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THE SITUATION ROOM
Shooting at U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
Aired June 10, 2009 - 15:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're not going away from the breaking news here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
A Museum that chronicles past violence is now the scene of violence right here in the nation's capital. Officials say a lone gunman walked into the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on the National Mall and opened fire with what's being described as a long gun.
A security guard, a private security guard, was shot, and we have now been told by our local affiliate WJLA that that security guard has died. Officials say other guards shot and then wounded the gunman.
All of this is unfolding dramatically here on this day.
Sources tell CNN the suspect is an 88-year-old white supremacist, a racist and anti-Semite named James von Brunn. The shooting happened only hours before the attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, and many other VIPs were supposed to attend a play at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Let's go straight to CNN's senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry. He's on the scene.
Ed, you rushed over to the Holocaust Museum from the White House once we got word of this shooting. Give us the latest information you're getting from the scene.
ED HENRY, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Wolf.
We're standing right now on 14th Street Northwest, the middle of the National Mall, as you said, just a couple of blocks from the White House. Over my left shoulder here, you can see Jocco Riggs (ph), our photojournalist, is zooming in on the Holocaust Museum. It's right beyond the construction. You can probably see just the whisper of the American flag there still waving in the breeze.
This chaos and panic at the Museum started about 12:50 Eastern Time, according to officials, when they believe the suspect, a lone gunman, walked into the Holocaust Museum and almost immediately started firing upon a security officer. There was return fire from several security officers.
We're told by several eyewitness inside there was chaos, panic, people screaming, saying, "Hit the ground!" There were security officers shouting at the suspect to put his weapon down. At least one security officer was shot, as you just reported. We're now learning that he was killed. One eyewitness, Maria, 19 years old, told me that the security officer was laying on his face, face down, bleeding profusely from his back.
Take a listen to the scene that she described.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIA, WITNESS: Well, we were in the "Remember the Children" exhibit. We were just exiting. And we heard shooting.
I ran towards the glass doors to see what was going on. I thought it was a joke or something. And there I could see a security man pull out his gun and shoot towards the shooter.
I also saw another security man face down on his belly. There was blood everywhere. So I actually didn't see him get shot, but I saw that he was badly hurt. And he did get shot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now, obviously, the museum is going to be closed for the rest of day. Some of the streets around the Holocaust Museum here in downtown Washington are still closed, though they're trying to get them reopened before rush hour traffic.
Bottom line, I can tell you from several officials here on the scene, what they are saying is that there were some really outstanding, remarkable work by some of these private security officers who reacted so quickly. There were at least a couple thousand inside the Holocaust Museum. Obviously, the carnage could have been, as tragic as it is, could have been much, much worse -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Because on any day there are thousands and thousands of visitors to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Last year, 1.7 million visitors came, including hundreds of thousands of young kids who come from high schools all over the country to see the museum.
We take it that there was, what, a red car that this individual drove up in and sort of parked it illegally outside, and then just simply walked in with what's being described as a long gun?
Is that right?
HENRY: That's right. That's what's been described to us in terms of a vehicle. But we haven't been able to confirm that with law enforcement.
They were very sketchy on the specific details because this is still the very early stages of the investigation, so we want to be careful obviously with those details. But they did say that they swept several vehicles in the immediate range of the Holocaust Museum, and they say that's something they do that's a routine matter to make sure that the area around a crime scene like this is secure. Obviously, this is in the middle of federal Washington. The Department of Agriculture is just to my right, just a couple hundred feet. Again, the White House just a few blocks away.
I can tell you, when I jumped into a taxi at the White House on the way over here, there were sirens blaring from every direction in downtown Washington between the Metropolitan Police, the Park Police, U.S. Park Police, ambulances rushing to the scene. So, they were trying to secure this area as quickly as possible, as well, with helicopters.
And so that's why they were also checking out the vehicle in this case. And the officials are saying that the suspect walked in with what they believe to be a rifle just out in the open. It wasn't hidden or anything like that. It was for everyone to see.
And that's why there was so much panic when people at first -- some people saw the rifle. Other eyewitnesses I spoke to say they heard five loud booming sounds. Some thought it was shots, others thought it was something fell over or something, because obviously they didn't expect that there would be a shooting. And I can tell you, the eyewitnesses we spoke to said there was absolute panic inside that museum -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed Henry, stand by for a moment. We're going to get back to the scene.
Tom Foreman is here with me in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Also joining us, some special guests who were there at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum when all of this unfolded.
Mark Lippert is here with his fiancee Lori (ph).
Guys, thanks very much.
Mark, tell us in your own words where you were because we have -- Tom's going to show us exactly where the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum is -- and what you saw and what you heard.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The museum is right down in this area. The White House Ed just talked about, right up here.
There's really a close distance to the Capitol down here. You've all seen it before.
Let me move this map out of the way, however, and show you the front entrance here. As you mentioned, Wolf, this is where people come in.
BLITZER: This is the entrance on 14th Street for those who have been to the Holocaust Museum.
FOREMAN: Exactly. It's right over here, and 28 million people have been there since 1993. And you are correct, 34 percent of them are students of some sorts, so quite young people in here.
And this is the floor plan of the museum itself.
And you were telling us, Mark, where you were in this process. Let's try to draw that up here and take a look at this.
Where were you in this area during this time?
MARK LIPPERT, WITNESS: We had just finished a tour, and we were going to leave, and we decided to go into the "Daniel's Story," the "Remember the Children." It's a little alcove area that's kind of like a maze of displays. And we were actually standing right in the very beginning where they show a little video.
FOREMAN: So you're right here at this time.
Now, the area we're talking about, Wolf, as you know, as you come in the front, a moment ago we showed you that front picture. As you come in the front here, you're funneled this way as a guest. And the magnetometers, if I recall correctly, Mark (ph), they're right about here.
LIPPERT: Yes. Yes. You have to go through those when we went in.
FOREMAN: So, there's a little line right here. The gift shop is over here. So this seems to be the critical area.
What did you hear? What did you see?
LIPPERT: Well, we were standing there, and I heard what were four very loud pops. And I thought, again, like they just reported, someone had dropped something very loud. And my fiancee Lori (ph) said, "That sounded like gunshots." And I said, "No, it doesn't make sense that it would be."
