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tv   All In With Chris Hayes  MSNBC  April 24, 2013 12:00am-1:00am PDT

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people like tom foley of spokane won in 1974 when a door opened on change when suddenly the old rules didn't apply and anything was possible. joe biden is another example. he won in '72 the year the democratic presidential candidate george mcgovern was slaughtered by nixon but joe biden won and served in the senate for 36 years. let's hear it for the long shots for the people who have the guts to run when everyone says it's hopeless because as we can see in that race down in south carolina, it isn't. and that's "hardball" for now. thanks for being with us. good evening from new york. i'm chris hayes and thank you for joining us tonight. since the moment we found out the boston marathon had been bombed, the biggest universal unanswered question surrounding the attack has been, why? that's the thing we all want to
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know. it's the question everyone is asking each other over beers and in offices. and it's, in the first hours and days after the attack speculation about motive and intent was all over the place. while credible information was actually nowhere to be found. but that is slowly starting to change. now today we are finally getting bona fide reporting, nuggets of information which we have not had until now upon which to piece together the answer to that central question that has been bothering all of us, the question of why. nbc news is able to report tonight that dzhokhar tsarnaev has told investigators he and his brother acted alone, they learned to build pressure cooker bombs over the internet, and were motivated by a desire to defend islam because of the wars in iraq and afghanistan. now, that early reporting may prove to be wrong. it may prove that the suspect retracts those statements later or maybe he's lying or he might be confused.
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but there is a small but significant cornerstone to build from that was not there before. we have left the realm of pure, complete speculation inside which would be frankly irresponsible to address questions of motives in the first place. in the case of dzhokhar tsarnaev even as we learn more about him and his life leading up to the bombing and what he is telling investigators, the question of why is intensely mysterious. if you spend some time on his twitter page as i did on the day it was first reported that he was a suspect, you'll find a teenager who mostly seems interested in stuff like weed, hip hop, girls, cars. it does not read like the twitter feed of someone who has completely devoted their life to a radical, violent cause but the twitter feed of a 19-year-old stoner. it reads like the twitter feed of a guy who transfers to a college because the parties are better there. even accounts from his friends who saw the surveillance photos released by the fbi thought you know that kind of looks like dzhokhar but somehow it was not him. it couldn't be dzhokhar, later
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telling "the boston globe" quote we made a joke like that could be dzhokhar but then we thought it just couldn't be him. dzhokhar? never. now, that profile emerging around the second suspect, the older brother tamerlan tsarnaev seems much less confounding in that it conforms more squarely to radicalization. we know from accounts of people who knew him that he had in fact become more religious in recent months and years. "the wall street journal" reported that he gave up boxing which he trained at for years as well as drinking and smoking as he dug into religion. his uncle said he ended his relationship with tamerlan in 2009 because of the quote radical crap" tamerlan had begun to espouse. he was steered toward a strict strain of islam in recent years and he began opposing the wars in afghanistan and iraq which is i should note here not radical in and of itself but that he also turned to websites and literature claiming that the cia
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was behind the terrorist attacks of september 11, 2001, that jews controlled the world. there are two very specific accounts of tamerlan's recent behavior that are both fascinating and important in trying to understand how he might have become the kind of violent extremist he is accused of having been when he died after a shootout with authorities late last week. the first is recounted in "the wall street journal" this week. quote, in one incident late november tamerlan confronted a shop keeper in a middle eastern grocery store in cambridge near a mosque where he sometimes prayed after seeing a sign advertising thanksgiving turkeys. brother why did you put up the sign the shopkeeper recalled him asking angrily. it's not right. a story of another run in. quote on january 18th, 2013 one of our preachers noted that dr. martin luther king jr. was a great person remembered in history. the older suspect stood up, shouted, and called him a nonbeliever, said he was contaminating people's minds,
