Guest: Bernard Kerik, Steve Emerson, Skip Brandon, Rick Hahn, Chris
Whitcomb, Solomon Wisenberg, Jim Nolan, Joe Tacopina, Susan Filan, Clint
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: All right, thanks Chris.
Hi everyone. Straight to the breaking news—hundreds of New York police officers now on their way to Manhattan subway stations responding to a—quote—“credible security threat” to New York City‘s subway systems.
Government sources telling NBC News that an intelligent source warned that terrorists were planning to stage an attack on the New York subways during the second week of October, imitating the terror attacks in London and Madrid and possibly smuggling the explosives in a baby carriage. Now, what we have just learned in the last few minutes from the press conference, from the New York City mayor, the New York City police chief and a representative from the FBI, the New York City mayor saying that this is the first time that they have had this level of specificity when it comes to this kind of threat.
He described it as the first threat to the New York City subway system. The Associated Press reporting that it was specific as to time, place, and method. But with that said, they point out that it has not been fully corroborated, and one homeland security source telling NBC News that the source has—quote—“doubtful credibility”. They say that the heightened security in New York is out of an abundance of caution.
So while we are getting this press conference, the first of its kind in New York City, other homeland security officials telling NBC News that the threat may be overstated. Remember, 4.5 million people ride the New York City subways each and every day. New York is already on a heightened level of alert, orange. There is only one level higher to go and that would be red.
They have declined to raise the terror threat level at this time, and again, it seems the threat was not with regard to today but possibly for next week.
Joining us now former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik. Bernie, thanks for coming on the show. We appreciate it. All right, so when Ray Kelly gets up there with Michael Bloomberg and makes this kind of announcement, this is serious stuff.
BERNARD KERIK, FMR. NEW YORK POLICE COMMISSIONER (via phone): Well obviously it‘s serious stuff (INAUDIBLE) to be corroborated yet, but I don‘t think they have a choice. And I think they are obligated to alert the public that there could be a problem, put the public on notice, to let them know, you know, you should be looking out for things, as the mayor said, if you see something, say something.
I think they are only obligated, particularly in a post 9/11 world after what we saw in Madrid, we saw in London and the continual threats that we have against our country, I think they are obligated to make these (INAUDIBLE).
ABRAMS: You know, Commissioner Kelly has been reluctant, I would say in the past, to join in, in some of the other concerns that have come up about New York and about other places and there seems to be a reluctance on his part to say New York—New Yorkers, watch out. And yet, in this particular case, I think this is the first time that I can remember where Commissioner Kelly is standing up there and saying, look, we‘re not saying it‘s corroborated. We‘re not saying that it‘s going to happen, but we‘re saying it‘s serious.
KERIK: Dan, keep in mind Commissioner Kelly may not tell New Yorkers to watch out and look out. But the one thing that continues in New York City versus anywhere else, New York City remains at orange alert. They have done so since 9/11. So their alert level, whether you say it or not, is much higher than any other major city around the country, and I think, you know, they try to be as vigilant as possible. You know when you look at some of the security level (INAUDIBLE) the country...
KERIK: ... there is complacency setting in (INAUDIBLE) New York, so I don‘t think he has to say it. I think they‘re doing it continually.
ABRAMS: But with that said, there are hundreds of additional police officers heading to the subways today.
KERIK: There are more police officers that you will see, I would imagine in uniform, but I got to imagine Kelly has put in place a number of other things that people aren‘t going to see with regards to what they‘ve heard and what could come out of this possible threat.
ABRAMS: Continuing with our breaking news coverage of what is being described as a credible but uncorroborated threat to the New York City subway system. Here was the mayor, Michael Bloomberg, speaking only minutes ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: We live in a dangerous world. We‘ve heightened our presence. We‘ve heightened our security level before when there have been other things. With time you do more research and more analysis of the information and gather more information, and hopefully, what we‘ll find is that any plans that did exist have been dissolved by the actions that have been taken by various security groups around the world and...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: All right—what we were looking for there was the piece of sound where Michael Bloomberg said that this is the first time that they have had this level of specificity when it comes to this kind of threat.
Steve Emerson joins us now, the terrorism analyst and expert, so Steve, I think this is the first time that we have heard this kind of concern from the New York City officials. Bernard Kerik, putting it in perspective for us and saying look, OK, that may be true, but they kind of had to in this particular situation.
STEVE EMERSON, TERRORISM EXPERT: Well, Dan, what you‘ve witnessed to is a level of unison and consensus that I don‘t think I‘ve ever seen in terms of assessing the threat. Usually there‘s some backbiting. One agency saying it‘s not really credible...