And then as we're standing there, I saw three kids come rushing towards the area that we were at.
FOREMAN: Coming from this area over here?
LIPPERT: Yes. Somewhere in that area.
FOREMAN: So you had some people in this area coming up towards you.
LIPPERT: And they just had this look on their face like -- it told me something was very, very wrong. You can't describe it. I saw it in their eyes.
And then one of the kids basically did say there's someone with a gun. And it happened so quickly, you're standing there going, really, is it? You don't know.
And then my mind starts racing thinking, OK, we're in this area, which is small. What if somebody does have a gun and they're coming up to that area? Where are we going to go?
FOREMAN: You had planned on coming back out this way because this is one of the official exits here. So you knew that your initial plan was going to take you right back toward where you knew something bad was happening.
LIPPERT: Yes. And what we -- what I actually decided was we had to move down this way because I thought there had to be an emergency exit somewhere down there. And as I'm moving down, I walked into a blind corner and I thought this is not good.
FOREMAN: So this is -- for those of you that haven't been there, this is a fairly involved exhibit with a lot of little corners, a lot of little details, bedrooms, living rooms, where a family would live.
So, you're winding your way back through this and going where?
LIPPERT: Well, as far back as I can until we do hit an emergency door. And there's another gentleman and I. And we're standing there, like, do we go out here? What do we do? Because we still weren't 100 percent sure there was a true emergency, but we knew something was not right.
So, I pushed the door and it didn't open. And my first thought was this is really not good. I pushed the door again and it didn't open.
And then I look up and the sign said you have to hold the bar for 15 seconds for the electronic door to open and let you out. And so I'm holding that bar the whole time, and that was, like, the longest 15 seconds of my life, not knowing what was going on at the front end.
It did open. We got out. People started coming out behind us. And the minute we got out, there were already police on the site. They were there at the steps.
FOREMAN: You were up in this area, right in here?
BLITZER: That's the exit on the 15th Street side facing the Washington Monument over there.
LIPPERT: Yes. There were police on the scene already and there was staff from the Holocaust Museum there waving people out. And at that moment, all of the main doors opened and it was just a flood of people coming out.
FOREMAN: So you had, what, dozens, hundreds of people all streaming out the same direction at the same time as you are?
LIPPERT: Well, where we were at, it was probably 30 or 40. But once the main doors back here opened, they were just coming out.
BLITZER: And so what was the reaction? What was the mood? Was there panic? Was there calmness as they tried to get out of that building?
LIPPERT: People were just -- they didn't know what to think. There were some panicked. I mean, I know I was. And you didn't know what was really going on.
And they were running to get out as fast as they can. And they were crying when they came out. It was something bad had happened.
BLITZER: And a lot of kids, too.
LIPPERT: Yes. The place was full of kids.
BLITZER: There's always a lot of kids at the Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Was this the first time the two of you had been there?
LIPPERT: It's the first place we've been in Washington.
BLITZER: Because it's one of the most popular attractions in the nation's capital.
As you know, Tom, there are people there all the time.
So, you went there. Why did you decide to go there on this day?
LIPPERT: Well, just because I thought it's some place I've always wanted to go see. And I knew it would be very interesting and not just your normal tourist place. You know, I like history, and I thought it would be very interesting. And it was.
BLITZER: And how much of the tour did you actually manage to get?
LIPPERT: We just did finish, actually. And that's what made it really weird, because we had seen all of those things in the Museum, those horrific things that had been done, and then I heard these noises and I thought, well, that really can't be gunshots. And sure enough, it was.
BLITZER: Because this suspect, the man who has now been arrested, was well known on Web sites, as you know, Tom, as someone who denied the Holocaust. YOUNG:
You were just there. You emerged from that museum tour, Lori (ph) and Mark, and your conclusion was those who are denying the Holocaust are?
LIPPERT: You can't deny it. It happened.
BLITZER: That was a sad moment.
Where are you guys from?
LIPPERT: Wasow (ph) County, Illinois. I actually work at a local radio station, WLPL Radio.
BLITZER: In Illinois?
BLITZER: Well, sorry that your visit to Washington included that. But thanks for your eyewitness accounts. And I'm sure you guys will be back to the Holocaust Memorial Museum down the road.
Thanks very much.
I want to go to Kate Bolduan. She's joining us now. She's over -- Kate, are you at George Washington University Hospital?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, here at George Washington University Hospital.
I have to tell you, Wolf, we have some sad news to report. According to law enforcement sources, we are now told that the security guard involved in this tragic, tragic scene over at the Holocaust Memorial has died, we're told, from his injuries. And law enforcement sources are attempting to notify family at this time.
The hospital, as is a typical situation in these kind of tragic breaking-news situations, Wolf, they're being very tight-lipped, being very careful of what information they're giving out, of course. Because of HIPAA laws, they're prohibited from releasing any type of information as it comes to patients at the hospital.
But we are told from D.C. Fire, as well as D.C. Police, both the security guard that we know has passed, and the shooter, James von Brunn, were brought here to George Washington University Hospital. It's the closest trauma center to the Holocaust Museum, just under two miles. And the latest information, we're working on an update, Wolf, but the latest information on the shooter is that he was in serious condition.
But that's the latest here from George Washington University Hospital.
BLITZER: And that's all they're giving about his condition, that it was serious, nothing more than that? And he's at George Washington University Hospital, as well? Is that right, Kate?
BOLDUAN: That's right, Wolf. The latest we have is that he is in serious condition.
We do know from affiliates that were here on the scene, they say they saw the shooter, as well as the security guard, brought in here at the time shortly after 1:00. While the hospital is not giving out much information, let me tell you what I've been seeing since we've been here on the scene, wolf.
You see a large law enforcement presence, many police officers walking around. This is a very busy intersection. It's Washington Circle, now heading into rush hour traffic. So, a very busy time here.
But I've also seen what may have been detectives, D.C. detectives, bagging some evidence as they leave the hospital. A lot going in and out of the hospital at this time.
But we are working on an update to get the latest on the shooter's condition. But unfortunately, not very -- not good news at all for the security guard involved.
BLITZER: And our deepest condolences, as I'm sure all of our viewers are sending theirs, to this hero, as well, the security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum who was shot earlier today.
We're going to get back to you, Kate. Stand by.
