions." That coming from the TTP, the so-called Pakistani Taliban.

What's so interesting about this, John, is this very group claimed responsibility for the failed 2010 Times Qquare bomb attack. So, the FBI will look at -- there will be -- obviously we think, you know, claims of responsibility, claims that, no, we didn't do it, they're going to look at all of that to see what it tells them. And they will scour, as Susan just pointed out, they will scour everything they have for homegrown perpetrators, but they will look at everything overseas as well.

BERMAN: You know, as you said, Barbara, one of the defining things right now about this investigation, there are no claims of responsibility. Fascinating that we have a claim of non-participation already from the Pakistani Taliban. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Thank you.

Joining us live from Washington is James Carafano. He's a security expert. He's a vice president at the Heritage Foundation. James, thank you so much for being with us. You heard the report from Barbara Starr. The idea that investigators are looking for signatures that might be left behind that could lead them ultimately to the people who pulled off this attack. What are you seeing right now?

JAMES CARAFANO, SECUTIRY EXPERT: Well, this is really the most important thing for people to understand is a lot of us think investigations go the way we watch on these TV shows, but the reality is is you don't start with who are the suspects and then see if the evidence fits them. You start an investigation by laying out all the evidence and asking what suspect might that lead us to. That's going to start very broad and narrowed down. It's the right way to do that, otherwise you can wind up spending a lot of resources on dead ends.

SO, in scenes like this, as chaotic as it seems, they're going to get a lot of evidence. In the first 72 hours they're going to have a lot of information. They may not share it with us, but we'll know early on, within 72 hours, where the likely candidates are. So as frustrating as it is for all of us, we need to step back at this point and let the professionals do their job.

BERMAN: Let's talk about some of the specifics that we know or we think that we know. We're hearing t this point from investigators that these devices seem fairly crude, fairly simple. We're hearing from medical officials. I talked to a doctor, who was on the scene last night, about pulling metal from people below the legs. I talked to a cop who was 15 feet away from one of the explosions, who made a point of saying that it didn't seem like the explosive blasts spread very high. It was very low on the ground. Finally, we know that there was more than one device. So given those specifics, what do they tell you?

CARAFANO: It doesn't narrow it down very much. You can go on the internet right now and probably get enough information to organize this kind of attack. You can read the "Aspire Magazine," the magazine of al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula and get enough information to do this. People have said it before, it's absolutely true. At this point on what we know, it could be anything from a lone wolf to a well organized terrorist organization.

BERMAN: So many broad possibilities right there. What about these unexploded devices? We don't know exactly how many there are, but we have been told there was at least one, maybe more. What can investigators find out from them?

CARAFANO: If, indeed, it is an unexploded device and it is related to these two explosions, that is going to be a gold mine of forensic information. If you think back to the Times Square bombing, the failed bombing in New York City, the fact that they got that bomb intact led them so quickly right to the perpetrator. The thing with unexploded devices is much more likely to find fingerprints and other kind of DNA evidence. You can deconstruct the signatures of who might have made the bomb or what kind of bomb it is much, much more quickly. So if they do have that kind of information, that is going to tell them -- and it is related to the two explosions -- that is going to be early on probably one of the most powerful sources of evidence that they have.

BERMAN: You know, right now everyone is concerned with the investigation not to mention taking care of those who have been hurt. At some point there will be questions about how it happened and whether more security or different security could have prevented it. What do you think about that?

CARAFANO: Well, public events like this are absolutely the hardest thing to provide a very secure environment. You literally can't do it. If your standard is nobody can be at risk at a large public event, we're never going to have another U2 concert. Having said that, there are basic public safety procedures for events like this. Which are well established. We've used them, we've learned from everything from the '96 Olympic bombings to what you should do.

Are this they going to do a review to say, did we do the due diligence in a public safety event? They'll have to. It will be pretty clear whether that was done or not. And then we'll move on from there and we may learn some things to improve. We've got a Pittsburgh marathon coming up, other things. You can't stop these public events. You can't make them perfectly secure, but you can do due diligence. The key point is the best way to stop these attacks is good intelligence, good police enforcement that goes out and finds the perpetrators before they do something.

BERMAN: You can't protect every inch of a 26.2 mile race of course, that's for sure. James Carafano, security expert in Washington. Thank you so much for being with us. Really appreciate it.

CARAFANO: Thanks for having me.

BERMAN: Coming up, we're going to take a look at security at other major cities. There are so many events that happen every week. Sun coming up. What are they going to do in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. Stay with us.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone, to this special edition of EARLY START. The Boston marathon the target of terror. Those twin bomb blasts near the finish line killing at least three people, wounding 144. That is a huge number. One of the dead, a young boy identified by "The Boston Globe" as 8-year-old Martin Richard. Eight years old. His mother and brother also said to be hurt this morning. There are a number of people in critical condition right now in hospital. Some 17, 25 are in serious condition. The FBI is now taking the lead in what it says is a, quote, potential terrorist investigation.