ABRAMS: Well, we‘re seeing that Steve. Wait. Wait. We are seeing that here.
ABRAMS: Homeland security is saying—telling NBC News that they believe that this source is of doubtful credibility.
EMERSON: OK, well then that is part of the typical backbiting that may go on, but on the other hand, the fact is that the head of the FBI in New York together with the mayor are basically in unison lockstep here right now and saying that there was a credible threat and that they need to make this public, so I think in the end look, it‘s a do—you know, they don‘t win—they lose no matter what.
If the threat doesn‘t materialize, people say you know you concocted this or it was hyperbolic. If it does materialize, of course, God forbid then of course they‘ve taken the right steps, but the question is...
EMERSON: ... will they stop it? Here I think the bottom line is that I‘ve never really seen such assured certainty on the part of the mayor in terms of saying that we‘ve got to make these—take these steps make—and make them public. Look, ideally from a law enforcement perspective, Dan, they would prefer to stop the operation and arrest the culprits...
EMERSON: ... here it‘s almost guaranteed that they‘re going to interrupt the operation.
ABRAMS: You know it‘s interesting we heard the representative from the FBI saying that they expect that this will be resolved in the next few days.
EMERSON: That‘s an interesting point. Resolved. Well maybe perhaps there is an ongoing operation that we‘re going to learn about shortly in terms of the arrest of potential culprits, which would obviously be the ideal solution for everybody concerned. On the other hand, when you telegraph this publicly, you do disperse the potential conspirators but you make it much more difficult to arrest them because they obviously decide to move to a different target or to a different date.
So the question is whether in fact they‘ve been successful. And I guess the question is also going to be whether, in fact they were premature in releasing this information. They obviously felt they weren‘t. They felt that they had held on to it for several days and they needed to release it now.
ABRAMS: Bernie Kerik, as a practical matter, they‘re talking about searching more briefcases, suitcases, baby strollers and other items asking New Yorkers if they can, not to bring items like that. We‘ve lost Bernard Kerik; so let me ask Skip Brandon this, former FBI counterterrorism. Skip, how practical is it going to be when you‘re talking about 4.5 million people riding that subway every day to check a whole lot of the briefcases, suitcases, and baby strollers, et cetera?
SKIP BRANDON, FMR. FBI DEP. ASST. DIRECTOR: Well, they‘re not going to be able to check them all and they know they can‘t. They are going to be doing the random searches. They‘re going to be stepped up. This gives the person (INAUDIBLE) is going to bring explosives (INAUDIBLE) subway a great amount of pause because they may wind up searched. They may (INAUDIBLE) stopped. They are going to do what they can do and that‘s all that can be done.
ABRAMS: Why is it, Skip that we seem to be seeing what Steve described as backbiting. You‘ve got this information, which appears to have come in on a national level, given to the New York City authorities. We have some homeland security officials, et cetera, telling NBC News doubtful credibility, and yet the New York City team getting up there and saying look, this is a credible, although, uncorroborated threat.
BRANDON: I think I have the credentials to say this because I used to be a federal government bureaucrat. It is fine time, high time for this sort of foolishness to stop. This doesn‘t serve anybody well to have people leaking little things out, trying to undermine everybody else. It‘s petty and it has to stop now.
ABRAMS: Rick Hahn joins us now—also former FBI counterterrorism and bomb expert. All right, Rick, so we‘re seeing again this New York team up there, the mayor, the police chief, a representative from the FBI, seeming to speak in unison about this threat, and yet on the other hand, it seems that some in the Homeland Security Department are suggesting, well, we didn‘t really buy it. How does the public then make sense of it?
RICK HAHN, RET. FBI SUPERVISOR (via phone): Well, Dan, I think that the public has to understand that by going public in part that‘s a tactic used by law enforcement and the security people to try and further disrupt this conspiracy. I don‘t think they would have gone public if they didn‘t have a good deal of intelligence knowing who was involved and knowing where this was coming from so that they could continue to work (INAUDIBLE), but I do think that they probably didn‘t feel like they had a complete handle on it and...
HAHN: ... by going public, they do disrupt it.
ABRAMS: Here‘s what Mayor Bloomberg said only minutes ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLOOMBERG: It was more specific as to timing and some of the sources had more information that would lead one to believe that it was not the kind of thing that appears in the intelligence community every day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: And Steve Emerson, when they make the determination whether to raise the terror threat level, those are the very issues that come into play, how specific was it as to place, as to time, as to method?
