ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
April 23, 2013
Guests: Ken Ballen, Maya Berry, Carol Rose
CHRIS HAYES, HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes, and
thank you for joining us tonight.
All right. 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 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
who is now listed in fair condition at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical
Center, has told investigators that 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
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. 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, 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, ideological cause. It reads like
a 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, and
somehow it`s not him. It couldn`t be Dzhokhar -- later 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 a familiar picture of an art of radicalization. We know,
for example, based on accounts from people who knew him, that Tamerlan had
in fact become more religious in recent months and years. "The Wall Street
Journal" and others have 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.
"The Associated Press" is reporting tonight that it was a new friend,
a Muslim convert, who steered Tamerlan toward a strict strain of Islam in
recent years. That in addition to giving up boxing, Tamerlan 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 Web sites and
literature claiming that the CIA was behind the terrorist attacks of
September 11, 2001, that Jews controlled the world.
And 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
shopkeeper in a Middle Eastern grocery store in Cambridge, near a mosque
where he sometimes prayed after seeing a sign they`re advertising
Thanksgiving turkeys. "Brother, why did you put up this sign?" the
shopkeeper recalled him asking angrily. "This is kuffar," an Arabic
reference to non-Muslim. "It`s not right."
A story of another run in with local Muslims reported this week in a
fresh release from the Islamic Society of Boston. 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, 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 basic sheer of moral framework the vast majority of us
share no matter our politics, to a person who views the world in such a
dire, strain and violent way he could possibly place bombs next to crowds
of innocent bystanders.
And those two small moments suggest something revolutionary about how
this process might have happened in the case of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, because
it appears to be completely counter to the way we think or at least I have
thought about radicalization and extremism, because 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
But from what we know here, what we`ve seen here, that was not quite
exactly the case here. 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 Tsarnaev
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, instead of
profound alienation from the Muslim community, of an extrication from
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 Tsarnaev brothers` motivation slowly comes into
focus, it`s hard not to wonder if we are seeing something more like
Columbine than jihad. The reason that matters, the reason that matters a
lot is because everything about the politics and legal ramifications of
what`s 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 Ballen, former federal prosecutor, president
and founder of the research group Terror-Free Tomorrow.
And, Ken, I want to begin with you because 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?
KEN BALLEN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: 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 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 oftentimes we`re unaware of. And the political or religious
reasons for that are more the dressing, the gown, the Arab garment and not
the propelling motive.
HAYES: So, is there -- when you scratch the surface is there such a -
- 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
BALLEN: 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.
HAYES: I thought, Maya, the moment in the mosque around Martin Luther
King was such a fascinating within in terms of this intra-Muslim 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 or something, and there is
this kind of awkwardness that sets over the room.
And I was wondering what your reaction was reading that account. I
found it very gripping.
MAYA BERRY, ARAB AMERICAN INSTITUTE: Well, 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. They talked about it that evening turning
around and saying, what is he complaining about? It simply didn`t make
But, for me, it`s to understand that you have to have -- 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.
HAYES: Suspected of engaging --
BERRY: Sure, speculation as we know.
BERRY: And I think the moment with Dr. King, the moment of
complaining about the Thanksgiving turkey, the idea there is speculation he
complained his siblings were too Americanized -- I mean, all of this is e
kind of thing that is very alien for a lot of folks.
HAYES: 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
this radicalization who himself was a convert. And I read a variety of
accounts of people converting and there is of course a cliche` about the
zeal of the convert and how often has that come about?
BALLEN: 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
that 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
sociopaths 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.
HAYES: Well, I think the reason this is really important is because
people were hearing this right and we -- I think actually the reporting on
this has been pretty good so far and people`s reaction in terms of -- Deval
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 horrible murderers,
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, right, of like you never
know who is around the corner. What you`re saying is that it`s more a
psychological story than a sociological one, right? That 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 -- Maya.
BERRY: 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. So, whether it`s a convert, whether we talk about this spectrum of
radicalization, being a devout Muslim doesn`t make you more likely to
commit an act of terror. That`s simply false.
So, as we look at these indications we have to be careful about the
way we frame this. And, frankly, that`s why I think this is such an
important conversation that we`re having, to try to understand this in a
deeper way than resorting to the kinds of language that often comes after
attacks like this.
HAYES: 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.
HAYES: You may have noticed we like to feature some of our favorite
tweets in this spot, in that spot, in the show each night because of the
live Twitter conversation using the #inners. Its` a lot of fun to watch
the show with. If you are not following along, you`re definitely missing
half the fun.