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and began calling him a hypocrite. people of the congregation in turn shouted back to the older suspect, leave now. due to the congregation's disapproval he left the sermon. these accounts are so important in our collective attempt to answer the why question because they are these tiny little windows into the fascinating and awful psychological process that i think so many people are just trying to understand. the process of going from a person who sees the world through the framework the majority of us share no matter our politics to a view of person who views the world in such a strange and dire way he could possibly place bombs next to crowds and bystanders. how did the process happen in the case of tamerlan tsarnaev? it appears to be completely counter to the way we think or at least i have thought about radicalization and extremism. we typically understand the model of people getting sucked up by something larger than themselves and becoming joiners, having their individual self submerged under some larger community. from what we know here and have
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seen here that was not quite exactly the case. tamerlan tsarnaev was not even part of his local mosque or particularly connected with the local muslim community at all. the islamic society of boston took pains to report that neither brother was a member or even a regular attendee of the cambridge mosque. based on what we're learning about his life leading up to the bombing tamerlan tsarnaev does not seem to have been taken in by an extremist movement. these anecdotes we do have of his interactions with the muslim community in fact tell the opposite story and paint a portrait of profound alienation from the muslim community. of an extrication from anything larger. we have a mental category for people who commit violence inspired by an extremist version of islam and that is the category of terrorist. we also have another mental category for a pair of disturbed, self-radicalizing young men who create a private world that justifies the most horrific of acts, disturbed sociopaths. as the picture of the brothers' motivation slowly comes into
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focus it is hard not to wonder if we are seeing something more like columbine than jihad. the reason that matters a lot is because everything about the politics and legal ramifications of what is about to happen will depend on which category we assign this crime. joining me at the table maya berry executive director of the arab american institute and ken ballin former federal prosecutor, president and founder of the research group terror free tomorrow. ken, you wrote a book in which you went about the process of interviewing people who had been drawn into a very, very extremist version of islam. what do you learn in those interviews that surprised you that we may not be thinking of as we think about what looks like this mysterious psychological process? >> what surprised me is how, quote, normal and every day the young men, and they are young men. let's remember this. they are between the ages of 16 and 30. that's the vulnerable group. they're normal, they're leading every day lives, and they joint
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ostensibly, chris, for political or religious reasons. but if you dig beneath the surface into their psychological makeup, if you really understand what's going on with them, you'll discover some kind of break in their personal lives, something going wrong -- a failed love affair, a family conflict, an alienation as we see in this case, and that leads them to join this movement. so whether they self-radicalize over the internet or they're a part of a collective group, they end up joining because of some kind of personal issue that -- the religious or political reasons for that are more the dressing, the arab garment and not the propelling motive. >> so when you scratch the surface is there this massive distance between what we think of as jihad and extremism in that sense and something like columbine or something like one of the other disturbed lone shooters that we see where we don't start to ask, i think we don't go down the same road of what got to them? there is some kind of darkness there we're willing to kind of accept and walk away from.
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>> right. i don't think there is much difference actually. i think the difference is in the community or the values there they may be espousing but oftentimes these young men are motivated by a sense of alienation and personal crisis that is so deep inside them that they grab hold of something. >> the moment in the mosque around martin luther king was such a fascinating within in terms of this intramuslim moment, i mean, and a moment in a mosque in which someone is really being disruptive and kind of, you know, i've had to deal with not an extremist in that setting but sometimes you'll get someone at an event that stands up and starts yelling about 9/11 being an inside job and there is this kind of awkwardness that sets over the room. i was wondering what your reaction was reading that account. i found it very gripping. >> i think any time someone is offended by the words of dr. martin luther king you get sort of an insight into where their perspective is. i think it is very telling that the community was shocked.