EMERSON: Not just how specific, Dan, but also the credibility of the source. And in fact, when he said—he used the word, plural, sources, he said sources, which would suggest that there were actually more than one source and that obviously would lead one to believe that it was a more credible threat. Look in the end the credibility of the source is really the pivotal factor in which you make a determination like this.
If somebody had come and concluded based on the source that he was not credible, that he was some conspiratorialist and there was no credibility whatsoever, they wouldn‘t make this determination. Obviously somebody who had cultivated the source, who got the intelligence, made a decision and said this person has very specific intelligence. They have had a credible record, and they are making statements that verify what else we‘ve received elsewhere. And I think those three factors led the mayor and obviously the head of the FBI in New York to have (INAUDIBLE) press conference to make this public.
ABRAMS: All right. And again, we are continuing with our breaking news coverage. In the last half an hour, the New York City mayor, the New York City police chief, a representative from the FBI holding a press conference to announce that there has been what they‘re describing as a credible threat to the New York City subway system. With that said, they still are describing it as uncorroborated. But they felt it was the most specific one that they have received to date, and as a result, that they thought it was important to let the New York City public know about it. Here was Commissioner Ray Kelly minutes ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAY KELLY, NEW YORK POLICE COMMISSIONER: Because of the heightened concerns, the police department will be paying particular attention to briefcases, baby strollers, luggage and other containers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Bernard Kerik is back with us, the former New York City police chief. Bernie, how realistic is that? The ability to check briefcases, suitcases, items like that for people who get on the subway?
KERIK: Well, they are going to do it randomly. They have been doing it since the London bombings. They‘ve been doing a lot of that randomly, but if they (INAUDIBLE) at this point, they‘ll make a special effort, as you said earlier (INAUDIBLE) cops going down into the system now.
They‘ll probably set up checkpoints inside and outside. They‘ll be technical surveillance. There‘ll be a number of things where they look at things like briefcases and strollers (INAUDIBLE) urging people (INAUDIBLE) system because in all probability (INAUDIBLE) and they‘re going to make (INAUDIBLE) definite effort to look at stuff like that.
ABRAMS: All right, Bernard Kerik is calling us from Amman, Jordan, and so you can hear that the connection is not so great. So we thank you, Bernie for taking the time from Jordan to call into the program.
Keep in mind that during this press conference, the FBI official Mark
Mershon, said that the nature of the threat is classified, but called it a
· called is so-on point that they shared the information with the NYPD and said the threat had been partially disrupted, partially disrupted, but could not and would not give details. He added that multiple individuals alleged to be involved in it and that some of them have been resolved.
NBC‘s Mike Taibbi is at one of the subway stations now in New York City and he joins us from there. Mike, does it seem like business as usual?
MIKE TAIBBI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it does Dan. I think the mayor was making that point, too. It‘s going to continue to be business as usual. That business as usual was defined (INAUDIBLE) where the threat always exist. He said and I—quote—“look, we‘re not going to reach a point where we can say, referring to the threat, that it‘s over. It is just not that kind of a thing that is ever going to be over.”
Now I look around at the people walking into this station at Rockefeller Center, who could be going downtown or to Brooklyn or uptown to Columbus Circle to connect with wherever this system takes it in four of the five boroughs and they are carrying pocketbooks, they‘re carrying briefcases. They‘re carrying other pieces of small luggage.
I don‘t see any baby carriages yet. It‘s not the baby carriage kind of crowd. It‘s the commuter crowd at the end of a business day on Thursday, but people, as you know, if you live in a city and you take mass transit, carry small pieces of luggage. They have their business material, their diaries, their files, all of that to take.
But the women inevitably have a pocketbook or some sort of a purse to carry with them. I don‘t know how they stop carrying those things, but the mayor said listen, it would be better if people didn‘t because if they continue with those bags, maybe even accelerate them to some extent, and there‘s going to be a heightened police presence, both uniformed and plain clothes, and there will also be undercover people you won‘t see, the mayor said.
I don‘t know how they can change their habits, but the mayor seems to be saying as much. He said he himself, as you pointed out, will be taking the subway home tonight, uptown. He‘ll be taking the subway downtown to get to work tomorrow, he said.
And he has no problems with his daughters taking the subway or anyone else. His only admonition was that at this point the threat having (INAUDIBLE) credible enough law enforcement is asking for the public‘s help in increased way. If you see...
TAIBBI: ... something, say something he said. However you do it, dial 311, tell the nearest law enforcement person you see that somebody or something that might seem suspicious. That‘s the only way they‘re going to reach the point where they can diffuse the threat short of...
TAIBBI: ... an arrest. There have been no arrests at this point.