The former secretary of defense, William Cohen, he was there earlier today. He was an eyewitness to what was going on. So was his wife, Janet Langhart Cohen.
They were there for a very, very special reason. And when we come back, we'll continue our breaking news coverage on the shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum with Secretary Cohen and Janet Cohen.
BLITZER: We're continuing the breaking news coverage, a horrible shooting today at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on the National Mall here in the nation's capital.
Joining us now, Tom Foreman is with me, but the former secretary of defense, William Cohen, and his wife, Janet langhart Cohen.
You were both there on the scene when this unfolded, right over there on 14th Street. This is the entrance to the Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Secretary Cohen, first of all, tell us why you were there, and then we're going to go through exactly what the two of you saw and heard, because I know you've just come here from giving a statement to the police.
WILLIAM COHEN, FMR. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Actually, I was there. Janet was on her way. And that first slide you had up, if you could put that back up, I can show you where the entrance was.
FOREMAN: I'll pull that up right here.
W. COHEN: Yes, indeed.
FOREMAN: There we go.
BLITZER: Yes. Go ahead.
W. COHEN: In any event, they have reserve parking out front.
BLITZER: On the 14th Street side.
W. COHEN: On the 14th side. They were going to make arrangements for the driver to drop Janet off, and I would go out and greet her. We were going through a dress rehearsal for Janet's play called "Anne and Emmett," which is about hate...
BLITZER: And we're going to talk about that, but -- so tell us what exactly you saw when you were there around 1:00 in the afternoon.
W. COHEN: Well, I was on the phone calling Janet to say, "How far were you away?" because they're making arrangements out front to accommodate the car. At that point, I noticed there was a car that was double parked out in the street, which I thought was unusual.
FOREMAN: You're saying right here.
W. COHEN: Right. He was double parked out there. And an older man -- I didn't pay much attention to him. I was on the phone.
And then I lost concentration on him until I -- actually, I was an ear witness, because I heard the first shot ring out. And there was no mistaking on my part. I've heard many gunshots in the past, and it was clear what was going on.
BLITZER: How many shots did you hear?
W. COHEN: I heard about four in a row after the first one. And it was "Bam, bam, bam, bam." And it was clear what was going on.
BLITZER: About how close to this incident were you?
W. COHEN: I was about 30, 40 feet away.
FOREMAN: This is the map of the place. This is the entrance to the road. You're talking about double parking right out here.
This is the entrance. This is where the magnetometer is, over in this area right here.
So, roughly, where were you?
W. COHEN: I was about here.
FOREMAN: You were about in this area? OK.
BLITZER: So you were outside the building or inside the building?
W. COHEN: I was inside the building.
BLITZER: Inside the building.
FOREMAN: You're standing in this area. You were noticing the car out here.
BLITZER: That's that red car that you spotted out there, which we believe was the vehicle that this individual drove.
W. COHEN: I just noticed that car that was out there, it seemed to be out of place out in the street. And again, I was on the phone talking with Janet at the time. And so, when I heard the shots, I immediately ducked down. I was with Arthur Berger, who is...
BLITZER: One of the spokesmen for the Museum.
W. COHEN: For the museum. He and I were together. He saw actually the man lift the -- come in with a rifle. And so, when the shots rang out, we just ducked down and scattered and went up the stairs to the right.
FOREMAN: Up in this area over here.
BLITZER: Did you say a rifle or a shotgun?
W. COHEN: He had a -- it looked like a rifle.
BLITZER: It looked like a long rifle?
W. COHEN: And so we ran up the stairs to get -- we didn't know how many shooters were there. We didn't know how many shots were going to continue, how many people were involved.
So we ran up the stairs and stayed up there. And then we prevented anybody from coming down. Once the shots rang out, people started to panic and wanted to evacuate the building. And they wanted to come down that stairway. And so I said, "Don't go down."
FOREMAN: And this would have been a natural exit for them.
W. COHEN: It's a natural exit. They all started to rush that way. And we said, "Don't go out. You can't go down there. There's been a shooting."
FOREMAN: When you heard the sound -- I mean, this was a very short distance here. This is, what, 30 feet? It's less than that maybe.
W. COHEN: It's very short.
BLITZER: From the entrance to the magnetometers.
W. COHEN: We were right about here, the two of us.
FOREMAN: And did you actually see the shooter at all at that moment, or you just heard the motion?
W. COHEN: No. I just heard the shots ring out and knew what they were at the time, and then ducked. Arthur had seen the man raise the rifle, walk in with a rifle.
FOREMAN: No kidding?
So -- and do you have a sense of -- there are three different entrances here. When you saw this car, did you see it through this portal? Was it over here? Did you see it through this portal?
W. COHEN: I was looking here. I was...
FOREMAN: So you were looking right through this portal right here to see a car somewhere out here?
W. COHEN: Yes.
BLITZER: Yes. I just want to be clear, Secretary.
Erase this, Tom.
Because show us exactly where you were and where the shooter, you believe, was on that area over there. This is -- I just want to point out this is 14th Street over here. This is the entrance going right here.
So, approximately where were you?
W. COHEN: I would be in this area here.
BLITZER: Right over there.
W. COHEN: There's a window right here.
BLITZER: And the shooter was walking in that building when he started shooting?
W. COHEN: He walked in. I did not see...
BLITZER: And where was that? Show us where the entrance would be right around -- over here, right?
W. COHEN: This is the exit. I would be standing right here. He would be coming in this way.
FOREMAN: OK. So, you believe he came in through here.
W. COHEN: That's my -- yes. I didn't see him walk in. So...
BLITZER: Yes. So that's speculative.
FOREMAN: But you could see -- you could see a car that seemed out of place out here somewhere?
W. COHEN: There seemed to be a car that was double parked out there.
BLITZER: And Arthur Berger, as you're saying, did see the actual incident unfold?
W. COHEN: As we ran up the stairs, he said he saw the man with what looked like a rifle.
BLITZER: And so what did you do when you heard the shots? I mean...
W. COHEN: We ducked.
BLITZER: You actually dropped to the ground?
W. COHEN: We ducked down and took off, and ran up the stairs to get out of the line of fire. And we got upstairs and we didn't know if someone was going to come up behind us, so we had everybody who was naturally coming down -- we stopped them and said, "Don't go down there. It's dangerous."