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they talked about it that evening turning around and saying what is he complaining about? it simply didn't make sense. for me, to commit an act of violence like this you have to have a complete disregard for humanity. within that is a certain level of hatred whether as you talk about this level of alienation maybe even for one's self, we can start to have this conversation in a totally different direction, but for them to engage in this kind of act, for them to feel this way -- speculation as we know -- the moment with dr. king, complaining about the thanksgiving turkey, the idea there is speculation he complained his siblings were too americanized -- all of this is the kind of thing that is very alien for a lot of folks. >> very interesting reporting today about a friend of tamerlan who seems to have been in some ways part of the cause or the trigger of the radicalization who himself was a convert. i read a variety of accounts of people converting and there is
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of course a cliche' about the zeal of the convert and how often has that come about? >> less often i think -- i don't think that is the typical -- you know what is so interesting, too, about folks who engage in this is they believe they're doing the right thing, they believe they're doing good and they become so convinced they are serving god and this cause that they don't see their acts as evil. they don't see themselves as being socio paths or not caring about other people because for many people these are acts of good that they're doing on earth. that's an important framework to remember. >> well, i think the reason this is really important is because people were hearing this right and i think actually the reporting on this has been pretty good so far and people's reaction in terms of -- duval patrick has been very clear and barack obama has been very clear about we're not going to say all boxers might go on to become -- right? that there is a distinction here between what these two people are alleged to have done and the fate they have. but i think the point there when you say they start out as normal people gives me this kind of almost awful feeling like you
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never know who is around the corner. what you're saying is it is more a psychological story than a sociological one. right? there is something happening internal and that framework which is a framework we use when we apply it to all kinds of other events that happen might also be applicable here. >> we haven't used it with regards to acts of terror committed by someone who professes to be muslim. i think that's the important part of this. whether it's a convert, whether we talk about this spectrum of radicalization, being a muslim doesn't make you more likely to commit an act of terror. that is simply false. as we look at these indications we have to be careful about the way we frame this. frankly that is why this is such an important conversation to try to understand this in a deeper way than resorting to the kinds of language that often comes after attacks like this. >> all right. if you spent the last few days watching fox news and reading conservative media you've heard an entirely different story about why the boston marathon bombings happened. i'll give you the cliff notes version, up next.
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you may have noticed we like to feature our favorite tweets in that spot in the show each night because of the live twitter conversation using the hash tag ners is a lot of fun to watch the show with. if you are not following along you're missing half the fun. check it out and make sure you follow all in with chris. be right back.
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terrific work by the fbi and the police especially in the past five days of last week. that being said, based on what we're learning right now, did they drop the ball? >> the ball was dropped in one of two ways. the fbi missed a lot of things as one potential answer or our laws do not allow the fbi to follow up in a sound, solid way. >> did the fbi fail? i would say they probably -- something slipped through the cracks for them. >> the fbi dropped the ball here, no question about it.
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>> they dropped the ball here. there is no doubt about it. >> if he was on the radar and they let him go, he's on the russians' radar. why wasn't a flag put him on mim? >> this is the fifth case i'm aware of where the fbi has failed to stop someone who ultimately became a terrorist murderer. >> all right. the right wing media and sometimes the not right wing media. the story right now today is that the fbi dropped the ball. and the reason for the allegations of ball dropping are that we now know the fbi questioned tamerlan tsarnaev in 2011 after russian authorities warned the u.s. they thought he may have connections to radical islam. after a thorough investigation the fbi found no evidence tamerlan was connected to any domestic or foreign terrorism activity and cleared him. this idea that because tamerlan was cleared the fbi has somehow been negligent gets to the heart of the matter we've been discussing which is where does the line between an extremist belief system and criminality get drawn by the state? the fbi interviewed tamerlan and found out he wasn't engaged in any violence or plotting any,
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wasn't doing anything illegal. what exactly do we want the government to do in that situation? right now forces are aligning to construct a story about how the fbi didn't surveil enough and our pesky laws got in the way of catching the terrorists and those stories will call for new laws. we need to be very clear what we want from law enforcement and what we want them to do when confronted with a situation like what they apparently confronted with the older tsarnaev brother. let's bring in carol rose executive director of the aclu of massachusetts. carol, i want your response to this story that is emerging that this was the fbi dropping the ball. >> right. i mean, first we don't have all the information about exactly what happened. so we're all speaking from news reports and not from actual knowledge. >> do it every night. >> with that noted, you have to wonder, i'm sure congress will try to find out, what happened? the fbi clearly wasn't lacking the authority.