So, check it out. And while you`re at it, make sure you follow
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
BILL HEMMER, FOX NEWS: 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?
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: 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.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the FBI fail? I would say they probably --
something slipped through the cracks for them.
BOB BECKEL, FOX NEWS: The FBI dropped the ball here. There`s no
question about it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They dropped the ball here. There is no doubt
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R), TEXAS: 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 him?
REP. PETE KING (R), NEW YORK: This is at least the fifth case I`m
aware of where the FBI has failed to stop someone who ultimately became a
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
HAYES: 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 that
Tamerlan was connected to any domestic or foreign terrorism activity and
cleared him. But this idea that because Tamerlan was cleared, the FBI has
somehow been negligent gets to the heart of the matter that we`ve just been
discussing, which is where does the line between an extremist belief system
and criminality get drawn, particularly by the state?
The FBI interviewed Tamerlan and found he wasn`t doing anything
illegal. He wasn`t engaged in any violence or plotting any, what exactly
do we want the government to be doing in that situation?
Right now, there are forces aligning to construct a story about how
the FBI didn`t surveil enough, how our pesky laws got in the way of
catching the terrorists and those stories will be used to call for more
surveillance and new laws. So, we must be very clear about what exactly we
want from law enforcement, what we want them to do when confronted with a
situation like what they apparently encountered with the older Tsarnaev
Let`s bring in Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of
And, Carol, I wonder -- I want your response to this story that is
emerging that this was the FBI dropping the ball.
CAROL ROSE, ACLU, MASSACHUSETTS: 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.
HAYES: Do it every night.
ROSE: Do it every night.
ROSE: With that noted.
I mean, you have to wonder, I`m sure Congress will try to find out,
what happened? The FBI clearly wasn`t lacking the authority. They had the
authority presumably to interview this guy but they apparently didn`t have
the ability or willingness or whatever to do the follow-up.
And 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?
HAYES: Wait. Your -- 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.
ROSE: Right. I mean, we don`t know. So --
ROSE: So I`m concerned about speculating but one wonders, maybe
they`re thinking if these guys are Chechen, you know, they hate the
Russians not us. They don`t hate us.
ROSE: And so, this goes back to why we need to be careful not to
assume that this series of radicalization are somehow going to lead us to
the bad guys. It`s important that law enforcement focus on people`s
actions and actually 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 they just failed to do
HAYES: So, here is the question for you, Ken, is this. OK, Carol
just said the word police work, right? So, 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.
HAYES: And prevention meant something that looked a lot more like
intelligence than solving a crime after the fact, right? So there is some
group of people. There are jihadi Web sites, 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, right, on posting to chat boards to actually becoming
someone who would do something like plant a bomb among a crowd of people?
BALLEN: The problem is there is no predicted path. I think many
people will go on the chat boards or explore jihadist Web sites. 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? So, I don`t think it tells you a lot.
And 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
ROSE: I think ken`s right about that, Chris. And I also think we
have to be really mindful if we decide that we want our police to start
spending a lot of time tracking down people based on Web sites they visit,
for example. We`re going to 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. And so, I think that`s a real bad direction
HAYES: Let me play the skeptical, the conservative here, before we
all sort are sitting in a hot tub consensus.
I mean, there`s some degree to which you do want -- I mean, if someone
is going through a process in which they are increasingly aligning
themselves with -- there is a question of aligning 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?
BALLEN: Well, 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 --
HAYES: Posting these --
BALLEN: 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.
BERRY: 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 terror -- in acts of terror? That`s 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. But what I don`t want to see are policymakers --
HAYES: That`s right.
BERRY: -- who examine what happens in Boston and turn this into
speculating and the actual policy impact of what we can see now.
HAYES: We have -- we have Lindsey 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 from New York who is
urging greater surveillance of Muslim communities, saying, you know, we
need to get rid of all this political correctness.
BERRY: 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
ROSE: I think Maya is right. I mean, a huge number of tips have come
in that prevented crimes and other attacks. And, in fat, 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.
ROSE: 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
HAYES: The signal noise problem is the big practical one.
ROSE: That`s right.
HAYES: Maya Berry of the Arab American Institute, Ken Ballen of
Terror Free Tomorrow, Carol Rose of the ACLU of Massachusetts -- that was a
ROSE: Thank you.
HAYES: Thank you.
All right. 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. That`s coming
HAYES: Do you know who a bad day in Washington today? The dozens of
employees of K Street lobbying firms who once worked for Senator Max
Baucus. And 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.