BLITZER: And Janet, where were you at that time? You were still on your way to the museum. JANET LANGHART COHEN, PLAYWRIGHT: I was on my way leaving home. We were just turning on to Nebraska Avenue in Chevy Chase. And Bill rang me and said, "There's been a shooting at the Museum." And I know he wouldn't joke about a thing like that, and I said, "What are you talking about?"
And he described to me what he just described to you. And my first concern was for him. He heard it. He and Arthur were right there, close enough to hear the sound just ring out.
And then I thought about the kids of my play. They're rehearsing. We have kids playing Ann e Frank and Emmett Till. And my director was there, my whole staff was there.
I know that the Meyerhoff Auditorium is down in the well (ph). You can't even get a signal on your cell phone from there, so I thought maybe...
FOREMAN: The Meyerhoff is right down in this area, isn't it.
BLITZER: It's in the lower level.
J. COHEN: Yes, in the lower level. You have to go down.
So they didn't hear a thing. They didn't know what was happening. Someone came in and said, "You've got to get out of here."
And one of our team is diabetic and she left her medicine there, and we had to have a S.W.A.T. team go back in to get the medicine, because as I was approaching, I had a nice officer, Officer Jeff Block (ph), who escorted me up to the steps, because my husband said, "This is my wife, you have to let her in." I wanted to find out how my husband was.
There were helicopters all around, police cars. Everything was cordoned off.
I thought at first maybe President Obama was traveling through the city because, you know, here in Washington that frequently happens. And then I got there and the officer in charge at the door said, "This is a crime scene, ma'am. I don't care who said you can get in. You cannot get in. Nobody's getting out, nobody's getting in."
BLITZER: And you're not in contact with the secretary.
J. COHEN: Because the signals keep going.
BLITZER: In and out.
J. COHEN: And I finally call him.
The officer talks to you.
Officer Block (ph) talks to Bill and says, you know, "Can you let her in?" I said, "Can you let him out?" And I wanted to find out if everyone was OK. BLITZER: Did they actually let you in the building then?
J. COHEN: No. They couldn't. It's a crime scene.
BLITZER: Yes. So you were in there the whole time, basically, and you didn't get out. So you didn't see Janet for a while.
W. COHEN: No. I didn't see her. I ended up walking over to the...
BLITZER: Later. After you did, you gave a statement to the police and all of that.
How worried were you about your husband?
J. COHEN: I was very worried. I was worried about my husband. I was worried about the kids, because there's always kids, as you say, lots of kids in the Museum.
My team was there. And the Museum, we know why this Museum is sacred. We know why we have the Holocaust Museum.
And for someone to come in and desecrate it -- and our whole play is about hate, to eradicate hate, and this is an example of hatred -- people denying the Holocaust, people denying that there were people who suffered and died. And I brought "Anne and Emmett" -- Anne Frank, we know who she was. Emmett Till, the young black boy who was lynched in Money, Mississippi, in 1955.
I wanted to bring them together in an imaginary conversation to talk about eradicating things like this. And the good people -- Anne Frank said she believed in the goodness of people. The good people have to stand up and do more than just guard our buildings.
And the guard -- I know I knew this guard. I lived in the Holocaust Museum every day for the last week or so. I would see all the security guards. And I know we know the young man that died.
And I just want to say how sorry we are to his family. I am just -- I'm waiting for the moment that we know his name and see his face.
Right now, we don't know which one it is. But I think it's a young man that served in the military when Bill was secretary of defense and stopped Bill all the time. And I'm just really sorry for his family.
BLITZER: Our heart goes out to that family, because he was a hero, as well, this security guard. And tragically, as we've reported, he died at George Washington University Hospital only a few blocks away from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The suspect in this case, Janet, is an 88-year-old individual, James von Brunn, who had Web sites and books, very well known -- very well known as a white supremacist, a racist, an anti-Semite. And this day, when you were going to release, unveil your new play about Anne Frank and Emmett Till, dealing with Jews, people who hate Jews, people who hate blacks, for this to happen, it must be overwhelming to you.
J. COHEN: It is. It is.
And if you say he's 88, I just learned how old he was. But I wanted to have this play debut on Anne Frank's 80th birthday. And she would -- it's hard to believe that that beautiful 15-year-old girl that's frozen in our memory would be 80 years old herself had she lived this coming Friday, June 12th. And I wanted to dedicate it to her.
And to think that someone of her generation still harbors that hate, I think we grow out of the hate. And I want to say to the young people out there -- because Anne and Emmett were teenagers, and it will be a child that leads the way. And maybe through their voices, Anne and Emmett's voice, the younger generation will grow up and not be like the sad man that did this horrible thing.
BLITZER: I think all of our viewers know the story of Anne Frank, "The Diary of Anne Frank," but a lot of our viewers don't know the story of Emmett Till.
Briefly, tell us what happened.
J. COHEN: Emmett Till was the same age as my self. The reason I was so eager to give him voice because he was the same age, same race, same culture. We were from the same region. He was killed in Money, Mississippi.
BLITZER: He was 14 years old.
J. COHEN: He had gone from Chicago -- 14 years old in 1955. He had gone from Chicago, as most of us people of color normally do -- we have family in the South, we'd go thrown there.
We knew the rules of the South were different, but he didn't pay attention, sadly. And he was alleged to have whistled at a white woman, just trying to show off to his friends. And two of the guys who didn't like him heard the whistle, savagely beat him, mutilated him.
And his mother, when his body was sent back to Chicago, she wanted the casket open, the lid up, so the world can see what is allowed to happen to us, people of color. And we've moved hopefully from that dark day where we can now get justice, because the men that killed him admitted they did it and they were paid $4,000 by then "Look" magazine.
But I want to say about Anne Frank, too, she shaped my life because she was required reading in my high school. And we were both the same age. I was 15 when I learned of her.
And to think somebody crammed in a small place, scared every minute, knowing what lay ahead, and ultimately in Bergen-Belsen her life was take with her family. And her father survived to tell her story, just like Emmett's mother survived to tell his story. And I was hoping to give voice to this tonight. And it's just a sad day. It's really a sad day.
And I love this museum. This museum tells a story, a journey of a people, all people. It isn't just about the Jewish people. There's an exhibit there about Darfur, about what's happening in Darfur.
