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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Anthrax Shipments; Terror Plot; Anthrax Shipments Possibly Sent to 17 States & D.C.; Boston Terror Cell; Baltimore Police Commish Addresses Crime Spike. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired June 3, 2015 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[16:00:09] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: A would-be terrorist in Boston in his own words wanted -- quote -- "to go after them, those boys in blue" -- unquote.
I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.
The national lead. The FBI says they have him on audiotape conspiring to kill cops, and that he planned to do it either yesterday or today, which is why police were watching Usaama Rahim 24/7, when they shot and killed him, all of that deadly encounter caught on camera.
Also in national, the Pentagon now admitting a big and potentially deadly blunder, much worse than initially disclosed, suspect shipments of anthrax FedExed to 17 states, the District of Columbia and three countries. Officials say there could be even more labs potentially exposed.
Also in national, it's supposed to be impenetrable, but he got into the White House with a knife after jumping the fence. And now we're seeing the huge cache of weapons he had in his car and it is a sight to behold.
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Some breaking news in our national lead, just minutes ago, David Wright, who police arrested yesterday, just appeared in court. Court documents say Wright was destroying evidence to help cover up a plot by Usaama Rahim to unleash terror in Boston yesterday or today, to potentially kill cops in Massachusetts and behead someone else in a different state.
Rahim had been under around-the-clock surveillance when agents of the U.S. Joint Terrorism Task Force decided they had to move in right then. Cameras captured the deadly confrontation. Police have now shown that tape to local Muslim and African-American community leaders, the police commissioner saying today, you see Rahim lurch at officers with that knife, though others who have seen the tape agree Rahim was advancing on the targets, but say the video is mostly inconclusive on the lurching, the vantage point simply too far away to tell much at all, including whether the suspect was even holding a knife.
Let's get right to CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown. She's live in Boston. Pamela, walk us through all this new information that we just got from
court documents, the investigators making it very clear they think there was multiple potential plots in play.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake.
So, what we're learning from reading through these documents, according to the FBI, is that the suspect who was killed yesterday, Usaama Rahim, had allegedly purchased three fighting knives. And the belief is that he was going to use those knives to carry out the attacks.
They believe, the officials believe that he was on the verge of trying to attack police officers and, before that, he allegedly met on a beach in Rhode Island with David Wright, who appeared in court today, and a third individual to discuss plans about beheading another person in a separate state.
BROWN (voice-over): New details today reveal that police were concerned about threats to kill law enforcement and government officials. Authorities arrested this man, David Wright, in connection to the case. He appeared in court this afternoon. Neighbors describe him as a cold and eerie person.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The months that we have been here, every time we would say hi, he just would look at you. He just would not say anything to you. It's just very eerie.
BROWN: Law enforcement officials said Wright associated with Usaama Rahim, who was killed yesterday in a confrontation with law enforcement. A late-night raid on a home in Rhode Island now connects a third person believed to be associated with Wright and Rahim. Officials say he has not been arrested.
Rahim had been monitored for over two years and believed to have been radicalized by ISIS. Believing he was an imminent threat, FBI put him under 24/7 surveillance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty-four/seven coverage typically means we are very, very concerned about this threat. We have to determine with immediacy whether it's real or whether it's not.
BROWN: A recent change in Rahim's behavior, which included social media threats against police, prompted FBI agents to confront him. Officials say, as officers and FBI agents approached Rahim, he suddenly turned around with a large black knife and lunged at the officers.
He was ordered to drop the weapon before officers opened fire, killing him.
WILLIAM EVANS, BOSTON POLICE COMMISSIONER: This guy required 24/7 surveillance. So we thought the threat was severe enough that we had to approach him. We never expected what happened. BROWN: The shooting was captured by surveillance video and observed
by witnesses. In an unprecedented move, the Boston police and FBI gathered community leaders to view a surveillance tape showing the shooting.
EVANS: We have made it clear we're going to release video. And I think that at least dispels some of the rumors, some of the tensions that might build.