ABRAMS: All right. Mike Taibbi outside one of the New York City subway stations. Thank you very much. We are going to be checking back in with you.
We are continuing again our breaking news coverage of an announcement within the past 40 minutes or so that there has been a credible threat to the New York City subway system. The mayor, the police commissioner, a representative from the FBI got together to announce this to the public. Here‘s what Mayor Bloomberg said only minutes ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLOOMBERG: Our mass transit system is a potential terrorist target. Since the London attacks the NYPD has taken additional measures. The FBI has recently shared with us a specific threat to our subway system. Commissioner Kelly, and FBI Assistant Director Mark Mershon will go into more detail. But I wanted to assure New Yorkers that we have done and will continue to do everything we can to protect this city. We will spare no resource.
We will spare no expense. We increased our police presence on our subways. Our Hercules teams and critical response vehicles are focused on mass transit. We will continue random searches of bags of people entering the system. We have put extra protective measures in place now, however, that are noticeable to the public, and we do want the public‘s help. As I said, if you see something, say something.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: And that is exactly what they are doing in New York, is saying something about what they are describing as a credible threat.
Chris Whitcomb, former FBI man joins us now. Chris, the New York City team is taking this very seriously, to hold this press conference says it all. Why is it, do you think, that this information appeared to have been in the hands of some of the national officials, including homeland security, and according to our sources, they are not taking it quite as seriously. Does the New York team have its own investigators, its own threat assessment people, who can simply say I‘m sorry, we know who this guy is and we find him to be more credible than you do.
CHRIS WHITCOMB, FORMER FBI AGENT (via phone): Yes, Dan, they do. New York City has a more sophisticated kind of terrorism aspect than any other law enforcement agency, local or state law enforcement agency in the United States. They have their own intelligence people overseas. They have hired at least one FBI agent I know who was (INAUDIBLE) who was instrumental in FBI investigations in the past to represent their interests outside New York City and works in a foreign country, I‘m not going to say which one right now.
But yes, certainly the New York City Police Department has extraordinary resources that other law enforcement agencies don‘t have. And I think it‘s very possible they had information and they decided themselves unilaterally they wanted to go public with it and then went to the FBI and others for help.
ABRAMS: All right. Let me thank all of our guests who have been helping us through this breaking news coverage. Here‘s what we are going to do. We are going to follow this story. Our reporting team is on the story. They are making phone calls, trying to see if we can get any more information as to exactly what is happening, what we know, what we don‘t know in this story. We will bring that to you if we get any additional information.
In the meantime, coming up after this break we‘re going to move on to the story of Karl Rove, the presidential advisor, being called to testify in front of the grand jury again, but this time the prosecutor is saying I‘m not giving any promises that you won‘t be indicted. Coming up.
ABRAMS: Karl Rove, White House deputy chief of staff, perhaps President Bush‘s most important advisor will testify for a fourth time to a federal grand jury investigating the Valerie Plame CIA leak case, and for the first time special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has declined to guarantee Rove that he won‘t be indicted should the case go to trial. Plame is the wife of Ambassador Joseph Wilson, criticized the administration in the run up to the Iraq war in an editorial that triggered a leak published in a Robert Novak column identifying Plame as a CIA operative.
Because her work for the agency was covert, that leak could be a crime. Now, as far as Valerie Plame is concerned, Karl Rove has said—quote—“I didn‘t know her name and I didn‘t leak her name.” For his next round of testimony Rove‘s lawyer, Robert Luskin, says—quote—“Karl‘s consistent position is that he will cooperate anytime, any place.”
Solomon Wisenberg is a former U.S. attorney. He worked also with Ken Starr in his independent counsel investigation. Thanks a lot for coming on the program. We appreciate it.
SOLOMON WISENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: My pleasure.
ABRAMS: All right. So based on what you know, if you‘re Karl Rove‘s lawyer, are you nervous?
WISENBERG: Oh, absolutely. It‘s never good to go to the grand jury even one time and multiply that times four and it‘s not good again.
ABRAMS: What does that mean? I mean he‘s saying—the lawyer is saying look, I haven‘t seen a target letter and a target letter would mean this is a letter that tells you, you are the target of this grand jury investigation. He‘s saying I haven‘t seen any letter like that.
WISENBERG: Well, that‘s true. It‘s not an absolute requirement that a target letter be sent, though, it usually would in an investigation like this. But my understanding from the newspaper report is that they were sent a letter that had standard warnings about your testimony being used against you, and by the way, there have been suggestions that he was given some kind of guarantee the first three times he came. I find that very difficult to believe. Any time you go before the grand jury, unless you are given immunity, your testimony can be used against you whether you‘re warned or not.