BLITZER: The genocide in the Sudan.
J. COHEN: Yes. And Arthur Berger is -- I love him, he and Sara Bloomfield. They have a segment in the museum that's called "From Memory to Action."
We must act. We must act against the this kind of violence, this kind of hatred.
BLITZER: The play -- they closed the Holocaust Museum on this day, so unfortunately we're not going to be able to go to the play. I was planning on attending tonight, and I know a lot of other people were looking forward to it. But we know it will get -- it will be shown.
And give us your thoughts, Secretary Cohen, because I know, you know, this has been a big part of your life recently.
W. COHEN: Well, it has. And it will be rescheduled.
The thing about Emmett Till is that he really helped to energize the civil rights movement. The great tragedy, the terrible thing that was done to him, that energized the civil rights movement in this country.
In fact, Janet has had the experience of interviewing Rosa Parks in the past, and there's a myth about that if her feet were tired, she wouldn't get up on the bus to give her seat to a white man. That's not the case. She was thinking about how brutally Emmett Till was murdered, and that was the reason she wouldn't get up. And she said, "No more," and that helped really to energize the civil rights movement. And from that point forward, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others really picked this up.
And so his -- the significance of his death and the significance of Anne Frank's death, when we talk about two young teenagers, both brutally murdered, they were murdered because of hatred.
J. COHEN: Because their societies allowed it to happen.
W. COHEN: And this play will go on. It's at George Washington University. It's going to go to Chicago, to L.A., to Atlanta. It will be...
BLITZER: And the play basically has conversations between Anne Frank and Emmett Till, a 15-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy.
J. COHEN: And they talk -- I give them my voice.
I -- I -- I do something rather presumptuous. I write the last entry into Anne's diary of what it must have been like for her those last days, to have lost her sister, to have died of typhus, the rash, the nausea, the pain, watching the Nazis laugh and joke, while they were trying to find scraps of food while they were dying, man's inhumanity to man.
Her diary taught me at a very early age man's inhumanity to man. And Emmett's death taught me how my country felt of people of color in the days of my youth.
BLITZER: And -- and we have been doing some research on the suspect in this case, James Von Brunn, Janet. And you will be interested to know, he's -- and, Tom, you know this, because we were working on this most of this...
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure.
BLITZER: ... afternoon -- he's written extensively denying the Holocaust, denying it ever existed. That's one of his passions.
And -- and the president of the United States addressed that in his speech in Cairo last week, and then when he went to Buchenwald on Friday.
But one of his writings insists -- and then he's got so-called documented evidence -- evidence -- that the diary of Anne Frank's -- Anne Frank is a hoax.
J. COHEN: No. No.
BLITZER: I'm not -- I'm not -- I'm not going to read to you the garbage that he has written. But it's fascinating that -- that he was obsessed by trying to prove, not only that there was no Holocaust, but that the diary of Anne Frank was a hoax.
J. COHEN: All I can say is, the research that we have done -- and we have done extensive research -- the Holocaust Museum has helped us. Others, more objective, have helped us.
Why would he say that? Why would he say that? I mean, it's -- it's just impossible for a group of people to make this up. We all know the Nazis existed. Ask the Italians, ask the French, ask the British if...
COHEN: Ask the Germans.
J. COHEN: Ask the German people if they exist.
And the other thing -- question I want to raise, as a fellow journalist, we know, in Europe, it's against the law in certain places in Europe to say the Holocaust never happened. Yet, here in America -- and I love this country and I love our freedom -- as a journalist, the First Amendment is important to me.
But what do we do about people like this who spread that kind of hate? Because it all begins with a word. Then it's a gun. And then it's somebody dead. What do we do? How do we reconcile the righteousness of not allowing this kind of speech and punishing this kind of speech in Europe, and allowing it, even protecting it?
Wolf, you know, they could march -- when I was in Chicago, the Klan could march in Skokie, Illinois, where the largest group of survivors of the Holocaust lived. And they're protected by police.
I -- you know -- you know, we have to reconcile which one of these saves humanity. Where do we get them? Where do we get these people? And I have figured that I learned about race very early. It was rocked in my cradle. And I wouldn't be at all surprised if this man, family and teachers and -- and classmates rocked his hatred in the cradle.
We have to get our children young. And that's who's in the Holocaust Museum now, the young people. You go in there, and you would think you were in middle school or high school. The kids are hungry to find out what happened. And we should tell them.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to get more insight. I don't want either one of you to leave, because we have a lot more to try to digest on this day here in the nation's capital.
We're learning a lot more about James Von Brunn right now. And we have a team of reporters going through what we know.
Let's go to Brian Todd, first of all.
Brian, tell our viewers what you're learning about this suspect.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, some fairly disturbing detail about what the suspect has written in a book that's posted on his Web site. It looks to have been self-published in about 2002, the book entitled "Kill the Best Gentiles."
And, as we mentioned, at least the first six chapters of this are posted on James Von Brunn's Web site. It is full of what you described earlier, Wolf, as anti-Semitic diatribes, Holocaust denial.
Here's one passage -- quote -- "History shows us that Jews are compulsive liars. It is a genetic characteristic that all Jews share. All Jews know the Holocaust is a lie."
Now, Von Brunn describes his political beliefs on the founding of Israel. Here's another passage -- quote -- "Jews were guaranteed the state of Israel, quid pro quo, for again bringing America into the war against Germany."
Now, on one page, he lays out what he believes is a Jewish strategy for dominating the world. One part, he writes, was to convert the American republic into a democracy. Another was to establish a central bank. He also says Jews plotted to capture control of the mass media, to enact personal income tax.
And he ends that graph with one quote. He says -- quote -- "Jews tend to destroy what they most envy" -- Wolf, a lot of disturbing passages. You know, this is just a little snapshot. You really don't need to read much more to see that this is -- this is some very strong stuff posted on his Web site...
TODD: ... and in his book.
BLITZER: Yes. And, Brian, he's also blamed other ethnic groups for some of his own legal problems. And there have been a host of those legal problems, which we're going to go into detail. That's coming up.
But tell us a little bit about that.
One very, very telling legal problem back in the 1980s that we have been able to find out about, Wolf, we know that he served six years in prison on an attempted kidnapping and firearms charge, after what he called a citizen's legal arrest.