BROWN: So, the charges facing David Wright, who just appeared in court, are conspiracy to destroy Rahim's smartphone, to impede an investigation. He faces five years in prison.
We know that, right now, as we speak, the FBI is investigating any other associates -- associates who may have been tied to this group -- Jake.
TAPPER: Pamela Brown live in Boston, thanks.
Let's bring in former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis to talk about this investigation.
Commissioner Davis, thanks so much for joining us. Good to see you again.
You have been working the phones, talking to your sources within the Boston Police Department. What more can you tell us about this case? Do you expect more arrests?
ED DAVIS, FORMER BOSTON POLICE COMMISSIONER: Well, this is clearly an ongoing investigation.
When you have 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week surveillance, coupled with what appears to be a Title III, or a wiretap, court-authorized over here, you clearly are looking at a whole bunch of people. Every one of the associates of these guys are going to be looked at very closely. I can't say whether or not there will be additional charges.
But this was clearly a very active plot. And the JTTF did precisely what they're charged with doing, in stopping an active terrorism plot from going forward.
TAPPER: These court documents just filed minutes ago show that Usaama Rahim revealed he planned to randomly kill police officers in Massachusetts either yesterday or today and that, in a recorded conversation, he said -- quote -- "I'm just going to go after them, those boys in blue" -- unquote.
How does that impact the decision to approach Usaama Rahim in the daylight when he's outside, as opposed to the evening, when he's confined inside, which is preferable, as police say, the decision to approach him then, or the mind-set of officers as they go to him? DAVIS: Right. I have been involved in these investigations where
there is information that you have to move on very quickly.
You don't have the benefit of being able to wait in some cases. It's all triggered by what you're hearing and how active and how this plot may unfold. So, in some cases, you have to move very quickly. I don't buy into the fact, though, that this was a bad place to approach him. I think that having him leave the house, where he couldn't barricade himself inside, and be able to move on him in an open area like that might be tactically a very appropriate place to approach a guy in this situation.
TAPPER: If they had this information, Commissioner, that he was about to either yesterday or today try to kill police officers, go and try to behead someone else, then why are police saying all they wanted to do was talk to him? Is that not enough to arrest him?
DAVIS: Well, they may have enough to charge him with an attempt to commit a crime. But the first step in a case like this would be to pull him in and have a conversation with him to see if he can incriminate himself or other people.
That's a standard first step, especially in an unfolding situation like this. So, it was -- it seemed to be totally appropriate the way that they were dealing with this, from being outside and looking at this away from the investigation.
TAPPER: Now, initially, we were told in a tweet by Usaama Rahim's brother that he -- that Usaama Rahim had been shot in the back. Police in Boston in an attempt to disprove that claim have shown the video to local community leaders, Muslim leaders, black leaders.
The individuals who saw the video say it's true he was not shot in the back, but they also say they did not see definitive evidence of a knife. Talk about the decision to show this video to the members of the community. We're told it's unprecedented.
DAVIS: Yes. I think it's a brilliant decision.
I think that it's really important for the sake of transparency in the time that we're living in right now to get as much information out to the public as you can. And to bring in these religious leaders from around the city and allow them to look at the video, it's the right thing to do. So Bill Evans, Vince Lisi from the FBI, they pulled together and they're making really good decisions on letting people know what's going on.
What we have to be careful of is, we can't expect that every single thing that happens when a police officer interacts with a citizen or with a suspect like this in a dangerous situation is going to be captured on videotape. We're lucky in this particular case. Apparently, there was a video that they can take a look at.
People will interpret that video differently. It needs to be enhanced. But professionals need to look at it to make sure that there was, in fact, a knife. Clearly, there's a knife on scene. And, clearly, the statements that were made by family members in the minutes and hours after this incident happening, he was shot in the back, he was on the cell phone, those things are clearly not the case.