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they had the authority presumably to interview this guy but they apparently didn't have the ability or willing necessary or whatever to do the followup. one has to go back to the question about some of these theories that are now discredited about radicalization. is it possible that this guy didn't fit the profile that they were looking for under some of these discredited fbi theories of his radicalization. >> wait. this is a tentative criticism of the fbi from the other side which is that it's possible that they were too bound by some preconception of who would be a possible jihadi that they were not able to see something in front of them. >> right. i mean, we don't know. >> right. >> i'm concerned about speculating but one wonders. maybe they're thinking if these guys are chechen they hate the russians not us. this goes back to why we need to be careful not to asuper the series of radicalization is going to somehow lead us to the bad guys. it is important law enforcement focus on people's actions and
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use traditional policing not somehow giving them more surveillance or more authority. the fbi had the authority to interview this guy. they had the authority to interview him before he went overseas. presumably they had the authority to interview him when he got back and failed to do so. >> here is the question for you, ken. carol just said the word police work. traditional police work the idea is the crime happens and you figure out who did it right? this whole framework changed after 9/11 and i don't think bizarrely so. people wanted to make sure we prevented the next attack. >> right. >> and prevention meant something that looked a lot moore like intelligence than solving a crime after the fact. so there is some group of people, jihadi websites, chat boards that you sometimes will read translations of, people that follow this world. the question is, how much is it an indicator of someone's involvement in that stage on posting to chat boards to actually becoming someone who would do something like plant a bomb among a crowd of people? >> the problem is there is no
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predicted path. many people will go on the chat boards or explore jihadist websites. suppose i'm interested in them just to see what they're thinking. does that mean i'm going to engage in violent actions? suppose i'm part of a community of muslims and i'm interested in seeing what these people were thinking in order to refute it. i don't think it tells you a lot. for a lot of young men it may just be a way of acting out or experimenting and there is no predictive path between looking at propaganda online and becoming a violent extremist. you just can't draw a straight line. >> i think ken's right about that, chris. i also think we have to be really mindful if we decide we want our police to start spending a lot of time tracking down people based on websites they visit for example we'll be targeting a lot of innocent people arguably alienating a lot of people and in the meantime missing the people who may actually have bad intent. so i think that's a real bad direction to go.
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>> let me play the skeptical, the conservative here. before we all sort are sitting in a hot tub consensus. there's some degree to which you do want -- i mean if someone is going through a process in which they are increasingly alining themselves with -- there is a question of alining themselves with a belief system right? but then there is also a question of any operational ties or are they having actual communication with people? i mean, there is some level at which i feel like we want to know what's going on in that process or is it that we can't really do anything until the, you know, we nab them maybe buying the gun powder? >> the thing is we do want to know. absolutely. you said the key word. operational. when they start meeting other people, when they start perhaps traveling to russia and allegedly tamerlan went to a mosque where a very radical cleric was preaching. when there's operational information it seems to me at that point the authorities need to investigate. simply looking at the internet or reading material --
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>> hosting these -- >> i think you're in a very -- the fbi is going to be spending as carol said a lot of time looking at people's mail if you will and not finding out what they're actually doing. >> i think this is where we get into murky water in terms of talking about a radical imam giving speeches. we're talking about committing acts of violence and targeting innocent people. that's where the conversation needs to be about. at what point does a youtube video become a decision for someone to actually engage in acts of terror? that is where i think the conversation can focus. i have to say in terms of the conversation we just had about speculating you can speculate on television. i can speculate as a private citizen. what i don't want to see are policy makers. >> that's right. >> who examine what happens in boston and turn this into speculating and the actual policy impact of what we can see now. >> we have lindsay graham who is already talking about, you know, the fact that he had ties to, quote, islamic thought should be enough. we have peter king, republican
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from new york who is urging greater surveillance of muslim communities saying we need to get rid of all this political correctness. >> a surveillance program that everybody can admit who is reasonable and looked at the data has produced nothing and actually alienated our community which could make it more problematic to do proper law enforcement. i think mayra is right. a huge number of tips have come in that prevented crimes and other facts and in this case there was a tip from the russian government in the underwear bombing case there was a tip from the family. in 9/11 there were tips. >> right. >> because the fbi was so busy gathering so much information they were unable to actually analyze it and respond to the real world tips that were coming that might in fact have helped it prevent some of these attacks. >> the signal noise problem is the big practical one. >> that's right. >> my guests, that was a great conversation. thank you. people always ask, what is wrong with washington? and today we found out one of the biggest problems in washington will leave washington at the end of this term. we'll bid him adieu, coming up.