And the reason this is bad for those people who are working for K
Street lobbying firm is because with this news, they are suddenly far less
valuable lobbyists. If you think this is just me I casting aspersions, the
London School of Economics actually study this, peer-reviewed evidence
showing that lobbyists with experience in the office of a U.S. senator
suffer a 24 percent drop in generated revenue when that senator leaves
So, today was probably a grim day for the many inhabitants of Baucus
land. And Baucus land is an archipelago 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 capacious 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 28 aides who
have worked for Mr. Baucus since he became the committee chairman in 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 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
ideologue. Say what you want about Max Baucus, he is in the center --
well, kind of. DWNominate is a useful tool political scientists use to
score where lawmakers land on the left/right spectrum.
So for example, with senators ranked in the 112th Congress, with
number one being the most liberal, Baucus landed at 45. Only a handful of
Democrats ranked more conservative. Here is Max Baucus occupying the
lonely and quickly evaporating center of American politics, the center of
American politics we all pine for, the center we all lament the vanishing
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 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 that 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`s profits, voting against a 2009 bill that would
have prevented an estimated 1.69 million 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 "the New York Times," the fiscal cliff tax break decisions
like tax deferments that just happened to benefit clients of former
staffers in the billions of dollars.
Now I know some of Max Baucus` defenders. I like some of Max Baucus`s
defenders. And they will say to liberal critics like me that we don`t
understand, that the man is from Montana. It`s a conservative state, and
he wouldn`t have lasted very long in Washington voting or sounding like,
say, Elizabeth Warren. But 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 public opinion in favor of the
various tax extenders, including the fiscal cliff deal, or for raising the
payroll tax, for that matter, or permanently repealing the estate tax,
which he voted for in 2006, or disallowing the government from using its
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.
HAYES: It`s been six days since that 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 awesomest 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 flash crash.
London based journalist Charles Forelle 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." It became clear rather quickly on Twitter the
news was not true and the A.P.`s account had been compromised.
But that Tweet was enough to set Wall Street off into a brief panic.
The A.P. account was suspended within a few minutes. The market eventually
bounced back, of course. The fake Tweet paved the way for some excellent
snark, like this from Alex Parine (ph), "New York Post reporting 12 Barack
The second awesomest thing on the Internet today, the swarms of people
taking to various social media platforms demanding justice for A.J.
Clemente, including our Twitter fan Steve Brown. Mr. Clemente is the local
weekend news anchor who began his new job by swearing on live television.
In case you missed it, here is a recap.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: News leader in high definition.
STEVE BROWN, NEWS ANCHOR: (EXPLETIVE DELETED) it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good evening. I`m Van Tu (ph). You may have
seen our newest A.J. -- seeing North Dakota news, and he`ll be joining the
weekend news team as my co-anchor. Tell us a little bit about yourself,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: 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. I can tell you firsthand, live TV is daunting enough, let alone
your very first day anchoring on live TV. People all across the country
feel the same way, because now there is an I Support A.J. Facebook page.
There`s 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. Even posts about the local
weather brought fierce cries for justice. "I want A.J. to tell me what the
F-ing weather is North Dakota is going to be like." Don`t we all, sir?
Don`t we all?
And the third awesomest 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 sampling of the vocal stylings, which if you ignore
the slightly awkward setting, show a damn fine set of pipes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Now if the name Paul Kevin Curtis rings a bell, that`s because
last week he was the guy accused of sending ricin-laced letters to
President Obama and Senator Roger 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
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL KEVIN CURTIS, FALSELY ACCUSED OF RICIN ATTACKS: 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 even eat rice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: You can find all the links for tonight`s Click Three on our
website, AllInWithChris.com. We`ll be right back.
HAYES: Host of new developments in the story out of West, Texas, as
2,800 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 at the West Fertilizer Company last Wednesday. The ATF announced
today the blast left a massive crater 93 feet wide and ten feet deep.
To give you a better sense of the amount of destruction, here is a
satellite picture of the plant and its surroundings before the explosion.
And here`s the same area after the explosion, a veritable war zone.
Destruction from the blast spread over a 37 square blocks area of West,
Texas, which is equivalent to wiping out about a quarter of New York`s
According to "Waco Tribute," the explosion killed 15 people including
ten firefighters, most of whom were volunteer firefighters, and two
emergency responders. Three others who died are believed to be people who
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, 52-year-old
Jimmy Mattis, 65-year-old Judith Monroe, 29-year-old Joey Putiosky, 29-
year-old Cyrus Reed, 57-year-old Mariano Saldivar, 33-year-old Kevin
Sanders, 48-year-old Robert Snokhous and his 50-year-old brother Doug, 45-
year-old Buck Upmore, and 96-year-old Adolf Lander.