He tried to arrest members of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Now, on his Web site, Von Brunn said he was -- quote -- "convicted by a Negro jury, Jew Negro attorneys and sentenced to prison for 11 years by a Jew judge" -- so, again, blaming other ethnic groups for his legal problems there.
And we're just finding out now some -- some very disturbing detail about this man, Wolf.
BLITZER: I know you're going through a lot of those details, and you will have more, Brian. Stand by.
Abbi Tatton is also getting some more information about this individual, James Von Brunn.
Abbi, what are you picking up?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this is a Web site which is dedicated to the book that Brian was just telling you about, accepting donations for James Von Brunn.
And it's got extensive writings, or diatribes, signed by James Von Brunn from the last few years here. On it, there is extensive information about that 1981 incident that Brian was just telling you about, in which he tried to kidnap members of the Federal Reserve, or, in his words, he just wanted to handcuff Paul Volcker, the then Fed chair, and parade in front of -- parade him in front of TV cameras.
This is a long and rambling essay about that incident. We have also got some biographical information on this Web site here, a photo that we cannot authenticate at this point, biographical information about James Von Brunn, saying that he was a World War II veteran, a film producer, a father, an artist, and, on that last point, some more details you can see online about his more recent years living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and -- and working as some kind of freelance artist.
You can see online that there are works of art attributed to James Von Brunn, saying that he's living out there and him trying to sell it. That seems to be the most recent information that we can find on the Web about him -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to be learning a lot more about James W. Von Brunn in the coming hours and days.
Abbi, stand by.
Drew Griffin is investigating as well.
Drew, here's something that I have been told, but correct me if -- if I'm wrong, that a lot of these so-called Holocaust-deniers, they're obsessed with these Holocaust memorial museums, not only here in Washington, but they're all over the United States, indeed, all over the world, so people do not forget what happened during World War II.
But tell us what you know about this.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I have interviewed several of them who actually go to these as tourist sites, but they go, Wolf, in -- in -- in contradiction to what these things are about, the Holocaust museum, to remember the Holocaust, to hope it never happens again.
But I can tell you, firsthand experience, these white supremacists will go to look at Nazi paraphernalia, to -- to learn, to study, to get information for their books, perhaps -- I'm not sure if this man has been there before, but to research for some of his books.
But they really marvel at the Nazi paraphernalia that is collected in these museums. And they go there to look at that. They -- they really like what they see when they're looking at pictures of Adolf Hitler, or the Nazi swastika, or a -- or -- or the -- the various kind of uniforms that the Nazis have. And that is why they go.
So, it's not -- you know, it's not an anomaly, that this man would be at that museum. He's -- most likely, he's probably been there before.
BLITZER: And, Drew, as you know, there's a lot of these kind of guys out there, white supremacists, racists, anti-Semites, Holocaust- deniers, whatever you want to call them. This is -- this may be an isolated lone-gunman kind of incident, but there are a lot of these people out there.
GRIFFIN: Yes. I was just doing some research.
Now, I -- I don't break it down by -- by white supremacists, but 926 hate groups in the United States as of 2008. That's from the Southern Poverty Law Center. That's an increase of about 54 percent over the last eight years, a lot of that attributed to the increase of traffic on the Internet.
This man, this Von Brunn, he lived on the Internet. All his writings are on there. This is how they disseminate information. This is how they sell their books, communicate conspiracy theories with each other, and, quite frankly, probably, Wolf, are right now talking about us overreacting to this, calling this all just a media-pushed story by the Jewish-controlled media.
That's the way they think. So, even in viewing this crime that took place in Washington, D.C., they will look through it through their own prism, which looks as everything in the world is a conspiracy by Jews.
BLITZER: Hold on a second, Drew, because we now have an official statement from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, confirming, unfortunately, our worst fears. I will read the statement from the museum.
"Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns died heroically in the line of duty today. There are no words to express our grief and shock over these events. He served on the museum's security staff for six years. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Officer John's family, Stephen Tyrone Johns. We have made the decision to close the museum tomorrow in honor of Officer Johns. And our flags will be flown at half-mast in his memory" -- that statement from Fred Zeidman, chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
And the Cohens are still with us, William Cohen, the former secretary of defense, Janet Langhart Cohen, who had a play that was supposed to be released tonight.
And our hearts go out to the family of Stephen Tyrone Johns.
J. COHEN: Yes.
BLITZER: Did you know Stephen Tyrone Johns?
J. COHEN: You know, they wear badges with their names on it. And I think he was the tall, light-skinned African-American that would open the door for us. They were always so nice, because -- whenever Bill and I would go there, because they know we were going for rehearsals. And they would have a special place for our car.
And they would come out. If it was raining, they would have umbrellas for us to take us in. We got really special treatment. And he was one of the officers. And, as I was coming in to CNN today, as I frequently do with Bill when he comes to do your show, Wolf, you have got a security guard here in the building.
And our hearts go out and our gratitude go out to all the security guards in -- in the country, but certainly in this town. Washington, D.C., is a special city, and special people live here, and they need protection. And I just -- I'm just so sorry that that happened.
COHEN: And a word to the -- those who serve as part of the security arrangement at the Holocaust Museum. (COUGHING)
COHEN: Excuse me.
They acted immediately. They were on that -- that man right away. And the security team went into action. And they made sure that all of the people in the museum were safe.
And, when you listen to that -- that -- that foul hatred coming out of the -- the so-called writings of this individual, you go to the museum, and you see the mixture of people who are there, the children who are there, they're white, they're black, they're Latino, they're Asian, they're all colors, all mix, and...
J. COHEN: All over the world, they come.
COHEN: And they're coming to see what has happened when you have genocide take place.
I thought we would never hear the word genocide again following World War II. And, yet, we saw it in Bosnia. We saw it in Kosovo. We're seeing it in Darfur. We saw it in Rwanda.
And, so, what we have to do -- and -- and -- and we actually co-wrote -- Madeleine Albright, Secretary Albright, and I co-chaired a study that was supported by the Institute of Peace, by -- also by the Holocaust Museum, for trying to set in motion a way to prevent genocide from taking place, to recognize the signs of hatred, to take action before it's allowed to really develop and spread.
And, so, we were going to again talk about that tonight, because the play is all about, how do we stop this? How do we recognize hate and evil in all its manifestations, and then take action to prevent it from actually growing?