ABRAMS: What does it mean that we‘re hearing a federal prosecutor say they accepted an offer from Rove to give testimony. What does that mean?
WISENBERG: Well, apparently he offered approximately in late July that if they needed his testimony he would come back again and that a couple of months later now, three, four months later, the prosecutor has accepted it. I don‘t know exactly who is spinning the information that way, but the key thing is that he was asked to come in, and he has agreed to do it. And really, with somebody in his situation, you cross the Rubicon the first time you come in, certainly the second time you come in. There‘s no reason if you‘ve been in three times not to come in a fourth.
ABRAMS: All right. Here‘s the law that most people have been talking about it. Whoever identifies a covert agent knowing that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent‘s intelligence, relationships with the U.S., shall be fined not more than $50,000 or imprisoned not more than 10 years or both.
The big issue here is going to be what did they know? Did they know that she was undercover? Did they know the relationships, et cetera, right? It‘s all about knowledge.
WISENBERG: It is all about knowledge, and there are several different kinds of knowledge that are required. It‘s a very high standard under that statute. Almost nobody has ever been prosecuted under it. There‘s virtually no case law on it. But remember, the special prosecutor can prosecute anybody who obstructs his investigation or who perjures himself...
ABRAMS: Well and that‘s what I was going to ask you. Do you think it‘s more likely that someone, maybe even Rove, could be charged for something like perjury or even violating the civil rights? Could they make some creative argument that maybe Valerie Plame or Joseph Wilson‘s civil rights were somehow violated by the disclosure?
WISENBERG: That would be extremely difficult. But the earlier thing you mentioned, it‘s always—I can‘t speak to the facts of this case, but it‘s always going to be easier to indict somebody in this kind of a situation for obstruction or perjury or almost always will be, than for the actual crime itself.
WISENBERG: In the case with this statute where there are so many high barriers.
ABRAMS: Bottom line, do you think that Karl Rove is going to get charged?
WISENBERG: It would be irresponsible for me to say, but I would be very worried being asked to come in a fourth time if I were his attorney.
ABRAMS: Solomon Wisenberg thanks a lot for taking the time.
ABRAMS: Coming up, Virginia police say they‘ve recovered the body of missing Virginia college freshman Taylor Behl.
And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike again—our search this week in Arkansas.
Authorities looking for Micah Gingrich, convicted of raping a woman he apparently met over the Internet. He‘s 29, 5‘11”, 155, has yet to register with the state of Arkansas.
If you‘ve got any information as to where Micah is, please contact the Arkansas Crime Information Center, 501-682-2222 -- back in a moment.
ABRAMS: Coming up, we‘ve got new information on the terror threat to New York, and Virginia police say the body they found near a Virginia barn is missing college freshman Taylor Behl, first the headlines.
ABRAMS: Before we go to the Taylor Behl case, we want to bring you news. I told you that any time we got any news with regard to the credible threat to the New York City subway system that we were going to bring it right to you and here‘s what we have.
A U.S. official telling NBC News that the source of the information about a possible threat to the New York subway also provided the U.S. military and FBI with information that led to a military raid in Baghdad overnight that nabbed at least one terror suspect. Nevertheless, U.S. officials remain somewhat skeptical about the terror threat to U.S. subways. And again, we will continue to bring you any news that we get on this story about the New York City subway system as soon as we get it in.
In Richmond, Virginia today, a grim announcement from the Richmond police where college freshman Taylor Behl has been missing for over a month, last seen leaving her dorm room on September 5.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RODNEY MONROE, RICHMOND POLICE CHIEF: The remains that were recovered here in Mathews County on yesterday‘s date have been positively identified as that of Taylor Behl, the missing student from Virginia Commonwealth University.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Her remains found buried off a dirt path on a private farm about 70 miles from Richmond. Authorities were led to the farm by the ex-girlfriend of a man who had been described as a person of interest in the investigation, Ben Fawley. Fawley was arrested about two weeks ago on charges of possession of child pornography after police searched his house in connection with Taylor‘s disappearance.
He has since claimed that he was kidnapped within hours of the time Taylor disappeared. He is being held without bail. For the latest from Richmond, we go right to Jim Nolan from the “Richmond Times-Dispatch” and Jim, you were the first to report some of this information. What else are we learning about how the police ended up at this particular location?
JIM NOLAN, “RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH” REPORTER (via phone): Well, Dan, they were able to take photographs from Ben Fawley‘s computer and Web sites, photographs that they were then systematically basically showing to people they were re-interviewing in the case. And during one of those re-interviewers they showed a photograph of this remote area to the ex-girlfriend of Fawley, whose family just happens to have property in that area.