The explosion caused varying degrees of damage to 350 homes. Those
closest -- living close to the plant are not being allowed back into their
homes. Some of the families living farther 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. That`s because many homes are
still without gas and power, and parts of the city`s water infrastructure
were ripped apart.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE VOGNAC, MAYOR PRO TEM, WEST, TEXAS: The water situation, if you
live on the south side of town, the water -- you have water. You can wash
your clothes, wash your hands, shower. Just do not consume the water.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Assistant State Fire Marshal Kelly Kisner (ph) 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 the 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.
And last night, we told you the plant had more than 1,300 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`s Environmental Compliance Problems Go Back Decades," is reporting
that in 1984, the company moved two large pressurized tanks of liquid
anhydrous ammonia, a potentially lethal poison, from a site in nearby Hill
County to its current location in West without notifying state authorities.
And it was seven years later for Texas regulators to even take notice.
In an interview with the Associated Press yesterday, Governor Rick Perry
dismissed the notion that the West, Texas explosion could have been
prevented if inspectors and regulators had done their jobs better, saying,
quote, "people through their elected officials clearly send the message of
their comfort with the amount of oversight."
Today we learned of 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 insurance carriers who were insuring 17 West businesses
and property owners who sustained damage in the explosion. The second
lawsuit comes from Andrea Gutierrez, who is the first West resident to file
a civil lawsuit against Adair Grain (ph), the owners of the West Fertilizer
As reported on our website, her lawyer, Randy Roberts, told us that
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
Joining me from West, Texas is Crystal Anthony. She lives in West, is
an elected official on the West School Board. Her home was in the blast
zone. Joining me at the table, Erica Grieder, senior editor for "Texas
Monthly" magazine, and author of "Big, Hot, Cheap and Right," new book out
you should check out, and Chris Kirkham, reporter from the "Huffington
Post" who just got back from West, Texas.
I want to begin with you, Crystal. Can you tell me what happened on
the night of the explosion?
CRYSTAL ANTHONY, WEST, TEXAS SCHOOL BOARD: Well, actually my daughter
was outside playing basketball and she seen smoke. And she ran in the
house. And she said, mom, something is on fire. So we ran out. And I
thought it was the 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.
HAYES: Did you know about -- please continue. Sorry.
ANTHONY: And then after that, we may have been there maybe five
minutes. And it just -- 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.
HAYES: So you were there pulling people, helping people get out of
the nursing home that was just adjacent to the plant.
ANTHONY: Yes, sir. Well, there wasn`t adjacent. It was across the
street. We were about a hundred feet away from the explosion.
HAYES: Did you know that the plant was there? And did you have a
sense that the plant had anything dangerous within it?
ANTHONY: I mean, the plant has been there for as long as -- before I
was born. So we never really felt like it was anything of danger or
anything because we used to run around through that area for track practice
sometimes, just to get up our endurance and everything. We never felt it
was a danger or anything.
HAYES: Can you tell me what the mood is there? In the aftermath of
something this awful and this 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 about the aftermath of this? And are people
angry? Are they just grieving? How are people feeling?
ANTHONY: 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. You try to be strong
for your community and just your neighbor next to you. All we do ask is,
like the utility companies, bear with us and help us. Verizon Wireless
really didn`t 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.
HAYES: Chris Kirkham here was just down in West. And you talked to a
bunch of people in the aftermath there. What are you seeing in terms of
the search and rescue, the investigation that`s happening there? It seems
like the blast happened and then there was kind of silence in the
aftermath. 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?
CHRIS KIRKHAM, "HUFFINGTON POST": I think it is still a pretty slow
process on that. I mean, as far as the actual investigation, most of the
blast site is completely 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 that you really saw in the beginning.
One of the things that really struck me in West, and it was 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. But I didn`t get that from anyone I talked to. Everyone was
very sad, obviously. But they really sort of felt bad for the owners and
felt that there was no way that they wanted this to happen. And you know,
this was very much a community fixture in a lot of ways, this fertilizer
HAYES: Crystal, you are shaking your head -- you`re nodding your head
ANTHONY: That is so true. My heart goes out to the owners of the
plant. We went to school with their children. I know they`re hurting just
like we are hurting. And I just feel for them and our community. And
we`re just going to pick up the pieces and make it stronger the best we
HAYES: Crystal Anthony, thank you so much for joining me tonight.
Good luck in getting back on your feet. I really, really appreciate it.