In the meantime, Boston police will beef up patrols around the city today. It is still a crime scene. About a mile of Boylston Street is shut down. President Obama addressing the nation last night vowing that those responsible for the carnage here in Boston will feel the full weight of justice. Let's go back to Brooke Baldwin in New York right now. We'll have more from the scene here, but first let's go to Brooke. Hey Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah, John, it's a heart wrenching story out of Boston, but cities across the country immediately went on alert after the Boston bombing. Specifically our nation's capitol at a heightened level of security. In New York City police have stepped up patrols in prominent locations including the extensive subway system.

Shannon Travis has more on this nationwide angle for us. Shannon was just walking around Times Square, you can see the police presence. They're out and about. Good morning.

SHANNON TRAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. You can expect to see that there and in other cities. We want to be careful and say, Brooke, that we're not hearing about any credible threats in any of these cities from law enforcement. However, out of an abundance of caution they're obviously, as you mentioned, instituting this heightened state of alert.

Let's just go through some of the cities that we're learning about. You mentioned New York City. Obviously there's an increased presence on subways and at hotels. Other prominent locations, you'll probably see a lot more police on the ground in Times Square there. They're also deploying these critical response vehicles until they learn more about what's happened in Boston. Here in Washington, the sidewalk outside of the White House has been taped off since last night out of an abundance of caution and today there's a parade called the Emancipation Day Parade. We're told, Brooke, that it will go on as planned, but they're hoping police and people will be especially vigilant.

In Los Angeles, some of the airports there including LAX, you can expect to see those bomb sniffing dogs and heightened police presence there as well. Police and officials are asking people to remain vigilant and to remain alert. The mayor there, Antonio Villaraigosa, basically said he'll be watching sporting events, him and police officials. In terms of sporting events, obviously, Brooke, Major League Baseball underway. Games are underway. Could they be a target? Major League Baseball's put out a statement. I'll just read it. Quote, "our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this horrible occurrence and we are monitoring the situation. The safety of everyone that comes to our ball parks is always our top are priority and we will continue to do everything to ensure a safe environment for our fans."

Now it's obviously situations like these, soft targets like these, baseball games, sporting events, that officials will especially be looking out for.

BALDWIN: Just when you think no one would target a marathon of all places. Shannon Travis for us in Washington. Shannon, thank you. Want to take you back to Boston now, and my colleague John Berman, who is standing by. John, we were talking yesterday, again about Boston, it was Patriots Day and the famous Bostonians and here you have them now reacting to the tragedy there.

BERMAN: You know, Patriots Day is the celebration of the anniversary of the beginning of the American Revolution, the battle in Lexington and Concord. That's why they call it Patriots Bay. But it's more than that, now. It really is Boston's day. It's Marathon Monday. The Red Sox play early. Families flock to the city for that day. If you know someone from Boston, they were either here or they know someone who was here.

There are no degrees of separation from this disaster right now. There are stories big and small. "The Boston Globe" is reporting about a mother whose two sons each lost a leg in the blast because they were both here watching a friend that they have. Those are the stories that people are telling that I'm hearing from my friends and family right now. As you said, there are a number of celebrities who call Boston home. They've been reacting to the tragedy as well. Let's listen.


CONAN O'BRIEN, TV HOST: Boston is my hometown. That's where I grew up. It's where my family lives. I wanted to take a moment to say that like everybody here, my thoughts and prayers are with the people of Boston and everybody who's been affected by this absolutely senseless act.

TOM BERGERON, TV HOST: Now before we officially begin the show. We want to take a moment. Our thoughts are with everyone in Boston tonight. I have family members and many friends there. My heart is with you.


BERMAN: Conan O'Brien, Tom Bergeron. There were tweets from other famous Bostonians as well. They simply flooded in.

Actor Mark Walhberg said, "thoughts and prayers with my hometown Boston today."

Co-host of "Extra," Maria Menounos, is from Medford, Massachusetts said, "praying for everyone home in Boston. Devastated at the news."

Even former New Kid on the Block, Joey McIntyre, he is from the Boston area, all the New Kids are, he was actually running in the marathon. He tweeted this moments after the bombs went off, he said, "there was an explosion by the finish line about five minutes after I finished. I'm okay but I'm sure there are many hurt."

Boy was he right -- 144 people injured, three people dead this morning including one 8-year-old boy. Stay with us. Our live coverage of these deadly bombings in Boston will continue here on CNN.