So, the transparency puts the public in a position to judge who's telling the truth here. And I think that that's really the most critical thing. It's a brilliant move on the part of the prosecutors and the police in this case.
TAPPER: And also, theoretically, an argument in favor of body cameras, because, as many proponents say, they will help prove police claims to be correct on more than one occasion.
Former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.
DAVIS: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: Baltimore's police commissioner is set to speak in just minutes on the city's huge spike in murders over the past month. He's defending his police force. And we will bring that to you live coming up next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
In just minutes, we are expecting the Baltimore police commissioner to come out and address the crime spike in the city, but first some more breaking news.
Seventeen states, along with the District of Columbia, may have deadly doses of anthrax on their hands. Labs across this country may have received the shipments from the U.S. military, and we could learn of more anthrax out there as more tests come in.
[16:15:01] Let's get right to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
Barbara, the Pentagon saying there's no threat to the public. How can people not worry when the Pentagon still seems to be trying to figure out what even happened?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That is the problem, Jake. They don't know what happened. They don't know how widespread it is. They don't think there's a threat to the public.
But here's where we are, 400 lots of anthrax are being tested. These are large samples of the anthrax spores. Already, four of them have come back positive. They've been sent out across the country. Suspect shipments now in 51 labs in 17 states plus the District of Columbia and three other countries.
These smaller samples besides the four big lots, ten of the smaller samples also having come back positive. What it appears has been going on is the radiation procedure either was not followed or did not work for rendering this anthrax inactive.
Today, a short time ago, the deputy secretary of defense spoke to reporters and if you listen to him, you will hear the uncertainty.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB WORK, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: I have no reason to believe that there's any danger of this causing any type of an outbreak outside the laboratories. And I don't believe that we will have anybody infected. But we are waiting to find out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STARR: We are waiting to find out. This is the problem right now the Pentagon is facing. This was all in controlled laboratory circumstances. They don't think any of it out in the general public. But hundreds if not thousands of lab workers, those are the people who may have been exposed. That is what they are waiting to find out.
Already 32 people across the country and in South Korea on protective medical treatment. They think the numbers are going to grow even more -- Jake.
TAPPER: Barbara, thank you so much.
More on our national lead now, Boston police and the FBI stop a potentially deadly terrorist attack before it's carried out. The ongoing investigation into Usaama Rahim and his associates highlights a nightmare scenario for counterterrorism officials.
In the digital age, one can reach out and attend a virtual terrorist training camp from the confines of your couch, connect with an ISIS recruiter on Twitter and execute your marching orders without ever leaving the United States.
Let's get right to CNN's chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto.
Jim, on Capitol Hill today, alarm bells being sounded about this very issue. And let's be honest here, it can't be stopped.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No, it can't be stopped. But they're genuinely worried it's a growing problem. And you heard them today essentially pleading for help. They're concerned the potential terrorists are now using encrypted communication and they say they don't have a legal power to stop it. The chairman of the homeland security committee calling this, quote, "a tremendous threat to the homeland".
MICHAEL STEINBACH, ASST. DIR. OF THE FBI'S COUNTERTERRORISM DIVISION: Us going dark in certain instances, we are dark. SCIUTTO (voice-over): That is the warning from the man leading the
FBI's efforts to stop ISIS-inspired attacks here in the U.S. The new threat: encrypted communications offered more and more by Internet and phone providers to customers eager to protect their privacy, including potential terrorists.
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX), HOMELAND SECURITY CHAIRMAN: Do we have any idea how many communications are taking place in the dark space?
STEINBACH: No, we don't and that's the problem -- the ability to know what they're saying in these encrypted communication situations is troubling.
SCIUTTO: U.S. officials say contact on the web alone can be enough to recruit, train and activate terrorists on the homeland. The gunman killed in Garland, Texas, last month and the man shot by law enforcement in Boston Tuesday all believe to have been radicalized by ISIS, all highlighting the threat.