J. COHEN: And the thing that was disturbing to me is that this -- this person or these groups complain that CNN is making too much of it and only tells one side of the story.
You just told his side of the story. And it was appalling to listen to what he thinks and what he -- and -- and certainly what he did. It's -- it's just amazing to me, that that would happen. And this man, you say, is in his 80s. He fought in World War II. He fought against the Nazis, presumably. And now he wants to be a Nazi? How perverse is that?
BLITZER: But it's intriguing, what Drew Griffin was reporting. And we have heard it from others as well, that a lot of these so-called Holocaust-deniers, they go to these museums, these Holocaust museums, because they like to see what the Nazis did; they like to see the Nazi uniforms...
BLITZER: ... and the Gestapo's insignias and stuff like that, which obviously is a very perverse thing. J. COHEN: It's too bad that we don't have a magnetometer for someone's mind or their soul or their intention.
I know the museum has asked people, particularly law enforcement, to come from all over the country, all over the world, law enforcement to come and see what's happened in Nazi Europe during that time, so they don't have the excuse of saying, we were just following orders.
BLITZER: President Obama, last Thursday and Friday, directly addressed the issue of Holocaust-deniers. And -- and I think we have some -- some sound, some -- some of the excerpts from what he said.
I want -- I want to play that. And I want to discuss it with both of you, because he -- he -- he clearly wanted to make a point. He had an audience in mind when he said what he said in Cairo at the University of Cairo, and then what he said the next day at the Buchenwald concentration camp.
Let me play these excerpts for you.
J. COHEN: OK.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Around the world the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries. And anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented holocaust.
Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich.
Six million Jews were killed, more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless. It is ignorant, and it is hateful.
Threatening Israel with destruction or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews is deeply wrong and only serves to evoke in the minds of the Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That was the president at Cairo University last Thursday. He was -- didn't mention any names, but his clear reference was to the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has publicly denied that there was a Holocaust. And he's now being criticized by some of his political rivals in Iran itself for having maintained that stance for so long.
The next day, on Friday, the president went to the Buchenwald concentration camp.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We are here today because we know this work is not yet finished. To this day, there are those who insist that the Holocaust never happened -- a denial of fact and truth that is baseless and ignorant and hateful. This place is the ultimate rebuke to such thoughts, a reminder of our duty to confront those who would tell lies about our history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That was the president at Buchenwald concentration camp with Elie Wiesel, himself a survivor of Buchenwald.
When you heard the president make those comments last Thursday and Friday, Janet, I -- I know you were moved.
J. COHEN: I was. I was.
I -- I -- I am just moved all the time when I hear the president speak. He seems to touch everybody. And he's fair and just, and we can only wish him well.
It's disturbing to think that people would deny something that really happened. And they're not just the bad people who are in denial. There are a lot of good people in this country who are in denial, not only about the Holocaust, but they're in denial about my history of slavery and Jim Crow, and that you could lynch black people.
There was -- used to be deer and rabbits had more rights than black people when I was a little girl. You had to have...
BLITZER: But what you're saying, there are still people today that deny...
J. COHEN: People who deny that the Holocaust happened. They deny that slavery...
BLITZER: The Holocaust, I understand, but -- but lynching and -- and slavery?
J. COHEN: They deny that -- slavery and lynching. And they tell black people -- the Jewish people say: Remember. Never again.
And people tell black people: Forget it. Get over it.
I just want to know, what is the it we're all supposed to get over, when you have something like this happen today? Not long from now, there will be somebody, a hater, will deny that this happened today.
BLITZER: You -- the two of you wrote a book a few years ago, talking about your love affair, a white man, a black woman. You came together. And that's been so important to both of you all of these years. So, when you hear the president of the United States say those words about the Holocaust, I know it resonates with you especially, Secretary.
(CROSSTALK) COHEN: President Obama is trying to appeal to our -- the better angels of our nature.
Morgan Freeman, the actor, has written and narrated a prologue to Janet's play. And, in it, he says, the struggle between good and evil has been going on a long time, and it's not likely to end anytime soon. But, if we truly understand the -- the evil, the truly evil things that we have allowed to take place, then he says, just maybe the good in us has a decent chance to survive.
That's what this is all about, really trying to get the good in us...
J. COHEN: Mm-hmm.
COHEN: ... have that part of us survive, as opposed to allowing hate to dominate, to discriminate, based on either race, geography, ethnicity, and either to dehumanize, to destroy, to dominate, to divide people.
Barack Obama, that is his appeal to this country and to the world. He's reaching out to touch their conscience, saying, we are human beings. Let's not divide ourself. Look at the -- the goodness that is in us and try to appeal to that nature.
J. COHEN: You know, it's not -- it's ironic that June is the month where the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Loving vs. Virginia, which allowed, in 1967, for us to legally marry.
We couldn't have gotten married in many states in this country before 1967. That's within our age of reason, our lifetime. And it's really kind of disturbing to think that, in our lifetime, in this great country, we could not have gotten married.
So, here this happens in June. I mean, it's -- it's almost a sign, or fortuitous, or...
COHEN: Yes. Well, hopefully not a good sign -- that what we have to do is join together as..
COHEN: ... as -- as -- as a country. And maybe this incident will help bring people a little closer together.
Unfortunately, there are still haters out there. And I'm sure they will see this incident as saying -- and some think that it's justified. But there's no justification for hatred. There's no justification for killing this young man. There's no justification for walking into the Holocaust Museum with a rifle.
And thank goodness that most of the young people were inside, had already entered through that magnetometer, and there weren't many around at that time, because that might have had a lot more people injured or killed. So, in that -- in that sense, you know, that's a positive thing coming out. J. COHEN: But I -- this -- this should be a call to action, Wolf, not the Jewish people, not the non-Jewish, not the black, not the white, but the good people should stand up and do something, not be bystanders, silent witnesses.
BLITZER: Are you...
J. COHEN: Do something.
BLITZER: Are you optimistic?
J. COHEN: Oh, yes. I -- I have taken on the spirit of Anne Frank. I still believe in the goodness of people. People are really good in heart.
BLITZER: Thank God both of you are OK.