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a bad day in washington today. the reason they had a bad day today was because today it was reported that max baucus would not be seeking re-election to a seventh term as united states senator from montana. the reason this is bad for those people who are working for k street lobbying firm is because with this news they are suddenly
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far less valuable lobbyists. if you think this is just me casting aspersions this was studied and it showed that lobbyists with experience in the office of a u.s. senator suffer a 24% drop in generated revenue when that senator leaves office. baucus land is influence that stretches west from capitol hill where baucus has served for nearly four decades, the first four as a congressman, the past 34 years as senator, out into the vast hill side of lobbying and influence peddling that is washington, d.c. in fact, in such a -- it is such a legendary nation, baucus land the "new york times" saw fit to write an entire article about the universe of people who moved from senator baucus' office to k street. at least 2 aides since 2001 have lobbied on tax issues during the obama administration more than any other current member of purpose. the reason is twofold. one is that senator baucus is
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the chair of the finance committee, arguably the most powerful committee in the senate. the finance committee, quote, helps dictate how the government raises almost all of its money and spends nearly half of it. the other quality that makes max baucus such a ripe target for lobbying and people with an in to him so valuable is he is not an idealogue. say what you want he is in the center kind of. there is a tool political scientists use to score where lawmakers land on the left/right spectrum. with senators ranked in the 112 itth congress with number one being most liberal baucus landed at 45. only a handful of democrats ranked more conservative. here is max baucus occupying the lonelily and quickly evaporating center of american politics we all pine for, the center we all lament the vanishing of. the problem we all say in washington is we have these extremes, the left and the right, and they can't get together. here is max baucus in the center. it turns out that max baucus occupying that center and max
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baucus being an incredibly lucrative person to have previously worked for have a little bit of a connection because with max baucus in the center you don't know which way he is going to go and that means max baucus might be persuadable on any number of pet projects that clients of these lobbyists want to persuade him on. here are the items that bear noting. the items baucus was persuadable on. cowriting the bush tax cuts and unfunded medicare prescription drug plan, protected big pharma profits, a 2009 bill that would have prevented foreclosures, extending the gang of six health care negotiations which helped opponents gather momentum not to mention his opposition to the public option and more recently according to "new york times" the fiscal cliff decisions like tax deferments that happened to benefit staffers in the billions of dollars. i like some of max baucus's defend earns they will say to liberal critics like me we don't understand. that the man is from montana, a
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conservative state, and he wouldn't have lasted very long in washington voting or sounding like say elizabeth warren. here's what is so notable about so many of the items in max baucus's record that are objectionable. when you scratch the surface they don't seem to have a lot to do with public opinion either in montana or anywhere else. i doubt there was a ground swell of support for the fiscal cliff deal or raising the payroll tax for that matter or permanently repealing the estate tax or disallowing the government from using purchasing power to negotiate lower drug prices with big pharma. no. the way to understand max baucus in the center isn't in terms of where the median voter is or the peak in the bell curve distribution of americans' political views because the center in american politics is much less often the place of sensible moderation and much more often the name we give to the place where power resides. we'll be right back with click three.