JOHN MULLIGAN, DEP. DIR., NATIONAL COUNTERTERRORISM CENTER: What they're telling them is here's some easily available -- readily available information online that you can exploit. In other words, they believe that they can provide them everything that they will need to undertake some kind of lone actor attack.
SCIUTTO: ISIS' tremendous social media prowess gives the group an unprecedented digital force multiplier -- 2,000 core ISIS supporters pushing the messages out, approximately 50,000 people retweeting the message and more than 200,000 then receiving the message and reading it.
MCCAUL: How many of those followers are actually in the United States, in your estimate?
STEINBACH: There's hundreds, maybe thousands. It's a challenge to get a full understanding of just how many of those passive followers are taking action.
SCIUTTO: The real challenge for law enforcement is distinguishing between lukewarm supporters and potential terrorists, and the FBI's counterterror chief says it is now taking no chances as in this Boston shooting. He said that when they see any hints of mobilization, they will move in.
The trouble is, how do you distinguish among? He says hundreds, perhaps thousands in the U.S., certainly not all of them are terrorists, but among them are some potential like we saw today.
[16:20:00] And it's hard to pick who they are.
TAPPER: All right. Well, you know, in Texas, in Garland, Texas, they didn't know he was there. In Boston, they apparently did, allegedly. So, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
Jim Sciutto, thank you so much.
TAPPER: Any minute, we're expecting Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts to come out and address the uptick in crime in Charm City, the increase in murders in Baltimore.
I want to bring in CNN's Miguel Marquez, who's been covering this story.
Miguel, what are we expecting Commissioner Batts to say?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think he's going to try to account for why they are seeing this increase in the number of homicides there, 43 in May, that's the most in 40 years, and 40 years ago, keep in mind, there were 300,000 more people living in Baltimore on a per capita basis. So, that May was the worst month ever.
This year, 119 dead across the city, that's up 40 percent. But you really see a break in the numbers from the time -- around the time of the riots and the Freddie Gray situation. Since then, things have gotten very bad. The Fraternal Order of Police, the police union there saying that police are not holding back or not slowing down but they said that they are questioning themselves and restraining themselves in their work.
The mayor himself saying -- talking to police officers there, that they are concerned about getting it right when they go in to make arrests.
So, we had one police officer tell us that there was a work slowdown. We've heard from other police officers since then saying that there is a police slowdown. But that's something that the police chief, the union and the government there has not agreed with.
But very, very high stakes for this police commissioner who will be on the job coming up three years this September. And he has a lot on his plate. The lawsuits were very high when he came in. Those have gone down, people suing the department, the issues of pay and staffing, many things that he has tried to change within the department.
He's also had a major change of upper level managers there. And I believe that he's about to start now --
TAPPER: Miguel, I'm going to interrupt. I'm going to interrupt.
Here he comes. Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts addressing the uptick in homicides in his city. Let's listen in.
ANTHONY BATTS, BALTIMORE POLICE COMMISSIONER: Good afternoon and thank you for coming.
I specifically wanted to thank my local and federal counterparts for being here today and for being a part of this collaboration against violence within the city of Baltimore. I'd like to introduce special agent in charge, Steve Vogt, of the
Federal Bureau of Investigation; assistant special agent in charge, Gary Tuggle, of the Drug Enforcement Administration; special agent in charge, George McMullan of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; supervisory deputy marshal, Kurt Vogen (ph) and deputy marshal David Lutz (ph) of the United States Marshal Service; section chief, Michael Hamlin (ph), of the United States attorney general's office; Major Sabrina Tapp- Harper of the Baltimore City sheriff's office, and also Major Jerome Howard of the Maryland transportation. And those who are on their way stand in support, Maryland state police and Baltimore school police.
We understand fully the concern over the recent violence and level of violence for our community and for all our law enforcement personnel and officers. Nothing is more important than the sanctity of human life within this city.
Mere numbers miss the point. We're talking about people. These are not numbers. These are human beings that have lost their lives in the streets of Baltimore.