We`ll be right back.
HAYES: We just had a resident from West, Texas on who was very
sympathetic to the owners of the fertilizer factory. You said down there
you were surprised that there wasn`t anger being motivated, that how could
they do this. Erica, you wrote this piece right in the aftermath in the
"Texas Monthly" sort of predicting that reaction.
ERICA GRIEDER, EDITOR, "TEXAS MONTHLY": Yeah, and got a lot of
pushback for that, too. I would like to schaudenfraude about -- this is
not really attractive on the part of our national friends. But as Crystal
said, it`s a tight knit community, it`s 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.
And it is I think a pretty common reaction in previous disasters in
Texas and outside Texas. I was really struck by that in covering the
Deepwater Horizon a couple years ago. That was not a small company, not a
company 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. Let`s clean up the mess first. Let`s fix this first, you
know, take care of the wounded and what needs to be taken care of. And
then mete out the blame.
HAYES: You wrote this piece on the "Texas Monthly" website that was
about the reaction to the largest industrial disaster in American history,
which is by now I think famous, the April 16th, 1947 explosion of ammonium
nitrate. That`s 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 that in the aftermath of that, the target of the anger to
that industrial disaster was not private enterprise, and was not Monsanto.
It was the government.
GRIEDER: Yeah. It was a similar story. I think folks initially are
preoccupied with responding to the crisis. And then after that happens,
you start figuring out how to rebuild. In this case, they were in Texas
City. What happened was that one of the parts of the catastrophe was that
there was a chemical plant built by Monsanto in the area that had caught on
fire because of the fire on the ship. And when Monsanto announced they
were going to rebuild, that was taken by people in the city as a sign of
new life, that we`re going to have this company back, our livelihoods back,
our economy back, our city is back.
HAYES: But there is -- OK, so we`ve been talking all week -- in the
last week and a half, and I think we talked about it in the wake of
Newtown, we talked about it in the wake of Boston, like how does the -- how
do we as a society respond to these -- to tragedy, to violence, to death?
How do we think through what the causes are? How do we think about
Is this shaking Texas politics right now, right? Is this -- you
covered the Texas Legislature. You were down in West, Texas. Is this the
thing everyone is talking about, like how do we make sure the hundreds of
other fertilizer storage facilities across the state -- and there are many
-- are secured and actually properly protected?
GRIEDER: It should be a national issue, I think, rather than a Texas
one. It is not the biggest industry in the state. If it was, it probably
would be more aggressively regulated. We`ve seen Texas do that on a lot of
industries, including oil.
I think that we`ve seen the state agencies fall down on the job a bit.
We`ll have plenty to blame them for, I`m sure, in the weeks to come. But
we`ve also half a dozen federal agencies, DHS, EPA, OSHA, that had warning
signs about this particular retail facility and didn`t enforce the laws
they already had.
HAYES: Or allowed an emergency management plan that did not allow --
that admitted there were no sprinklers. There are a lot of details. When
you start sifting through the trail, it just does not look like it was a
particularly tightly managed, regulated enterprise.
GRIEDER: Certainly yeah. You kind of have to wonder how many other
entities are there like this across the country, because 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 they were all looking at discreet bits of the problem. No one was
actually holistically assessing what is the safety in this plant? Could
something go wrong?
HAYES: You have the council -- the environmental quality of Texas.
You have a state based agency. You have the EPA, which was 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 actually the Texas State Chemist records are
held at Texas A&M. The "Dallas Morning News" is now trying to get those
records and Texas A&M is fighting them, saying that it is essentially a
national security threat because of the fertilizer stored there.
But I do wonder if Rick Perry -- if there are going to be political
recriminations there, like 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 are going to 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 it?
GRIEDER: I think we`ll see -- and it depends not just on what just
happened but on what is going to happen next. One thing we`ve seen in the
past year or so has been the growth of the fertilizer industry in the
country because of cheap natural gas. That could affect not just how much
we produce in the United States but where we produce, whether it`s close to
gas producing activity sites, or whether it is where they`ve been
historically, in rural areas.
HAYES: And we`re going to see -- we`re going to 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 of it, the fertilizer industry on the other side of it. DHS ends up
with the ball. And it looks like they dropped, to invoke a phrase from
Erica Grieder, author of "Big, Hot, Cheap and Right," which managed to
convince me that if the future became more like Texas, it wouldn`t be as
terrible as I thought, and Chris Kirkham of "The Huffington Post," thank
That`s ALL IN for this evening. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts now.
Good evening, Rachel.
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