In fact, it‘s our understanding that at one time Fawley had taken pictures there either with her permission or even accompanying her some time ago. She instantly recognized the photo and was able to give police a specific location of the farm. Police then drove out—these are two VCU police detectives, by the way—they drove out there and they did a search of the farm and on an adjacent property in a wooded area in a ravine they found the remains of Taylor Behl.
ABRAMS: It‘s still to me is astonishing that Fawley is claiming that he, himself was abducted the same night that Taylor disappeared. I mean he actually filed a police report and here‘s what he said in his online journal posted September 8.
I was heading up to a monument to take photos when three to four guys jumped me. They got a trash bag over my head before I could see them, tossed me into a car, and dumped me out on some dirt road. I wasn‘t hurt much just from where they sat on me as they never said a word. I‘m sure this was not just a robbery.
I mean is he suggesting, as far as you can tell, that he was with Taylor when she was abducted and that this was part of the same plot?
NOLAN: No, I don‘t think so, Dan. I think what he is saying is he is providing an accounting of a period of time after Taylor Behl was known to have last seen him. Remember, he tells police that he last saw Taylor Behl at 9:30. Of course we know that Taylor was last seen by her roommate at 10:20. But then some eight hours later, he is telling police that he was the victim of an abduction and robbery that started at 5:00 a.m. until his rescue at 6:00 a.m. by an unknown Hispanic man. Now police are troubled by his report of this because it has very few specifics.
NOLAN: They‘ve had a great deal of difficulty in trying to actually document the veracity of what he claims to have happened.
ABRAMS: Come on, I mean it just sounds so absurd on its face. I mean look, we‘re at a point now, the police, am I right, are still not calling him a suspect, correct?
NOLAN: Well an interesting thing happened down in Mathews today, Dan. Chief Monroe was asked questions about Fawley and for the first time it‘s our understanding that he said it was—quote—“not incorrect”—end quote—to consider Fawley a suspect in Behl‘s death. Now as you remember, his lawyer, Chris Collins, has said from really the beginning of his representation of him...
NOLAN: ... that he believed that police considered Fawley a suspect.
ABRAMS: Of course he‘s a suspect...
NOLAN: And so we might have had some terms of are (ph) here, but I think it‘s fairly clear, as Monroe said, that the focus of the investigation has become increasingly more narrow and targeted. He also said that he expects that charges may be filed in Behl‘s death within the next—after three or four days.
ABRAMS: Well let‘s remember, we‘re not just talking about the fact—
I mean put aside the fact that he‘s had these criminal convictions in the past, put aside the fact that he‘s in jail right now on charges of child pornography. Those are the past. In particular with this case, this is a guy who admitted seeing her twice the day she disappeared.
He admitted having a sexual relationship with her. He‘s 38. She‘s 17. He said he was kidnapped the day she disappeared and the reason they found the body is because they spoke to his ex-girlfriend and showed her pictures. I mean how could he not be a suspect?
NOLAN: Well I think for a long time, you know, police are very cautious about things just...
ABRAMS: Understandably so.
NOLAN: ... I think—and understandably so—last night, for instance, I think they had a pretty good idea that the remains that they had discovered were Taylor Behl‘s, yet they waited until they got dental records to verify what they thought they were seeing. I think the same approach is being taken towards this investigation...
ABRAMS: Right. Right.
NOLAN: They are very reluctant to identify one person as the suspect. Only because there‘s a great possibility that—not a great possibility, perhaps, but there‘s always a possibility that they are wrong or that maybe...
NOLAN: ... they haven‘t gotten the whole story the way they want it.
NOLAN: I think that‘s why you see the caution...
ABRAMS: They also don‘t want to jeopardize the prosecution. They don‘t want to be perceived as rushing to judgment. They‘re preparing for all sorts of arguments that are going to come up. But the bottom line is that there is no way to look at the evidence they‘ve gathered in this case and suggest that they are even looking at—it would seem to me, somebody else, based on the evidence we‘ve seen. Jim Nolan thanks a lot, great work on this story.
Coming up, Taylor Behl‘s mother spoke out today and she talked about what she wants to happen to the person responsible.
Your e-mails firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
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ABRAMS: The body of Virginia college student Taylor Behl has been found. We‘re going to hear from her mother in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JANET PELASARA, TAYLOR BEHL‘S MOTHER: My mind still cannot absorb the fact that someone could do something this cruel and heinous to my 17-year-old. I am positive the authorities will bring these sub humans to justice, and I pray they receive the death penalty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Taylor Behl‘s mother there talking about the news that her daughter‘s body was recovered in a rural area of Virginia today; Taylor has been missing now for weeks. And today they found the body or yesterday, they found the body after talking to the ex-girlfriend of a guy named Ben Fawley, who has been in jail on charges of child pornography, but he has remained a person of interest.