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it's been six days since the
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fertilizer plant explosion in west, texas killed 14 people and injured 200. today the first lawsuit was filed accusing the plant owner of negligence. that's coming up. but first i want to share the three awesomeest things on the internet today beginning with a remarkable snap shot from earlier this afternoon. this happened to the stock market today something called a flat crash. a journalist tweeted out that picture noting the reason why. market reacts to errant tweet. here is that tweet. from the associated press. breaking, two explosions in the white house and barack obama is injured. became clear rath quickly on twitter the news was not true and the a.p. account had been compromised. that tweet was enough to set wall street off into a brief panic. the account was suspended in a few moments and the market bounced back of course. the fake tweet paved the way for excellent snark like this, new york post reporting 12 barack obamas killed. the second awesomeest thing on the internet today swarms of
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people taking to various social media platforms demanding justice for a.j. clemente. including steve brown. mr. clemente is the local news anchor who began his new job by swearing on live television. in case you missed it here is a recap. >> news leader in high definition. >> [ bleep ]. >> good evening. you may have seen our newest reporter a.j. clemente -- he'll be joining the weekend news team as my co-anchor. tell us a little bit about yourself, a.j. >> a.j. did not have much time to tell us about himself because he was fired not long after that broadcast. you have to have sympathy for this guy. live tv is daunting enough let alone your very first day anchoring. people all across the country feel the same way because now there is an i support a.j. facebook page, a free a.j. hash tag on twitter. mr. clemente's new fans are taking to the facebook page of his old station kfyr in bismarck, north dakota demanding give a.j. another chance.
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even posting the local weather among fierce cries for justice. i want a.j. to tell me what the weather is going to be like in north dakota. don't we all sir? and the third awesomeest thing on the internet today the youtube page of paul kevin curtis seen here covering everything from elvis to kid rock to prince. here is a sample which if you ignore the slightly awkward setting show a damn fine set of pipes. ♪ >> now today he rings a bell because last week he was the guy accused of sending ricin-laced letters to president obama and senator wicker. well, today prosecutors dropped charges against mr. curtis. he spoke to reporters earlier about his terrifying ordeal offering a sound bite just as awesome as the prince performance. >> when you've been charged with something you just never heard of ricin or whatever, i thought they said rice so i said i don't
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even eat rice. >> you can find all the links for tonight's click three on our website. all in with we'll be right back. people join angie's list for all kinds of reasons. i go to angie's list to gauge whether or not the projects will be done in a timely fashion and within budget. angie's list members can tell you which provider is the best in town. you'll find reviews on everything from home repair to healthcare. now that we're expecting, i like the fact that i can go onto angie's list and look for pediatricians. the service providers that i've found on angie's list actually have blown me away. join today and find out
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why over 1 million members count on angie's list. angie's list -- reviews you can trust.
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but first you've got to get him to say, "hello." new crest 3d white arctic fresh toothpaste. use it with these 3d white products, and whiten your teeth in just 2 days. new crest 3d white toothpaste. life opens up when you do. host of new developments and the story out of west, texas. 2800 people attempt to pick up the pieces after one of the worst industrial accidents in recent memory. here's what we now know about the explosion of the west fertilizer company last
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wednesday. the atf announced the blast left a massive crater 93 feet wide and ten feet deep. to give you a better sense of the destruction here is a satellite picture of the plant and surroundings before the explosion and hears the same area after the explosion. veritable war zone. the destruction from the blast spread over 37 square blocks in west, texas equivalent to wiping out a quarter of new york's central park. according to waco tribute the explosion killed 15 people including ten firefighters most of whom were volunteers and two emergency responders. three others who died are believed to be people who lived nearby. six days after the blast we have the names of those who were killed. 41-year-old morris bridges, 37-year-old perry calvin. 26-year-old jerry chapman. 50-year-old cody dragoo. 52-year-old kenneth harris. 65-year-old judith monroe. 29-year-old cyrus reed. 57-year-old mariano saldivar. 33-year-old kevin sanders. 48-year-old robert snokhous and
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his 50-year-old brother doug. the explosion caused varying degrees of damage to 350 homes. those closest to the plant are not allowed back into their homes. some of the families living further away are venturing back to assess the damage and to gather more of their belonging. they don't know when they'll be able to return for good because many homes are still without gas and power and parts of the city's water infrastructure were ripped apart. >> the water situation, if you live on the south side of town, the water you have, you can wash your clothes and hands, shower, just do not consume the water. >> the state fire marshal is leading the investigation into the cause of the fire that triggered the explosion. there are a number of other state and federal agencies at the explosion site including the epa and texas commission on environmental quality. last week we told you the last time osha regulators performed a full safety inspection at the west fertilizer company was nearly 28 years ago. last night we told you the plant