I know, Secretary Cohen, you were only a few feet away from that shooter when he walked into the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. And, as you say, given the huge number of young kids who go in and out of that museum every single day from all over the country, indeed, all over the world, you know, it -- it could have been, obviously, so much worse.
But our heart -- hearts go out to the family of Stephen Tyrone Johns, the security guard who, unfortunately, was shot and killed and died at George Washington University Hospital.
We will continue this conversation.
J. COHEN: Thank you.
COHEN: Thank you.
BLITZER: And thank you for writing this play...
J. COHEN: Thank you.
BLITZER: ... which I think is going to resonate with a lot of people out there. I was looking forward to seeing it tonight, but I will see it, I hope, in the next few days.
J. COHEN: There will be another day.
BLITZER: Thank you very much.
J. COHEN: Thank you.
COHEN: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: We're going to take a quick break, but going to con -- continue our breaking news coverage on what happened here in Washington, D.C., today, outside and inside the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on the National Mall in the nation's capital. We're going to take a look and see if these kinds of incidents can be avoided down the road -- much more of our breaking news coverage coming up right after this.
BLITZER: The breaking news out of the nation's capital right now: a shooting -- a shooting -- over at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum earlier today, a shooting resulting in the death of a security guard.
He died, unfortunately, only a little while ago at George Washington University Hospital.
Let's talk about what happened with Fran Townsend. She was homeland security adviser to former President George W. Bush. She's a CNN contributor.
A lone gunman walks into the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum with a rifle and starts shooting. There are security guards there. It's controlled by the U.S. Park Police, the whole area. What, if anything, can be done about that kind of stuff?
FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Wolf, this is the worst nightmare for security officials, because it's the most difficult thing to anticipate, the lone -- there's no indication or warning. There's no indication that this guy -- he's been writing for years. He's a decorated war veteran.
He's written horrible, hateful things, but there's no thing -- one thing that you look for that triggers he's going to turn violent. And that's the problem. I mean, you know, the Cohens spoke powerfully about the importance of labeling evil for what it is.
But it's very hard, from a security perspective, to prevent such a thing. That's why you have security guards, and they train and they prepare for this sort of a tragedy.
BLITZER: Because, if you're looking at profiles, and you see an old guy, 88 years old, walking around, that's -- that's not someone you would normally consider to be a suspect.
TOWNSEND: No. But, as you say, Wolf, the security guards were -- were real heroes, because it wasn't the profile you're typically looking for.
They responded quickly. They protected the -- the individuals inside the museum, the children and the other visitors. They did exactly what they were trained to do. And it's unfortunate that -- that that one security guard paid the ultimate price.
BLITZER: Because he was obviously not trying to conceal his long gun, his rifle, which we believe it was, as he was walking in. He illegally parked his car out in front, and then allegedly just walked in and started shooting.
TOWNSEND: You know, I think it's important that we explain to our viewers, these -- these hate crimes, these violent -- these people that go violent really cross a wide political spectrum, from environment -- radical environmentalists and animal rights activists, to neo-Nazis, and violent extremists like al Qaeda.
And, so, it's a -- it's a broad spectrum. But the individual lone wolf is the most difficult type of person to prevent.
I will tell you, you know, the museums here in Washington are a national treasure. And we have security guards to protect visitors, but we want people to feel like they can come and they can -- they can share in the nation's history...
BLITZER: So, how do you balance that as -- in terms of making sure people are welcome to go up all down -- all up down the Mall, the museums, the Holocaust Museum, the other museums in -- in the nation's capital, but, at the same time, protect everyone?
TOWNSEND: You know, it's interesting.
Whenever you're talking about a public place and a security incident in a public place, our advice to folks who are visitors is the same. Whether you're in a subway or a museum, be alert. Be aware to people around you.
You know, an -- an 88 -- a man in his 80s walking around with a long gun obviously triggered suspicion. And that's why the security guards reacted so quickly. Pay attention to -- to packages that are left and unattended. Pay attention to someone who doesn't seem to be interested in his surroundings.
And you're -- and talk to security personnel. Alert them if you see something suspicious. It's important. You know, the security guards are not in this alone. They need the public to help them. And that's why it's so important for people to be alert and aware of their surroundings.
BLITZER: We have -- we spend so much time worrying and focusing in on al Qaeda, Middle East terrorists -- and for good reason, after what happened on 9/11 -- but a lot of folks forget what happened at the Oklahoma City federal office building only a few years earlier.
These were homegrown terrorists. This is a real serious problem. Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary, addressed it directly only a few weeks ago, when she -- she -- she suggested, let's not forget homegrown terrorists.
TOWNSEND: That's right.
I mean, she was criticized, Wolf, because she actually brought particular focus to veterans returning from the war overseas. And there was rightful debate about how bona fide her concern about that group of returning veterans was. There was no real intelligence to support there being a threat from that community. But domestic terrorism, as you call it, homegrown terrorism, is a huge priority for the Federal Bureau of Investigations. They make arrests every year, as I mentioned, particularly environmental radical groups that turn violent or destroy property.
This is, of course, much worse. And I -- I think it's important that this begin, as Janet Langhart Cohen suggested, a public debate. We need to label as evil the speech that inspires this sort of hate.
BLITZER: How much time did you spend focusing in on domestic terrorists, as opposed to foreign terrorists, when you served in the White House?
TOWNSEND: I -- I -- you know, I will tell you, Wolf, I spent more on -- on foreign terrorism than domestic terrorism, but the percentage of my time that was devoted to domestic terrorism surprised me.
You know, we talk about the president's daily brief. I will tell you, when the director of the FBI would come in to brief the president, it was not unusual each week for him to have some sort of either domestic terrorism concern related to foreign overseas terrorists or these sort of environmental or animal rights radicals who would turn violent or destroy property.
Remember, last week, in Kansas, we had that horrible killing of the abortion clinic doctor in his church, Dr. Tillman. These sorts of things are not that unusual, unfortunately, and they do require tremendous resources of the FBI around the country.
BLITZER: Stand by. We're going to continue this. I want you to stand by.
I want our viewers to stand by.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, the breaking news we're following: a bloody shoot-out at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. A security guard is dead, and a lone gunman is wounded. The suspect is identified as an 88-year-old hate-spouting neo-Nazi who once served six years in prison for trying to kidnap members of the Federal Reserve Board here in Washington.