And when you look at the facts here, the fact that he says that he had a sexual relationship with her. That he admitted to seeing her twice the day she disappeared, said he was kidnapped the day that Taylor—the night that Taylor disappeared. I mean that part is just the most—sort of hard to accept. And then the fact that it was his ex-girlfriend who identified the area seems inevitable, but we shall see.
Joining me now MSNBC analyst, former FBI investigator, Clint Van Zandt; MSNBC analyst, former prosecutor Susan Filan; criminal defense attorney Joe Tacopina.
All right good to see you all—all right, so Joe, if you‘re this guy‘s lawyer, you‘re expecting charges to be filed, right?
JOE TACOPINA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: No question. I mean you know they‘ve all but said within a matter of hours they are going to charge someone, and the only someone we know anything about, and if you connect the dots like you just did, Dan, you know it‘s clearly pointing in Fawley‘s direction. But again I will say this and it‘s not just because I‘m a defense lawyer because I am a recovering prosecutor, as you know Dan. Let‘s wait and see before we have this guy, you know, getting the death penalty already. It looks very much damning as far as pointing a finger at him, but let‘s make sure there‘s forensic evidence, there‘s any evidence that is substantial other than rank suspicion, which is what we have right now.
ABRAMS: Is it really just rank suspicion when he says—reports to police that he, himself was kidnapped on the night that Taylor disappeared, and the fact that his ex-girlfriend was able to help locate—they didn‘t know where her body was...
ABRAMS: His ex-girlfriend says oh I recognize that area. They then went there and they found her.
TACOPINA: No, no, Dan, absolutely. I mean there are circumstantial facts that put this guy...
TACOPINA: ... in the lion‘s den, I mean, and no question about that, but all I‘m saying is circumstantial and suspect in the sense that we don‘t know...
TACOPINA: ... what evidence they‘re going to be able to present in a courtroom.
TACOPINA: This is fine. This is not a criminal conviction. There has to be more...
TACOPINA: I‘m not saying there won‘t be...
ABRAMS: Right. No, I understand...
TACOPINA: I‘m not saying there won‘t be.
ABRAMS: Even Joe is at a loss for words at this point in terms of figuring out what to say.
ABRAMS: But Susan Filan, all right, let‘s assume you‘re the prosecutor, you do want to be very careful at this point. You don‘t want to—you want to tell the police hey, be real careful about what you say publicly about this case. Let‘s take our time here. Let‘s do it right.
SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Exactly. Absolutely. You want to build an airtight case. As Joe says, you want forensic evidence, but as a prosecutor I would be very pleased with the statement made by Fawley because we always love what we call the alibi defense because it‘s the easiest thing to pick apart.
And what‘s his alibi? Basically he was abducted by Martians. I mean that‘s a great alibi to attack and that statement will always come in as some kind of a quasi admission against him, a declaration against penal interest, so it‘s something that I think a prosecution would be very pleased to have in their arsenal so early on. He should not have spoken...
TACOPINA: Dan, Dan, it‘s almost like going fishing three hours away from your home on Christmas Eve.
ABRAMS: Yes. Yes. He says I was taking up—to taking photos, they got a trash bag over my head before I could see them, tossing me into a car, dumped me out on some dirt road. I wasn‘t hurt much, just from where they sat on me, as they never said a word. I‘m not sure this was not just a robbery...
FILAN: But it‘s 70 miles away and he gets picked up at 5:00 and he‘s let go at 6:00...
FILAN: He couldn‘t possibly have gotten there in an hour.
ABRAMS: All right, Clint Van Zandt, let me ask you, are they still investigating him? Do you think that there is—I mean there is probably a true investigation going on because they are probably trying to be very careful in retrieving any evidence near where the body was found.
CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER: Well, there‘s two different investigations going on. One is even though Fawley is a guy we‘d love to believe did this and the type of guy you love to hate, remember early on in the investigation, a police search dog hit on the car that was recovered on Taylor Behl‘s car, followed it to the home of another person who had some type of contact with both Fawley and with Taylor Behl, who said I‘ve never been in the car in my life. Why did the dog hit on that? We know she was supposed to have been with other people that night as well as Fawley, so you know this is not necessarily the time for a handshake and a job well done.
ABRAMS: Could maybe be a guy...