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had more than 1300 times the legally allowed amount of the highly explosive ammonium nitrate but hadn't told the department of homeland security of the danger. this week the dallas morning news in an article with the headline west fertilizer company environmental compliance problems go back decades is reporting that 1984 the company moved two large pressurized tanks of liquid anhydrous ammonia a potentially lethal poison from a site in nearby hill county to the current location in west without notifying state authorities. it was seven years later for texas regulators to even take notice. in an interview with the associated press yesterday governor perry dismissed the notion that the west, texas explosion could have been prevented if regulators and inspectors had done their jobs better saying quote people through elected officials clearly send the message of their comfort with the amount of oversight. today we learned that the first two of what is expected to be many lawsuits pertaining to the west, texas explosion, the first suit was filed on behalf of four
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insurance carriers insuring 17 west businesses and property owners who sustained damage. the second lawsuit comes from andrea gutierrez who is the first west resident to file a civil lawsuit against the owners of the west fertilizer company. as reported on her website her lawyer told us they decided to go ahead and file the suit because it has been almost a week since the explosion and the company has yet to acknowledge any responsibility. joining me from west, texas is crystal anthony. she lives in west, is an elected official on the school board. her home was in the blast. joining me at the table my two guests. i want to begin with you, can you tell me what happened on the night of the explosion? >> well, actually my daughter was outside playing basketball and she seen smoke and ran in the house and she said, mom, something is on fire so we ran out and i thought it was the
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school that was on fire. i just jumped in my vehicle and drove up as close as i could get which was near the apartment complex and the nursing home. we were standing and we got out and i seen where the fire was and we took a picture and was just standing there and still trying to get ahold of some of our school officials because we thought it was the school instead of the plant. >> did you know about -- please continue. sorry. >> and then after that we may have been there maybe five minutes. the explosion happened and it blew us back and all i could do was just try to cover my daughter and make sure all of the debris and everything wasn't hitting her. after that we just went into search and rescue and helping people get out of the nursing home and the apartment complex and so help could get there. >> so you were there pulling people, helping people get out of the nursing home that was just adjacent to the plant. >> yes, sir.
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well, there wasn't adjacent. it was across the street. we were about a hundred feet away from the explosion. >> did you know that the plant was there and did you have a sense that the plant had anything dangerous within it? >> i mean, the plant has been there for as long as before i was born. so we never really felt it was anything of danger or anything because we used to run through that area for track practice sometimes just to get up our endurance and everything. we never felt it was a danger or anything. >> could you tell me the mood there? the aftermath of something this awful and destructive my sense is you've not been back in your home. people are trying to pick up the pieces. what is the overwhelming feeling there of the aftermath and are people angry, just grieving? how are people feeling?
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>> it's kind of all over the place. even for myself this morning it was very hard for me. i woke up in tears. but you pick up the pieces and you try to be strong for your children and strong for your community and your neighbor next to you. all we do ask is like the utility companies bear with us and help us. verizon, wireless didn't really help me any but we have some companies if they could just, you know, bear with us and understand that, hey, we're going through this tragedy just give us a little comfort until we can make it all right. we are a strong community. >> chris here was just down in west and you talked to a bunch of people. what did you see in terms of search and rescue and the investigation? it seems the blast happened and then there was kind of silence.
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we didn't even have the names of the dead. has progress been made in figuring out what happened, what went wrong and how these folks are going to get restitution and get back on their feet? >> i think it is still a pretty slow process as far as the actual investigation. most of the blast site is closed off to all members of the public, the media, residents. so you're not really able to get back there to see those images you snau the beginning. one thing that struck me in west, very similar to what crystal was saying, is i didn't -- i sort of expected a little more sense of anger from people in town maybe directed at the owners of the plant. i didn't get that from anyone i talked to. everyone was very sad. they felt bad for the owners and felt there was no way they wanted this to happen and, you know, this was very much a community picture in a lot of ways. this fertilizer plant. >> crystal, you are nodding your head in agreement.