We are aggressive in our crime fight using all the resources that are available to us. This is all hands on deck. All hands, every single resource, every single body, every single personnel on the streets of Baltimore.
I want to share with you what my department has been doing over the last several weeks along with our federal partners. All too often it is easy to focus on the negative. And not give credit to the hardworking officers who are working and taking the violent offenders off the streets of Baltimore.
Two days ago, we made an arrest in the murder of Mr. Bennett (ph) who was killed this past Friday on Belvedere Avenue.
[16:25:01] Today, with the hard work of our detectives, the community and our warrant apprehension task force, we obtained a warrant for the body of Kevin Pyatt who was apprehended for the Memorial Day weekend double shooting, at the 2900 block of Runhaum (ph). I hope I'm pronouncing that correctly. Thank you.
Pyatt has shot a 27-year-old in the head and a 9-year-old child. A child who was playing in front of his home on Memorial Day. A baby playing basketball in our neighborhoods. One less criminal off the streets.
And partnering with the community, we have taken one more violent criminal and trying to take him and bring him to justice. We have strong leads in a number of cases. As my detectives meticulously investigate these crimes, we will see offenders brought to justice. We're very serious about this.
Dozens of handguns has been taken off the streets of Baltimore over the past few weeks. We have a number of residential search warrants pending to be served. Our detectives who are investigating many of the burglaries and destruction of property have a focus and are working with the Baltimore city school police. Our detectives have made ten arrests on identified offenders and have 11 more open warrants for additional charges.
This is a lengthy but focused process. We remain committed to thoroughly investigating each and every one of these incidents with the assistance of the community and our partnering agencies.
Unfortunately, we talked about 17 pharmacies being broken into and looted. That number has risen to 27 pharmacies now that we recorded broken in and looted with two additional methadone clinics.
The concern there, there's enough narcotics on the streets of Baltimore to keep it intoxicated for a year. That amount of drugs has thrown off the balance on the streets of Baltimore. We're seeing the repercussions of these crimes throughout the community. Individuals are getting high to a greater degree and at a greater pace than any time before. Criminals are selling those stolen drugs. There are turf wars happening which are leading to violence and shootings in our city.
We have established a task force with our federal counterparts to bring state and federal charges against individuals that committed crimes, harmed our officers and broke and looted our businesses in our city. 14 arrest warrants were served as part of a special initiative last week to include our warrant apprehension team, U.S. marshals and the Maryland state police as well as the sheriffs.
The warrant apprehension task force as a whole has arrested 83 individuals we had opened warranted within the last week. I am submitting a request to ask for more federal prosecutors and more federal agents to move to the city of Baltimore to assist us in this battle against the violence. I have also and will ask the U.S. attorney to look at filing one felony federal gun charges in more of those cases, meaning that you only have to have one felony and then we're going to prosecute you on a federal level.
We remain focused on the crime fight. Collectively, we will return this city back to normalcy. Collectively, we're here to share that we're serious about this fight and will bring people to justice.
Are there any questions that we can answer?
REPORTER: Commissioner Batts, will you describe what's happening with the 27 pharmacies that have been hit as what we're seeing now -- is that more of a drug war -- would you describe it as that?
BATTS: I'm going to ask Gary Tuggle of --
TAPPER: That's Police Commissioner Anthony Batts of Baltimore just touting the arrests and evidence he says his department is doing their job amid a crime spike in Baltimore, the most murders since 1972.
Let me bring in former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, as well as CNN's Miguel Marquez to react to the press conference. Commissioner Davis, it's a difficult job to do to insist that your officers are doing their jobs when there is anecdotal evidence that there is reluctance and confusion among the force.
How do you think the commissioner did?
ED DAVIS, FORMER BOSTON POLICE COMMISSIONER: Well, he did a great job in outlining some victories, some arrests that had been made. He's talking about reaching out with all the federal agencies that were behind him there, to try to get the city under control. But he's facing a bleak circumstance right now.