ABRAMS: Could maybe be someone who knew something about it, for example...
VAN ZANDT: Or somebody who helped Fawley or something like this, who knew something and didn‘t tell the authorities, and number two, as you just say, there‘s an entirely different forensic investigation. This is the time for the crime scene and the victim...
VAN ZANDT: ... to tell us what they can...
ABRAMS: And I‘m saying...
VAN ZANDT: Who did it?
ABRAMS: And I‘m saying maybe it‘s even, you know look, they could end up arguing that Fawley may have known something about it, but wasn‘t actually responsible. I‘m sorry to cut this short with all the breaking news, et cetera.
Cling Van Zandt, Susan Filan, Joe Tacopina thanks a lot.
VAN ZANDT: OK.
ABRAMS: Coming up, new Florida law lets you shoot first and ask questions later if you feel threatened in public. We did this last week—this week—a lot of you writing in about it. Your e-mails are up next.
ABRAMS: I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”. Tuesday night, a new Florida law, which allows citizens to use deadly force to protect themselves if they reasonably feel threatened, even in public places, the Brady Campaign opposed the law and passed out leaflets at Miami airport with warnings to tourists on how to act to avoid getting shot. Florida‘s Tourism Department, none too pleased.
Robert writes, “Please don‘t dismiss the very real risk existing in Florida with this new law and please don‘t overlook the benefits these tips can provide visitors who may not be aware of the law‘s enactment. Casting this topic in terms of it being political assures us that it will never be fully disclosed.”
Dean Redfern from Lutz, Florida, “As a Florida resident and runner I love our new gun law. Now when a dog owner allows his unleashed and aggressive dog to attack me, I can shoot them both in self defense.”
Not sure if Dean is being serious on that one. Dean, I hope not.
Susan Heckel in Florida, “This law frightens me more than future hurricanes, shark attacks, et cetera. It seems to be a gift to gun-toting borderline roughnecks.”
Leroy B. from Chicago, “I bet this law will see a drop in personal crimes against people of all backgrounds and races.”
Jenifer Simmons, Milford, Texas, “What on earth are they thinking? They think that they can just trust everybody there to abide by the law and carry guns in public places, especially where children may be present?”
Your e-mails abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com. We go through them at the end of the show.
Coming up, we‘re going to have the very latest on that—quote—
“credible threat” to the New York City subway system. Back in a moment.
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BLOOMBERG: It was more specific as to timing and some of the sources had more information that would lead one to believe that it was not the kind of thing that appears in the intelligence communicate every day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Just over an hour ago, the New York City mayor announcing that there has been a credible threat to the New York City subway system, hundreds of police officers now being added to that subway patrol, checking briefcases, bags, baby strollers, anything where someone might be able to bring something on to the subway. A U.S. official telling NBC News, within the last half an hour, that the source of the information also provided the U.S. military and FBI—that same source led to a military raid in Baghdad overnight that nabbed at least one terror suspect.
Nevertheless, U.S. officials remain somewhat skeptical about the terror threat. U.S. subways terror expert Steve Emerson joins us now. Steve, why would they be skeptical about the threat to New York subways if the last piece of information the same source gave them nailed the person?
EMERSON: Listen, obviously there are two different sources being talked to and I don‘t really know what the motivation is of the person who is downplaying the threat. It seems to me, Dan, that there is more credibility here than we‘ve seen in other types of terror threats communicated to the public. And the fact is that the mayor of New York would probably not have made this decision to go public unless he was actually told the identity of the source and actually be given the opportunity to vet his own—make his own assessment of the credibility of that source, which is very unusual. So I would say to you that despite some of the back—you know the nitpicking from some unidentified officials, there seems to be some credibility here of greater magnitude than we‘ve ever seen before which is why they went public.
ABRAMS: Steve Emerson thanks a lot. And keep in mind all night on MSNBC, we‘ll have continuing coverage of that story.
A quick reminder about the first ever ABRAMS REPORT auction. I‘m auctioning off my press pass from the Scott Peterson trial and my pass to the Michael Jackson trial. I‘ll autograph both of them with all of the proceeds going to two very worthy charities.
The money from the Peterson pass will go to Habitat for Humanity, busy building houses for Katrina and Rita victims. And the proceeds from the Jackson pass will go to CASA or Court Appointed Special Advocate, a group that makes sure abused and neglected children get representation in court and help if they‘re in the legal system.
The auction is taking place on eBay. The bidding is open. The highest bid for the Peterson pass is now at 1,675. The highest bid for the Jackson pass is now at 1,475. The bidding will be closed on Saturday. It‘s for a great cause.
See you later.
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