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>> that is so true. my heart goes out to the owners of the plant. we went to school with their children. i fortune they're hurting just like we are and i just feel for them in our community and we're just going to pick up the pieces and make it stronger the best we can. >> thank you so much for joining me tonight. good luck in getting back on your feet. i really appreciate it. we'll be right back.
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we just had a resident from west, texas on who was very sympathetic to the owners of the factory. you said down there you were surprised there wasn't anger
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being there, how could they do this. you wrote this piece right in the aftermath in the texas monthly sort of predicting that reaction. >> yeah. and got a lot of pushback for that, too. this is not really attractive on the part of our national friends but as crystal said it's a tight knit community, a strong community. we saw that in the aftermath of the blaze, the explosion people rushing to help, volunteer firefighters, everyone working to pull people out of the rubble. it is i think a pretty common reaction in previous disasters in texas and outside texas. i was struck by that in covering the deep water horizon a couple years ago. that was not a small company or based in the town but even there people had this kind of almost protective attitude of let's not rush to judge. let's figure out what happened first and clean up the mess and fix this first. take care of the wounded and what needs to be taken care of and then mete out the blame you wrote this piece on the texas monthly website about the reaction to the largest industrial disaster in american
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history which is by now i think famous the april 16th, 1947 explosion of ammonium nitrate, the cover of the "new york times" the next day. it would rise to about 600 dead. that is the initial estimates there. you said in the aftermath the target to the anger of that industrial disaster was not private enterprise but the government. >> yeah. a similar story and then after that happens you start figuring out how to rebuild. in this case what happened was one of the parts of the catastrophe was there was a chemical plant in the area that caught on fire and when monsanto announced they were going to rebuild that was taken by the people in the city as a sign of new life that our livelihood is back, our city is back. >> so we've been talking all week in the last week and a half and talked about it in the week of newtown and boston. how does the society respond to
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tragedy, violence, death, think through the causes and preventing them. is this shaking texas politics right now? is this -- you covered the texas legislature. you were down in west, texas. is this the thing everyone is talking about, the hundreds of fertilizer facilities across the state are secured and properly protected? it should be a national issue not a texas one. it is not the biggest industry in the state. if it were it would probably be more aggressively regulated. we've seen texas do that on a lot of industries including oil. state agencies fall down on the job a bit and we'll have plenty to blame them for i'm sure in the weeks to come but also half a dozen federal agencies that had warning signs about this particular retail facility and didn't enforce the laws they already had. >> or allowed an emergency management plan with no sprinklers. there are a lot of details.
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when you start sifting through the trail it just does not look like it was a particularly tightly managed, regulated enterprise. >> certainly yeah. you kind of have to wonder how many others there are like this across the country. i think regulation tends to focus on really big targets. factories, refineries. i think, you know, fertilizer plants like this you had a lot of regulators. you had more than seven. at least seven regulators that were looking at this but all looking at discreet bits of the problem. no one was holistically assessing what is the safety in this plant? could something go wrong? >> you have the environmental quality of texas, the epa which is also looking into it, osha of course hadn't been there in over 20 years as we've reported on this program. you also have the texas state chemist who is the most recent inspector and those records are held at texas a&m. the dallas morning news is
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trying to get the records and texas a&m is fighting them saying it is a national security threat because of the fertilizer stored there. i do wonder if rick perry, if there are going to be political repercussions there. are we going to see -- is the processing of something like this in texas such that people are going to chalk it up or politicians chalk it up to a horrible accident that happened or are we going to see things play out in the way the political system deals with that? >> i think we'll see, depending not just on what happened but what is going to happen next. one thing in the past year or so has been growth in the fertilizer industry because of cheap natural gas. that could affect not just how much we produce in the united states but where, gas producing activity sites or whether it is where they've been historically in rural areas. >> we'll dive deep tomorrow into the kind of amazing hidden story of this battle over regulating fertilizer that happened in the mid 2000s. christine todd whitman on one side and the fertilizer industry on the other side.